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Cent ans

Posté le jeudi 7 août 2014 par Letel


Article, commentaires

 WITH four months to go before the centenary of the start of the first world war, the bombardment of new books from competing historians is growing heavier. Unlike many of the young men who went off to fight in 1914, nobody thinks it will all be over by Christmas.

This is not surprising. The Great War has always been a publishing phenomenon. Around 25,000 books and scholarly articles have been written on it since 1918. The arguments have been conducted with forensic intensity and unwavering moral passion. The fascination with the war, which exerts its grip most powerfully in the “Anglosphere” countries, is justified. At least 10m men died in the conflict; more than twice that number were seriously injured. Those who bore mental scars for the remainder of their lives are uncounted, as are the civilians who died or who were damaged by bereavement or dislocation.

For the first time, but not the last, the organisation and technology of sophisticated industrial societies were seamlessly and lethally joined. The war destroyed empires (some quickly, some more slowly), created fractious new nation-states, gave a sense of identity to the British dominions, forced America to become a world power and led directly to Soviet communism, the rise of Hitler, the second world war and the Holocaust. The turmoil in the Middle East has its roots in the world it spawned. As Fritz Stern, a German-American historian, put it, the conflict was “the first calamity of the 20th century, the calamity from which all other calamities sprang”.

That still does not explain why interest in what caused the war and how it was fought is so much fiercer in Britain than in any of the four other main belligerent powers. It cannot be because of the appalling slaughter: France, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary all suffered far higher casualties than Britain’s 887,000 military deaths. Clearly it makes a difference that for the last three, the war ended in defeat. But there are other reasons too.

In Germany, the shadow of the second world war hung so heavily that there was little appetite to think much about the first, which was widely seen to have been no one nation’s sole responsibility. That changed in the early 1960s when a German historian, Fritz Fischer, caused a sensation by arguing that his country’s annexationist aims predated the Great War and were similar to those of the Nazis. Aspects of Fischer’s thesis were later disputed, but most Germans wearily came to accept its broad conclusions. For post-communist Russia, it is the heroism and sacrifice of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 that remain uppermost in the national psyche rather than the revolution that followed surrender in 1917. The Austro-Hungarian empire broke up, and the war means different things to its former constituent parts.

The two main victorious allies also differ in their attitudes to the war. France sees it much as Russia sees the last war, as an immense, tragic, noble endeavour that ended in the expulsion of the aggressor from the motherland through glorious force of arms (see article). The contrast with France’s capitulation in 1940 is stark.

For Britain, the second world war was the “good war”—not only devoid of moral complexity, but in other ways less painful too. Fewer than half as many British servicemen died in that war as in its predecessor. The rights and wrongs of Britain’s participation in the first world war were less clear—the pre-war British cabinet was split—and are still debated today.

However, once Britain decided to enter the war, all such doubts disappeared. Even as the casualties mounted, even as news reached home of that terrible day on the Somme in July 1916, when nearly 20,000 British soldiers (most of them recently recruited volunteers) were killed, popular support for what was seen as a just and necessary fight barely wavered. Some politicians, such as Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George (who became prime minister in December 1916), chafed at the attrition on the western front. But they were the exception. Amid the tragedy, a mood of dogged stoicism prevailed both at home and in the trenches. When the war ended suddenly, after the extraordinary “100 days” offensive that culminated in the armistice of November 1918, it was greeted as victory.

Yet a deep, and essentially pacifist, disillusion soon took a grip of Britain. As the stream of memoirs turned into a flood, dominated at first by the brilliant but partial accounts of Churchill and Lloyd George, the sense of waste increased. Douglas Haig, the British commander-in-chief, who was described by his American opposite number, John Pershing, as “the man who won the war”, was recast as the “butcher of the Somme”, a callous incompetent who had presided over more than 2m British casualties. Thus was born the first wave of revisionism about the war.

