post, I mentioned Charles de Rose, who was a member of the pre-war aviation research team at Vincennes. The team was under the command of Eugène Estienne (1860-1936), a man who deserves a post of his own (his first name was actually Jean-Baptiste, but he preferred his middle name Eugène).
In that post, I also used the term 'the snake pit of French military aviation'. In Estienne's case, I might expand this to 'the snake pit of French defence procurement'.
Estienne entered the Artillery, and was commissioned into the 35e Artillery in 1884. By 1909, with plenty of regimental and staff experience under his belt, he was a major and commander of the Artillery school in Grenoble. From here, he went to the main Artillery depot at Vincennes just outside Paris. In March 1910, he was made a lieutenant colonel and give charge of the Artillery's aviation establishment in the same location.
Estienne's assembled a group of officers from all arms of service - for he was no narrow partisan -
The Engineers then returned to the offensive, and the Minister of War changed his mind, and put aircraft under the sappers instead. However, Estienne's establishment was left in place, and they continued with their work, testing the use of cameras, the carrying of bombs, fitting guns to aircraft and the best tactics for armed aircraft to employ. In the background, the struggle for control of the Aviation Service went on in the corridors of power and in the smoke-filled rooms of the Chamber. And in 1912, a reorganisation put the Engineers firmly in charge, and the work of Estienne's group was severely curtailed. Estienne himself was posted away to command the 3e Aviation Groupe, responsible for establishments from Lyon to Biskra (Algeria). On the outbreak of war, although promoted to colonel, he found himself back in regimental service with 22e Artillery, his aviation experience ignored. Yet for all that, nearly all the techniques and tactics employed during the opening months of the war had been devised at Vincennes by Estienne and his team.
Pictures: Estienne during the 1920s (Wikipedia); Estienne, Lieutenant Clavenad and Captain George Bellenger attempt a balloon ascent, Saint-Cloud, 1911 (Gallica); Estienne and civilian aviation pioneer Marquis Edgard de Kergariou (nice hat!) at the Michelin-sponsored bombing competition, 1912 (Gallica); the Schneider, Saint-Chamond and Renault tanks; Estienne's memorial in front of the Armoured Troops monument at Berry-au-Bac (Aisne); the plaque at the site of the Artillerie Spéciale's headquarters 1916-18 at Orrouy (Oise) (all Wikipedia).