Besançon: The convent transformed in hospital
In the « annals » and the Council’s minutes of the year 1914, since the 3rd August, we find a list of sisters who were sent in the different military ambulances: 4 sisters in Vesoul, 1 sister in the hospice of Flangebouche, 1 sister in Baume-les-Dames, and for Besançon, the list mentions 20 sisters before reaching the General House of 131 Grande rue, Clermont, Bellevaux, the Novitiate which is formerly in St. Vincent, the Big Seminary, St. John’s College and St. Joseph’s Institution. The Superior General Mother Marie-Anna Groffe calls the best nurses of the other hospitals and clinics to assign them in these military hospitals.
Among these 26 sisters there are 17 novices who receive the holy Habit and who pronounce the vows for three months.
Mother Marie-Anna offers to the «General inspector of the Military hospitals of Besançon », about forty beds to the Clermont Clinic and to the Provincial House, which will be the Auxiliary Hospital n. 15 and she puts at its disposal two operating rooms and 8 nurses religious, more linen for 127 beds and other necessary material, furniture, crockery, table linen, etc.
The « Emergency French Society for the Wounded Soldiers » extends her thanks already on the 20th August, while assuring the financial responsibility.
On the 19th February 1916, general JEANNEROD writes « Madam and most Reverend Superior General and Mother,
…since the beginning of the war, the running of the auxiliary Hospital n.15 is successful in your so called House of Clermont…
On behalf of the Committee, I have the honour to address you the most attentive thanks… During these eighteen months’ war, you have shown us that one can expect anything from your dedication to the wounded and from that of the chosen personnel whom you have placed in the Auxiliary hospital of Clermont … »
In the Buyer Hotel, a part of one floor and three ground floor rooms have been transformed in hospital rooms. Since 1914, 35 officers and 82 soldiers arrive in these premises.
And here is an extract, from an administrator’s report dated 28th May 1916 :
« Clermont hospital was opened on the 25th August 1914.
10 High officers, 144 Officers, 80 Sub-Officers, 684 Soldiers have been received,
which sum up to 918 admissions and 52, 809 days of hospitalization.
7 Officers and 17 Soldiers died here.
Originally, this hospital could cater only for 162 beds, but as from the 1st August 1915 it had 200 beds.
The hospital installed in the convent of the Sisters of Charity contains 147 beds, 35 of them for the Officers, 15 for the Sub-officers and 97 for the Soldiers. It makes use of the operating rooms of the Clermont clinic, whose rooms are reserved for the officers. The dining rooms and the rooms of the sub-officers and of the soldiers are adjusted in the premises of the Mother House and put nicely a tour disposition by the Superior general.
All the services are assured by the religious. Twenty two among them are assigned to the operating rooms and to those of the sick and the wounded. Eleven are in charge of the cloakrooms, the linen, the laundry and the kitchen where they are assisted by the novices.
It’s not possible for me to end this report without thanking the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity and her Congregation for their dedication and their unfailing altruism.»
From these years of trial, there remain some tangible signs of gratitude like this touching letter dated 31st December 1914, addressed to the Superior and to all the religious of the Mother-House by the « Train Soldiers and of the Bakery section » for the New Year 1915 ; they express their wishes and especially their thanks : they funded and ordered a statue of Jeanne of Arc for the chapel !
A wounded person who has been housed in this hospital n. 15, sculptures a bust of Jeanne-Antide. The signature reads A. GUENOT – August 1918. This bust stands always on a column in front of the chapel entrance.
The « The Emergency French Society of the Wounded Soldiers » awards a medal « To Madame Groffe, Sister Marie-Anna Superior of the Sisters of Charity of Besançon. The grateful S.S.B.M. 1914-1919 »
Memories… Witnesses especially of dedication, courage and love.
Sr. Christiane-Marie Décombe