Foundations of appeasement

Doubts also grew about who was responsible. Although Germany never fully paid the reparations that had been demanded, chiefly by France, in the post-war Versailles treaty, many in Britain felt that they were too harsh. “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, in which John Maynard Keynes, a British economist, criticised the treaty, became a worldwide bestseller and a handbook for the appeasement of “unfairly” treated Germany in the 1930s. Opinion in Britain and America was also swayed by propaganda put out by a special section of the German foreign ministry that was charged with fighting the “war guilt” clause used to justify reparations. Basil Liddell Hart, a popular and widely read British military theorist, whose battalion was nearly wiped out at the Somme, attacked not only the professional fitness of British generals, but the very decision to become involved in a bloody land war on the continent at all.

In the aftermath of the second world war, interest in the first, briefly, sagged. But then a strange thing happened. As the 50th anniversary of 1914 approached, the Great War began to resume its vice-like hold on the British consciousness, thanks to a spate of new bestselling books. Among them was “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman, an American historian. This, in itself, was unusual; most readers and writers in America have always been far less interested than their European counterparts in the first world war. Her book deeply affected President Kennedy as he grappled with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Alan Clark’s “The Donkeys” centred on the early failures of British military leadership and pandered to stereotypes of the “chateau general” ordering thousands of men to their deaths before comfortably tucking in to a good dinner. Clark failed to acknowledge the steep learning curve that all senior officers found themselves on, and he later admitted to inventing the phrase “lions led by donkeys” that gave the book its title, falsely attributing it to a conversation about the naive courage of British soldiers between two German generals, Max Hoffman and Erich Ludendorff.

None of this mattered a jot to popular sentiment. Clark’s book helped inspire Joan Littlewood’s 1963 satirical musical “Oh, What a Lovely War!”—which was later made into a film and is now on again at Littlewood’s old theatre in Stratford East, London, playing to parties of school-children. When the BBC showed its 26-part epic, “The Great War”, in 1964, an average of 8m people watched each episode. The moving interviews with veteran survivors added to the sense that for Britain the first world war was a uniquely awful tragedy in the nation’s history. Indeed, with the commemoration each year of Armistice Day around war memorials (on which the names of the fallen in the first war vastly outnumber those of the second) across Britain and much of the Commonwealth, and by the wearing of paper red poppies evoking the fields of churned-up Flanders mud, the Great War is still for many Britons the war that speaks for all other wars.

It is in this context that the current historiography of the Great War must be viewed. The controversies about the causes, strategies and consequences of the war are matters of contemporary concern. A few months ago Britain’s education secretary, Michael Gove, tried to reclaim this year’s commemorations for those for whom the war was a just cause fought for liberal values. He complained that for too long the conflict had “been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as ‘Oh, What a Lovely War!’, ‘The Monocled Mutineer’ and ‘Blackadder’, as a misbegotten shambles—a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. Even to this day there are left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”

Where Mr Gove was wrong was to suggest that there was a crude left/right split over the war. Alan Clark was a Tory MP who said he admired Hitler. Niall Ferguson, a conservative historian of greater distinction than Clark, wrote “The Pity of War” in 1999, in which he vehemently argued that Britain made a disastrous mistake entering the conflict: the stakes were low, but the costs unimaginably high. Mr Gove rightly drew attention to the recent work of a generation of military historians, such as William Philpott and Gary Sheffield, whose painstaking research has comprehensively rebuffed the military-incompetence theory self-servingly propagated by Lloyd George and others.

Clever wheezes

British and French generals saw what their political leaders did not: that the war would be decided on the western front (almost everything else was a sideshow); that it would take time to learn how to harness new weapons, such as the machinegun and fast-loading field artillery, which initially favoured defence, to effective offensive operations; and that a war between fully committed industrial societies would not be won by clever wheezes, but only by the hard slog of attrition. A young Charles de Gaulle, already wounded twice, grimly observed in December 1914: “What is this conflict but a war of extermination? A struggle of this kind, which in its range, significance and fury goes beyond anything that Europe has ever known, cannot be waged without enormous sacrifices. It has to be won. The winner will be the side that desires it most ardently.”

