1. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    French WW1 Vet research: Letters / Diaries / Documentary recs?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Shenanigator, Dec 8, 2018.

    I'm working on the backstory of a character set in the 1920's.

    He's French and fought in World War One, and it affected him greatly.

    Any recommendations for books of letters or diaries of French soldiers (translated to English--my French is limited to culinary French at best)? Suggestions of documentaries are also welcome.

    This is key: I'm looking specifically for personal recollections of French soldiers from the social commentary angle, not military strategies or extensive combat details. I'm just trying to get into the guy's head of why he behaves in certain ways in the "present day"1920's and am looking for details to flesh out his story.

    So, letters home, stories of things that happened in France from the townspeople's point of view...that sort of thing.

    ETA: If anyone's familiar with the book For Love and Courage: the Letters of Lieutenant Colonel E.W. Hermon from the Western Front (which is excellent by the way), I'm looking for something like that, but from a French soldier. (ETA: For Love and Courage is a book of letters home to an English soldier's wife and children.)

    Thanks so much!
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2018
  2. Earp

    Earp Contributor Contributor

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    British rather than French, but there's some fascinating WWI stuff here:

    https://www.iwm.org.uk/
     
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  3. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    English translation or the original French?
     
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  4. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    English translation, please. :)
     
  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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  6. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Since we're talking Hollywood, how about a French pilot?
     
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  7. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Thanks, @Earp ! I found things there that springboard into what I need.

    Thanks @matwoolf ! I found the root of the character's psyche in here.

    That is brilliant! Also, it solves a piece of the character that didn't make sense. Thanks @Stormburn !

    Thanks again, guys. I spent a good portion of the afternoon reading your recommendations and following their side trails. Put together with what I already had, I know who the character is now.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  8. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    The name I remembered was Georges Guynemer, but I was thinking about Charles Nungesser.
    220px-Charles_Nungesser_01.jpg
    Frenchman Charles Nungesser was a character straight out of a Hemingway novel. Before the war he was an amateur boxer, race car driver and pilot. During the war he managed to score 45 victories between drinking and banging everything he could get his hands on in Paris. He even found time to regularly nail the legendary spy Mata Hari (well aware of her activities, he cheerfully fed her bullshit stories that she dutifully reported back to her German controllers).
    -http://www.cracked.com/article_18933_6-wwi-fighter-pilots-whose-balls-deserve-their-own-monument.html
    charles-nungesser.jpg

    While history can be plain nuts, fiction has to adhere to some sort of plausibility. So, this guy may be too larger than life.
    I just got off from work, and tonight is Christmas tree night. But, I'll should have some recommendations to you in the next day or two.
     
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  9. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    All Quiet on the Western Front is incredible for describing what it was like to fight in the trenches even though the soldiers are German.


    Letters of Jean Hurpin - A French Soldier in the Trenches


    Main page from that same source looks like it's a treasure trove.


     
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  10. Necronox

    Necronox Contributor Contributor

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    Sadly, a lot of what you are looking for is considered personal and not available online unless in compilation or with owner's permissions (or writers permission). Commong problem when doing research that you eventually get to hate with a passion. The English view it slightly differently and have made a lot of it available online. But for the french, if you have access to it, you to look for it in french - most of it would not be translated.

    here is a few site I have found myself ( in french - but you should be able to use a translator like google translate to get the general concepts/ideas):

    http://www.veterans.gc.ca/fra/remembrance/those-who-served/diaries-letters-stories/first-world-war <<Canadien
    http://lescarnetsdefrederic.over-blog.com/2017/05/journal-du-2-au-19-octobre-1917-lettres.html
    https://francearchives.fr/en/article/88482585 << French Online Archives. You probably wont find anything personal here, but any orders, official letters, etc... will be here.
     
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  11. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Thanks, @GingerCoffee and @Necronox , those are excellent sources. Lots of great stuff to read, and I love that some of the sources include collections of photos.
     
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  12. Hackworksubleis

    Hackworksubleis New Member

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    It's actually Canadian soldiers, not French (I mean, have you read their names? They are obviously not French).
    If you check their names and stories, they are from the anglophone part of Canada.

