Skip to main content

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.


  1. Bonjour ,merci pour l’intérêt que vous portez a mon grand père et pour cette premier traduction en anglais. bien a vous vincent DELVERT
    PS :la photo que vous utilisez pour la couverture provient d'une archive familiale prêtée a Mickaël Bourlet dans le cadre du baptême de promotion


Post a Comment

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…