Mr Philpott, in “Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme and the Making of the 20th Century”, sees the five-month battle of the Somme as being what Stalingrad was in the next war—the defining struggle that marked the beginning of the end for Germany’s hopes of victory. Mr Sheffield, the author of “The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army”, focuses on a commander whose reputation has only recently been rehabilitated. Small-minded, quick to take umbrage and oddly inarticulate, Haig is not an attractive character. But Mr Sheffield shows that he learned from his mistakes; embraced new technology, such as aircraft and tanks, and the tactics to exploit it; encouraged talented subordinates; and, by 1918, had forged the British army into a formidable fighting machine, perhaps the best army the country has ever had.

For a clear combat history of the war that represents current thinking and examines every major theatre, Peter Hart’s “The Great War” is hard to beat. Mr Hart is the oral historian of the Imperial War Museum in London and he uses the letters and diaries of participants, both high-ranking and low, to impressive effect. Mr Hart too is a defender of the generals, arguing that most military commanders made reasonable tactical decisions based on the imperfect information available to them at the time. Indeed, for the first two years of the war, they groped for solutions that did not yet exist. The book’s main strength is to show how the evolution of tactics and technology opened up the possibility of breaking out of the stalemate of trench warfare. By 1918 French and British forces had mastered the techniques of the “all arms” battle—combining aircraft, tanks and, above all, highly accurate counter-battery artillery fire—that became the template for manoeuvre warfare for the next 50 years.

Many of these books concentrate on the years leading up to the war and the first cataclysmic months that determined much that came later. As Churchill, writing afterwards, observed: “No part of the Great War compares in interest with its opening. The measured, silent drawing together of gigantic forces, the uncertainty of their movements and positions, the number of unknown and unknowable facts made the first collision a drama never surpassed.”

The two heavyweights on the causes of the war are Margaret MacMillan with “The War that Ended Peace: How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War” (out last October) and Christopher Clark with “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914” (published a year earlier). Both authors are academics: Ms MacMillan is warden of St Antony’s, Oxford; Mr Clark professor of modern European history at Cambridge. The former is Canadian, the latter Australian. Both books run to nearly 700 pages, cover much of the same ground and have been critical and sales successes (especially “The Sleepwalkers”, which has sold 300,000 copies in 17 languages, including 160,000 copies in Germany).

Influencing America

Both authors knew they were entering into a debate that, as Mr Clark observes, is older than the war itself. Even before the first shots were fired, Europe’s statesmen were intent on weaving narratives designed to portray themselves as innocents responding to rival predatory aggressors. They wanted to galvanise popular fervour at home and send conscript armies to war with a spring in their step, influence opinion in America (overwhelmingly the most important non-belligerent until it entered the war in 1917) and secure the approval of posterity. In other words, much of the evidence needed to establish unambiguous responsibility for starting the war was being manipulated before, during and after it.

That said, the two books are very different and reach dissimilar, though equally nuanced, conclusions. Ms MacMillan gives a clue to where her sentiments lie at the start, when she describes the Germans’ brutal sacking of the beautiful and historically important city of Louvain in August 1914. Neutral Belgium had had the temerity to resist the German advance required by the so-called Schlieffen plan and German soldiers took their frustrations out on the city and its people. Louvain was only a taste of what was to come, but, as Ms MacMillan writes, it “came to be a symbol of the senseless destruction, the damage inflicted by Europeans themselves on what had been the most prosperous and powerful part of the world, and the irrational and uncontrollable hatreds between peoples who had so much in common.”

That elegiac tone informs much of the book, which recounts the series of international crises that were like dark clouds scudding one after another across an otherwise clear sky without ever quite exploding into a deluge. One by one they came and went: the Moroccan crisis of 1905; the Bosnian crisis of 1908; the second Moroccan (also known as the Agadir) crisis of 1911; and the two Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913. When what Theodore Roosevelt called “that great black tornado” finally broke over Europe on August 4th, just 37 days after the shots killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, many, even some of those responsible for the most fateful decisions, found it hard to believe what had happened. Having muddled through so many times before, Europe’s statesmen had assumed that they would somehow contrive to do so again.

