A French soldier’s bedroom has been preserved exactly as he left it when he left his sleepy village to go and fight, and subsequently die, in the First World War more than 96 years ago.
Hubert Rochereau’s blue officer’s jacket still sits on a stand, his books lay in piles on the mantelpiece, and the officer’s bed is still covered by the same lace spread as when he left Bélâbre for the battlefields of Flanders in Belgium.
Second Lieutenant Rochereau died on 26 April 1918 in Belgium having been wounded during battle near the village of Loker. He was awarded a posthumous Legion of Honour for bravery and his name can still be found on the war memorial in his home village.
But the fallen soldier’s family have found another way to honour the sacrifice made by their son during the Great War.
Hubert’s parents maintained his room exactly as it was the day he left for the front.
When they sold their house in 1935, they made the new owners sign a legal clause stating that the bedroom – where their son was born in 1896 – could not be changed for at least 500 years.
Like a time capsule, the pipes that he smoked still sit on his desk and the stale smell of tobacco wafts from a cigarette packet, according to a French newspaper which was allowed to visit the shrine of the fallen soldier.
More importantly the room also houses a vial labelled: “the earth of Flanders in which our dear child fell and which has kept his remains for four years”.
A collection of pistols, a set of spurs and his fencing mask can also be found in the officer’s bedroom.
Daniel Fabre, the current owner of the house in the village in central France, said the clause on maintaining the bedroom has no legal value but that he intends to honour it.
Mr Fabre, a retired civil servant, and his wife inherited the large family home from her grandparents.