Thursday, 21 January 2016

Not for those of a nervous disposition!

The happy author brandishing a copy of his new book on Verdun, posed in front of a small part of the book collection.

Just visible over his left shoulder are the spines of two of his previous books, They Shall Not Pass: the French Army of the Great War  and Kings of the Air: French Aces and Airmen of the Great War, both published by Pen & Sword, not only as hardbacks, but also in Kindle and ePub format (links to the P&S website).

The hypnotoad says, 'Buy, Buy, Buy'!!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Here we are, here we are, here we are again!

Well, you may be wondering where on Earth I had got to, having not updated this here blog-thingy since September. (Or perhaps not! Such is the ego of an author that he assumes everyone is hanging on his every word :-) )

The reasons for this hiatus were many, but principally it was down to family illness, and simply the difficulties in keeping several projects on the go at the same time. 

I cannot promise to be as assiduous as before with keeping this blog up-to-date, but will try.

So what's new?

The translation of Charles Delvert's memoirs is now at the proof stage. The draft cover looks like this, with a
colourized photo of the man himself at the top. The pre-proofread book contains 6 pages of translator's introduction, about the book and its author; the diary itself is 210 pages; it is followed by two indexes, which I have compiled - one of personal names and one of place names - which take up a further 26 pages.

The proofs are currently with the publisher's proof reader; I would imagine I'll receive them with the next couple of weeks. I haven't got a firm publication date yet.

While all that was going on, I was doing two other titles for Pen & Sword in their Archives of War series. I originally mentioned the large archive of wartime photos that has been digitized by the Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine at Nanterre here. The two titles I have been working on both use material from this archive extensively.

The first is entitled French Army at Verdun; the second is French Army in the Great War. Both books are essentially in the same format: about 190 photos with my captions, divided into a number of sections, each section with a short introduction.

The Verdun title was published on 11 January. It currently available at the Pen and Sword website for the reduced sum of £11.99 here or for £13.48 down your favourite South American river here. Buy, buy, buy, and make an old man very happy by bolstering his beer fund! The main picture on the cover shows men of 74th Infantry waiting for their relief at Bois de Cailette, April 1916. On 3 April, 1st Battalion advanced under fire on a two-company front, losing Captain de Visme, Lieutenant Morin, Lieutenant Légal and Sous-lieutenant Guigny, all killed. 'We could only advance further in bounds,' recalled Sous-Lieutenant Jean Desmaires. 'The enemy barrage was very intense. Adjudant Moutier was wounded four times in the stomach. He leaned against a tree and prayed for an end to his suffering. His wish was granted: he was cut in half by a shell … Men were falling. Our losses were growing heavier by the minute. We advanced more than 600m [but] our objective was reached by a line of dead men.' Between 3 April and 6 April the regiment endured several heavy bombardments and counter-attacks as the Germans tried to secure the La Caillette plateau; by 8 April the wood was in German hands. 

Edit: thanks to the good offices of Stéphane Agosto, I am able to say that the officer in the centre of the main cover picture, smoking a cigarette, is Sous-lieutenant Marie Fernand Gabriel Le Ber, who served with the 74th's 11th Company. Le Ber was born in Rouen in 1880; the photo must have been taken about six weeks before he was killed, in front of Douaumont, on 22 May. For anyone interested in the kind of material that is available on an individual regiment, and how it can be exploited, take a look at Stéphane's excellent blog at

The more general title is ... well, it's still being written. It's on the finalest of final drafts, so with any luck, it will be finished by the end of this week. The main cover picture will feature this tank. The photo was taken at Courlandon (Marne), in April 1917, and shows the crew (not forgetting the dog) of a Schneider tank named Malèche – 'Never Mind' - in French and Arabic, serving with 2nd Battery of AS8. Dogs were welcomed by tank crews, not simply for their companionship, but also because they were more sensitive than humans to the build-up of carbon monoxide - a fault of the early Schneiders.

Here's to keeping that New Year's resolution!

The song 'Here we are, he we are again', sung by Frederick Wheeler, is on YouTube here.