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Les Invalides during the Great War : pilot episode

Placed on 24 pillars of the main courtyard (cour d’honneur), this exhibition of photographs, little known to the general public and taken from the collections of the Musée de l’Armée, shows the main uses to which the Hôtel des Invalides was put during the First World War

  • A hospital function

In 1914, there were very few old soldiers remaining in the Invalides but, when confronted with the very large number of losses due to the war, the Minister of War ordered that the Hôtel des Invalides should take in the wounded. From 1915 onwards, the Institution des Invalides became an annex of the Val-de-Grâce military hospital. Photographs show how it was organised as an infirmary depot, with a repair workshop for stretchers, a place for storing bandages, etc.
Nowadays, the Institution Nationale des Invalides continues as a hospital and also takes in veterans.

  • A heritage function

The Musée de l’Armée, founded in 1905, is one of the rare French museums to have remained open for almost the entire duration of the Great War. In 1915, General Niox, its director, even inaugurated a temporary exhibition room on the war.
Today, thanks to its collections, the Musée de l’Armée can show the public the military history of France, from the Middle Ages to 1945. It also includes the Dome of the Invalides, which houses Napoleon’s tomb, as well as the de Gaulle historial, which recounts the career of the author of the 18 June 1940 Appeal. The Hôtel des Invalides also houses the Musée des Plans-reliefs, the Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération and the Library of International Contemporary Documentation – Musée d’Histoire contemporaine (BDIC-MHC).

  • A military function

Since 1898, the Hôtel des Invalides has been the Headquarter of the military governor of Paris (GMP). General Gallieni was appointed GMP on 26 August 1914. The situation was critical: the German armies were advancing rapidly and deeply into French territory. The French government left Paris on 2 September. On the same day, Gallieni, who found the Invalides buildings too difficult to watch over, installed his headquarters in the nearby Victor Duruy school.
In 2014, the GMP is still in the Invalides.

  • A patriotic function

The military ceremonies which are held in the main courtyard, the exhibitions of trophies taken from the enemy, the funerals of certain personalities, mostly military, and the new rooms of the Musée de l’Armée play a part in maintaining the patriotic atmosphere of the «holy union» of the French. They are widely reported in the press, as the large number of photographs proves.
Today, official ceremonies are regularly held in the main courtyard of the Invalides (parades, tributes, funerals).

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