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Showing posts from March, 2015

Delvert in action: Ethe and afterwards

In the days following the battle of Ethe, the regiment wandered back and forth for a few days, as the French tried to position themselves to halt the German advance.
The 101st's war diary does not make much of the regiment's casualties. The only references is a few days later on 27th August, when the strengths of the three battalions are given - 1st Battalion 9 officers, 701 men, 2nd Battalion 2 officers, 229 men and 3rd Battalion 9 officers, 760 men - a little over 1,700 men, instead of the wartime establishment of around 2,750. On the same day, Captain Lasnet arrived with four companies of replacements from the depot.




As a single battalion faced with a brigade, moving away from his supports, Major Louis Laplace and the 2nd Battalion were on a hiding to nothing. The commander of 2nd Battalion was a career soldier, who had joined as a volunteer in 1883, obtaining a commission in 1889 via Saint-Maixent, and served with 49th Infantry, 66th Infantry and 3rd Zouaves.

Thirty-two m…

Delvert in action: 'Always aim for the foot of the target!'

While writing the previous post on the action at Ethe, I read a number of German accounts of the fighting drawn from regimental histories, and reprinted in English in Terence Zuber's Battle of the Frontiers. I was struck by the number of times the Germans report that the French shot high. At the same time, Charles Delvert describes his platoon in action during the battle, and several times he orders, 'Volley Fire'. To a British mind, this immediately brings to mind battles like Zulu, rather than the Great War. So I thought some investigation might be in order.
Firstly, despite the number of references to shooting high that regimental histories contained, German casualties were sufficient on the day to discourage them from pursuing the retreating French closely, so perhaps not every Frenchman shot as high as all that.
What was musketry instruction like? The first part consisted of aiming exercises, with a rifle fixed to a frame. The target was a square, fixed to the barrac…