Archive for first World War

trip to the past

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2019 by xi'an

When visiting my mother for the Xmas break, she showed me this picture of her grand-father, Médéric, in his cavalry uniform, taken before the First World War, in 1905. During the war, as an older man, he did not come close to the front lines, but died from a disease caught from the horses he was taking care of. Two other documents I had not seen before were these refugee cards that my grand-parents got after their house in Saint-Lô got destroyed on June 7, 1944.

And this receipt for the tinned rabbit meat packages my grand-mother was sending to a brother-in-law who was POW in Gustrow, Germany, receipt that she kept despite the hardships she faced in the years following the D Day landing.

military records of two great-grand fathers

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2018 by xi'an

 

Here are the military records [recovered by my brother] of two of my great-grand-fathers, who both came from Western Normandy (Manche) and both died from diseases contracted in the Army during the first World War. My grand-father‘s father, Médéric Eude, was raising horses before the was and hence ended looking after horses in the Army, horses from whom he contracted a disease that eventually killed him (and granted one of my great-aunts the status of “pupille de la Nation”). Very little is known of my other great-grand-fathers. A sad apect shared by both records is that both men were retired from service for unfitness before been redrafted when the war broke in August 1914…

the end of the war

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2018 by xi'an

ABC at sea and at war

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2017 by xi'an

While preparing crêpes at home yesterday night, I browsed through the  most recent issue of Significance and among many goodies, I spotted an article by McKay and co-authors discussing the simulation of a British vs. German naval battle from the First World War I had never heard of, the Battle of the Dogger Bank. The article was illustrated by a few historical pictures, but I quickly came across a more statistical description of the problem, which was not about creating wargames and alternate realities but rather inferring about the likelihood of the actual income, i.e., whether or not the naval battle outcome [which could be seen as a British victory, ending up with 0 to 1 sunk boat] was either a lucky strike or to be expected. And the method behind solving this question was indeed both Bayesian and ABC-esque! I did not read the longer paper by McKay et al. (hard to do while flipping crêpes!) but the description in Significance was clear enough to understand that the six summary statistics used in this ABC implementation were the number of shots, hits, and lost turrets for both sides. (The answer to the original question is that indeed the British fleet was lucky to keep all its boats afloat. But it is also unlikely another score would have changed the outcome of WWI.) [As I found in this other history paper, ABC seems quite popular in historical inference! And there is another completely unrelated arXived paper with main title The Fog of War…]

16 avril 1917

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2017 by xi'an

Today is the Centenary of the battle of Le Chemin des Dames (April 16-25, 2017) during WW I, which ended up as a slaughter (271,000 French casualties and 163,000 Germans casualties) and a complete military disaster. Which led to a significant rise in mutinies (pretty much disconnected from the starting Russian revolution) and to British divisions taking over this district. While there are many other examples of an insane disregard of infantry troops by the war commanders, this place stuck in the French collective memory. I remember as a kid listening to my neighbour telling me about this place as his worst experience during the war. (While never mentioning the mutinies, which remained somewhat shameful for most of the Century.)

Verdun 1916, a hundred years ago

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , on May 29, 2016 by xi'an

Somme graves

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on April 9, 2016 by xi'an

As mentioned in a previous post, we ended up spending Easter break in the Somme, close to the part of the Western Front that opposed German and Franco-British armies  between 1914 and 1918, with horrendous human losses: the first day alone of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 saw around 60,000 British casualties! For a final gain of less than 10 kilometres… And a total number of dead close to a million. Unsurprisingly, the area is speckled with war cemeteries and memorials. Including an Australian National Memorial which commemorates the 16,000 Australian dead during World War I, including 11,000 with unmarked graves.  As for the cemeteries near the D-day beaches, I am always deeply moved when visiting war cemeteries, uncomprehending the waste of innumerable live of young men by military stratèges unable to adapt to new forms of warfare and throwing waves of foot soldiers against impregnable machine gun nests.

When running this weekend in the quiet and green Somme countryside, surprising a young deer which fled across the immense plain, with only a few bare thickets here and there, I was also wondering at how hellish was the place a hundred years ago, at how unworldly it should have looked to the entrenched soldiers, and whether or not any of this region had kept anything in common with the pre-war era, since entire villages were more than flattened, as shown by the picture of Guillemont below…