Major Mouton and Beauséjour

The message on the back of this postcard was written 105 years ago by a French serviceman during the First World War.  The writer was not the man pictured on the front of the postcard.  The writer’s name is illegible, and I can’t quite make out the name of the intended recipient or the town where she lived.

Thanks to the message, however, we know the name of the man in the photo.  He was Major Mouton, and the dog with him was named Beauséjour.  They served in the Ambulance corps.  (I haven’t been able to determine the official name for the service, but the stamp on the postcard says Ambulance.)  Here’s the back of the postcard, followed by a transcription of the message:

Major Mouton and Beauséjour 2

Le 21-9-17

Ma petite chérie

Je t’envoie la photographie d’un de mes amis, M. Mouton, Major à l’Ambulance, qui est pour nous un vrai père de famille et qui a la sympathie de tout le personnel.  Il est photographié avec un chien “Beauséjour” — notre favori à tous, qui est très doux et très amusant.  Je l’emmène souvent en promenade.

Mets cette photographie de côté.  Je tiens essentiellement à la conserver.

Mille affectueux baisers


An approximate translation:

Sept. 21, 1917

My little darling

I am sending you the photograph of one of my friends, Mr. Mouton, Major in the Ambulance, who is for us like a father and who is liked by all the staff.  He is pictured with the dog “Beauséjour” — our favorite, who is very gentle and amusing.  I often take him for walks.

Set this photograph aside.  I’d like to keep it.

A thousand affectionate kisses

(Please feel free to suggest corrections to my translation.)


I would just add that Beauséjour was almost certainly a working dog and not simply a pet.  Dogs were widely employed during the war for search and rescue purposes.


41 thoughts on “Major Mouton and Beauséjour

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  1. There is a love story there for sure. Then there must be many stories with the major and dog. He writes that the dog is his favorite. Perhaps there were other war dogs. Thanks for the lovely translation – for French and romantic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In just a few lines, the writer conveys respect and affection for both Major Mouton and Beauséjour. He could have written their names and left it at that, but he wanted his girlfriend to understand their importance to him and to their unit. It’s a very unusual wartime postcard, and quite touching.


  2. It’s interesting that the man’s looking upward, while the dog’s direct gaze seems interested and attentive. It seems a remarkably relaxed photo, perhaps because of the drape of the chain. The dog’s been well-trained, and I suspect ‘gentle and amusing’ suited it well. I was curious about its name. It can be divided into beau and séjour, which is something like ‘a fine visit.’ I wonder if the dog was found and adopted; it would make sense of the name. He could have been one who came to visit and stayed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it was fairly common for units to adopt stray cats or dogs. The men were often idle for long periods, and the animals provided comfort and entertainment (and help with rodents). I wondered about the name Beauséjour. Also, the writer describes him as “très doux et très amusant.” ‘Amusant’ can be translated as ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’, either of which might be closer to the writer’s intent than ‘amusing’. The sentence that perplexed me, though, was “Je tiens essentiellement à la conserver,” which Google translates as “I basically want to keep it.” There must be a better way to translate it than that.


      1. By coincidence, at the moment I am reading the memoirs of Norman Macmillan, an RFC pilot who was flying with 45 Squadron in 1917. One thing he mentions is that they had orders forbidding the keeping of animals on the airfield.

        They ignored this order, and kept several stray dogs….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely dog, he looks quite well behaved. I wonder if dogs were employed to find people who were buried after a bombing but potentially still alive? As for the last sentence, I would translate it like “it is very important to me that I keep it” or similar.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So much to love about this photo/postcard!

    Me? I’m most drawn to the dog, of course. So relaxed, calm, confident, and keenly focused on the photographer. He’s long-legged, lean, wolf-like in appearance. I wonder about his breed/provenance. What role did he play with the military? Clearly he endeared himself to the man in the photo as well as the man who sent the postcard. A testament to the healing power of the human-canine bond, especially in times of stress.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You put your finger on it, Becky. For both men, Beauséjour was clearly a beloved companion in what must have been a very stressful environment. They also would have been aware that he faced the same risks they did. That made him, in effect, a brother-in-arms.


  5. Beauséjour is quite as beautiful a name as Mouton and these two fine gentlemen look to be very good friends indeed. What a wonderful treasure this postcard is, handwritten and stamped from over a century ago! I recently discovered that my grandfather served in the 29th infantry during World War I. I hope that he had as good company as this. Take care Brad! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so interesting that your grandfather served in the war, Suzanne. No one in my family served in WWI, WWII or Korea. My grandfathers were too young to serve in WWI. In WWII they were working in “essential” industries.

      Thank you for your nice comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was surprised to find it out myself. I have family who served in each of those wars. There’s a wonderful photo of my great aunt in her nurses uniform during WWII. She and her husband lived in Germany during the reconstruction. I wish that I knew more.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, and we don’t expect to see those qualities in wartime. On the other hand, they’re arguably the most essential qualities of medical personnel. That may be why I’m drawn to images of nurses, doctors and other first responders.


  6. I’ve been reading some of your fascinating stories. What interesting detective work. Your posts have indeed motivated me to write on the history of my own family. My father was a prisoner of war during WW2. When I was a youngster, I did some detective work of my own and went to Poland to find the family which hid my fsther when he escaped in 1944. I found the family and returned with my father the following year. I have photos from his wartime years, the letter stating he was missing in action, and every letter he sent by red cross to his family during his years of captivity. Thanks for getting me going. I look forward to reading your future posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Though a message of few words, it brings out emotions galore! Your posts are amazing! Wonder how you manage to fish out these photographs with stories to tell. Keep up the fabulous work!

    Liked by 1 person

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