Published on 20 Apr 2017
French Commander Robert Nivelle was sure that his offensive would bring the final victory against Germany. He scaled up his successful plan from Verdun which had worked so well and even when other generals questioned the very idea of the offensive, he would refuse to alter it or call it off. The Germans knew that the French were coming and were well prepared. And so the disaster at the Chemin Des Dames unfolded.
April 21, 2017
April 18, 2017
Published on 17 Apr 2017
World War 1 was a war of artillery, 75% of casualties are attributed to artillery fire. And since the late 19th century the development of field canons, howitzers and mortars had made rapid progress. We are taking a look at the standard artillery pieces of the German, French and British Army at the outbreak of the war in this first part of a new series.
April 16, 2017
At his new blog, Splendid Isolation, Kim du Toit explains the historical roots of a French culinary oddity:
One of the quirks of French cuisine is that most often the butter is unsalted, and at a French dinner table you will usually find a tiny cruet of salt with a microscopic spoon inside, so that you can salt your butter (or not) according to taste. To someone like myself, accustomed only to salted butter, this seemed like an affectation, but it wasn’t that at all: it was the result of taxation, and this is one of the things changed forever by Napoleon’s administrative reforms.
One of the best parts of our U.S. Constitution is the “interstate commerce” clause, which forbids states from levying taxes on goods and services passing from one state to another, and through another in transit. This was not the case in pre-Napoleonic France. Goods manufactured in, say, Gascony or Provence would pass through a series of customs posts en route to Paris, and at each point the various localities would levy excise taxes on the goods, driving up the final price at its eventual destination.
Which brings us to salt. French salt, you see, was produced mainly on the Atlantic coastline, and was a major “export” of Brittany to the rest of France. Butter, of course, was produced universally — in and outside Paris and ditto for every major city — but the salt for the butter came almost exclusively from Brittany, and having been taxed multiple times by the time it reached points east like Paris or Lyons, it was expensive. So the cuisine and eating habits in those parts developed without the use of salt — or, if salt was requested, at an added cost. It’s why, to this day, many French recipes use unsalted butter as an ingredient. (In contrast, butter for local consumption in western France was [and still is] almost always salted, because salt was dirt cheap there.)
Napoleon’s reforms did away with all that; he saw to it that the douane locale checkpoints and toll booths along the main roads were abolished (causing salt prices in eastern France to plummet and become a mainstay of French cuisine at last). And when the towns and villages protested about the loss of tax revenue, Napoleon made up the shortfall with “federal” funds out of the national treasury.
Of course, the French treasury had in the meantime been emptied out by, amongst other things, the statist welfare policies of the Revolutionary government (stop me if this is starting to sound familiar). Which is why, to raise money, Napoleon invaded wealthy northern Italy and western Germany (as it is now), pillaged their rich cities’ treasuries and garnered revenue from the wealthy aristocracy, who paid bribes to avoid having their palaces sacked and their wealth confiscated.
April 15, 2017
I first encountered Charles Joseph Minard’s best-known work in Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information in the late 1980s:
In National Geographic, Betsy Mason reveals more about the man who created the “best graphic ever produced”:
Charles Joseph Minard’s name is synonymous with an outstanding 1869 graphic depicting the horrific loss of life that Napoleon’s army suffered in 1812 and 1813, during its invasion of Russia and subsequent retreat. The graphic (below), which is often referred to simply as “Napoleon’s March” or “the Minard graphic,” rose to its prominent position in the pantheon of data visualizations largely thanks to praise from one of the field’s modern giants, Edward Tufte. In his 1983 classic text, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Tufte declared that Napoleon’s March “may well be the best statistical graphic ever produced.”
Today Minard is revered in the data-visualization world, commonly mentioned alongside other greats such as John Snow, Florence Nightingale, and William Playfair. But Minard’s legacy has been almost completely dominated by his best-known work. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that Napoleon’s March is his only widely known work. Many fans of the March have likely never even seen the graphic that Minard originally paired it with: a visualization of Hannibal’s famous military campaign in 218 BC, as seen in the image below.
On its face, it may not seem remarkable that Minard is remembered for this one piece of work; after all, many people owe their fame to a single great achievement, and the Napoleon graphic is certainly worthy of its reputation. But Minard was most definitely not a one-hit wonder.
April 9, 2017
Published on 11 Nov 2014
A visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France. The memorial commemorates the lives lost in the April 1917 battle of Vimy Ridge.
