Touraine - from then until now!

This blog is an attempt to show some of the vast history of Man's prescence in the Southern Touraine.... from first footfall to the present....
especially in and around le Grand Pressigny area.... with special emphasis on life at and around le Moulin de la Forge.
There will also be occasional entries about time before man was here and when the area was at the bottom of a warm, shallow sea...

Sunday 29 November 2015

A great patriot, or the man who divided his country?

The article that first alerted me to the date of our scrap of newsprint mentioned Greece, the Hellenes, the Dardanelles. A name - Venizelos.

And an image came into my head. A picture of a grave on the Greek island of Crete, at Moni Profitis Elias, high on a hillside shaded by pines, overlooking the Akrotiri peninsula and the city of Chania. The view from the grave site is breathtaking and every visitor must have taken this photograph, myself included.

The graves of Elevtherios and Sofokles Venizelos, from Cplakidas photo library
The article describes Elevtherios Venizelos as the former President of the royal council, but he was that more than once. The name of the current premier, Gounaris, clinched it. This fragment could only have been printed in late March or very early April 1915.
The Balkan Peninsula between 1878 and 1914, from Tim's wonderful old Atlas of World History

At the beginning of the first world war, the people of Greece were united behind their king, Constantine I, and his President of Council, Elevtherios Venizelos. They had just emerged war-weary but victorious from the Balkan Wars against Bulgaria. This victory had doubled the territory of a nation that did not exist as such eighty years earlier. Greece and Bulgaria both remained neutral at the outbreak of war, even though a murder in Serbia, which shared frontiers with both countries, was the trigger for the war. Serbia, like Greece and Russia, is an Orthodox country and the natural sympathies of most Greeks lay with the Serbs. Constantine, however, grandson of a Danish princeling and of Hapsburg blood, was Kaiser Willhelm's brother-in-law.

Constantine the victorious. The caption calls him Constantine 12th, in the Byzantine imperial line

Elevtherios Venizelos - in retirement
By the end of the war, Constantine had been forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Alexander, and a Greek army of 300,000 was fighting German and Austrian forces in Macedonia alongside troops from France, Russia and Britain. Venizelos was again President of the Royal council, but there were deep divisions in Greece between Royalists and Venizelists, those who wanted the status quo and those who favoured a Greater Greece.  Greeks had raised their hands against Greeks, blood had been shed, and there was more, much more, to come.

An outline of the extraordinary period in Greek history between 1914 and 1918 can be found here. All I can attempt to do here is concentrate on the few weeks during which our newspaper was published.

In March 1915 "the enterprise of the Dardanelles", as Venizelos called it, was at its height, if such it may be called, and the Greek government had dithered about providing any support whatsoever to either side, refusing the warships of the Great Powers coaling facilities.

Venizelos resigned as president of the council of King Constantine of Greece on 6th March 1915 over a proposal under the benign supervision of the Great Powers, and by Sir Edward Grey and the British government in particular, for Bulgaria and Greece to come out of neutrality simultaneously and attack the Ottoman forces. The inducement to be offered to Bulgaria was a port, Kavalla, on the Aegean Sea (see the map). The land, referred to in the article as "the cazas of Sarichabon, Cavalla and Drama" was part of Greece, recently acquired the hard way in the latest of a series of bruising wars with Bulgaria. "The Bulgarian threat" (le péril Bulgare) was still of great concern in Greece.

Greece, in return for her sacrifice, was to be granted a much larger area, on the mainland of Asia Minor, then part of the Ottoman Empire, longer ago part of the Byzantine empire, in the present day the western half of Turkey.  Many of the inhabitants of this area (what? Oh yes, them) were Greek-speaking, and the proposals revealed in an article in le Matin casually referred to managed mass relocation as though people could be taken out of their boxes and moved around and swapped like toy soldiers.

W. Holt-Wright, writing in the Daily Express of 29th March 1915, was one of few British journalists to take Venizelos seriously. He says:
M. Venizelos is the idol of Greece; he has steered his country to victory in two successive wars, and he, more than any man, has brought about a spirit of Greek revival, and has inspired his countrymen to espouse the great cause of the liberation of the 4,000,000 Greeks who still remain the pitiful vassals of the Turk....
M. Venizelos’ plan was clean-cut, comparatively simple, and extraordinarily bold. In effect, he said, the Great Powers are much too busy to interfere; let the Balkan States, therefore, forget their recent quarrels, revive the shattered League, which must now include Roumania, hurl the Turks from Asia Minor, and repatriate their various lost tribes. The Allies, he assured the Greeks, must inevitably win, and when the war was over, apart from the fact that possession was nine points of the law, they would be too sensible of the great help the Balkan States had afforded them to rob them of the fruits of victory.
Nothing, of course, except some possible difficulties in the case of Italy, could have been more welcome to the Allies, and the Greeks were buoyed up with hope and a real and splendid endeavour. Roumania might raise objections, but M. Venizelos was quite certain that an arrangement could be made with her. She also had people — under the heel of Hungary — to be freed.
So far. so good. It was on the question of the bargain with Bulgaria that M. Venizelos nominally fell. He proposed to set a sprat to catch a whale  — that is, he was prepared to cede Bulgaria a small portion of Grecian territory in return for a much larger tract of territory in Asia Minor when the resuscitated Balkan League should have wrested it from the Turk.
From the point of plain common sense it is hard to see where M. Venizelos erred in his calculations and designs. He proposed, reluctantly of course, to surrender the Kavalla district, which has an extent of 2,000 square kilometres and a population of 30,000, but in return Greece was to receive in Asia Minor territory amounting to 125,000 square kilometres, the inhabitants of which -- mostly Greeks — number nearly a million. Thus, in tho event of victory, M. Venizelos would have nearly doubled the present size of Greece, and would have added nearly 20 per cent to the present population.
It was a great dream and a bold scheme and there were unquestionably "conversations” with both Roumania and Bulgaria...
At the promptings of King Constantine, the military declared that the army had not yet recovered from the past two wars. M. Venizelos made answer that an expeditionary force of 50,000 men would be sufficient to secure his purpose and win the goodwill of the Allies.