Ms MacMillan is particularly good at describing the men (they were all men) and the calculations, assumptions and prejudices, often supported by only patchy information and unco-ordinated government machines, that led them to their decisions. Her Kaiser is an impetuous blusterer in love with the army, smart uniforms and a romantic idea of inexorably growing German power. She shows his puppyish desire to be liked by everyone; his mystified fury when he is not. Kaiser Wilhelm emerges as a not wholly dislikeable figure. But you would not want him as supreme commander of an army (even notionally) with control over the appointment of the chancellor and the right to choose or dismiss diplomats and conclude treaties.

Cheques and balances

It is impossible to read this book without coming away with the strong feeling that Ms MacMillan believes primary responsibility (a word she prefers to blame) for the war lay with Germany and, to a lesser extent, Austria-Hungary. It is Germany, more often than not, that took risks when crises erupted. The author does not wholly go along with the Fischer thesis that Germany planned the war in advance to satisfy its expansionist ambitions (Germany’s maximalist war aims were only developed after the fighting had begun), but she does see German militarism and the commitment of the general staff under Helmuth von Moltke to fighting a two-front war that would require rapid and unstoppable mobilisation as catalytic.

And it was Germany that issued the infamous “blank cheque” to Austria-Hungary offering unconditional support, whatever the consequences, for its punitive attack on Serbia following the assassination in Sarajevo. Its leaders were prepared to risk war. The timing was favourable (the German general staff feared that were it to wait, Russia’s rapid economic and military growth would soon make it very hard to beat) and if it came to fighting Austria-Hungary would be needed as an ally. The three men who had the power to decide between war and peace, the Kaiser, von Moltke and Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, the chancellor, saw opportunities rather than threats. “A leap into the dark”, said the chancellor, “had its attractions.”

For Mr Clark this is too simple. “The Sleepwalkers” is a tour de force of forensic historical analysis that delves deeply into the (innumerable) primary sources to construct a picture of almost overwhelming complexity in which lack of reliable information, misconceptions and corrosive distrust forced key actors into playing a kind of multidimensional chess while wearing blindfolds. The author chides those seeking conspiracy. To establish real culpability, he argues, you must “show that someone willed war as well as caused it”. This does not mean minimising “the belligerence and imperialist paranoia of the Austrian and German policymakers…But the Germans were not the only imperialists and not the only ones to succumb to paranoia.” “There is no smoking gun in this story,” he writes, “or, rather, there is one in the hands of every major character.” In his view, the start of war “was a tragedy, not a crime.”

With its meticulous refutation of the Fischer orthodoxy, the book has topped bestseller lists in Germany. For Mr Clark, the fault-line in European politics that sets off the chain reaction leading to war lies very clearly in the Balkans. The first part of “The Sleepwalkers” opens with a royal murder 11 years before Sarajevo when 28 Serbian army officers force their way into the palace in Belgrade, shoot, stab and axe King Alexandar and Queen Draga before throwing what remains of their corpses out of the window. What follows is an examination of the part Serbia played in fomenting the war. The Belgrade government’s rampant irredentism and its tolerance of terrorist networks posed a very real threat to the rickety Austro-Hungarian empire. In that light, the ultimatum sent by Vienna to the Serbian regime three weeks after the assassination in Sarajevo, although unquestionably high-handed, appears in a slightly more sympathetic light. There is no question that Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, the Austrian army’s chief of staff, had been spoiling for a fight for years and would not be denied one now, but the Serbian response when it came was, according to the author, a “masterpiece of diplomatic equivocation” rather than the humble act of compliance it is usually portrayed as being.

