Skip to main content

The Grand Mémorial - a new database of the French Army

I take a pause in my Delvert-ing activities to post news of a new database on the French Army of the Great War, launched on 11 November.

The Grand Mémorial is a gateway to two sets of digitized documents. The first is the record cards of those who were killed in action - morts pour la France (MPLF). These are already approachable by name, but recently, an indexing project has been undertaken to include the other fields on each card - unit, place of birth and enlistment, place and cause of death (I originally wrote about it here).

The second set consists of the digitized registres matricules, held in each departmental archives across France. These registers list every man who was called up, by the year of his enlistment, with details of his family, occupation, educational level and military career. Many of these are already digitized, but are available only through the website of the archive. What the Grand Mémorial site does is to combine the index of each departmental archive, to which is added the existing MPLF indexing, to create a grand index covering all those who served.

It sounds good, doesn't it? But we know it's not quite as simple as that. I already noted the incompleteness of the MPLF indexing (although this is being remedied by volunteers); further, not all the indexes of the registres matricules have been added to the site. Frustratingly for my Delvert project, those of Eure-et-Loir (where his regiment had its depot) are still only available through the departmental archive website. The plan is to have everything complete by November 2018.

The map shows the current state of the registres matricules. The palest blue indicates those departments whose registers are digitized but not indexed, and are available through their own website. The slightly darker blue indicates departments whose registers are indexed and on the Mémorial. The slightly greener blue (eg 36 and 37) indicates departments whose registers are digitized but access is only available in their respective archive search rooms. The dark blue are those departments with registers that are digitized and indexed, but not yet on the Mémorial (and by implication, the next to be included?). The yellow are those departments with no registers. I hope that's clear ...

The departments currently included, then, are: Ain, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Côtes-d'Armor, Haute-Marne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Mayenne, Saône-et-Loire, Sarthe, Seine-Maritime, Yvelines, Somme, Tarn, Var, Vaucluse, Vendée. Plus Algeria and French Polynesia, from the Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer at Aix-en-Provence (with the following promised soon: Madagascar, Comores, Côte française des Somalis (1889-1918), Réunion (1889-1918), Guyane (1890-1914), Afrique occidentale française (1893-1917), Polynésie (1894-1919), Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (1901-1921) and Nouvelle-Calédonie (1907-1918)).

What can you do? Search by name, obviously. The Advanced Search option also permits searching by place of birth, of enlistment, of abode or of death; you can limit this by date, by educational level and by occupation, using drop-down menus. From this, you find, amongst other things, that ten men on the database gave their occupation as 'acrobat'. Their origins were equally divided between the south (Nice and Toulon) and Brittany (Saint-Brieuc and Guingamp) - was there no call for acrobats elsewhere in the country? 

Some 234 men in the database were born in the UK - most from the Channel Islands and enlisting in Brittany. You just search under 'Royaume-Uni' - there is no need to also search under the constituent parts. And one man came from Ireland - the unfortunate Corporal John Joseph Barrett, born in Ennis (Co Clare) in 1890, enlisted at Dunkerque in 1914, and killed in action on 20 April 1917 at Auberive (Marne), serving with the Foreign Legion.

Helpfully, you can download your results as a comma-delimited file, giving your own research database. I'll go further into the registres matricules, and the information they contain, in my posts about Charles Delvert.


Popular posts from this blog

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,…

Sources for French military history

In something of a mood for reviews after last week's post, I dipped my pen (? or should that be keyboard?) in critic's vitriol once again, and took a look at Milindex, a searchable bibliography newly mounted on the website of the French Ministry of Defence's Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi des Forces (CDEF).
The bibliography is the work of the CDEF's Research Centre, the Ecole Militaire's Documentation Centre and an un-named university. The database includes the following older titles:
Journal des Sciences militaires (1825-1914) (available on Gallica), Revue d’artillerie (1872-1939) (available on Gallica), Revue de cavalerie (available on Gallica 1905-25),  Revue d’infanterie (1887-1939) (available on Gallica), Revue des Sciences Politiques (1911-1936) (available on Gallica),
Revue des troupes coloniales (1902-1939) Revue du géniemilitaire (1887-1959) (available on Gallica), Revue du service de l’intendance militaire(1888-1959)
Revue militaire générale (1907-1973) (available…

Ceux de 14 - the critics speak!

With the first episodes of Ceux de 14 having been broadcast on France 3 earlier this week, the critics have now had their say.
Télé-Loisirs: 'a good reconstruction of war', but overall the cast 'was rather wooden'; on the other hand Théo Frilet, as Genevoix was 'convincing'. Overall: Very Good
Télé 2 Semaines: 'convincing casting', but also thought they were 'rather wooden'. Overall: Quite Good
Télé Z: 'we lived, suffered and wept with these soldiers serving during the Great War'. Overall: Excellent
Télé Poche: 'faithful to the original book'. Overall: Good
TV Grandes Chaines: 'a bold production' with 'convincing actors'. Overall: Very Good.
Télé 7 Jours: 'the series is a noteworthy tribute to a generation that was sacrificed', played by 'outstanding actors'. Overall: Good
Télé Star: Overall: Good
So ... 'could be better' by the sound of things; but likewise, could be a lot worse (and we've s…