He also proudly pointed to the fact that during the recent Balkan wars 40,000 Greeks, practically an army corps, had alone come over from the United States — where there are 500,000 of them — and had not merely paid all their expenses for the honour of fighting for Greece, but had actually brought all their savings to pay into the Greek Treasury to aid the success of the campaign.

Next, the Greek financiers were brought to bear on M. Venizelos’ venture. The monetary burden of the campaign, they said, would be more than Greece could support. To all intents and purposes M. Venizelos retorted, “ Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” [nothing changes much here, does it?]
The strictly private and confidential “conversations” with Roumania and Bulgaria went on, and, at the last, there is no doubt that M. Venizelos thought the way was clear for war. Then King Constantine hurled his neutral bombshell. He would never consent to cede an inch of Greek territory, ho said, no matter what was to be got in return; and he declared that he had never allowed M. Venizelos to suppose that he could conduct any negotiations upon such lines.
Deeply offended by the perceived insult,Venizelos resigned, vowing to give up politics forever, but not before publishing the whole thing in the Patris newspaper. The proposal (somewhat selectively) and a slagging by the ultra-conservative toady Gounaris, are the subject of this article.

For once, I have actually located the entire article in the pages of Le Petit Journal at la Bibliothèque Nationale de France. In the library copy, which is a Paris edition, rather than our provincial one, it was published on 3rd April rather than 4th.

Other Greek-speaking enclaves around the Mediterranean, such as Corfu, Symi and the Dodecanese, along with Trieste and Trentino, were at this time being bundled up, successfully in this case, as an inducement to Italy to join the war on the Great Powers' side. The story next to the Venizelos article, represented on our fragment only by a list of words, proved to have the title "L'accord de l'Italie avec la Serbie et la Russie".

Here is an updated reconstruction of the main section of the clipping.
And here is the whole article, with an English translation.

And Venizelos? He admired the British and their Parliamentary system. Who was he? A natural politician, born into a relatively humble (i.e. middle class) family in Crete. He is another man who could be called a bundle of energy, a man of massive highs and lows. He rose to the top in the Greek parliament simply by being better than anyone else.

The elder statesman
Elevtherios Venezelos is still beloved in his native island. There are daily coach outings to his birthplace in Mournies and to his grave.

Any suggestion of that he might have lived with a bipolar condition may be considered alongside the fact that he was a Cretan. I can only refer you to the works of his near contemporary and great admirer, Nikos Kazantzakis, and particularly Zorba the Greek.

Monday 7 September 2015

Scratches on the wall

The extraordinarily clear light of autumn enabled me to take a few photos of the marks in the doorway of one of our little outbuildings, the one we use as a toolshed. There is some writing there, and pictures.

The text and figures are scored deeply into the stone. I am publishing this post unfinished as an appeal to anyone who can for help in interpreting this. It appears to date from the second world war, when several resistance groups operated in this area. Jean Rousellot filmed them for his L'histoire de chez nous 1940 - 1945.  Does this have something to do with them?,

To someone more familiar with French handwriting and script styles the text may be perfectly clear.  To me, the only unambiguous phrase is the date le 5 juin 1944. Even this is imperfect - it could be le 15 or le 25 juin (see photo 2). There seems to be another date and an illegible name: le 10 nove de chez M. de???elle (photo 7). Could this be "Charcellay"? Or Décharte? We will ask....

There are two drawings. One is just a head, in profile, with a high bulging forehead, a large beaky nose and a big chin, a line across the top of the skull may represent a severe (military) haircut. He can be seen clearly in the first photograph, and again in 3,4 and 7. Next to it a natural (?) shape in the stone reflects the drawing.

The second, also in profile, shows a man smoking a clay pipe, again with a large beaky nose and chin, but with spiky hair sticking out from his pate. He appears on photo 5, and again on photo 2 which seems to indicate long legs. In photo 6 his pipe can be seen, along with the smoke rising from it. The figure was drawn earlier than the date, which is carved across it.

Tim suggests a child's hand for the human images, but I disagree. I think both images are of the same person, but they were drawn by different people. Who had a large beaky nose and chin? General de Gaulle, the exiled leader of the French resistance.

Here are the photos:

Photo 1.
les c?hmi? ? cochons?  de chez M. ...

Photo 2.
  Le ? Avril // 1944  le x5 juin

Photo 3.  ?
le 10 nove(mbre?)  de ?chez M? de ??ellay?? see also photo 7
les cochons?

Photo 4.
les c?h?
Photo 5.
le ? ?avril? 1944 le 5 juin

Photo 6. 
R (or P) ??trie or ??bie

Photo 7.
le 10 nove de chez M. ace  .... cell(?ay?)

Monday 13 July 2015

How La Touraine carried thousands of passengers to New York before she was launched

Our ocean liner from our newspaper cutting, La Touraine, followed as eventful a career as any storyteller could wish for. She was the "just William" of the seas - wherever she went, unusual and interestin' things just sort of happened.

