World War I

Why the classic French novel 'Le Grand Meaulnes' still resonates with readers

Culture et idées

'Le Grand Meaulnes', the only novel by French writer Alain-Fournier, who was killed in one of the first battles of the First World War, has just been published as part of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade collection by Gallimard. This is usually a sign that a book has been accepted as a French classic even though, ironically, Alain-Fournier's novel is now no longer widely studied in French schools as was once the case. Some may be surprised that this well-known text, which has been translated into English many times, was not already part of the Pléaide collection. Others may wonder at it becoming part of this hallowed series of books at a time when it has fallen out of favour. Whichever one's view, Tiphaine Samoyault argues that this novel of lost youth has an appeal that remains relevant to the modern reader.

A century before coronavirus, the economic lessons from Spanish Flu

International — Analysis

Along with the medical and health fears over the current coronavirus outbreak, there are also growing concerns about the economic impact of a pandemic on the world. In 1918 and 1919, at the end of World War I, the so-called 'Spanish Influenza' killed close to 18 million people. Yet the impact it had on the world economy at the time is poorly understood. Mediapart's Romaric Godin examines what lessons the deadly Spanish flu outbreak might hold for us today.

Australian fears over French plans for wind farms on WWI battle site

France — Link

Bullecourt in northern France was scene of heaviest Australian losses in war in battle that became symbolic of incompetence of British generals.

Britain remembers ‘saddest day’ on World War I Somme centenary

France — Link

Britain's royal family joined ceremonies to mark Battle of the Somme in northern France, the deadliest battle in British history.

France commemorates centenary of Battle of Verdun

France — Link

About 30 million shells were fired in the WW1 battle in NE France which, over 300 days, left an estimated 800,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing.

French farmers 'ordered to destroy milk polluted by World War One ordnance'

France — Link

The affected farms are near the north-east town of Verdun, scene of heavy battles during WW1, where many unexploded munitions lie in the soil.

Why we don’t hear about the 10,000 French deaths at Gallipoli

France — Link

Historian John Horne says that not only was this World War I offensive a failure, the French also saw it at the time as a 'colonial' campaign.

WWI troops' graffiti discovered in medieval tunnels in northern France

International — Link

Almost 2,000 inscriptions left by WWI Allied troops have been found in an ancient chalk quarry sited close to the Somme battlefields.

French village fights to save untouched WWI soldier's room

France — Link

Bélâbre hopes for help to buy a property in which the bedroom of a French WWI officer has remained undisturbed since his death in 1918.

Postcards from the WW1 frontline: 'I have lost courage and I will go to bed in tears'

Portfolio — 28 photos

This year marked 100 years since the outbreak of World War One, when numerous centenary commemorations were held across the former battlefields of north and eastern France in memory of the more than nine million military personnel and some seven million civilians who died in the four-year conflict, which left millions more wounded. The Nicéphore Niépce museum of photographic art and science in the town of Chalons-sur Saône in central France, named after the French engineer credited with inventing the earliest forms of photography, has mounted several exhibitions dedicated to the use of photography during the Great War. One of them centres on the postcards used for correspondence between French WW1 soldiers – popularly called Poilus – and their families, via a series of exchanges between a military nurse sent to the front and his wife. Entitled ‘Mamad and Toinot’, it traces their miserable forced separation (save for rare leave visits) between 1914 and 1919, when Toinot – a pet name for Antoine – was finally demobbed. Throughout the period, Mamad – pet name for Madeleine – brought up their infant son René, and later a newborn sister Marcelle, in the tiny village of Ormes, close to Chalons-sur Saône. The correspondence traces their pains, passions, tears and despair when what Antoine thought would be a brief war became the lengthy butchery of one of the most deadly conflicts in history. Mediapart presents here a selection from that correspondence, which begins almost to the day a century ago, together with reproductions of the postcards they used and also photomontages of others typical of the time, in which nationalism and the values of the faithful family are key themes.

France’s military brothels: hidden history of World War I

France — Link

The French authorities set up 'Military Campaign Brothels' in a bid to control sexually transmitted diseases that affected up to 30% of troops.

New French WWI memorial focuses on individuals not nations

France — Link

'Ring of Remembrance' has names of all 580,000 soldiers of all nationalities who died in Nord-Pas-de-Calais in northern France from 1914 to 1918.

The US sculptor who masked the disfigured French wounded of WWI

International — Link

Anna Coleman Ladd was director of the Red Cross mask-making studio in Paris where she moulded and painted unique artificial faces.

Hollande in pan-European commemoration marking start of WWI

International — Link

The French president joined in a Great War centenary ceremony that brought together European leaders and royal representatives in Belgium.

French and German leaders commemorate 100th anniversary of World War One

International — Link

Presidents Francois Hollande and Joachim Gauck laid wreathes at Hartmannswillerkopf to mark centenary of Germany's declaration of war.