Priest and soldier
"Thank you very much for your prayers! We need them to remain fully priests in the midst of our life
as officers and soldiers. "
Daniel JOËSSEL on 15 November 1939.
Daniel JOËSSEL was mobilised like all the French of his generation when the Second World War began.
Three brothers and a brother-in-law mobilised. Daniel is the second on the left.
He was an officer and was responsible for the men he commanded. During this time of trial, he always remained a priest, trying to celebrate mass every day, to pray, to confess, to give service, to support the soldiers morale, to evangelise... managing to form some groups of reflection, his 'study circles'.
At the beginning of the war, he wrote: "The morale of the troops is excellent. I was able to say my mass this morning and it was a great joy for me."
Letter dated 2 September 1939 to his sister
He is not a chaplain, however, says Father John BOYER-CHAMMARD: "With his men, he is very discreet from an apostolic point of view - his duties oblige him to be so. But his priesthood shines through. " Memories about Father JOËSSEL, 3 July 1941.
There are some good moments at the front:
"In the next division, there is an uncle of mine and my cousin, Fr NAU, whom you know from another uniform. He is also an officer and commands a company of infantrymen. This neighbourhood is very friendly, and we spent our sunday together; it ended with Vespers at the
abbey of St. Paul de Wisques. I had taken along in my superb 14 Renault horses 3 Benedictines +
my driver (undertaker!... in case of accident).
So you can see that thanks to these providential encounters, my morale is excellent and I try to keep it as high as possible, for fear of hard knocks."
Letter to Ms HENTIENS, 6 December 1939.
A few months later, in a letter to his sister dated 17 March 1940, he recounts:
"Every morning I think of you all; I have the joy of being able to say my mass every morning and
you understand that you are not neglected in this half hour which is the centre of my life.
I still get on well with my comrades. The colonel continues to follow my preaching and I believe that I will come out of the war knowing how to speak well, because it is every sunday that I am from my sermon, and I am well obliged not to say too much nonsense in front of a respectable and educated public. "
Sometimes, too, in periods of relative calm, he did service in the parishes, as in Cléty, in the
Pas-de-Calais, where a priest whom he describes as "absolutely amazing" (Daniel's letter to his sister of 29 March 1940), Father RATHE, gave him lodgings in the presbytery.
There, as in the midst of the young people of Asnières, he did not leave anyone indifferent by his life and his personality, by the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and by his preaching.
Father RATHE tells us in a letter dated 27 December 1940, after learning of Father JOESSEL's
"I was very saddened to learn of the death of dear Father JOËSSEL. He was so kind and so helpful that he immediately won the sympathy of those he approached. [...]
Almost every morning I accompanied him to church to serve him mass, as his server often arrived late or did not come at all. From the very first days I was edified by his attitude at the altar and the care he took to take all the time necessary to celebrate mass well. During the day I saw little of him, for his battery office was quite far from the presbytery and he felt it was his duty to stay with his men to see for himself that they would not lack anything. [...]
On the morning of 10 May, as soon as his regiment was alerted to leave, M. JOËSSEL came to warn me and added: "This time, the German attack has been launched; it will be terrible for us who are the first to march, because we are a motorised regiment, and, unless a wound miraculously keeps us away from the carnage, there is little chance of coming back. He then went back to his men to see to the preparations for departure. He returned to my house in the early afternoon, confessed, asked for my blessing and said goodbye...".
Lieutenant JOËSSEL will defend France as long as he can and will have the material and human means. Wounded on 20 May 1940, he was transported to a Brothers of the Christian Schools’ establishment transformed into a hospital; he died there on 30 May 1940, assisted by Father MASSART who recounted his last moments and his death.
In January 1942, he was posthumously awarded the War Cross and a little later he was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour. The decree was dated 17 April and appeared in the Journal Officiel on 24 April:
« J'ai été bien peiné en apprenant la mort du cher abbé JOËSSEL. Il était si aimable et si serviable qu'il avait tout de suite la sympathie de ceux qu'il approchait. […]
Presque chaque matin je l'accompagnais à l'Église pour lui servir la messe, car son servant arrivait souvent en retard ou ne venait pas du tout. Dès les premiers jours j'ai été édifié par son attitude à l'autel et le souci qu'il avait de prendre tout le temps nécessaire pour bien célébrer sa messe. Dans le jour, je le voyais peu, car le bureau de sa batterie était assez loin du presbytère et il estimait que son devoir était de rester avec ses hommes pour se rendre compte par lui-même qu'ils ne manqueraient de rien. […] Le matin du 10 mai, aussitôt que son régiment fut alerté pour le départ, M. JOËSSEL vint m'en avertir et ajouter : "Cette fois, l'attaque allemande est déclenchée ; ce sera terrible pour nous qui sommes les premiers à marcher, parce que régiment motorisé, et, à moins d'une blessure qui nous éloigne miraculeusement du carnage, il y a peu de chance d'en revenir." Il s'en retourna ensuite auprès de ses hommes pour veiller aux préparatifs de départ. Il revint chez moi au début de l'après-midi, se confessa, me demanda ma bénédiction et me fit ses adieux… »
Le lieutenant JOËSSEL défendra la France tant qu’il pourra et en aura les moyens matériels et humains. Blessé le 20 mai 1940, il sera transporté dans un établissement des Frères des Écoles chrétiennes transformé en hôpital ; il y mourra le 30 mai 1940, assisté par l’abbé MASSART qui a raconté ses derniers instants et sa mort.
En janvier 1942, il reçoit à titre posthume la croix de guerre et un peu plus tard, il est fait Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur à titre posthume. Le Décret est du 17 avril et parait au Journal Officiel le 24 :
Picture taken in October 1939 in Saarland, near Erching,
not far from the Blies.
Officers of the 2nd group of the 30th RAD
From left to right:
Lieutenant VALENSI, Lieutenant de SAVIGNAC, Lieutenant ?, Capitaine PICQUET, Lieutenant
JACHET, Commandant DUBOURG, Lieutenant DOUCE, Lieutenant NAL, Lieutenant TIXIER,
Lieutenant TERNOIS, Lieutenant BERTHOLLET, Lieutenant JOËSSEL.
Picture taken in November 1939 at Borre near Hazebrouck after a War Cross award to Major DUBOURG of the 2nd group of the 30th RAD. He had been wounded in Saarland in October 1939, his tracked vehicle having jumped on a mine.
From left to right:
Lieutenant JOËSSEL, Lieutenant TIXIER, Lieutenant NAL, Lieutenant JACHET, Lieutenant ?,
Capitaine PICQUET, Lieutenant LANCRENON, Commandant DUBOURG, Lieutenant VALENSI,
Lieutenant LEFEVRE, Lieutenant BERTHOLLET, Lieutenant DOUCE, Lieutenant de SAVIGNAC,
Lieutenant TERNOIS, Sous-Lieutenant VERRY + 2 more.