At the Paris Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) of 1889, the newly constructed Eiffel Tower was one of the top attractions. The Exposition was a showcase of France's manufacturing industries and of her place in the world. La Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, owners of La Touraine, was one of the French manufacturing and service companies with its own pavilion, on the bank of the Seine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Extract from the map of the 1889 Exposition Universelle. The CGT panorama is the circular building top right

The official guide to the exhibition, as quoted by "Joconde", the portal of the museums of France, describes the edifice thus:
"Higher up, at the level of the avenue de La Bourdonnais, we find the Panorama of the Compagnie Transatlantique. It is a polygonal construction, raised on piles, the exterior of which is decorated with immense maps representing all the countries of the world linked to the various French ports by the Company's liners.
Sweet memories
"On entry, you find yourself on the staircase of a great steamer, whose two principal decks you visit in sequence. It is the exact reproduction, life size, of the steamship la Touraine which is under construction. Eleven dioramas, the work of Messieurs Poilpot, Hoffbauer, Montenard and Motte, display to you the luxurious accommodation of a great Transatlantic liner, the salons, the smoking room, the passenger cabins. To one side are reproduced several fascinating scenes: the arrival of a steamer in New York, views of the principal ports used by the Compagnie Transatlantique, their immense dockyards.

Figure 3 - La Nature, 1889 - cross-section through the Panorama

"You finally come out on the bridge of the ship, and there, the illusion is such that, almost by the movement, that you believe youself to be out at sea. In the distance the port of Le Havre can be seen and the nearby cliffs beaten by the waves. If you look around, you can see the complete superstructure of a ship with her masts and all their ropes; and all of it is extended and finished so well on painted canvases that you cannot truly say where the actual ship on which you are walking ends and where the artist's work finishes. All around, the fleet of the Compagnie Transatlantique appears in ranks, formed by steamers of all tonnages, from the enormous liners of the New York line to the more modest vessels of the Algeria lines."
Original poster, recently changed hands for over €3,000

The Panorama is described in splendidly florid detail detail in "L'Exposition Universelle de 1889" by Louis Rousselet (published in 1890).
"You have no sooner entered the Champ de Mars panorama, than you find yourself transported right to the heart of a ship. Dark, narrow corridors lit to left and right by portholes represent, with a good degree of fidelity, the outlines of a boat. An odour of pitch, suffusing pretty well everywhere, finishes off the local colour, I had better say… local aroma. You pass through travellers’ cabins, outfitted in great luxury. A little staircase comes in sight. You climb it and suddenly you are transported to the bridge of an immense liner, la Touraine, such as she will be in days to come. In reality, la Touraine rests still on the stocks in the construction yard. This little subterfuge, by placing the spectator on a liner which does not yet exist, has the advantage of letting you see the entire existing fleet.
"On this bridge, tackle is hanging, ropes unroll on the floor, the steersman turns the wheel, the compass needle trembles in the binnacle, the captain, leaning on the railing, gives the last orders. The ship is ready to depart. Foredeck passengers, after deck passengers, crowd on the gangplanks, glancing one last time at the dry land of France, which, in a few minutes’ time, will be slipping little by little into the distance and will sink suddenly below the sea’s horizon. All along the davits of the Touraine the sea slaps, shimmers, gleams. Sailing yachts, to see her closer, veer and tack in her stream, with a swirling as of great sea birds with white wings. Light skiffs, carrying overdue passengers, turn back towards the port, spotted with smoke, the bow white with foam, leaving behind them a deep wake, whose undulations ruffle the surface of the waters.
"We also, interested visitor, we must leave. An impression, at least, has been given to us. And what a departure! The sun’s rays sparkle out of sight, drowning in their gilded waves the immense horizon of the mouth of the Seine, which acts as the roadstead of le Havre whose white houses rise in rows on the flanks of the hillside. Down there, the abrupt spine of the point of La Hève; here, the hillsides slipping past which border the Seine, on this side, the green, dark slopes of Ronfleur and Trouville, on the other, the infinite horizon hiding the English coast. In this giant picture frame, the sea calm, peaceful, the sea in multiple tones, and on it, proud of their strength and majesty, all the ships of the Company, crowing with joy, present for the departure of their youngest sister. It is la Gascogne, la Champagne, la Normandie, it is la Bretagne. In the luminous air which surrounds them, one can see the specific details which give them their own individuality. Those who know them cannot mistake them and give one the name of another. 
Figure 1 - La Nature, 1889 - View towards the bow. Watch out for crowing ships
"The tour of the bridge completed, you go back down to the between-decks. A new spectacle waits for us there. In place of the cabins aligned the length of her sides, there are dioramas, that is to say huge paintings on vast canvases and which, instead of being circular like those of the panorama, are laid out on a vertical plan. The lighting, cunningly placed, varies the general and the local tones in such a way as to produce, be it on several points, be it on the entire picture, all possible natural or artificial luminous effects. 
"The Transatlantic Company’s dioramas each represent a distinct part of the ship: the saloon, the dining room, the smoking room, cabins of the different classes, boarding, etc. etc. Others show different ports more particularly frequented by the liners of the Company. Here is Marseilles with its old city walls, their heights reddened by the light of the setting sun, darkened at the foot by the waves of the Mediterranean. There is Algiers with its ranks of white houses, exploding in the dark greenery of exotic plants. Here is New York with the grandiose, luminous panorama of her harbour."
Figure 2 - La Nature, 1889 - View towards the stern

The Exposition Universelle attracted visitors in their millions, from Parisian factory workers and shop girls to official visitors from all over the world. The lifelike interior of the Panorama gave the impression of rubbing shoulders with the nobs in First Class. It proved so popular that the CGT revived and revised it for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, featuring all their ships, including La Touraine (12,000 bhp!) on a Mediterranean voyage.

