Raymond Fontanet, known as Renefer, was 35 years old when he was drafted in the 1st Engineering Regiment in 1914.
His children’s stories of the frontline soldiers, les poilus (the unshaven), occupied a special place among the first-hand
accounts of war in museums such as the Musée de
l'Armée at the Invalides in Paris and the Historial in Perrone.
In this collection of drawings Renefer sent to his eight year-old daughter Raymonde—to whom he affectionately gave the name,
Belle Petite Monde (Beautiful Little World), he describes life in the trenches in a style that is both restrained and humorous.
Yet these amusing scenes do not hide the devastated landscape, smoking ruins, and homeless civilians.
able to cover the terrible events taking place before his eyes without
hiding an implicitly tragic reality. This is clearly a message sent by
a father who knows he may not get home alive. Well aware that this
sketchbook may turn out to be his final testament, he explains and
justifies a sacrifice that is entirely possible and perhaps inevitable.
Renefer's job was sketch the topography of the
battlefields so as to provide a more accurate basis for planning
artillery barrages. He was a member of the Topographic Section of the 72nd
Infantry Division (S.T.D.I. 72). Starting 21 February 1916, he took
part in the Battle of the Somme.
He received the War Cross for "repeatedly carrying out dangerous
reconnaissance missions in the areas of La Woëvre, Champagne,
L'Oise and L'Aisne,proceeding to the most exposed spots of his own
accord in order to carry out his duties and make the required