April 3, 2017
Published on 31 Mar 2017
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Battle of Vimy Ridge, Legion Magazine, Canada’s Ultimate Story and William Shatner tell the story of this important First World War battle. Our victory at Vimy was a defining event for Canada. On the 100th anniversary, we revisit the Canadian triumph over the German army and explore why the battle has come to signify the birth of our nation. We ask you to share with #Vimy100 #LestWeForget or #VimyRidge
Directed by Adam Tindal
Written by Don Gillmor
Graphics & Animation by Julia Paddick
Produced by Jason Duprau, Jennifer McGill, Eric Harris
Executive Producer: Jennifer Morse
Recorded by William Harp, Media City Sound, LA
Special thank you to Library and Archives Canada
Copyright Canvet Publications Ltd. 2017
April 2, 2017
Published on 1 Apr 2017
During our trip to France we visited the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Monument in Romagne. The cemetery contains the largest number of American military dead in Europe and was already dedicated when the war was still raging in Europe.
March 3, 2017
Published on 2 Mar 2017
The new Austro-Hungarian Kaiser is not happy about his Empire’s dependence on the German ally. And he is also not happy about their own military decisions and over the winter has worked to replace key positions with his own men. The last step in that process is convincing Conrad von Hötzendorf to take a position on the Italian Front. At the same time, French Commander Robert Nivelle is trying to get control over the British Armies on the Western Front and the Zimmermann Telegram is released to the press.
February 17, 2017
Published on 9 Feb 2015
In the run up to the 100 yr anniversary of the end of the First World War Michael Portillo travels across France and Belgium to find out the history of raiways of the past and present….
February 12, 2017
Published on 11 Feb 2017
Exploring the Verdun Area: http://www.meusetourism.com/en/mobile-apps/around-verdun.html
Verdun Game: http://verdungame.com
The Restaurant: http://www.les-colimencarts.fr/
February 6, 2017
There were a lot of generals involved in the campaign in northern France and Flanders that began on June 14, 1815, and culminated in the memorable Battle of Waterloo on June 18th. Altogether there were 240 of them, to command nearly 360,000 troops. And since the troops came from a lot of different armies — British, French, Prussian, Netherlands, Hanover, Brunswick, and a few others, telling the generals apart can be a bit confusing.
Note that the rank structure is not really comparable to that prevailing today in the U.S. Army. The functional equivalent of a British major general or a French general de brigade or marechal de camp would actually be brigadier general based on their commands. The French rank system was actually much more complicated than may appear from the table. To begin with, the highest actual rank in the army was general de division. Marechal de l’Empire was technically a distinction, not a rank. Now it gets really complicated. A corps commander who was officially a general de division might by courtesy be designated a general de corps d’armee. However, a general de division might also sometimes be referred to as a lieutenant-general, particularly if he was functioning in a staff position. Meanwhile, the chief-of-staff of the army was designated major general. In addition, an officer commanding a brigade was more likely to be designated a marechal de camp (i.e., “field marshal”) rather than general de brigade, which was reserved for officers with special duties, such as the commanders of the regiments of the Garde Imperial. This complexity had developed as a result of the Revolution, which favored functional titles for military officers, chef de battailon for example, rather than major. Unfortunately, staff personnel often required rank, so the old Royal hierarchical titles of rank survived for a long time alongside the functional Revolutionary ones.
Further complicating matters was the fact that in all the armies an officer’s social rank was often used rather than his military rank. Thus, although Wellington was a Field Marshal he was usually referred to as “His Grace, the Duke” without his military rank. In Wellington’s case this could become quite complicated, as he was a duke thrice over, the Portuguese and Spanish having created him such even before the British, and he was also a Prince of the Netherlands. As each of these gave him a different title, references to him in Portuguese, Spanish, or Dutch works can easily become obscure. For example, to the Portuguese he was the Duque de Douro, and one Portuguese language history of the Peninsular War nowhere uses any other name for him. Then there is the problem of multiple ranks. Wellington, for example, was a field marshal in the British, Prussian, Netherlands, and Portuguese armies, as well as being a Capitan General in the Spanish Army. Although none of the other officers in the campaign had so many different ranks, several held more than one. For example, the Prince of Orange was a Dutch field marshal and a general in the British Army, while the Duke of Brunswick, who commanded his division in his capacity as duke, was also a lieutenant-general in the British Army.
Al Nofi, “Al Nofi’s CIC”, Strategy Page, 2000-02-01.
February 1, 2017
January 27, 2017
Published on 26 Jan 2017
Germany is about to unleash unrestricted submarine warfare again which might draw the United States into the conflict – but the Germans are not worried. The German Kaiser is instigating with his sister in Greece and Nivelle has big plans for a decisive battle in spring.
December 23, 2016
Published on 22 Dec 2016
The Battle of Verdun ended after 299 days. With a final French offensive the Germans lose Vacherauville and Louvemont. This means that the front line is basically back to where it was in February 1916. 300,000 men were killed and another 700,000 were wounded or missing in an area roughly equal to the size of all the London parks combined.
December 16, 2016
Published on 15 Dec 2016
After the humiliating defeat at Kut, the British forces in Mesopotamia have been busy building a proper supply chain up the Tigris river. Their goal is Basra and they are even dreaming of taking Baghdad. At the same time, French general Robert Nivelle, the new hero of the French army, is promoted while Joseph Joffre is no longer needed.