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From Marne to Verdun (Hardback)

The War Diary of Captain Charles Delvert, 101st Infantry, 1914–1916

WWI Verdun 1914 1915 1916

By Charles Delvert, Translated by Ian Sumner
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 239
ISBN: 9781473823792
Published: 26th September 2016

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Charles Delvert’s diary records his career as a front-line officer in the French army fighting the Germans during the First World War. It is one of the classic accounts of the war in French or indeed in any other language, and it has not been translated into English before. In precise, graphic detail he sets down his wartime experiences and those of his men. He describes the relentless emotional and physical strain of active service and the extraordinary courage and endurance required in battle. His account is essential reading for anyone who is keen to gain a direct insight into the Great War from the French soldier's point of view, and it bears comparison with the best-known English and German memoirs and journals of the Great War.

Books about French soldiers serving during the First World War are not particularly common in this country and this example, straight from the horse’s mouth was no exception. First published in 1966 and again in 1981, 2003, 2008 and 2013, this outstanding personal account of life at the front from a French soldier’s perspective has finally been translated into English for the first time in 2016. It is interesting to note that earlier versions of this book had watered down Delvert’s account of life on the Western Front while this version is literally warts without the influence of post-war novelists and romanticises of war.
The diary entries begin on Friday 7 August 1914 at Saint-Cloud and ends on Wednesday 16 August 1916 at Maisons-le-Champagne when the author is seriously injured by ‘Minnie’ (a trench mortar). To quote that incident, ‘A Minnie had just exploded on the parapet of the boyau. In the quarter second of consciousness remaining to me, it felt as if my head, limbs, chest – every part of my body – was being pierced by a thousand jets of intangible, vaporizing gas. I was thrown 5 or 6 metres before hitting the ground.’
This book is a must for anyone who wants a direct insight into life on the Western Front from the French soldier’s point of view. An outstanding account superbly translated.

Military Modelling

There are hundreds of books about front-line activities during the first world war, but not that many first-hand accounts. Although this book by Chalres Delvert is the memoir of a French officer, the premise is the same as if it had been an Englishman. It is the writing of someone who got caught up in an horrific set of circumstances that led to the needless and meaningless killing of countless millions in a conflict that stretched out over five years. Harrowing and illuminating.

Books Monthly, November 2016 – reviewed by Paul Norman

This classic account of World War One from a French officer's perspective has not
previously been translated for the original French. Highly Recommended.

This book is particularly valuable because it is a translation of a diary kept by a French offer from 1914 to
1918.

There is no traditional photo plate section to illustrate the text, but there is no sense of loss at that. This
speaks for the vivid writing of the very personal account of life in the French Army one hundred years ago
during a terrible war of attrition.

Read the full review here

Firetrench

About Charles Delvert

Charles Delvert was born in Paris in 1879. He was educated as a teacher at the École Normale Supérieure and then taught history in schools in the south of France. During the First World War he rose to the rank of captain in the French army and served with great distinction at the front, in particular during the Battle of Verdun where his company mounted a heroic defence of Fort Vaux. After the war he return to teaching in Parisian schools, and he died in 1940. His classic wartime journal Carnets d’un fantassin was first published in France in 1935.


About Ian Sumner

Ian Sumner is a prolific writer and researcher who specializes in local and military history. He has made a particular study of the French army during the First World War, his many books on the subject including French Army 1914-18, French Poilu 1914-18 and First Battle of the Marne 1914. He is the author, with François Vauvillier, of French Army 1939-45, and has also published books on the Royal Navy, the British army, the Indian Army, the Anzacs, the German air force and the history of Yorkshire.

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