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Showing posts from September, 2013

It's Sidi Brahim Day!

So, what are we all doing for Sidi Brahim Day?

In 1845, the French in Algeria were engaged in fighting the rebellion led by Abd el-Kader. In August, the garrison at the port town of Nemours (now Ghazaouet), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel de Montagnac, had been strengthened by the arrival of the 8th Battalion of Chasseurs d'Orléans, under Major Froment-Coste, and a squadron of the 2nd Hussars, under Major Couby de Cognord.
The next month, intelligence reached the French C.-in-C., General Cavaignac, that Abd el-Kader was near Nemours. He ordered de Montagnac to go and arrest the rebel. Despite his misgivings, de Montagnac was not a man to disobey an order, and so took four companies of chasseurs (the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th) and the carabiniers company (8th) under Froment-Coste, 354 men all told, and 60 hussars led by Couby de Cognord. The French left at dead of night on 21st September, and marched all the following day. In a second night-time march, the column made four kilometres b…

Kings of the Air: Somme airfields

Following the list of Verdun airfields, here are the airfields in the French sector of the Somme battlefield in 1916 (on a Google map here):
Cachy: a Sixth Army airfield, housing the fighter squadrons of the future GC12, the Cigognes - N3 (16 April-28 January 1917), N26 (6 June-28 January 1917), N37 (July-25 January 1917), N62 (5 May-15 October), N65 (7 July-19 January 1917) and N103 (21 June-1 January 1917). Cachy was passed to the RFC in 1918. The field itself is to the north-west of the village, and extends to both sides of the A29/E44; the diagonal crop mark marks approximate location of the south-western boundary
Chipilly: this was primarily an RFC field, but it was also used by C43 (26 July-15 November) and N112 (25 September-December). The field is on the high ground north of the village, by the D1. The hangars were aligned along the north-south road.
La Croix-Comtesse: a small airfield created in 1916, housing F2 and F211 between 26 October and 15 November. There is nothing l…

Kings of the Air: Verdun airfields

In the course of any project, you accumulate all kinds of material that will never form part of the narrative proper, but you hang on to just in case. For a proposed series of maps, I wanted to locate the airfields used by French squadrons during the battles of Verdun and the Somme. Having located them (well, most of them), I found I had details of some of the squadrons that were based there, and was curious to know what the sites looked like these days. Unfortunately, I have not been able to place all the airfields precisely - after all, many were simply grass fields, with the air- and ground crews living in tents. I have placed them on a map here.

Most were temporary fields, built for the war, but two, Béhonne and Verdun, were created as part of a plan to create a network of permanent airfields throughout the country in the years before war broke out. Both survived the war - indeed, Verdun survived until the 1970s - but most were returned to agriculture.

There are a number of aeria…

Kings of the Air: Of Penguins and Men part 2

Convinced that the war would only last a few months, on the outbreak of hostilities General Bernard, the Director of Aviation, decided to close all the aviation schools. He was sacked on 10th October and replaced by General Edouard Hirschauer, who had been the Inspector of Aviation 1912-13. Hirschauer immediately reversed Bernard's decision. The school at Avord reopened in September, followed in December by the one in Pau. Further military schools followedin Chartres and Ambérieu. From February 1915, military pilots were also trained at schools run by aircraft manufacturers - at Etampes (Farman), Le Crotoy (Caudron) and Buc (Blériot). All these three schools taken over by the military in September, and further specialist schools were opened for air gunnery (Cazaux), for fighter pilots (Pau), artillery spotters (Châteauroux) and bomber crews (Avord). This growth was all rather ad hoc, and was only rationalised in September 1915 with the appointment of Major Adolphe Girod as Inspect…