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Showing posts from December, 2014

Delvert's regiment - the barracks of the 101st

The regimental depot of the 101st Infantry was the Caserne de Billy in Dreux (Eure-et-Loir). Since it was quite close to Paris, Dreux had always been a garrison town. In 1736, a new barracks was built in the then rue d'Orisson (now the rue d'Orfeuil) to house the men of the brigade de corps du roi.
The building remained in use throughout the Napoleonic wars, but by the 1840s it had become cramped and was in need of repair. It was decided to construct a new barracks, on the plateau to the north of the town, and construction began in October 1845.
The barracks was named after a local man, General Jean Louis de Billy (1763-1806). When the Revolution broke out, he was an artillery instructor at a military academy in Paris. He joined the National Guard, and subsequently served with the Armée des Côtes de l'Océan and the Armée du Rhin, and was wounded at Zürich (2 June 1799). He was subsequently promoted to brigadier and commanded a brigade in Oudinot's Division (III …

Delvert's regiment - the 101st Infantry

In 1914, Charles Delvert joined the 101st Infantry.

A little history. Because of the changes that have taken place since 1789, the French rule is that the 'current' regiment is the bearer of the traditions of every previous regiment that bears the same number, irrespective of whatever amalgamations and disbandments occurred. Thus the 101st is the descendant of all infantry units with the number 101. 
The 101st was originally raised in 1787 by the Prince-Bishop of Liège from the French-speaking parts of the Austrian Netherlands. Entering French service, it was named Royal-Liégeois. In 1791, all the old names were abolished, and the regiment became the plain 101e Régiment d'Infanterie.

Even this title smacked too much of the past, and in 1793, regiments were abolished, to be replaced by 'half-brigades'. This came too late for the 101st because the whole regiment deserted in 1792 and joined the Austrians. So in 1793 at Besançon, the 101e Demi-Brigade de Bataille had…

Charles Delvert - his war-time diaries

Delvert was by no means unique in maintaining a diary and then using as the basis for an autobiographical memoir. However, his writing style was so succinct that there was no need for further editing. There is no question of 'horrors recollected in tranquility' - what you see on the printed page was always exactly what was written at the time.
This immediacy and honesty made an immediate impression. Delvert lent his diaries to the writer Henry Bordeaux, who was doing a piece on the fall of Fort Vaux during the battle of Verdun for the journal Revue des Deux Mondes (here and here); Bordeaux was able to use them almost completely word for word, except for changes made in line with Bordeaux's propagandist aims.

In comparing Delvert's original and Bordeaux's version, the normally grumpy Jean Norton Cru was positively scathing: 'Henry Bordeaux's book, the object of so many laudatory reviews, acquires its vivid nature wholly from the memoirs lent to him by Delve…