Wartime in France

I just finished a book entitled The Battle of the Falaise Gap by Eddy Florentin, a Frenchman. This copy I have is in English but the original was written in French. I didn’t recognize his name until I looked him up on Amazon and found that I have a book in French by him as well Quand les Allies bombardaient la France (French Edition) He’s a prolific author of WWII history.

I have another book on the battles of the Falaise Gap _Death of a Nazi Army by William Breuer. Both of these books are very interesting. We’ve driven through these towns around Falaise and Falaise itself but of course after all these years, everything has been restored such that one would never have imagined so much carnage could have occurred there.

I have many books on French wars including those in Indochine and Alergia. My favorite historian is a French author by the name of Bernard Fall who wrote such great books on the French Indochine war as “Street Without Joy” and “Hell is a Very Small Place” about the battle of Dien Bien Phu. He wrote others on the rise of the Viet Cong and his articles were posthumoumously published by his American wife as “Last Reflections on War”. He was killed when he was with the US Marines on patrol and stepped on a land mine. If his books had been read by the American Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon we could have saved the lives of 53,000 Americans who died and many times more who were wounded for life.

I thought I’d share these two photos with you. I’ve been up to the Somme recently, where I used to work for the Royal British Legion at Thiepval. This time I went well behind the old front line to see two graves in Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries that, unlike those in the heart of the battlefields, recieve few visitors. The first grave that I wanted to see was that of Bernard Adams, he was at the Bois Français sector near Fricourt and served in the same battalion as Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, he was wounded just before the Somme offensive and returned to his battalion in early 1917 and was mortally wounded a few weeks later. His book, Nothing of Importance, is one of my favourite Great War memoirs.
The second grave was that of Basil Hallam, a music hall star and creator of Gilbert the Filbert, the Knut with a K. He was an observation officer in a balloon during the Somme offensive. His balloon broke free and began drifting towards German lines. Accompanied by another observer, they began ditching their maps and documents. The other man managed to parachute down to earth, but Basil’s did not open and he was killed. This incident was witnessed by many troops, including my great uncle who was marching back to billets with the rest of his battalion.

If anyone is interested there is a site called www.wartimememoriesproject.com which has all sorts of information for those researching the two world wars.

There are also some interesting different views on the various wars in France in Stephen Clarke's new book A Thousand Years of Annoying the French (He wrote A Year in the Merde).

Hi out there. My father was in Newfoundland as a Merchant Navy Cadet when the first wold war broke out. He jumped ship and joined the army in Newfoundland. He fought in Gallipoli and later at the Somme having transferred to the Essex Regiment and later to the Machine Gun Corps. He received minor wounds during his service, it was while back home recovering that a woman in Worthing presented him with a white feather. My oldest son and I have looked at some of the " daily orders" and found out that on one occasion, having lost his boots in the mud he carried on fighting for another 48 hours. He finished the war as a Captain, and later transferred to the Indian Army. His two brothers both fought in the war also, one in the navy (reached Commander and was at Jutland), and his oldest brother reached May. Gen.

My wife and I have visited most of the battle fields and war graves (British, French and German).


My main interest involves the 1914-1918 conflict, something which has been part of my professional life, I have worked for the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne, and was the Royal British Legion's representative on the First World War battlefields in Northern France. As soon as the festive season is over I will try and find time to talk about Britain's contribution to this conflict and its presence in France at this time, of which numerous vestiges still remain; In the meantime, Merry Christmas...

It was a clip from the new York times Jan 23 1919 sorry I forgot the image

Wartime Murder in Tours

I am doing research for a client from the US into unsolved murders of American Citizens and I found this on the net - problem is I have not found anything else about it. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Richard, I found your comments on the Languedoc in wartime fascinating,
where can I read further about this?

