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Showing posts from March, 2014


This blog has now reached 7,000 page views, and has been in existence for just over twelve months. So I thought I'd take a look at which posts had proved the most popular in terms of page views.
Bubbling under, as they say, are: Great War Touring Guide for the Artois Battlefields, Kings of the Air: Aces High, Blue for Remembrance, Mathurin Maheut: an artist at war, and Sources for French Military History.
But the top five posts, in reverse order Pop Pickers, are:
Around the First Battle of the Marne 1: the battle of the Ourcq The battle of Verdun Napoleon's soldiers Butte de Zouaves 1914 and 2013 2,000 views!
Around the First Battle of the Marne was the first of a three-part post on the theme of What I Did On My Holidays in 2008. I was writing a book for Osprey on the battle, so went to see the actual countryside over which it was fought. I tried to include a few tips and hits on using public transport in the area, since that is how we got around. Some of those details are out …

Kings of the Air: The White Bird

As I mentioned last time, following the end of the Great War, the former ace Charles Nungesser tried to earn a living in the USA, putting on displays and starring as an action hero in feature films. Whatever he took from this activity was apparently not enough - he abandoned film work and went back to flying. A venture into selling planes to the Cuban military ended badly. He decided to take on the Orteig Prize for crossing the Atlantic.
Let me say at this juncture that this was not a prize for simply crossing the Atlantic - Nungesser, and Lindbergh after him, were not trying to be the first to cross the ocean, as some sloppy journalists assert. The crossing had already been achieved in 1919 by two Britons, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown. The Orteig Prize was for $25,000, put up by a New York hotelier, Raymond Orteig, for the first non-stop crossing between the two cities.
Once he had crashed his aircraft, René Fonck had decided the whole project was too risky, so leaving the fie…

Kings of the Air: The Calm After The Storm

Following recent posts on injury and death, one might wonder how the survivors managed after the war. And the answer is not always very well. Many pilots carried on doing what they did best - flying, but undoubtedly, many missed the adrenalin rush of combat flying. 'Deep down, in the calm that follows the storm, I sometimes rather regret that all danger is past,' admitted René Fonck. 'Constant peril can be particularly satisfying to anyone prepared to take on the challenge. Sometimes we really miss it and that's when we embark on some lunatic enterprise or other.' 
And almost immediately, on 19 January 1919, Jules Védrines embarked on such a lunatic enterprise, landing his aircraft on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris in a feat of bravado and enormously skilful flying. On 21 April, whilst flying from Paris to Rome, his engine failed, and his aircraft crashed at Saint-Rambert d'Albon, near Lyon, killing him and his mechanic.
Some pilo…

One year on ...

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything new, having been too busy actually completing the manuscript for Kings of the Air (and it still isn't done yet - only a couple of months late so far :-( ). But press on rewardless regardless.

In the meantime, I missed celebrating one year of this blog's existence. I have also missed commemorating the milestone of 6,000 page views. It may not be a milestone compared with some, but it's still a pleasing thing to have reached so many over the twelve months that I've been going. So thanks to everyone who's taken a look at the pages over the past year, and here's to the next one.
Since this is Oscars week, it immediately brings to mind the very first film to be awarded the Best Picture Oscar, in 1929 - Wings, directed by William Wellman, realeased in 1927, and starring Richard Arlen, 'It Girl' Clara Bow and Charles Rogers. The Wikipedia article on the film is here; the IMDB page here.
William 'Wild Bill&…