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Showing posts from April, 2014

Les Croix de bois / Wooden Crosses

One of my first posts was on the proposed dramatisation of Maurice Genevoix's novel Ceux de 14, one of the great novels of the Great War. One of other famous novels of the war, Les croix de bois by Roland Dorgelès (1885-1973) has already been filmed, in 1932.
The book was an autobiographical novel. Dorgelès (real name Lecavalé - the English Wikipedia entry here is ludicrously short; the French one here is much fuller) served in the 74e and the 39e Infantry Regiments in the Argonne and in Artois in 1914-15. He transferred to Aviation, but never served with a front-line squadron, and there is no record of him in the files available online. In 1917 he began working for the satirical magazine Le Canard Enchainé and, with the novel written, rarely revisited his war in print.

He published Les croix de bois, based on his experiences, in 1919. It won the Prix Femina, and only just missed out on the Prix Goncourt. You can read the French edition here, or the 1921 US edition here. He later …

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,…