Appreciate that the group will look to the recent conflicts ( a period I am intensely interested in) but as well as the 2 world wars its worth looking at the Napoleonic wars (1793- 1815) and the Franco-German War, (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871) the battles of this period correlate well with many of the western front in WW1 and WW2. It does show that the geography, both physical and geo-political, of the area has an impact of where and why conflicts took place. My passion for war in history comes after 3 years studying it at Uni (along with sports science - interesting combination!) and and a ridiculous book collection

Earlier this year my family and I visited Vimy Rodge (Canadaian Cemetary commemorating their own countrymen who gave their lives in WW1) only a short detour from our route to the Channel Tunnel. It is a sobering reminder of how frightful the battles in the Trenches were - made worse by the fact that the trenches are actually sanitised versions of the Trenches our distant relatives fought in.

It is very different when you visit the Languedoc . A chateau in a neighbouring village was occupied by the Germans in WW2. But this area was known for the activities of the French Resistance and their activities are publicly celebrated and covered in the media each year.
Allied airmen and soldiers were helped to escape over the Pyrenees to Spain and eventually back to Britain. Toulouse was a well known meeting point and centre of Resistance activity. Sabotage of rail freight and fuel supplies were either disrupted or destroyed preventing them getting to help the German Forces and was a very important and dangerous occupation of the Resistance. This activity was vital in undermining the German Forces ability to advance.

There were regrettably many feuds between different elements of the Resistance - whilst there was a common enemy, there were also deep routed jealousies and rivalries centered on different perceptions of the way forward as well as clashing political ideologies. Communists and Right Wing Nationalists tendencies fought the common enemy, but at times this also lead to mistrust and hostility and occasionally betrayal of each other. Based on Intelligence Reports, London was also concerned about this and used its agents in the Special Operations Executive to try and co-ordinate the different factions.

A town at the crossing point of many routes has a certain ambiance to it even today - where interesting folk (like traffic policemen) who otherwise blend into the background are lean, tough and fit. Cowboy bill turns up in his beat up old jeep and you think it all comes out of the pages of a Le Care novel…but it doesn’t…and its no game…

Tales of a political figure living nearby and special detachments regularly sent to check out the security of the area.

Also tales of no drug problem there because undesireables are just that and excluded…

Monitoring work has gone on for years here - in the recent past arrests of ETA sympathisers and ETA leaders etc were tracked and periodically arrested.

So to was the monitoring of attempts to organise and smuggle arms for the IRA…

The area is, was and no doubt will remain an area of intrigue. It is also an area where the Foreign Legion does some of its ‘basic training’.

It is also home to a helicopter based special forces operation as well as Intelligence Centres.

It is a fascinating area with so much history and a very brave people who are very proud of their country.

The patriotism of the French people is very strong and enduring, whilst the patriotism of the British seems to require the sense of betrayal to stir us into action, or the needs of an ally in peril.

When General Alexander Hague called Lord Carrington a ‘Duplicitous Bastard’ at the time of the Falklands War that was probably more explosive than any of the Wiki Leaks to date, yet it spoke to a game of Realpolitik - that we seem to have lost the art of and need to rediscover in a hurry.
According to Von Clausewitz ‘Politics is the continuation of war by other means’ : if so the Brits have got to relearn the art…

thanks Jim for the info re Oradour - I’ve never had the courage to go there! Opportunities to visit are either when I’m collecting people from Limoges airport ( in which case I want to be sure I arrive in time) or when I’ve dropped them off, in which case I’m already feeling sad. I will visit one day…

Great minds think alike - I was about to suggest you re-posted it here - thanks!

Hi there,

The article underneath is from my blog. I thought it might be of interest for this group?


On 10 June 1944, a German SS battalion entered the French village of Oradour sur Glane and mercilessly murdered 642 men, women and children. Even my simple statement resonates the horror in that single fact.

We visited the site of the massacre today. It remains very much as it was when visited by General de Gaulle shortly after the end of the War. He it was, who decided that a new Oradour should be built; the ruins to be preserved separately as a testament and memorial to his fallen countrymen. Not one building remains intact in this roughly, star-shaped village, whose main street runs for around half a mile. It is a very popular tourist site. My belligerent tongue will not allow me to say “tourist attraction” which seems, at the very least, sacrilegious.

