Over 20 million people passed away during World War I, and memorials to the fallen can be seen worldwide. But one French man discovered one in his own house. When he tore down a brick wall in his home, he found a bedroom straight out of 1918. The room comes with a fascinating story; read on to learn what that is.
A Family Discovered Something Odd Behind A Brick Wall
Since the 1950s, Daniel Fabre had lived in the same house in Bélâbre, southern France. His wife had inherited the home from her grandparents. But neither had fully explored the upstairs corridor.
At the end of the sloping wooden hallway, a room was concealed by a brick wall. The couple decided to tear it down.
He Knew Something Was Behind It
In 2020, Fabre opened the brick wall in the upstairs corridor. He and his wife knew that there was a room behind there, and they had some idea of what it was. But they had to make sure.
But as the bricks fell, Fabre was still taken aback at the room that had remained untouched since 1918.
It Was Not A Normal Bedroom
The first thing Fabre spotted was a bed with an old-fashioned quilt. It was smaller than a modern adult’s twin bed. The next noticeable thing was a bookcase filled with schoolbooks, from French grammar to literary classics.
But one item made the room unusual. It was a moth-eaten military jacket hanging on a hook.
Fabre Had To Confirm What He Was Seeing
Although Fabre and his wife knew that a family shrine was in their home, they wanted to confirm what they were seeing. Fabre asked the Agence-France Presse (AFP) to tour the room.
While showing them the room, Fabre pointed to a firearm and said, “I believe this is a German bayonet from the First World War.” The AFP knew that they had something special there.
It Was The Shrine Of Hubert Rochereau
If the military jacket didn’t give away what the room was, the photos on the bookshelves did. The room was a shrine to the fallen soldier, Hubert Rochereau.
Rochereau was only 21 when he died in the Battle of Flanders, one of the last fights in World War I. But there is more to his story.
He Descended From A Long Line Of French Soldiers
Hubert Guy Pierre Alphonse Rochereau came from a long line of soldiers, as his ancestors fought for the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte. Rochereau was determined to follow in his family’s footsteps.
He attended Saint-Cyr Military Academy, which was created by Napoleon in 1802. He must have performed well, as he eventually got promoted to Second Lieutenant.
Then World War I Came
Rochereau would have to face battle sooner than he anticipated. In July 1914, World War I began. France was one of the first countries to enter the war.
Rochereau was assigned to the 15th Dragoons, a regiment that was stationed in Libourne, not far from his hometown. Eventually, though, he was reassigned to the Western front.
Rochereau Died Battling In A Belgian Village
In April 1918, Rochereau was fighting in Loker, a small Belgian village in West Flanders. The fierce battle eventually ended with Rochereau in an English field ambulance.
On April 26, Rochereau passed away in that ambulance. He had almost survived World War I. For reference, Augustin Trébuchon, the last soldier who died in the war, passed away in November of that year.
For Four Years, His Parents Didn’t Know Where He Was
Rochereau was buried in a British cemetery, but his parents were not made aware of this. For four years, they did not know where their son was.
In 1922, Rochereau’s parents finally learned where he was. They excavated his grave and transferred him to a cemetery in his hometown of Bélâbre, where he remains today.
Rochereau Was Awarded After His Death
Rochereau received many awards postmortem. He earned the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor), which is awarded for both military and civil merit.
He also received the Croix de Guerre (War Cross) in honor of his sacrifice. Both awards were placed in his room and remain there to this day.
His Birth Room Transformed Into A Shrine
Rochereau’s grieving parents decided to keep his room as is. The bedroom, which is the same place he was born in on October 10, 1986.
Along with his regular belongings, the parents added Rochereau’s military awards, clothing, weapons, and photos of fallen comrades–some of whom were only 19 years old.
Rochereau’s Name Is Also On A War Memorial
Rochereau’s name is also on a national war memorial. In the town square of Bélâbre, there is a war memorial to all the soldiers who lost their lives in war. Second Lieutenant Hubert Rochereau (labeled as H. Rochereau) is among them.
Another World War I memorial in Libourne, France, also hosts Rochereau’s name. He seems to be entrenched in French history.
The New Owner Promised To Keep The Room For 500 Years
In 1935, Rochereau’s parents gave their home to French General Eugene Bridoux. In exchange, they made Bridoux promise that he would keep their son’s room as is for 500 years.
Bridoux agreed, so to preserve the room, he boarded it with bricks. But the house would not remain in his posession for long.
Due To World War II, The House Changed Hands
In 1940, Germany invaded France during World War II. The country fell to the Nazis, and Bridoux worked for the Vichy Regime, who worked with Nazi occupiers.
