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The new North Riding flag

And so to Hovingham, to help select the shortlist for a new flag for the North Riding of Yorkshire. Five judges will select six flags from all those submitted; the public will then be given a chance to vote for the one they prefer. Voting opens on 6th March.

France's living unknown soldier

On 1 February 1918, a soldier was supposed to have been found wandering around the railway station of Lyon-Brotteaux. He had lost his memory, and had no papers on him that would provide his identity. When questioned, he seemed to say his name was Anthelme Mangin, and that he lived on the Rue Sélastras, in the spa town of Vichy. But there was no such street, and the man was confined in the asylum at Clermont-Ferrand.
Seeking to identify his patient, the director of the asylum placed the man's photo in the Petit Parisien newspaper of 10 January 1920 (his photo is on the bottom right of the six). After the end of the war, some 300,000 men remained officially 'missing', so it is unsurprising that many, desperate for news of their loved ones, claimed 'Mangin' as a member of their family. A couple named Manzenc from Rodez were so definite in their identification of the unknown man as their son Albert, reported missing at Tahure (Marne) during the Champagne Offensive of Oc…

The battle of Verdun

On today's date, 21st February, in 1916, the battle of Verdun began. At 0715 on a cold, snowy day, an exceptionally heavy bombardment began to fall on French position to the north-east of the town.
One of the first German attacks fell on a brigade of chasseurs à pied commanded by Colonel Emile Driant, in positions in the Bois des Caures. On the night of the 21st, Driant was doing the rounds of his battered positions. He reached the position known as Grand'Garde no.2, where Lieutenant Auguste Robin (the CO of 6th Company, 59th Chasseurs) was in command, and where the Germans were on two sides of the French position. '"What can I do here, with my eighty men?" asked Robin. The Colonel gave him a long look, as if he was weighing the lieutenant's soul and wondering how much he could explain to such a young officer. "My poor Robin, the orders are to stay here ..." Robin understood and nodded.'
On the evening of the 24th, 'coming back in ones and t…

Great War tourist trails on the Nord - Pas-de-Calais

The Nord - Pas-de-Calais has produced a pdf guide to Great War sites in the region that includes four themed trails. The first follows the front line, starting with a little cross-frontier diversion to Ypres, then Fromelles - Loos - Notre-Dame-de-Lorette - Vimy - Arras - Bullecourt - Flesquières - Hébuterne and finishing at Ayette Indian and Chinese Cemetery.
The second covers both the war of movement of the first few months of the war and the subsequent German occupation. It starts in Comines, before going through Lille, down to Cambrai, then back north, finishing at the French war cemetery at Assevent, near Maubeuge.
The third covers the rear areas and the Channel coast. It starts at the monument to the Dover Patrol at Sangatte, outside Calais, before heading southwards Wimereux - Terlincthun - Boulogne - Etaples and finishing at Haig's statue in Montreuil-sur-Mer.
The final tour covers the reconstruction of the areas devastated by the war. Unsurprisingly, it covers much of the…

Great War touring guide for the Artois battlefields

The tourism authorities of the Nord - Pas-de-Calais region have published a pdf guide for a bicycle tour around Great War sites in Artois, starting at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, then on to Souchez (including the CWGC Cabaret-Rouge cemetery) - Givenchy-en-Gohelle (including Vimy) - Neuville-Saint-Vaast (including the German Maison Blanche cemetery and the French cemetery at La Targette) - Maroeuil - Mont-Saint-Eloi - Carency and so back to ND de Lorette. A length of 29.5km, which, it says, you can get round in three hours - which doesn't seem long if you are going to stop and have a good look at all there is to see in this small area.
Photo: French bombardment of German positions, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. Source: Bundesarchiv

Great War Centenary news from France 3: a web portal

A new French government portal, collecting together all the Centenary events in France, has just been put on the web, with the object of publicising national and local initiatives, and to share information and experiences for potential organisers of events.
One section allows departmental archives to display some of their Great War treasures. 'Send me some 'Flea-Killer' soap,' pleads one soldier from the Lot-et-Garonne, 'I'm being eaten alive.'