This exhibit, called the Maréorama, intrigued Finnish-American Professor of Media Studies Erkki Huhtamo at the beginning of the 21st Century to such an extent that he lectured on the subject extensively under the headline "Mareorama Resurrected". His story of how he became interested in the Maréorama echoes our own. The spirit of La Touraine lives on.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

A "Swiss Army" flint... the ultimate Stone Age multi-tool.

Pauline spotted this....

The wonders of technology allow both sides to be seen at once,
... whilst looking along the berm...
our long barrow of earth from the creation of the fosse septiques and their associated filter beds.
It is therefore, totally out of context!

But the Chairman of the AMGP{#} identified it as a multi-use flint tool...

a blade...

a flat scraper [grattoir]...

a borer [perçoir]...

a rounded end scraper...

and an incurved section.

This last was apparently likely to have been used for scraping bark from branches and meat from small bones.....
Willow for headache....
meat from tendons to leave clean sinew for breaking apart by hammering....

But put together, this is a very handy thing for a mobile hunter to have with them as part of a kit...
and for the Stone Age kitchen area and craft room...
I am using this terminology quite deliberately...
they were no different from us in those respects.
Craft areas created everything from clothes to tools...
and traded them...
the original

In the kitchen, anything that could be used in different ways, would have been a boon...
no going to a "drawer full of gadgets" [ie.: pile of favourite flints]...
this one would do most of what was needed.

For the hunter, out on an expedition, it would have been used as I use my trusty Swiss Army knife...
now with a wonderful ash handgrip...
carved and finished by me...
no, not flint... just modern knives, files and sanders.
But I'll bet I could have done the very same with flint on the ash wood!

My Swiss Army knife... with matching blades open...
or four out of the five above!

To me this is a wonderful indicator of Man's ingenuity...
as a species we have continually strived to do better...
our inventiveness is inbred!!

Yes... this is the original Swiss Army knife...
and even Ötzi had something similar!
Even if he was Italian...
now there's a quandary for the Swiss...
your army's favourite tool was found....
in the possession of someone the from other side of the border!!

[#] Les Amis de la Musée du Grand Pressigny

Sunday 26 April 2015

The first aircraft to go to war

A Taube throws some bombs ...

The Etrich Taube was the first warplane used to drop a live bomb on real people. On 1 November 1911, an Italian pilot, Giulio Gavotti, dropped three 1.5kg grenades on the oasis of Ain Zara during the war between Italy and the Ottoman empire, fought in Libya. That is only eight years after the Wright brothers and their exploits at Kitty Hawk. Those smart Wright boys designed a plane for the US Army in 1909 but it was never used in war. Gavotti's letters to his father survived, to be read in a rather cod Italian accent on the BBC World Service (note: in the BBC's picture, Gavotti is not flying a Taube).

A Taube takes off from a Libyan airfield - card postmarked 31/12/1911
The Taube, also designed in 1909, by Austrian aviator/engineer Igo Etrich and his partner Franz Wels, first flew in 1910. Much technical detail can be found in Wikipedia here. A full technical review was printed in Flight magazine in February 1915, here.

Its organic design could so easily have consigned the Taube to that group of nutty aircraft seen destroying themselves in early films - flapping wings that shook the plane apart, multiple wing surfaces like some kind of flying layer cake that collapsed under their own weight, men with wings strapped to themselves and jumping off high buildings with inevitable results, Icarus (except for the films) - but the Taube worked.

At the heart of the design was the fruit of zanonia macrocarpa (syn.[or ?close relative?] alsomitra macrocarpa), the javanese cucumber. This climbing jungle vine is a member of the pumpkin family (not a palm, as Flight magazine would have it). It produces football-sized gourd-like fruit, suspended high above the forest floor. Its many seeds bear a pair of jelly-like wings, and drop from the bottom of the fruit one at a time.

Alsomitra macrocarpa seed - photograph taken in Kebun Raya, Bogor, Indonesia, by Scott Zona from Miami, Fl
The seed glides away, eventually spiralling gently to the ground, sometimes many hundreds of metres from the parent plant.
Opening fruit (some 30cm in diameter) (lower left), flowers (lower right), winged seed (centre), twining stem with foliage (top) - Not to same scale. 
after "Meyers großes Konversationslexikon", 6.Auflage; Bd.23; Jahressupplement 1910-1911, S.976

Scott Zona writes (with my addition of bold face for any reader who is not an aeronautical engineer):
A bit of flowery prose from an essay that I wrote in 2001 on wind-dispersed seeds & fruits: "Every now and then, field botanists are treated to transcendental moments when the light is golden, the air is fresh, interesting plants are at hand, and the hardships of field work just melt away. During those times, scientific insights arrive with astonishing clarity and grace.
One such moment for me came on a sunny afternoon in the Kebun Raya Botanic Garden, in Bogor, Indonesia, some years ago. On that memorable day, I was transfixed as I watched dozens of winged seeds of Alsomitra macrocarpa (Cucurbitaceae, the squash family) glide to the ground in broad, lazy spirals. The seeds spilled out from a fruit hanging on the liana climbing on one of the enormous old trees in the garden.
All the principles of aerodynamics as they relate to seed dispersal were manifest in that one lovely moment. "The gliding seeds of Alsomitra exhibit two kinds of motion: The forward gliding motion, which takes the seed on a helical, downward path, and phugoid oscillations, in which the gliding seed gains lift, stalls, drops briefly until it accelerates enough to generate lift, starting the process over again.
Phugoid oscillations are well known to aviation engineers and model aeroplane fliers, because they can destabilize mechanized flight, but in the seeds of Alsomitra, phugoid oscillations add a graceful rhythm to the descent, and more importantly, slow the descent of the seeds giving them more time aloft. Time aloft is the sine qua non of successful dispersal by wind."
A remarkable film of Alsomitra macrocarpa seeds taking to the air was produced for BBC Earth in 2009.

