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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Fort Carré, Antibes at night

This terrific picture was taken by Sandrine Fuller and posted on the Fort Carré, Antibes Facebook page.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Napoleon - a good read

After a detour through a little 18th century North American history and some British fortification books, I thought I would get back to my core subject, French military history. A couple of years ago I read some books on Napoleon's late campaigns because I had come across a reference to the 1814 invasions of France in a book on the Franco-Prussian War. The books were :

"Wellington Invades France, the Final Phase of the Peninsular War, 1813 - 1814" by Ian C Robertson.

"Napoleon 1814" by Andrew Uffindell.

"Waterloo The Hundred Days" by David Chandler.

All very enjoyable and informative, particularly the Uffindell book. (Holts Tours have sent a provisional list of tours for 2014 that includes a tour of the area east of Paris covered by the Uffindell book, I shall put my name down for that.)

I thought I have read a lot of books on Napoleon's campaigns but never a biography and there are hundreds to choose from. What a dilemma. Apply pot luck. I went to the York branch of Oxfam Books and I bought a copy of"Napoleon" by Frank McLynn for £1.50. What good luck that was. I knew about the battles and campaigns but this was the first time I have read about them in chronological order. Another aspect I had missed was Napoleon's personality, his family and his coterie of military men. The majority of them do not come out well, the ideals of the Revolution were quickly forgotten by a group of avaricious, covetous and rapacious men  and women. The book has reinforced my long time impression of Napoleon, namely a great start to a career by an extremely talented young officer who spotted his chance and seized it, peaked at Austerlitz and with his legal reforms, then went on a slow decline. I am left with two more questions. First, why did he put up with such incompetence from some of his generals, such as Bernadotte? Second, was he a brilliant general up to an Army sized force who overstretched himself with Grand Strategy? Oh, a third question, what was his charisma, what was his hold over such a large part of the French, indeed European, population?

The second book was "Incomparable , Napoleon's 9th Light Infantry Regiment" by T.E. Crowdy. This book has been reviewed with great praises. I am supporting those praises. This is a great insight into the world of Napoleon's French Army at  a grass roots level, that of the ordinary soldier, NCO and officer. Terry Crowdy has researched the available letters, journals and diaries of the men and their families. A very good history that I recommend.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Tirailleurs Senegalais & Cuirassiers, early WW1

This picture was on the Facebook page of World War One. I don't know where he finds these photos but I thank him for so doing.

A terrific photograph showing Senegalese Tirailleurs in discussion with two Cuirassier Officers. No date given. The cuirassiers are almost timeless but the tirailleurs wear the M1898 jacket and breeches and the khaki canvas gaiters issued in August 1914.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Ken Watanabe remakes "Unforgiven"

Something to look forward to. Ken Watanabe and director Lee Song-Il have remade "Unforgiven" into a samurai film, Yurusarezaru mono.

Since WWII a number of Japanese films have been remade by Hollywood. "Seven Samurai" was remade as "The Magnificent Seven". "Yojimbo" was remade as "Fistful of Dollars" and later as "Last Man Standing". This time the remake is going in the opposite direction. Clint Eastwood's film "Unforgiven" has been remade. Watanabe is playing a samurai who is tempted into some bounty work in Japan.

Cinema goers first saw Ken Watanabe in "The Last Samurai" and was nominated for the best supporting actor Oscar. He has had roles in several Hollywood films, such as "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Inception".

No reviews of the new film yet, but I am watching this with great interest.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Ashes 2013, Game 2, Lord's, London

English Centurions, Ian Bell and Joe Root, photo from The Guardian, thank you

The series results so far, after game 2.


Well played England. Very well played Ian Bell and Joe Root.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

M1907 Machine Gun 'St Etienne'

This photograph was on Facebook World War One site.

A French army machine gun team manning a St Etienne Model 1907 machine gun. The white kepi covers suggests the team is taking part in manoeuvres.

This was the standard mg issued to French army units, although in very small numbers, at the start of the Great War.

Photo 2 and 3 show the mg. The middle photo is another mg team in action during manoeuvres. These pictures are from "The French Army in the First World War" Volume 1, by Laurent Mirouze and Stephane Dekerle, an extremely good and useful book that I use a lot, one of my best purchases, actually a Christmas present from my partner.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Fortress Visit Report no. 9 : Ile de Ré Redoubt at Le Matray

 The Western part of the Ile de Ré is connected to the rest of the island by a very narrow strip of land. A fort was built here in 1627, rebuilt in 1674 and modified by Vauban in 1685.
Plan from French National Archives. The wall on the left faces North
 The redoubt is in the shape of a square, each face being approx. 50 metres in length. In the centre is the Corps du Garde and barracks building, the other buildings being a powder magazine, an oven and a store. The entrance is a pedestrian doorway on the Western side, with a drawbridge over the dry moat.