Russian roulette

It is in this light too that the Russian decision to mobilise in Serbia’s defence should be seen. Although pan-Slavic solidarity was important in St Petersburg it was probably not enough on its own to risk war. Mr Clark shows that Russia had other geopolitical concerns. It was more and more worried about British-built Turkish dreadnoughts arriving in the Black Sea that could block off Russian exports. Control of the Balkans would help Russia prevent unwanted intrusions on the Bosphorus. Even so, Russian mobilisation was reckless, and would have been inconceivable without assurances of more or less unconditional support from France in the Balkans. As Mr Clark puts it: “Russia and France thereby tied the fortunes of two of the world’s greatest powers in highly asymmetric fashion to the uncertain destiny of a turbulent and intermittently violent state.”

Another important theme is the breakdown of the international order that had kept the “long peace” of the 19th century. Small crises blew up into big ones as powers probed for weakness or lack of will (even virility) in their rivals. The absence of institutions to resolve conflicting interests led to “rapid-fire interactions among heavily armed autonomous power-centres confronting different and swiftly changing threats and operating under conditions of high risk and low trust and transparency”.

It was not the existence of two opposing alliances that helped plunge Europe into war, but the weakness of those alliances and the uncertainty about intentions within them. Decisions were driven by contingency rather than by any great strategic plan.

The author concludes that “the protagonists of 1914 were sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world.” Yet the picture he draws is more one of serial risk-takers than of sleepwalkers; the most calculating risk-taker of all being Germany, which leads back to the question of responsibility. And were the big players really so oblivious to the horrors they were about to unleash? Of course all the protagonists expected victory and some may have believed in the possibility of a short, decisive war. But others, from the temperamentally pessimistic von Moltke to Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary (“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”), had few illusions about what was to come.

Both books end as those lights are being extinguished. By contrast, in “Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War” Sir Max Hastings takes just 100 pages to deal with the events leading up to war, but then devotes a further 450 to the conflict’s opening five months. Sir Max has little time for Mr Clark’s reluctance to apportion blame. Even if Germany is acquitted of pursuing a general European war in 1914, he writes, it still deserves most blame because it (and it alone) had the power to stop the conflict and decided otherwise.

Sir Max was a distinguished war reporter before he became a bestselling military historian and it shows. What follows is a gripping account of that “first collision” that so excited Churchill—beginning with Austria-Hungary’s cack-handed assault on Serbia and ending, as the winter rains set in, with opposing lines of muddy trenches stretching from the Channel to Switzerland in the west and from the Baltic to Romania in the east. With confidence and ease, the author roams over vast battlefields, never reticent to comment unfavourably on the command decisions of others not blessed with his 20/20 hindsight, always ready with a sharp anecdote or well-chosen eyewitness report to add firepower to his relentless narrative thrust.

It is the story of the first fluid phase of the war: of the Germans’ bid for a speedy, knockout victory in the west that would allow them to concentrate their forces on annihilating Russia; of the unprecedented lethality of the “war of the frontiers” when on a single day (August 22nd 1914) 27,000 French soldiers met their end; of the “miracle of the Marne” in September when the French fought the German offensive to a standstill; of the dogged but doomed resistance of the tiny (at just 5% of the size of the French and German armies) British Expeditionary Force (BEF). By the end of the year the French had suffered nearly a million casualties, the Germans 800,000 and 86,000 of the 120,000-strong BEF first sent to France had been killed or wounded.

Oddly for a writer who likes to see himself as a debunker of myths, Sir Max is scathing in his judgments of the military leadership on all sides. Where Sir Max’s damnation is more than justified, however, is in his assessment of the fatally flawed plan that lured the Germans into believing that the war was worth starting. Alfred von Schlieffen’s vision of a grand envelopment was impossible because the technologies of mobility and communication lagged far behind the destructive power of 20th-century weapons. “In the pre-motorised age, defenders proved able to redeploy and reinforce more swiftly than attackers advanced, by the exploitation of rail links. It was a disastrous collective delusion, to suppose that a formula could be identified for achieving quick victory over three of the greatest powers in Europe…Rather than a strategist of genius, Schlieffen proved to be a fantasist who brought doom upon his foolish disciples.”