The Taube's curved wing surfaces mimicked this seed precisely, so that if the Taube lost power, it would continue to move forward, and eventually glide to the ground. The design made it somewhat of a pig to steer, but flying in a straight line was a doddle. The fly-glide technique enabled Gino Linnekogel and Suvelick Johannisthal to achieve a two-man endurance record for flying a Taube of 4 hours and 35 minutes over Germany in 1911. This made flights from Germany as far as London possible, if precarious.

Aerial warfare, or hand to hand fighting
"German Taube in battle with hostile pilots Deutsche Taube im Kampf mit feindlichen Fliegern"
Ascent and descent were controlled, not with flaps and ailerons, but by flexing the surface of the wing by means of cords.
I suppose NASA thinks this (courtesy of BBC News) is new?
The pilot single handed could prime grenades and chuck them out of the cockpit, though with his hands full this left him unable to defend himself.Two-seater and even four-seater models were built.

"Fruitless bombardment of a German Taube" Erfolglose Beschiessung einer deutschen Taube
Etrich could not obtain a German patent for the Taube, as his work was based on that of the German botanist Dr Friedrich Ahlborn who published an analysis of the aerodynamics of the seeds in 1903, so in Germany many more versions were constructed, notably by Rumpler. The most likely version used for the raid on Gerardmer was a two-man Rumpler Taube. There was no such thing as an anti-aircraft gun and, on the ground, villagers fired at the Taubes with shotguns and pistols. Ground fire was not particularly effective.

"A Strange Santa Claus - Voilà le Taube!" - the passage of a hostile aircraft over a town in northern France

The facsimile sketch from the front by C.J. Payne (above) appeared in The Graphic on January 2, 1915.
The editor writes:
the appearance of a hostile aeroplane is the signal for a general fusillade, the returning bullets causing, as a rule, more damage than the bombs dropped by the Taube, so that it is wise to bolt for cover as soon as the firing commences. On the occasion witnessed by our artist, a gallant citizen joined in the fusillade with his revolver, and not until he was presented with numerous bills for broken windows and lamps could he be convinced that his efforts had not been the means of disabling the enemy.
Technology quickly superseded the originality of the Taube design - the pilot was unable to fire through the propeller, and this facility was developed only for newer, faster planes.

By 1916 they were restricted to actions over civilian areas - propaganda leafleting, for example, and "irritation" bombing attacks like this one.
A peaceful view of Gerardmer, the target of the Taube, 1916
The Owls Head Transportation Museum, Maine, USA, has a working replica of a Taube, which can be seen in operation here...

 ... and there is even a real one, in the Vienna Technical Museum.

In 1911, Gavotti's surgical strike was described in Italian newspapers as craftsmanship. He could select and pinpoint his targets like a master. The same claim is made for today's precision bombing by pilotless drones.

But anti-aircraft fire and enemy fighters forced the bombers higher, so that fliers became unable to visualise what they were doing to people on the ground. That way lay the carpet bombing of Coventry, the firestorm over Dresden, the atom bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gavotti cannot have guessed what horrors would follow his action.

Friday 24 April 2015

The tough cookie

The full text of the article about the fire aboard the liner La Touraine in our clipping is now available (see Gallica). Beneath the title La mystère de l'incendie de La Touraine is revealed a tasty bit of gossip, when examined with 20/20 hindsight. Corroborating detail comes from Le Petit Parisien of 4th April 1915.

Raymond Rolfe Swoboda lived quietly for four years at 24 Boulevard de Rochechouart until August 1913 when he moved out without leaving a forwarding address. He then moved into the newly-built Villa Flore in Viroflay.

From Le Petit Journal, 4 April 1915
When the rental agreement for a nine year lease was drawn up in October 1913, the villa in the Rue de la Gare-aux-Marchandises had no name; the proprietor, M. Mandar [or Mandard, Le Petit Parisien], an "ardent patriot" wanted to call it after his native region of Alsace-Lorraine, divided after the Franco-Prussian war so the Lorraine became part of Germany. He was on the point of ordering a nameplate. Hearing this made Swoboda jump. "Oh no", he said, "my wife is called Flore, so call it 'Pavillon Flore', that will go very well, yes" [note, the last word in English]. Out of generosity Mandar complied with his new tenant's request and the house became the Villa Flore.

When war broke out, Swoboda made it known to his landlord that he was going to join the French armed forces. This touched Mandar's patriotic streak and he accorded his tenant whatever facilities they wished, including an electric burglar alarm. He even renewed his congratulations in a letter a few days later. However, passing Swoboda's workplace towards the middle of September 1914, one month after Swoboda and his wife had moved out, Mandar checked if his tenant had indeed joined the army, and found that he had done no such thing. He addressed a vehement letter to Swoboda, reproaching him for the deception.