When the war ended, Bridoux fled to Spain to avoid prosecution. He got sentenced to death in 1955, and the house was confiscated.
Eventually, It Was Passed Down To Fabre’s Wife
After Bridoux’s house was confiscated, his granddaughter–Daniel Fabre’s wife–purchased the home. She heard rumors of a hidden shrine in the house, but she never searched for it.
Almost 70 years later, she and her husband broke down the wall and revealed the room. Then they grappled over what to do with it.
The Room Is Like A Time Capsule
Since the room has remained untouched for almost 100 years, it provides a glimpse into Rochereau’s life. Laurent Laroche, the mayor of Bélâbre, said that “it’s as if time has stood still.”
“On a much smaller scale, I imagine it’s how the explorers felt when they opened the first pyramid or ancient tomb,” he told The Guardian.
It Provides An Insight Into Rochereau’s Life
The room provides an insight into Rochereau’s life. On his desk, his personal possessions–two guns, two knives, a notebook, and some photos–lay covered in dust. He also had a metal tub filled with English cigarettes.
“I tried to smoke one,” Daniel Fabre admitted to a BBC reporter. “It wasn’t very nice.”
His Old Military Relics Were The Most Fascinating Part
The room is particularly fascinating for its old military relics. His hat, decorated with brilliant feathers, sits on the bed. His military boots sit on the bottom shelf of his bookshelf, underneath German-language books.
Rochereau’s war sword was hung on the wall, next to his moth-eaten jacket. It looks like a museum.
Soil From The Battlefield Was Placed On His Desk
On Rochereau’s desk, there is a tiny glass jar of soil. This dirt was from Loker, on the same battlefield where he passed away. It has a label that says, “the soil of Flanders on which our dear child fell and which has kept his remains for four years.”
This stems from an old French tradition: collecting the soil from a battleground to commemorate fallen soldiers.
Will The Room Be Kept For Another 400 Years?
When Bridoux bought the house, he vowed to preserve the room for 500 years. But that promise is not “legally binding,” according to Fabre.
Although Fabre and his wife plan to keep the room as is, their daughters “are perfectly free to do whatever they want” with it when they inherit the home.
Fabre Preserves The Room Out Of Respect
Fabre does not keep the room because of the deal; he does so out of respect. He told the French newspaper L’Express that he will not change a thing in the bedroom.
“A sense of responsibility and perhaps pride certainly haunted this family of soldiers,” he said, “one of whose ancestors had served as house marshal under Napoleon.”
Oddly, Fabre Does Not Seem To Be A Fan Of Rochereau
Based on the room, Fabre has some ideas about the man Rochereau was. But he did not seem enthralled by the man. “I like to say I live in his house, but not with him,” he said.
“I don’t feel any kinship with him. He was young, a military officer, and I imagine him to be quite provincial, perhaps even narrow-minded. But it’s part of the history of the house, so I keep it.”
Will It Become A Museum?
Mayor Laroche would like to turn the room into a museum. However, it is currently on private property, and Fabre does not want a bunch of strangers entering his home.
“I especially don’t want to be invaded,” Fabre told the BBC. “Certainly not. After all, this is my home.”
But It Might Become A Museum In The Future
Although the current residents do not want to open the room, the mayor believes that it might open in the future. According to The Guardian, he is searching for benefactors who will help preserve the room.
“It would be a great shame for it to disappear,” Laroche said. “As someone who loves history, I feel it’s is also important not to forget the sacrifice made by men like Rochereau.”
The Shrine Room Became Known Across The World
After photos of this room were released, it made headlines across the world. “Someone even sent me a picture of someone in China reading the story in The Guardian,” Mayor Laroche said.
“Our little village is being spoken about the world over, which makes me proud to be mayor. And maybe it will help us find long-lost Rochereau relatives and save the room.”
Hopefully, Rochereau’s Parents Would Be Satisfied
Laroche claimed that the room is not only a monument to history; it is “also a form of family worship.” Although the family wanted the room preserved for 500 years, Laroche believed that they would be happy that it remains 100 years later.
“[Rochereau] reappears 100 years later,” he told the AFP. “And I think that if they could see that somehow, his parents would be satisfied.”
The Room’s Future Is Uncertain
Although the village of Bélâbre is working to preserve the room, they do not have enough money to do so, Laroche said. They are searching for donors who can help.
In addition, the Fabre family will have the final say on the room–whatever that may be. But Daniel Fabre’s granddaughter, laughing over an ashtray made out of a horse’s hoof, told the BBC that she would never change it.