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The French Army in the First World War

The French army of the First World War withstood the main force of the German onslaught on the Western Front, but often it is neglected in English histories of the conflict. Now, though, keen interest in the war in general and in the part the French played in it has prompted a fresh appreciation of their army and the men who served in it. Ian Sumner’s wide-ranging photographic history is an important contribution in this growing field. Using a selection of over 150 rare wartime photographs, he provides a graphic overview of every aspect of a French soldier’s service during the struggle. But while the photographs create a fascinating all-round portrait of the French poilu at war, they also give an insight into the army as a whole, and offer a rare French perspective on the Great War.

Reviews
'There's not much out on the French Army in the Great War so was pleased to see many photos I hadn't seen before. A few period tank photos are were new and armored car shots…
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From the Marne to Verdun: the war diary of Captain Charles Delvert, 101st Infantry, 1914-16

Charles Delvert’s diary records his career as a front-line officer in the French army fighting the Germans during the First World War. It is one of the classic accounts of the war in French or indeed in any other language, and it has not been translated into English before. In precise, graphic detail he sets down his wartime experiences and those of his men. He describes the relentless emotional and physical strain of active service and the extraordinary courage and endurance required in battle. His account is essential reading for anyone who is keen to gain a direct insight into the Great War from the French soldier's point of view, and it bears comparison with the best-known English and German memoirs and journals of the Great War.

Reviews
This classic account of World War One from a French officer’s perspective has not previously been translated for the original French. Highly Recommended. This book is particularly valuable because it is a translation of a diary ke…

The French Army at Verdun

The French Army at Verdun (Images of War series) (Barnsley, Pen & Sword, 2016; ISBN 9781473856158)
In four and a half years of fighting on the Western Front during the First World War a few battles stand out from the rest. They had a decisive impact on the course of the conflict, and they still define the war for us today. For the French, the Battle of Verdun, fought between February and December 1916, was one of the greatest of these. That is why the selection of contemporary photographs Ian Sumner has brought together for this volume in the Images of War series is so important and revealing. They show the strained, sometimes shocked faces of the soldiers, record the shattered landscape in which they fought, and give us an insight into the sheer intensity of the fighting. At the time, and ever since, the battle has been portrayed as a triumph of French tenacity and heroism that is encapsulated in the famous phrase ‘They shall not pass’. These photographs remind us,…

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'!!


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 r…

A family album

Well, why not? Inspired by the Imperial War Museum exhibition and Twitter hashtag #WhatMyFamilyWore
My grandfather, called up into the Navy in 1918. Since he was an electrical apprentice in civvy street, they made him a hydrophone operator. He trained at HMS Victory II (Crystal Palace, London), was posted to the depot ship HMS Research at Portland, and served on the anti-submarine trawler David Buchan in the Western Approaches out of what was then Queenstown (and is now Cobh). One picture taken in the studio, another of him (bottom right) and the rest of the ship's company (mostly RNR ratings from the Aberdeen fishing industry) after coaling ship.





















After the Great War, both my grandparents did a lot with St John's Ambulance. This is him with St John's Cadets at camp on Barton Moss (I think), just to the west of Manchester. What a uniform!









And my grandmother, on the right. It looks as it might be a cadet camp as well (though since the trees are in leaf here, not the same one…

Kings of the Air

In comparison to their British and German counterparts, the French airmen of the Great War are not well known. Yet their aerial exploits were just as remarkable, and their contribution to the war effort on the Western Front was equally important. That is why Ian Sumner's vivid history of the men of the French air force during the war is of such value. He tells their story using the words of the pioneering pilots and observers themselves, drawn from memoirs, diaries, letters, and contemporary newspapers, magazines and official documents. The recollections of the airmen give an authentic portrait of their role and their wartime careers. They cover recruitment and training, reconnaissance and artillery spotting, aerial combat, ground strafing and bombing, and squadron life. They also highlight the technical and tactical innovations made during those hectic years, as well as revealing the airmen's attitude to the enemy - and their thoughts about the ever-present threat of injury …