"Do you know what I shall call my Villa now?" Mandar told the Petit Journal, "I shall call it 'Revenge'".

But who was Flore?

Flore Emilie Treichler of the multiply-miss-spelled name was a very interesting personality indeed. Born in Rolle, Switzerland on January 25, 1889, she had been with Swoboda for six years, firstly in Rue de Rochechouart, then at the Villa Flore. However by the beginning of April 1915 she was back home again, as a principal singer with the Geneva Opera.  In France, she had appeared very much under Swoboda's influence, a Trilby to his Svengali, as testified by M and Mme Roche, her widely respected teachers of singing and diction.  Her stage name, quoted in Le Petit Journal, Le Petit Havre and elsewhere) was Flore Revalles.

That same Flore Revalles was headhunted by Leon Bakst, the great theatre designer, to join Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe at the end of 1915 for appearances at the Paris Opera, where she danced in Scheherazade. This was followed in 1916 by a season in New York, at the Century Theatre, and a four week run at the Metropolitan Opera House, which included an appearance with Vaclav Nijinsky in the final dance of Till Eugenspiegel. A copy of her 1916 contract with Diaghilev is in the Victoria and Albert Museum's Diiaghilev Collection, where her real surname has been misread as Crieckler (a real cracker).

That was quickly followed by a tour of America and Canada. On January 15 1917 she danced the eponymous role of Cleopatra with Nijinsky in Vancouver to rave reviews in the Vancouver Daily Sun. The reviewer swooned that her
“mesmerizing power over her lover is only less remarkable than her silent power and sovereignty over the spectators.”
Harvard Theatre Collection
Likewise the Galveston Daily News, Texas of 26 November 1916, written by someone who likes the word "and" rather a lot:
"Flore Revalles is her name and she plays in most of the ballets, among them in the ancient story of the snake lady of the Nile, Cleopatra. Flore Revalles is a person all soft curves and long sinuous lines with dark Egyptian colouring and all the attributes of a well regulated vampire. In the story from which the ballet is taken a humble slave dares to love Cleopatra. At first the whole court with the queen stand aghast and astounded at the presumption of the slave; but, swayed by a whim, yields to him for a brief and delirious hour and then kills him with a strange and terrible poison."
Back in Paris in 1920, she appeared in Pulcinella (ballet with songs written by Massine) and Les Sylphides choreographed by Michel Fokine.

What do we know about her?

  • She was a good enough dancer in 1916 and 1917 to partner Nijinsky and Adolf Bolm.
Scheherazade, with Adolf Bolm

Cleopatra, with Nijinsky, by Karl Struss, 1916
  • She was a good enough singer on the Broadway stage, in the reviews Miss 1917 (1917) and Monte Cristo (1919) accompanied by the then unknown George Gershwin. 
  • She was a good enough actress to appear in two films, as Messalina in Woman (1918) and Daisy Rittenshaw in Earthbound (1920)  both now regarded as lost classics. Woman attempted somewhat daringly to tell the story of womankind from Eve to the present day, Messalina being the promiscuous wife of the Roman emperor Claudius. In the spooky Earthbound, Daisy Rittenshaw's husband murders his best friend on discovering that he is having an affair with his wife. The lover comes back as a ghost incapable of moving except to protect those he has wronged.

  • She was cool enough to disclose in 1916 that she had adopted a cobra to help her performance in dancing the part of Cleopatra, saying that "the cobra is the most graceful of all snakes", This made the headlines and ensured the maximum of publicity for her appearances. 

  • She had bunions, the curse of the ballet (see above).
  • She was well enough known world-wide for her portrait to hang in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Flore Revalles by Emil Otto ('E.O.') Hoppé, c. 1917, Photogravure, National Portrait Gallery
  • And she was a tough enough cookie to front a lawsuit by the cast of The Century Girl and Miss 1917 against the Century Corporation for non-payment for their work. She won her case, sending the theatre into bankruptcy. 
She died, aged 77, in Switzerland in 1966. There is no record of her ever marrying.

Could she have been Swoboda's wife, not just his "petite amie"? 