Have the new books changed people’s understanding of what happened and why? Mr Clark probably comes closest. But for this reviewer, at least some of the great arguments about the war are settled. Responsibility for starting the war was shared (though not equally) between three of the five main belligerents—Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. The greatest culpability lay with Germany because it had more and better choices. As to whether or not the war was necessary or futile, the answer is surely both. There was no need for Europe’s great powers to go to war with each other in 1914. Other ways could undoubtedly have been found to resolve the July crisis even if German militarism would have remained a large and growing problem. However, once the fighting began, and as Germany’s war aims expanded, it rapidly became a struggle that the liberal democracies (including America, whose decision to join the war did profound psychological damage to Germany’s military morale) had to win.

With many more Great War anniversaries to come over the next four years, the publishing offensive is only at its opening stage. It will not be in vain. Endlessly fascinating, hugely complex and charged with emotion, this is the catastrophe that shaped the modern world.

Sur la France, et De Gaulle

Sur Jünger, et l’Allemagne

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27 réponses à “Cent ans”

  • 27

    For if we are to bleed to death, England shall at least lose India.”

  • 26

    « Mr. Hynes notes that pilots didn’t wear parachutes but does not add that workable parachutes did exist: Headquarters simply forbade their use. Top-level commanders without flying experience believed that wearing a parachute would encourage a pilot to bail out at the first intimation of danger. This chair-borne perspective betrayed men who, should their plane catch fire, faced the horror of deciding between jumping or burning to death. Nor does Mr. Hynes tell us that German pursuit pilots were given parachutes during the last six weeks of the war. (German ace Ernst Udet survived because of his.) »

  • 25

    « Death became a constant in their lives. Young Roosevelt died in flames in July 1918, a shock to his father, Teddy, that some say hastened his death six months later. When it seemed the war might end, Ham Coolidge wrote home: “Well, Mammy, if it should be true don’t forget to tell dear old Anna to have my tuxedo pressed, my citizen clothes taken out of camphor, and the sewing machine removed from my room!” Two weeks later he was dead; a fortnight after that, the guns fell silent. »

  • 24

    « In exile, his conviction that the “Jewish rabble” had deceived the German people into betraying its Kaiser and its army fuelled his anti-Semitism to the point of mania. Thanks to Hitler, Wilhelm at least died a happy man in 1941 at the height of Nazi power in Europe and as the Wehrmacht was preparing for its war of extermination in the east. »

  • 23

    « Create a monarch who was extraordinarily ill-suited to lead the most powerful country in Europe at the end of the 19th century. »

  • 22

    Letel .Apres  » Guns of August » de Tuchman , il faut absolument lire (ou relire , ce que je fais en ce momenent »  » The proud Tower » egalement de Tuchman .
    L’assassinat de Sarajevo n’a ete que le pretexte pour declencher la guerre qui etait depuis quelques annees envisagee et consideree inevitable .; a l’epoque il n’y avait pas de  » S.O.S Suicide  » pour empecher les nations de s’auto detruire ! Ils avaient eu la Guerre de Secession pour savoir a quel point les guerres modernes seraient meurtrieres en tant que guerre de mouvements . Ils ont eu encore plus meurtrier : la guerre de positions ..

  • 21

    Pourquoi l’Angleterre est entrée en guerre.

  • 20


  • 19

    En fait l’offensive allemande a été détournée de son plan initial de marcher sur Paris par une tentative de casser l’armée Française en essayant de la couper en deux ,cette option était basée sur le mépris de l état major Allemand pour la valeur de l’armée Française et du corps expéditionnaire Britannique .

    Une reconnaissance aérienne à ses balbutiements , a permis de déjouer la manœuvre, le canon de 75 a fait le reste , on peut d’ailleurs noter que les pertes Allemandes furent d’un tiers supérieures aux pertes Françaises.