Google Earth photo showing the orientation of the redoubt.

The redoubt was built on the diagonal to allow two faces to cover the sea and two faces to cover inland to the other coast.

Garrison numbers and armaments is unclear, although in 1808 the work had eight cannons, presumably two on each face.

Following the Occupation of 1940, the Germans incorporated the redoubt into the Atlantic Wall, forming part of the defences for La Rochelle and La Pallice U-Boat base. They inserted a new work a Stutzpunkt, into the South facing wall, as can be seen in the photo from Google Earth. Part of the South wall was taken down and, in the recess, the primary armament was a 47mm anti-tank gun. Six machine guns were installed on the site.
South wall showing the business side of the German work. 

South wall looking West.

German main armament casement

Machine gun port.

The dry moat on the West wall.

Tobruk emplacement, South-West corner, to cover the main entrance

West wall, with entrance just visible

North-East corner

East wall

South wall and South-East corner, the recessed German work is not visible

I found this photograph on the Internet, showing an external tobruk near the South-East corner that I missed when I was there. I did not make a note of the photographer, sorry.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Ashes 2013, Game 1, Trent Bridge, Nottingham.


Well done boys, well done Jimmy, 10 wickets and Man of the Match.

Now - - - Thursday at Lord's.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Griff Rhys Jones in Burma

Yesterday I watched "Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army", on BBC2.

Griff's father served in Burma in 1944/45. He qualified as a doctor in Wales, enlisted and posted to the 82nd African Infantry Division in the Gold Coast, now Ghana. From there, the division was posted to Burma where it participated in the fighting against Japanese forces, fighting alongside Indian, Ghurka and British troops.

Griff travelled to Ghana where he met several surviving members of the division, buddied up with one of them and the two of them travelled to Burma, where they visited some of the fighting areas.

This was a really interesting programme. I did not know African young men had been trained and shipped to the Far East to fight for us, partially because someone in Whitehall thought both Ghana and Burma have jungles, so the men would have no trouble acclimatising. This show has shown to me, yet again, just how much there is to learn about World War 2.

I recommend this programme. It was quite easy to watch, the location work was very illuminating, there was a good choice of historical film, Griff was very good guide and raconteur with a good hat. If you can see it, it will be on BBC I-Player for some time.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

World War Z

Last Thursday we had lunch at the newly opened branch of "Cote" in York, very nice, good menu, good food, good service. After, feeling a little overfull, we went to the cinema to see "World War Z".

This film has received fairly average reviews, I was in two minds whether to go, but I'm really pleased I went. My partner was not keen and it is not a film for great intellectual dissection. However I found it to be a very enjoyable two hours, I am glad we went.

I remember when Brad Pitt first came to the film-going public's attention in "Thelma and Louise", I understand he was considered to be something of a very beautiful man, very striking good looks. Has he lost his shine? He has demonstrated some talent, my favourites being "Se7en" "Twelve Monkeys" and "The Tree of Life". With this film he is reasonably convincing.

One thing I love about big budget, big cast numbered films is to spot known faces in the cameos. So there is David Morse and Peter Capaldi - always pleasant to see them - John Gordon Sinclair as the Navy SEAL commander, something of a surprise. The best spotting - Grégeory Fitoussi as the pilot, he plays one of the avocats in "Engrenages", the French policier known as "Spiral" in the UK.

Monday, 1 July 2013

British Army GS Wagon from cica 1914 at Heugh Battery

This is a GS wagon as used by the British Army during WW1. At some time the wooden spoked wheels have been replaced by rubber tyred wheels but, considering its age, the wagon is in remarkably good condition.

FVR 8a Heugh Battery Internal Photos

These are the photographs I took of the internals of the battery.

Steps to go down to the underground magazine
Magazine on the left, lamp room on the right.

Looking back to the steps.

Entrance to the shifting lobby and changing areas.
Shell hoist to the battery, in need of repair.
Closer shot of shell hoist.

Light reveals, powder store on the other side.

Cartridge lift hole, missing lift.

Display area.
Inside the guard room, now used as main entrance to the site.