When interviewed by the Geneva correspondent of Le Matin about the accusations against Swoboda she seems genuinely confused at the flood of misinformation. But then, as we have just said, she was a good actress. (t must have been painful to realise that her friend was lying to her just as much as to everyone else. But then, she was a tough cookie. Here is my translation of the Le Matin report as published by Le Petit Havre of 4th April 1915.
I have seen Miss Flora Treichler, girlfriend of Raymond Swoboda. The young artist is presently Principal singer [première chanteuse] at the theatre of Geneva, where, under the name of Flore Revalles, she sings with success in several operas.
Miss Treichler, who is of Swiss origin, declared to me:
"I've known Raymond Swoboda for six years. I know that he worked on numerous commercial and financial deals, but I didn't know the details. M. Swoboda, who is rather taciturn, said nothing to me about his private business."
Swoboda's girlfriend affirmed to me that the financier is indeed American.
"He is the son", she said to me "of a very rich family in New York. [Italics as printed]. After several disagreements, his father closed his purse to him. One of his brothers is presently an interpreter with an English cavalry regiment.
"My friend", Miss Treichler continued, "never belonged to the German or Austrian army. It's true that in the course of the search at our villa in Viroflay a photograph of people in German uniforms was found, the explanation is very simple. Raymond Swoboda was a student at Heidelberg. He still has family in Germany and it's possible that he had his picture taken with friends or family."
"Do you know", I asked, "of the deposit made by M. Swoboda of five trunks, in the offices of a business in the Avenue de l'Opera?"
 "I know," the singer replied, "that my friend conducted various business deals with America and that he had just concluded an important market to distribute many American products  in France.
"The trunks you refer to simply contained samples of these products. Besides, he didn't expect to limit the placement of these goods to France alone, for here is a letter where he asks me if some of some of the products might not be placed in Switzerland, and which in my opinion would have the best chance of selling here.
"This letter proves that my friend wanted only to conduct commercial  business, and I do not believe one scrap in his guilt. Here is another letter. It is dated 4th March. Raymond Swoboda writes to me:
- 'Once more I find myself on a French liner. I preferred in the end to avoid a useless stay in England, for the traffic is so very heavy between the two countries, that I risk losing all the advantage that the Lusitania might have given me.'
 "Here is another letter. This was written aboard the Touraine, on 7th March, in sight of Brest.
- 'I would have been better to follow my original plan, rather than leaving on the Touraine, for if ever we had a lucky escape, this time was it.'
"You can see for yourself," continued the financier's girlfriend, "that Swoboda told me all about the phases of the fire alarm which was raised the day before on board the liner. You can read hear as well that he passed on to me the opinion of the ship's officers, saying that the fire was certainly due to a deliberate act of malice  and that the fire could only be set with the aide of an explosive device [infernal machine] placed in the middle of the merchandise in the hold."
"No", Miss Treichler concluded, "Raymond Swoboda could not be guilty of what they accuse him of, and I am certain that he is the victim of a horrible plot or a dreadful mistake."
[Thus when one has just read this dispatch, there is reason to remark that Miss Treichler declares that Raymond Swoboda's family is from New York. In the identity papers he possessed at the time of his association with M. Raguit, the financier of the Rue de Provence, Swoboda's papers seem to establish that he was born in Quebec, and on different occasions he told M Raguit about the properties his family owned in that city.
Finally the papers that he presented at the Viroflay town hall, when he came to register as an alien, indicated that he was born in San Francisco.These were the same papers that he presented at the U.S. embassy when he went to get his passport for America, at the end of last December.]
According to the information provided at the parliamentary sitting by M. Malvy, minister of the interior, it appears that Swoboda was born on 6 February 1878 in San Francisco, of American parents, and he made his declaration of American citizenship in Viroflay, last year.
Elsewhere, according to a dispatch from Washington by the Havas agency, Mr MacLea, an associate of Swoboda, would be addressing a request to the state Department to protect him.
"The case against him is absurd", he declared. "Swoboda was only engaged in purchases of fabrics and other furnishings."

Treichler/Revalles's Wikipedia entry is longer than Swoboda's. And it makes no mention of him. Nor is he mentioned in any of the show-business web sites that include vignettes of her life and career, or in the history of the Ballet Russe.

She seems to have completely remade herself after his arrest. The strategic move to Switzerland had already taken place. It only took nine months for her to re-establish herself in the Geneva Ballet, where she would come to Bakst's notice, and to join the re-forming Ballet Russe. Clearly she was not broken-hearted over her split with him.

And she was not pretty. She was beautiful.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress
Dating the famous

I like this one best - Dating the famous
Or maybe this one? Wikipedia creative commons

Wednesday 22 April 2015

The journal identified

Thanks to of, unbelievably, Descartes, about 12 miles away, we are now able to pin down the day and title of the scrap of newspaper.

It's taken from pages 3 and 4 of Le Petit Journal of 4th April 1915. Nearly. The title of the dreadful serial is "The man with the emerald eyes" (l'homme aux yeux d'emeraude) and the author is Jules de Gastyne. We are reading the Second Part, section III continued (le danger) and section IV (la domaine mysterieuse). Section IV is to be continued tomorrow. This is not the novel about Jacques Coeur, the alchemical silversmith to Charles VII, nor L’enfant aux yeux d’émeraude by Jacques Saussey, nor is it yet Le garcon aux yeux d'emeraude character in Inazuma Eleven.

Jules de Gastyne was the pen name of Jules Sillas Benoît or Benoist. Wikipedia lists other pseudonyms as John Brabeck, Jack Bradley, Jack Bradlay, Duke Grant, Phil Harris, Mike Hood, John Searbeck, Pierre d’Ornoy, Julien Brignac, Julien Liris, Philippe d’Ornay. Wikipedia France describes him thus: born Sanxay (Vienne)  on 12 June 1847, died Paris 14 June 1920, was a French journalist and writer, author of paperback novels and vaudevilles. Wikipedia lists numerous works by Gastyne but not this one. He was the father of Marco and Guy de Gastyne.

The adverts, on page 4, are in the correct place and the correct order; the second from top is for a midwife who charges moderate prices. Above that is an advertisement for wine; M. Beauchamp buys empty barrels.

But as for the articles - the only one in the right place in its entirety is the story of La Touraine and the investigations into Swoboda. The Chambord story should be immediately to its left, and the Taube story below it. Of the Chambord story there is no sign, and the Taube story is in the previous day's edition, as is the full text of the Greece story. Another two storylines are inked in - Franz-Josef refuse toute concession - about Austrian reparations to Italy, and "L'Accord de l'Italie avec la Serbie et la Russie" - again from the previous day.