    Also, gc.ca websites are from the government of Canada, a country where both official languages are French and English, so they are usually also available in English. ;)

    Here is the English version :
    http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/diaries-letters-stories/first-world-war
     
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  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Thanks for that info. That would explain how I ended up on another site reading the letters written to each other by a Candadian couple. (Beautiful letters though so it it was a nice diversion.)
     
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  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking of WW1 and Canada, if anyone has a moment, they should check out the history of The Blue Puttees. Yes, kind of off topic, but it's most of what I know about the Great War's intimate parts.
     
  15. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Sadly, on my end I'm coming up empty. There are no books on Charles Nungesser in English. Von Richthofen has a frozen pizza named after him, but there's no books about Nungesser. I really do not get pop culture.
     
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  16. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter Contributor

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  17. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Yep, that's the problem I've had as well, in researching WW1 soldiers in the past for other projects. I feel the same way. There are so many great stories we're missing out on. Thanks for checking!

    Plus, there are other hurdles: the fact that so many of "the lost generation" did not survive the war or the flu pandemic to tell the tale, generational reluctance about discussing personal matters, and of course lingering effects of what we would now call PTSD that at the time, people were encouraged to try to ignore and forget.

    I also think the fact that WW2 came so quickly afterward likely played a role in the lack of available materials from France, in terms of physically destroying many of the letters and diaries, as well as making people even more reluctant to think about what they'd been through the first time. And of course with France being in the thick of it again, they were also probably focused on pure day to day survival rather than leaving source material for their ancestors.

    Fortunately, I think I have enough to piece together this character's backstory, along with some ideas of where to go to find more if not.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2018
  18. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I did find this:

    The greatest single mystery of the early days of aviation has been solved, according to French researchers.

    The American pilot Charles Lindbergh was not the first person to fly the full width of the Atlantic in 1927, the researchers say. He was merely the first person to land his aircraft successfully, and the first to live to tell the tale.


    Documentary evidence dredged from US official archives shows that two French pilots reached the Canadian coast from Paris 10 days before Lindbergh flew the Spirit of Saint Louis from New York to Le Bourget on 20-21 May, 1927.
    The evidence suggests that Charles Nungesser and François Coli landed their sea-plane, L'Oiseau Blanc, or The White Bird, just off the coast of the French islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, near Newfoundland on 11 May. Their plane probably broke up on – or soon after – touching down and both men were killed.

    -https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/new-evidence-may-write-lindbergh-out-of-history-as-first-to-fly-atlantic-2131824.html
     
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  19. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    Yes and no.
    There's plenty of first person descriptions of the battles and dreadful conditions French soldiers endured, and piles of personal correspondence. Not to mention hundreds of photographs that have never been released to the public. Some of the photographs are too horrifying to release, so they say. My understanding is that the French Government keeps much it archived under lock and key.

    The best audiobook I've listened to on the First World War is, Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour, by Joseph Persico. It's brutal, that's for sure. All parties involved knew the exact minute the war would be over, yet they continued killing each other right to the end. The war was pointless, from the first shot fired to the last. It was sad, but Europe got what they deserved.
     
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  20. Hackworksubleis

    Hackworksubleis New Member

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    Ten years later, there was Amelia Earhart, the first woman to ever attempt a journey across the globe : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart
     
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  21. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter Contributor

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    "Charles! The Baby!"
    "Alright, alright. If anyone asks, she was kidnapped."
    "What about Amelia? She saw everything."
    "You leave her to me."

    But one of the best resources places I know for history is Dan Carlin's Hardcore History Podcast. The Blueprint For Armageddon series is based all around WW1
     
  22. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    @Shenny has a lot of material to get on with. I'm sure we all agree it is best to allow her to immerse dans her trench for a day or deux. She will emerge with masterpiece of the emotional intelligentse.

    'You know, Pierre. I think our helmets are tres merde compared to British helmets of this dreadful era,'

    'So right, Jacque. But imagine a pumpernickel on your tete? Jacque, Jacque, stop doing that on the ridge. Put it on your head.'
     
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  23. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter Contributor

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    Zut alors!
     
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  24. Hackworksubleis

    Hackworksubleis New Member

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    J'ai aucune idée de quoi vous parlez, mais it's très funny. Poor Jacques.

    And poor Amelia!
     
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