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The confusion of war

Sheila Dohoo Faure,  a Canadian Guild member, is one of the researchers delving into the many French Rubys.  Indeed, when the original data on Rubys worldwide was gathered, France was one of the primary sources of the origin of the Ruby surname.  Here, Sheila shares the story of Maurice Ruby and the mixups of wartime. 

Maurice Marie Joseph Ruby was born on 5 November 1888 in Lyon, France, the son of Benoit Joseph Amedée Ruby and Augustine Marthe Lacroix. His parents had married in Lyon on 24 November 1887 and had two children—Maurice had a younger brother, Henri Marie Cyprien, born in 1890. His father worked in the silk industry which, at the time, was a pillar of Lyon’s economy. His grandfather, Alexandre Annet Ruby, and great-grandfather before him had been shopkeepers in Lyon.

Maurice may have been the first in his family to get a higher education. He attended the Ecole des Mines in St Etienne—just 60 kilometres away from Lyon—and graduated in 1913. Just over a year later, war broke out in Europe. When war was declared, Maurice was probably working as a mining engineer at the Compagnie des Mines in Béthune, in northern France.

Maurice was first a second lieutenant and then captain, serving in the 297th Infantry Regiment. He was seriously wounded on 29 January 1915 and received treatment for a year for the head wound he had sustained. But he returned to service, only to die a few months later either in the Battle of Verdun or the Battle of the Somme.

At the beginning of June 1916, the 297th Regiment was stationed around Vézelise and Haroué, about 200 kilometres southeast of Nancy, France. Then by mid-June it had moved north towards Verdun and Thiaumont, about 125 kilometres east of Reims

The location and timing of Maurice’s death are somewhat confusing. His military record indicates that he died on 22 June in Chevrengy, Aisne. Chevrengy is about 160 kilometres west of Thiaumont. Memorials at the Ecole des Mines in St Etienne and at the Compagnie des Mines in Béthune suggest that he died at Pargny-Filain, which is very close to Épine de Chevregny. Indeed, another record suggests he died on the Chemin des Dames, near Pargny-Filain. However, war diaries for his regiment do not indicate the death of a Ruby on 22 June—rather they show a Lieutenant Ruby as being injured on 24 June, when the regiment would have been nearer to Thiaumont.

No doubt record-keeping was challenging on the Front. However, wherever Maurice died, the accounts of his death reflected very positively on his service. 0ne account of his death states that “[h]is company received the order to attack and he came out of the tunnels to inspect the ground before him. He received a shrapnel wound to the forehead while accomplishing his reconnaissance.” [translation] He was described as “[i]n all aspects an excellent officer” and a “brave, calm officer carrying out his duty.” [translation] He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d’Honneur.
Just before the war, he had married Jacqueline Marguerite Marie Fonteix. They married in Lyon on 8 July 1914 and had their first child, a son, in 1916. He possibly never knew his father.


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