The Nord archives contributes the last letter of four men - Sylvère Verhulst, Georges Maertens, Ernest Deconninck and Eugène Jacquet - belonging to the Jacquet intelligence network before they were shot at Lille on 22 September 1915: 'we die proudly as good Frenchmen, as a brave Belgian - on our feet, no blindfold, hands unbound. ... Vive la République! Vive la France!'
Photo: the memorial in Lille to those shot by the Germans, on the Square Daubenton, from an old postcard. The statue was unveiled in 1929; i…

Great War Centenary news from France 2: strangers in Calais

Amongst the many projects set up connected with the forthcoming centenary is a searchable database of all those hatched, matched and dispatched at Calais between 1914 and 1922, based upon the official registers held by the City Archives. It includes not just the native Calaisiens and Calaisiennes, but also Belgian, British and even German refugees and soldiers (not to mention a smattering of people from other countries from Portugal to Japan).

Great War Centenary news from France

One element of the Great War centenary celebrations in France will be a six-episode dramatisation of Maurice Genevoix's Ceux de 14 on channel France 3. The producers are Chantal and Jean-Luc Michaux; casting is taking place at the moment, and filming will begin in April.
Maurice Genevoix served as an officer with 106th Infantry in the battle of the Marne, and in the Eparges, where he was wounded in 1915. His wounds were of such severity that he lost the use of a hand, and after a seven-months' convalescence, was discharged from the Army.
Following his discharge, he produced a series of five fictional works which drew heavily on his own experiences: Sous Verdun (1916), Nuits de Guerre (1916), Au seuil des guitounes (1918), La Boue (1921) and Les Éparges (1921), known collectively under the title Ceux de 14 (ie The Men of 1914).
In his critical bibliography of Great War memoirs, Témoins (Paris, Les Etincelles, 1929), Jean Norton Cru (pp.142-54) accorded Genevoix the highest prais…

East Riding flag

And so to Hull to help select the shortlist for the competition to select a new flag for the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Six designs will be selected from the entrants by a panel of judges that includes representatives from the East Riding Society, the Flag Institute, Beverley Civic Society and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Edit: just returned from Hull, shortlist duly selected. There were some very interesting and striking designs, using lots of flair and imagination. We selected the six best, and the voting will be launched on BBC Radio Humberside on Monday 25th February, so that everyone can have their say.

A Parisian statue vandalised

Info France Bleu reports that a statue commemorating the Russian Expeditionary Force that fought on the Western Front, unveiled in 2011 by Vladimir Putin and then French Prime Minister François Fillon, has been vandalised by supporters of the controversial rock group Pussy Riot.
The statue, in the Place du Canada, near the Pont des Invalides, in Paris, depicts a Russian cavalryman and his horse. Twenty thousand Russians served in France between 1916 and 1918; five thousand lost their lives. A cemetery containing the bodies of over nine hundred of them was created at Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand (Marne), and this remains the focus of commemorative events.

The first to be killed in 1914?

An article in the newspaper Est-Republicain claims that the unfortunate Corporal Jules Peugeot (44th Infantry, shown left) was not the first Frenchman to be killed during the First World War - because he was killed on 2 August, before war was declared! The dubious honour of the first Frenchman to be killed in the war proper, according to new research, seems to have been Soldier Georges Bigard (165th Infantry), killed in a bombardment outside Montmédy at 0340 on 4 August.

Pollution on northern French battlefields

The newspapers La Croix and La Voix du Nord report that tests carried out on ground water in the Nord - Pas-de-Calais have revealed unusually high concentrations of ammonium perchlorate. The chemical is used in a number of applications connected with pyrotechnics and explosives.

The fighting on the Western Front is being fingered as the root cause, but as the above map, from the newspaper La Voix du Nord, seems to show, the highest concentrations (the red) do not systematically follow the path of the front line. It may be blasting associated with the mining industry that may be at least partly to blame.

Shot at dawn

The second volume on French soldiers executed during the First World War by André Bach, has just been published by Editions Vendémiaire, Paris. ISBN 978-2-36358-048-1, 26 Euros.
The first volume, published by Tallandier in 2003, concentrated on 1914 and early 1915; the new work considers those executed during the critical and bloody battles of Artois and Champagne in 1915 and the battle of Verdun in 1916. Bach is the first author to be granted access to the dossiers of all the men who were shot by their own side, whether mutineers, deserters or with self-inflicted wounds.
The first volume is being republished in March 2013, also at 26 Euros

14-18 Magazine no.60 now out

The centrepiece of the latest issue of the excellent 14-18 Magazine is devoted to US forces on the Western Front in 1918 by General Jean-Cluade Laparra, but also includes an article on sous-lieutenant Baïdi Diallo, an African officer of Tirailleurs Sénégalais, by Michael Bourlet.