This dismembered village is set amid rich agricultural land. The area is rural France in all her glory. It was enough to tempt the Limogeois to take the tram out on a Sunday. They ate in the restaurants, hotels and cafes. They strolled in their shirts. They tickled trout in the river. The tram line to Limoge didn’t just bring customers. It brought drapery and fashion. It brought Hollywood and Harold Lloyd. These, in turn, drew hairdressers and haberdashers and a quiet, rural gentility.

But I use the term village as an easy reference only. There is no village. There are no remains of a village. Even the plates on the shattered portals, which tell of the trade of the occupants, fail to convince the visitor of its existence. The one thing that made it a village no longer exists. There is no community. The site is a sandy-grey backdrop from which the colour of life has been drained entire. The only colour is brought in each day through an admissions gate, and disappears before the sun sets each evening.

People have told us that the site is quiet and empty, and has an air of tranquility. Not for me. Oradour is full of the soundless cries of over six hundred souls. The air is febrile and disturbed. The signs which urge the visitor “To Remember” are unnecessary. The skeletal buildings whisper “remember, remember” at every empty door or window embrasure.

Its now one in the morning. The effects of the visit are both pervasive and reflective. I have come to realise that the cameo pictures on the tombs of the martyrs, show young women with the same hairstyles and fashions, as on the photos of my mother. My Dad’s old photos the same, and dare I say it? Even of me. Not so surprising when you consider these events happened a scant seven years before my birth. The realisation is harrowing.

I don’t want to tell the tale of the massacre. That is for those unquiet ruins to do. I simply want to write away my demons. I’d ask you to consider that neither Oradour; nor the thousand other communities in the Limousin, had ever been eradicated throughout two Millenia. Despite the incursions of the Romans, Goths, Turks, Normans. Yet sixty-six years ago that was the unexpected and irrational fate of Oradour.

I meet German men and women on the ski slopes or touring Europe and Scotland. It is both conceivable and possible that their father, uncle or Grandfather took the hand of a six year old French girl and lead her to her death in a locked church. Other than great leaps in Technology and science, what have we learned in two thousand years?

Oh, this is one of my favorite topics. I am interested bordering on obsessed with ww2 in particular and now that i’m here I want to know all I can about the Occupation. I’m currently reading Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks. It’s the book I"d love to have written. And is giving me so much to research when I finish.
Can I just say how much I love SFN!
bon weekend everyone,

Now I’m confused Graham!
The ‘thread’ I posted above refers to a book about WW1 but it could include books about any war…
If you mean - which war is the group about - then again it could be any war? WW1 and 2 are probably going to be the most popular topics I should imagine, but there is nothing to stop members discussing the 100 years war, cathars or anything else…


Please do not think I am being facetious but which war is this thread in reference to - France has been involved in many wars over the last century including the Algerian War 1954-62 where it is estimated ONE MILLION ALGERIANS died and 80000 French Military.

Has this group died a death? If not followers may like to know about an MA Thesis recently coming out of Bordeaux University. Written in french,it looks at the links between the Free French, The Bank of England and the UK Treasury during the early part of WWII., using Network Analysis.The author, David Foulk, is commencing a PhD at Oriel College, Oxford, in October 2016, which plans to look more widely at the financing of the French Resistance. A copy of the MA is available free on line, and anyone interested can contact me for the link, which I currently have forgotten.

Yes I would be interested. I have done some local research up here in Brittany. I was lucky enough to have numerous conversations with a local ex-resistant. He died a few years ago but I first met him in 1972. At that time he had a very interesting and large personal collection of militaria, some of which he had "liberated" during the war, including two German uniforms he had stripped off the corpses! Quite a character and a lovely man. He went at great lengths to tell me how much France owed to the Allies. I was able to do some 303 rifle handling drills including fix and unfix bayonet which literally brought tears to his eyes. I remember him saying "Mais oui! Les Anglais sont superbes avec leur baieonnetes!" However as he was in Brittany I'm not actually sure that he saw any Brits using bayonettes as the are was liberated by the Americans! Anyway makes a good story! The war is still a tabou in our village; nobody like talking about it. Our village priest Pere Perrott was assasinated by communists- all rather murky!