In 1914, at the outset of the First World War, he was barely 16 but was burning with the desire to go to the front; an idea his parents kicked against. He however succeeded to join a regiment of the Belgian army as a volunteer and went to the front at Flanders, where he sustained his first battle wound.
Upon returning to Marseille in January 1915 at the express request of his father, he again managed to overcome family and administrative obstacles and fitted himself in the Briançon-based159th infantry regiment, which was en route for Alsace.
His regiment was one of those charged with the capturing of the Lingekopf, a summit with wooded slopes conducive to the organization of a fatal defence against attackers. Fernand Fille proved to be an exemplary combatant at the front, and on August 2nd, he was nominated for the military medal.
But, barely two days later, on August 4th, he received several bullets while taking part in an attack. He was rushed in critical state to the Epinal hospital, where his left arm was amputated and his right eye removed. It was thanks to his robust build that he managed to survive the terrible incident.
As a reward for his heroic feats of arms, Fernand Fille received the war cross with bar, the military medal as well as the Legion of Honour cross accompanied with these words :
“Fille (Ferdinand-Auguste), senior officer cadet: Very good non-commissioned officer, served as a volunteer during the war, has always been the paragon of courage and devotion. Single-handedly resisted the enemy for fifteen minutes when his trench unit came under attacked. Holder of the military medal, left hand amputated”.
This 18-year old volunteer serviceman was in 1915, the youngest knight of the Legion of Honour in France.
Translated excerpt from the journal “Les Volontaires” of March 2006