They shall not pass

They shall not pass: the French Army on the Western Front 1914-1918 by Ian Sumner, translations by Margaret Sumner (Barnsley, Pen and Sword, 2012; ISBN 9781848842090)
An account of the First World War as experienced by the ordinary French soldier and civilian, using first-hand accounts of their experiences, taken from letters, diaries and memoirs, most of which have never before appeared in English.
'I have read extensively on the British experience of the First World War, so seeking a different angle I became interested in the
experiences of the French, especially Verdun: this book delivered! Ian Sumner evokes the experiences of the first clashes in 1914, through the mincer that was Verdun, to the fluidity of 1918 and eventual victory by painstakingly painting a vivid picture directly through the testimonies of those who fought. It threw up some good insights on how the French viewed and perceived their British allies which was a revelation. Well worth a read for anyon…

Anzac infantryman 1914-15

Anzac infantryman 1914-15: From New Guinea to Gallipoli (Warrior 155) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Graham Turner (Botley, Osprey, 2011; ISBN 9781849083287)
A detailed examination of the life of the Anzac soldier, using first-hand contemporary accounts, from both Australia and New Zealand, in the characteristic Osprey style.
'Ian Sumner has done it again, what a great book in that series. Peppered with real accounts and stories told by those who survived and those who didn't, this book gives us a genuinely poignant overview of how these young men and boys from Australia and New Zealand enlisted enthusiastically for a war that wasn't really theirs. And then came Gallipoli, its horrors, the trench life and the terrible loss of life with almost 80% casualties for the New Zealanders engaged in that campaign. A great read, an excellent mix of real life accounts, facts and figures and of course all the details about the uniforms and armament at the time.' Pilou on ama…

The First Battle of the Marne 1914

The First Battle of the Marne 1914: the French 'miracle' halts the Germans (Campaign 221) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Graham Turner (Botley, Osprey, 2010; ISBN 9781846035029)
The First Battle of the Marne, 6-10 September 1914 - the battle that saved Paris and prevented the defeat of the Entente powers in the first few weeks of the First World War. Includes orders of battle and detailed descriptions of three key actions in the battle.
'Good value Osprey book with some excellent photos and illustrations and an okay text. Maps are good too!' Bluecap on amazon.co.uk
'This is a very interesting account of the campaign and battle, the detail is good and the maps are helpful.' Gareth Simon on amazon.co.uk
'Essential to a better understanding of Western Front history.' The Midwest Book Review on amazon.com
'This 96-page book documents the origins of the campaign, followed by a brief chronology. Then the opposing commanders and the forces at their disposal a…

French poilu 1914-18

French poilu 1914-18 (Warrior 134) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Giuseppe Rava (Botley, Osprey, 2009; ISBN 9781846033322)
The French Army of the First World War, but concentrating on the experience of the ordinary soldier, rather than battles and strategy. The books contains numerous quotations from first-hand accounts, as well as numerous photographs and colour artwork in the characteristic Osprey style.
'[This book] tells how [the Poilu] were recruited, how they were trained, how they were clothed, the weapons that they used, and the tactics they used. It tells of life in the trenches, during battles and what happened to them once they were wounded. They were fighting for their nation as were all troops in that war, and thanks to author Sumner, we can get a good look at what it was like to be one of these men... A book that I found eminently readable and fascinating. I know you will as well.' Scott Van Aken on modelingmadness.com
'a good book to start with if your int…

German Air Forces 1914-18

German Air Forces 1914-18 (Elite 135) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Graham Sumner (Botley, Osprey, 2005; ISBN 184176924X)
The uniforms and organisation of the aviation forces of Germany during the First World War - those controlled by the Army and those controlled by the Navy - in the characteristic Osprey style.
'... it [gives] plenty of information about the subject and does not concentrate on fighter pilots only, there are interesting accounts of photo recce and ground attack missions. Very good colour plates of uniforms and equipment and a fine selection of photographs.' Alan Pearson on amazon.co.uk
'.. a fine little reference... This handy, compact volume offeres a wealth of information on all aspects of the Kaiser's aviation forces. Despite the short length, the coverage is excellent, including observation, recon, bomber, fighter, Zeppelin, balloon, flak, and supporting forces... Especially useful are typical tables of organization and equipment for Jastas, F…

