Thursday, 27 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:

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

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 Some of those details are out of date now, of course, but I think enough remains in place to make it do-able. Since writing those posts the new museum of the Great War has opened at Meaux, where we were based, so that is an extra attraction for anyone in the area.

The battle of Verdun was written on the anniversary of the first day of the battle. A short post such as this cannot hope to do justice to such a lengthy battle (it opened in February 1916 and did not start winding down until July). The high number of hits reflects, I think, on the central position it holds for France's Great War, and the continuing debate on the strategies of the opposing sides.

With Napoleon's Soldiers, I was taking a break for writing on the Kings of the Air, my current project, and looking at recent French digitization projects. In this particular case, it concerned registers of recruits to Napoleon's regiments, both Guard and line. It was really a review and how-to-search guide for those who were unaware of its existence. It's not really my period (true enthusiasts may be saying, 'And it shows' at this stage), but it was interesting to see that the documents had actually survived, and what information they contained. They are also free for everyone to use, and not sold off under exclusive licenses to for-profit genealogy sites (National Archives, I'm looking at you). It is a testament to the continuing popularity of the Little Corporal that this has reached number 3.

I have no idea why Butte des Zouaves 1914 and 2013 should be so popular. It was written to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of zouave regiments in the French Army; every year, there is a wreath-laying ceremony at a monument to one of the battles of 1914, in which the zouaves took a prominent part. But that year was not a significant anniversary, nor was the battle an important one in the history of the war, however bloody for the zouaves. Perhaps it just struck the zeitgeist at the time, but it continues to be popular - it is the most-looked at post this week.

And the most popular of all posts was been 2,000 Views. It was partly about a film, Verdun: Visions d'Histoire, directed by Léon Poirier, that was released in 1928. But it was also about using stills from this film and others as being actual photos of the Great War. As TV documentaries follow each other onto our TV screens this year, showing Frenchmen in horizon blue to illustrate the battles of 1914, or Germans in steel helmets attacking at Verdun, I am still uncertain about my final response. My inner Uniform Geek revolts at such anachronisms, as being somewhere on a scale between 'simply sloppy' to 'deliberately mendacious'. The excerpts do not represent what the documentary maker says they do, so shouldn't be used. But unless you are making a point about equipment or tactics, does that really matter? Poirier was attempting as accurate a reconstruction as he could, so the look and style of the film are close to the real thing, perhaps closer than a modern director could manage. So when the picture editor of a modern coffee table book includes a film still saying, 'this is a man being killed', is the impression it gives closer to the real thing than any other way of depicting it, and thus justified?

I post links to each post on Twitter and on various groups on Facebook. As a traffic source, Twitter just edges it over Facebook. And this will continue to be the case, as one Facebook group has now restricted voluntarily the kind of posts it displays, and as of last night, Facebook seems to have deleted another that I used. Nevertheless, the largest single traffic source remains Google.

Where do you all live? About one-third of all page views come from the USA, and a fifth from the UK. Smaller numbers come from France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and China. A third of you use Firefox, a quarter, either Chrome or Internet Explorer. Nearly three-quarters use Windows.

Thanks to everyone for looking. Here's to the next 7,000!

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