    Si l’ on étudie par ailleurs les guerres de 1870, 1914 1918, 1939 1945 on s’aperçoit d’une constante dans l ‘ Armée Allemande, un matériel excellent, une organisation sans faille, un commandement jusqu’au niveau de la compagnie très au dessus de la moyenne ( la formation d’un sous officier était souvent supérieure à celle des officiers des autres armées).

    Par contre la « grande tactique » et la « stratégie » était très, trop ,conventionnelle et dénuée d’imagination , la victoire éclair du 10 mai 40 est une « anomalie » initialisée par Hitler et avait tous les risques d’être écrasée, si l état major Français avait recommencé la manoeuvre de 1914 et retourne les forces de la manoeuvre Dyle se trouvant en Belgique .

    Par la suite les forces Allemandes remportèrent succès tactique sur succès grâce à la supériorité de leurs matériels et la déliquescence des armées Françaises et soviétiques première mouture mais échoueront à prendre Moscou et Stalingrad.

  • 18

    Les Taxis ont transporte rapidement quelques milliers d’hommes frais renforçant l’attaque de la 6eme Armée de Gallieni . Les forces allemandes s’étaient mal engagées laissant un »trou » dans lequel la contre- attaque française s’est engouffrée et de fil en aiguille ,les Allemands , trop en pointe et mal ravitailles ont eu peur de se faire tourner et ont entame un repli , abandonnant les plaines ouvertes pour créer des positions d’arrêt sur les crêtes ( Chemin des Dames ) Le moment offensif brise , chacun a essaye de manœuvrer l’autre en le débordant – » course a la mer  » Gallieni a surtout redonne un esprit offensif a ses troupes et arrêté la retraite

  • 17

    Oui, c est ce que je me disais toujours, les taxis de l epoque, bon… Mais alors, comment l offensive allemande a ete cassee ?

  • 16

    En fait le rôle des taxis de la Marne, est très exagéré, l’effectif transporté est tout au plus d’une brigade, bien trop modeste pour avoir une quelconque influence sur les événements , mais la propagande lui attribua une sorte d’image d’Épinal .

  • 15

    Ah, enfin, une photo en français, quel soulagement !

  • 14

    Bon, bon, juste pour vous alors… 🙂

  • 13

    Raconter les taxis de la Marne en anglais…


  • 12

    Gallieni nous a sauvé la mise, évitant la répétition de la débâcle de 1870 :

    « The newly invented internal combustion engine, running on oil products, provided much more flexibility. That value was proved in the very first months of the war, when the German army rapidly advanced almost to the doorstep of Paris. The French government evacuated the capital, and it seemed likely soon to sue for peace. The military governor of Paris, Gen. Joseph Gallieni, violently disagreed. He was convinced that the Germans could be stopped, but with the railway system disrupted, there seemed no way to move enough troops. In a brilliant act of improvisation, Gallieni commandeered all of Paris’s taxi cabs to rush French troops to the front—and halted the German advance. Motorized warfare had arrived. »

    En même temps, la guerre de tranchées s’est installée par la suite pendant quatre ans, coûtant à la France plus d’un million de jeunes hommes, et aux autres pays réunis 8 millions.

  • 11

    OK et merci, j’essaierai. Un autre pour la route, quand même 😉

  • 10

    C’ est pas un reproche Monsieur Letel, mais lire de l’ anglais pour le boulot, déjà ça m’ épuise assez.
    Considérant que la langue française est la plus belle du monde (avec le portugais bien sur, je suis un fayoteur) il m’est agréable en soirée de la déguster avec délice.
    Considérez donc ma stupeur, l’autre soir, de choir sur votre texte (très bien écrit par ailleurs comme dirait le Bernard), mais assez éprouvant à la compréhension.

    Allons, un petit effort, faites fi de snobisme, écrivez en français, je vous en sais capable.
    (Ce qui n’est pas mon cas).