Del Prado Men at War

Allied Commanders of World War I, French Army of World War I, French African and Colonial Troops, The French Army: from Blitzkrieg to Victory, The French Army: From the Free French to the Army of Liberation, and The Indian Army 1914-47 (Madrid, del Prado, 2004)
Booklets issued with a model soldier. They were generally based on the respective Osprey Men-at-Arms title, but in the case of French African and Colonial Troops and Allied Commanders of World War I, were written specially for the series.
The following model soldiers were based on my titles-
4: Captain, French Armoured Troops, 1939
9: French Infantry Corporal, Verdun, 1916
23: Senegalese Skirmisher [sic], Gabon, 1940
38: Sergeant, 1er Regiment de Marche de Zouaves, 1914
62:  Dafadar, 1st Jodphur Lancers, 1918
64: General Joseph Joffre, France, 1914

British Commanders of World War II

British Commanders of World War II (Elite 98) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Malcolm McGregor (Botley, Osprey, 2003; ISBN 0841766690)
Profiles of the most important and influential British commanders of the Second World War, in the characteristic Osprey style.

'This book leaves the reader with an impression of the vastness, complexity, and diversity of the British war effort 1939-1945. While by no means comprehensive, it allows insights that can only be gained through studying personalities and leadership challenges. ... this title does as much as one could hope to accomplish what is frankly impossible: to cover the vast topic of British World War II leadership in a single slim volume.' Jonathan Lupton on amazon.com

'Despise it not'

'Despise it not': a Hull man spies on the Kaiser's Germany by Ian Sumner (Beverley, Highgate, 2002; ISBN 1902645340)
The life and espionage career of Max Schulz, an Englishman of German parentage, who spied on the Kaiser's navy in the years leading up to the First World War. He was captured in Hamburg in 1911 and imprisoned in Fuhlsbüttel prison until 1918, when he simply walked out of the jail at the end of the war. Based on his own account of his time in prison, and on German archive material.

The Royal Navy 1939-45

The Royal Navy 1939-45 (Elite 79) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Alix Baker (Botley, Osprey, 2001; ISBN 1841761958)
The uniforms and organisation of the Senior Service during the Second World War, in the characteristic Osprey style.
'As with all Osprey books, well illustrated, good photos and enough information to make you want to know more about the subject. ... Helped me understand what my grandfather went through in the Arctic convoys etc having had no previous knowledge of the so called "Senior Service", being a "Pongo".' Baldrick399 on amazon.co.uk

The Indian Army 1914-1947

The Indian Army 1914-1947 (Elite 75) by Ian Sumner, artwork and plate commentaries by Mike Chappell (Botley, Osprey, 2001; ISBN 1841761966)
The uniforms and organisation of the Indian Army in the two world wars, in the characteristic Osprey style.
'A most useful summary' Military Modelling

'Comme pour la plupart des autres ouvrages de la collection Osprey, sujet traité par un auteur qui connaît son affaire, explications claires et illustrations bien choisies' Luc Vangansbeke amazon.fr 

British colours and standards 1747-1881

British colours and standards 1747-1881 1: cavalry (Elite 77) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Richard Hook (Botley, Osprey, 2001; ISBN 1841762008)
British colours and standards 1747-1881 2: infantry (Elite 81) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Richard Hook (Botley, Osprey, 2001; ISBN 1841762008)
The flags, colours and standards of the British Army between the regulations of 1747 and the reorganisations of 1881, in the characteristic Osprey style.
A wide variety of regiments are represented in the photographs, coloured artwork and line drawings, supported by extensive tables of battle honours. Both regular and volunteer regiments are covered. Much of the material is based on original research and presented here in print for the first time.
The author is the Librarian of the Flag Institute, the country's leading authority on vexillology.

The Wolds Wagoners

The Wolds Wagoners: the story of the Wagoners' Special Reserve by Ian Sumner (Sledmere, Sledmere Estate, 2000)
The Wolds Wagoners were created by Sir Mark Sykes of Sledmere in East Yorkshire, largely from the farm workers on his estates.They were amongst the first to be called to the colours in August 1914, and men from the unit served in France, Flanders, Italy, Salonika, Egypt and Mesopotamia.
A limited edition, published at the same time, contains the Wagoners' nominal roll of 1914.
The books were only ever available from Sledmere House, which maintains an excellent Wagoners' Museum.

