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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Reading list

Tuesday, 31st July.

On Sunday I was thinking about this blog and about the French strategic decisions taken after WW1 and why they built the Maginot Line. I remembered Alistair Horne's "To Lose a Battle, France 1940". So yesterday I took it down from the shelves and, with a cup of tea and Mahler's Third Symphony on CD, I read chapter 2 entitled "Thank God for the French Army" (a quote from WS Churchill). This was 20 pages of very succinct reasoning which I heartily recommend to you. The rest of the book is very good as well.

At the moment, my main reading is an old copy of "Military Architecture" by Quentin Hughes. I bought the book in 1974 as part of a first encounter with artillery fortifications. When I decided to write this blog, this seemed to be the obvious place to start my researches. More of a refresher than a teacher, but very welcome all the same. a good way to remind me of the basics. I am about to start chapter 4, "The Baroque World: Defence in Depth".

In addition to these and on the back burner, is Anthony Clayton's "Three Marshals of France", about the three World War Two Marshals, Leclerc, Juin and de Lattre de Tassigny. I will get back to it, my only problem with it - I bought the book on E-Bay and a previous owner was a smoker so the book reeks of cigarette smoke, most decidedly unpleasant.

Three other books recently read that have got me thinking:

James Falkner's new biography of Marshal Vauban. Very enjoyable, very well written, very easy to read, I shall be using this as part of the planning for my future visits to the UNESCO Vauban sites.

William Mortimer Moore's new biography of Marshal Leclerc, "Free France's Lion". Lots of info I did not know about or had not fully appreciated, such as the campaigns in French Africa in 1940 - 42, or his relationship with French officers who had served in Vichy France's army. Another area of future research.

Ian Sumner's new history, "They Shall Not Pass ; The French Army on the Western Front 1914 - 1918". I had intended to reread Anthony Clayton book on the French Army of 14-18 "Paths of Glory" when Amazon flagged up Ian Sumner's book and I am very glad they did. Another book, another subject I had not appreciated, that of French Railways, SNCF. They had to move not only the freight for the seven million Frenchmen under arms, but also the freight for four million Brits and Commonwealth troops and a million Americans and keep the French war economy going. Wow, I really want to know more about that.

Not much fiction there. The only fiction I have read this year, on holiday in Sicily, "The Fort" by Bernard Cornwell, so I don't move far from my history.

Enough. Time for tea and some reading. Tom Waits has just reminded me "When you walk through the garden you got to watch your back....."

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