Skip to main content

Centenary? What Centenary?

In a post on the Theatrum Belli blog, at http://theatrum-belli.org/il-existe-une-mission-du-centenaire-de-la-premiere-guerre-mondiale-mais-pour-quelles-missions/ , the noted French military historian of the Great War, Rémy Porte, looks at what is planned officially in France to commemorate the centenary of the Great War, and doesn't like what he sees.

While many communities, departments and regions have announced plans and projects for local commemorations, Porte has failed to find anything concrete coming from central government, apart from one website. Lots of meetings, but no product.

What is worse, he says, is that the people who attend these meetings represent every little clique, every school of thought, niche and theme about the War - the cultural, social, economic, political, diplomatic, scientific and technical, financial and budgetary factors of the conflict; medical services, coal mining, the press, the Christmas truce - all have their enthusiastic supporters. Every aspect, that is, but one - the military campaign. No-one seems to be taking an interest in the actual fighting. There is nothing, he complains, about the organization of the armies of the belligerents, their training, equipment, leadership, doctrine and planning; nor anything about the conduct of operations, the strategic interaction between the fronts, comparisons between countries, the roles of soldiers at every level within their army, nor the immediate and distant causes of the war.

Perhaps through gritted teeth, he compares the situation in France unfavourably with the situation in the UK, where David Cameron's speech last October at least gave an impression that, on this side of the Channel, there is a coherent programme of commemoration.

There have been a number of dissenting voices in the UK as well, seeking to fine tune the Prime Ministerial proposals, but there is some comfort in knowing that someone thinks we are doing well. But I don't want to be the one who has to tell M. Porte that the school of military history that ignores all those howwid guns and all that sordid killing is alive and well in some of our universities.

We shall see.

Popular posts from this blog

Kings of the Air: A Matter of Reputation

When dealing with the history of the development of the French Air Force before and during the Great War, you cannot go far without coming across the name of Charles Tricornet de Rose. A dragoons officer, he was the first man to get his military wings. He was immediately snapped up to work at Estienne's research establishment at Vincennes, where he worked on aircraft armament (even though the Minister of War thought it a waste of time), coming to the conclusion that the gun had to placed in the nose, firing forwards. The problem was the firing through the arc of the propellor, and, with Roland Garros, he was working on a synchronizer system when war broke out. 
Garros went his own way, towards the dead end that were his deflector plates. Meanwhile, de Rose, the commander of Fifth Army's aviation, created the first all-fighter squadron, MS12, and filled it with the best pilots he could lay his hands on, including Jean Navarre. Until a viable synchronizer system was worked out,…

Sources for French military history

In something of a mood for reviews after last week's post, I dipped my pen (? or should that be keyboard?) in critic's vitriol once again, and took a look at Milindex, a searchable bibliography newly mounted on the website of the French Ministry of Defence's Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi des Forces (CDEF).
The bibliography is the work of the CDEF's Research Centre, the Ecole Militaire's Documentation Centre and an un-named university. The database includes the following older titles:
Journal des Sciences militaires (1825-1914) (available on Gallica), Revue d’artillerie (1872-1939) (available on Gallica), Revue de cavalerie (available on Gallica 1905-25),  Revue d’infanterie (1887-1939) (available on Gallica), Revue des Sciences Politiques (1911-1936) (available on Gallica),
Revue des troupes coloniales (1902-1939) Revue du géniemilitaire (1887-1959) (available on Gallica), Revue du service de l’intendance militaire(1888-1959)
Revue militaire générale (1907-1973) (available…

Ceux de 14 - the critics speak!

With the first episodes of Ceux de 14 having been broadcast on France 3 earlier this week, the critics have now had their say.
Télé-Loisirs: 'a good reconstruction of war', but overall the cast 'was rather wooden'; on the other hand Théo Frilet, as Genevoix was 'convincing'. Overall: Very Good
Télé 2 Semaines: 'convincing casting', but also thought they were 'rather wooden'. Overall: Quite Good
Télé Z: 'we lived, suffered and wept with these soldiers serving during the Great War'. Overall: Excellent
Télé Poche: 'faithful to the original book'. Overall: Good
TV Grandes Chaines: 'a bold production' with 'convincing actors'. Overall: Very Good.
Télé 7 Jours: 'the series is a noteworthy tribute to a generation that was sacrificed', played by 'outstanding actors'. Overall: Good
Télé Star: Overall: Good
So ... 'could be better' by the sound of things; but likewise, could be a lot worse (and we've s…