  • 9

    Pour memoire « Paths of Glory  » de Kubrick filme en 1957 et produit par United Artists ne sera autorise a la diffusion en France qu’en …1975 ! Le Gvt francais avait exerce d’enormes pressions et menaces en 58 envers la firme pour l’OBLIGER a ne pas sortir le film .
    Meme chose pour la  » Bataille d’Alger » sorti en 1966 et interdit en France jusqu’en …2004 ! Toutes les verites ne sont pas bonnes a dirte et visiblement , dans l’optique des gouvernements il ne faut pas troubler les veaux ruminant au paturage …..Ca dure encore aujourd’hui .
    Le probleme avec la guerre de 14 c’est qu’il y a eu peu de temoignages de combattants ( compare a la debauche de memoires pour WWII ) ce qui rend difficile son etude critique et surtout ses desastres sanglants .

  • 8

    Bonne question, il faudrait retrouver le texte original. Je le cherche, promis. Ce renouveau dû à la traduction anglaise m’a donné envie de lire le livre.

  • 7

    Et en français, ça donne quoi ?

  • 6

    « Dartemont makes a fearless transit of artillery fire, but merely because he has accepted death as inevitable. He knows he can’t manage that trick too often. The last hours of the war, from dawn till 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, become an agony of waiting: “We’re still at the mercy of an artilleryman in a bad mood, a barbarian fanatic, a mad nationalist. You still don’t by chance believe that the war has killed all the half-wits?” »

  • 5

    « As for the enemy, “Fritz is closer to the poilu than to his own field marshal. And the poilu is closer to Fritz, because of the suffering they share.” »

  • 4

    « “Fear,” never previously published in the United States, is at first acquaintance a shock. Here national rhetoric is not directed for or against the building of a municipal restroom, as in ­“Clochemerle.” Instead it shreds the bodies of young men. This unadorned yet memorable novel is one of a number of savagely frank novel-memoirs of the war that appeared throughout Western Europe within a year of one another. Frederic Manning’s “The Middle Parts of Fortune” shook English readers in 1929. In the same year, Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” seemed treasonous to the fascists of Germany. “Fear” created shock and resistance when it was published in France in 1930. In the final pages of the novel, whimsical Sergeant Nègre tries to talk the narrator, Jean Dartemont, out of writing the book he already has in mind. Everyone not at the front, he argues, has a vested economic, political or emotional reason not to believe it. “You’re too much,” Nègre says. “Enough. I’m off to see if the Prussians are ready to go home yet.” »

  • 3

    « Although he is present on some of the war’s worst battlefields – Verdun, for example, and the Chemin des Dames – his fear of being killed or wounded, his contempt for his officers and his dislocation from the rest of society doesn’t come as a surprise to us now, having had 80 years or so to re-evaluate the war. Can it have been possible that this was revolutionary stuff in 1930? »

  • 2

    Amusant de constater que Gabriel Chevallier, qui paraissait déjà ringard dans les années 1960 (son bouquin à succès, Clochemerle, était de ceux qu’on voyait partout mais qu’on ne lisait jamais), connaît maintenant une nouvelle jeunesse dans le monde anglo-saxon, grâce à une traduction récente. Les médias ne tarissent pas d’éloges. Le livre tombe bien avec le centenaire de la Grande Guerre. Peut-être il mériterait qu’on le lise enfin.
    L’engouement anglo pour Chevallier n’est d’ailleurs pas nouveau, dès 1972, une série télé de la BBC avait repris l’histoire de Clochemerle, bien avant un téléfilm français de 2003 avec B.-P. Donnadieu.

  • 1

    « A chronological burst of battle stories and vindictive reflections on the paradox of war, Fear is structurally similar to Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel, while readers of Céline (a contemporary of Chevallier’s) will catch whiffs of the sardonic misanthropy that runs through Journey to the End of Night. Dartemont deconstructs the notions of duty and heroism and draws their origins in fear and ignorance while letting us rifle through his blood-stained sketchbook with images from a war that grows ever more distant in our memories. »

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