The French Army 1939-45

The French Army 1939-45 1: The Army of 1939 and Vichy France (Men-at-Arms 315) by Ian Sumner and François Vauvillier, artwork by Mike Chappell (London, Osprey, 1998; ISBN 1855326663)
The French Army 1939-45 2: Free French, Fighting French and the Army of Liberation (Men-at-Arms 318) by Ian Sumner and François Vauvillier, artwork by Mike Chappell (London, Osprey, 1998; ISBN 1855327074)
The French Army of the Second World War, in the characteristic Osprey style.
'[Volume 1] follows the usual Osprey format of a general historical overview, followed by details of arms of service, equipment, insignia etc with a good selection of photos and, of course, their trademark colour plates for the uniforms, and is a valuable contribution to a neglected area of military history. Volume 2 covers the Free French, the Army of Africa's belated conversion and the reborn 'army of liberation' in Italy and France in 1944-5 and is warmly recommended too' Mulwharchar on amazon.co.uk

The French Army 1914-18

The French Army 1914-18 (Men-at-Arms 286) by Ian Sumner, artwork by Gerry Embleton (London, Osprey, 1995; ISBN 1855325160)
The uniforms and organisation of the French Army during the First World War, in the characteristic Osprey style.
'Pertinently written ... exactly what was, until now, lacking for English-speaking readers interested in the French Army. I heartily and definitely recommend it' François Vauvillier
'[The book] proves how much information could be fitted into the ... format by a really professional author.' Martin Windrow
'This book is a great source on all details about WWI french soldiers. It has plenty of (black and white) photos as well as the usual Osprey center color plates, with complete explanations at the end.' Frederico Kereki on amazon.com

'This is a great book on a very neglected aspect of the Great War. Ian Sumner has made an outstanding contribution to the Anglophone history of the French Army 1914-1918, and this venerable …

Holderness in old photographs

Holderness in old photographs by Ian and Margaret Sumner (Stroud, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1995; ISBN 0750907630)
Historic photos of the towns and villages of Holderness in East Yorkshire, from Barmston in the north to Spurn Point in the south, and including Hedon, Hornsea and Withernsea.

Bridlington in old photographs

Bridlington in old photographs by Ian and Margaret Sumner (Stroud, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1995; ISBN 0750907622)
Historic photos of the East Yorkshire seaside resort, from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s.

The Yorkshire Wolds in old photographs

The Yorkshire Wolds in old photographs by Ian and Margaret Sumner (Stroud, Alan Sutton, 1994; ISBN 0750907614)
Historic photographs of the Yorkshire Wolds, from Welton to Market Weighton, from Goodmanham to Bishop Wilton, from Driffield to Flamborough Head.
'This is a beautifully produced book, packed with photographs. ... The book is very well presented. The photographs are of an excellent quality and very well printed.' Around the Wolds
'If ever there was a Christmas present which would welcomed by every parent / grandparent on the Wolds, this is it.' Bob Williams, Driffield Advertiser 
'Hundreds of photographs with informative captions [present] an intimate record of the area and its people from the late 19th century to the eve of the Second World War' Yorkshire Gazette & Herald

Yeomanry of the East Riding

Yeomanry of the East Riding by Ian Sumner and Roy Wilson (Cherry Burton, Hutton Press, 1993; ISBN1872167470)
A photographic history of the East Riding Yeomanry (raised in 1902) and its predecessors of the Napoleonic Wars, using photographs held by the present day Queen's Own Yeomanry and by former members of the regiment.
'A very impressive publication' David Fletcher, Tank Museum, Bovington
'A super book' Military Modelling
'A must for all military history enthusiasts' Beverley Advertiser 
'Through civil wars, international wars and world wars it becomes obvious that the men of Yorkshire had a big part to play. This book is a great tribute to them.' Hull Daily Mail

Beverley as it was

Beverley as it was by Ian and Margaret Sumner (Nelson, Hendon Publishing, 1991; ISBN0868671453).
Historic photos of the East Yorkshire town of Beverley.
'... a readable and interesting potted history of the town' Hull Daily Mail
'... filled from cover to cover with photographs' Beverley Advertiser