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Showing posts from October, 2013

Kings of the Air: Aces High

It is only relatively recently that military history has discovered the individual soldier, using the experiences and testimony of individuals to supplement the more traditional accounts of the clash of armies. Aviation history, in contrast, has moved in the opposite direction. Even during the First World War, much aviation writing consisted of stories about individual pilots. This remains a strong, possibly even a dominant, theme today, where aerial combats are forensically examined to determine exactly who killed who, and when and where, while relegating the larger campaign in which these individuals participated to a summary paragraph or two (and, yes, I realise the irony here).

The notion of celebrating the deeds of individual pilots first saw the light of day in 1915. In what had been a sterile year at the Front, with horrendous casualties for little or no gain (it should be remembered that there were more French casualties in 1915 than in any other year of the war), then any vi…

Sidi Brahim, part two

My last post was about the battle of Sidi Brahim, fought on 23-25 September 1845. Although it settled little in the struggle between the French and Abd el-Kader, it continues to have reverberations to the present day.
All the survivors were decorated with the Légion d'Honneur. Corporal Lavayssière was promoted to sergeant, and exchanged his regulation carbine for one bearing a small plate describing his valorous conduct. He left the Army in 1848. Later in life he owned a vineyard, which was devastated by phylloxera; at the same time he was losing the sight in one eye. Past and present chasseurs rallied around, ensuring he had the operation that saved his sight, and that he would live in relative comfort for the rest of his life. In 1909, a monument was erected in his village of Castelfranc (Lot); it can be seen on Google Streetview here.
Another survivor was Carabinier Jean Tressy, who was promoted to corporal. A monument was erected on his grave, at Chilleurs-aux-Bois (Loiret) i…