We are dealing with a newspaper that underwent major revisions between print runs, and there were several imprints per day. Le Petit Journal used web offset printing (says Wikipedia, so it must be true). The editorial team was able to lift out and replace big chunks of text from one impression to another. The strapline of page 3 is "DERNIERE HEURE" - Stop Press - "special telegraphic service of Le Petit Journal". This is the one section of the paper above all most likely to undergo massive overhaul for a new impression. As well as the journaux-collection copy this paper also can be found on Gallica, the document retrieval engine of La Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Their copies are both described as the Paris edition, implying that at least one provincial edition existed.

Wikipedia France describes Le Petit Journal thus:
Le Petit Journal was a Parisian daily newspaper, with a republican and conservative stance. It was established in 1863. The founder of the paper was Moïse Polydore Millaud.
In the 1890s, and up to the First World War, at the height of its popularity, the newspaper had a circulation of a million, making it one of the four greatest French dailies, along with Le Petit Parisien, Le Matin, and Le Journal. By 1884 it also included a weekly illustrated supplement. It had its headquarters in Paris.
Le Petit Journal attracted numerous readers for the shift to printing “by the sheet” to web offset printing allowed it to be cheap ; it only cost 5 centimes instead of the 15 centimes for ordinary papers. It had a practical format (43 x 30 cm) was accessible to all (no subscription) and offered, beside national and international news, an entertaining content comprising gossip, slushy stories, horoscopes and histories.
Le Petit Journal declared itself to be apolitical – even if this wasn't always the case – and was exempt stamp duty. It was effectively an evening paper, sold by hawkers at factory and workplace exits. It was the epitome of a new form of journalism which developed, that of  “la petite presse” - the small free press.
After 1900, the readership began to stagnate and then to dwindle: Le Petit Parisien, better managed and which avoided taking sides in the Dreyfuss affair, became the biggest French newspaper. Ernest Judet (1851-1943) positioned the paper in the anti-Dreyfuss party and linked it to the nationalist cause. In 1914, Le Petit Journal only printed 850,000 copies and its readership dropped to 400,000 in 1919. After the war, a good proportion of its readers, disconcerted or shocked by the involvement of the paper in the anti-Dreyfuss party, moved on to reading a competitor which crossed the barrier of 2 million copies and became the king of the « petite presse » - Le Petit Parisien.
Retreating to Clermont-Ferrand in June 1940, le Petit Journal scratched a living there, until 1944 when it disappeared completely. During this period it received a monthly subsidy from the Vichy government ; its board of directors was chaired by Colonel de La Rocque.

Saturday 4 April 2015

A damp squib

Today is 4th April 2015, Our clipping is precisely 100 years old.

It wasn't the Gazette de France.


Thank you for your help, Christian Bach, but it was in vain.

I am now going to contact the librarian/archivist at Chambord to find out about the fire in the beginning of April 1915.  Could it be possible after all these years that they have a copy of the clipping too?

A question of family loyalty

Elias (in French, Elie) de Bourbon Parma, Duke of Parma, was a member of the junior branch of the French Capetian royal family. His father was Duke Robert I of Parma, who became king of Parma at six and was deposed at eleven. The family was immensely wealthy, with a private train to take them and their entourage between their magnificent properties of Schloss Schwarzau am Steinfeld near Vienna, Villa Pianore in northwest Italy, and the château de Chambord in France.

To Elias, home was in three different countries. He was the tenth of 24 children by Duke Robert's two wives. His mother, Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, was also a member of the Bourbon family. His childhood must have been pretty miserable: his mother was almost permanently pregnant and she died giving birth to his 11th sibling in 1882 when Elie was only two years old. The last baby was stillborn, two of the others survived less than a month and six of the others had learning difficulties. His father remarried in 1884 and Elie's stepmother, Maria Antonia of Portugal, bore her husband another 12 children.

Elie in uniform, Creative Commons

On 25 May 1903 in Vienna, Elie married Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria. His sister Zita married Emperor Karl of Austria.  Elie was the only son of Robert's first family to be considered capable of taking the reins when Robert died at Villa Pianore on November 16, 1907. The Grand Marshal of the Austrian court declared the six children of the first marriage with disabilities to be legally incompetent. Elie as the oldest of the remaining sons became his father's principal heir, and legal guardian of his siblings. His step-family did badly out of this, and two of them, Sixtus and Xavier, appealed. In 1910 Elias came to an agreement with his siblings (or their lawyers came to an agreement with his lawyers) that he would accede to half his father's estate, as befitting his role as guardian, and the siblings would take the rest. Elias's half included Chambord.

CHAMBORD - City in the sky
At the beginning of WW1, Elie was in difficulty. He was born a Frenchman, in Biarritz, but his close family was all on the wrong side. His wife's father, Archduke Friedrich, was supreme commander of the Austro-Hungarian Army. His beloved older sister was the wife of the man who was to take the Austro-Hungarian imperial throne after Franz Joseph II died in 1916. What was he to do? Elie decided that family came first. He took a commission in the Austro-Hungarian army.

Sixtus and his brother Francis-Xavier, meanwhile, joined the Belgian army.

On 4th April 1915  in an exclusive report by its journalist at the scene, the still unknown newspaper reported a fire in the woods at Chambord. Little damage was done and the fire was confined to about a hundred hectares of woodland [actually quite a big fire!]. The opinion of local people was that the fire started as a result of "malveillance" - out of malice - for it appears to have broken out in four different places at the same time. The journal reminds its readers that as a result of the convention between Elie and his coheritiers mentioned above, that Chambord was the property of Prince Elie de Parme and his wife was the sister of l'Archiduc Frédéric (Friedrich) of Austria.

On 2th April the French government confiscated Chambord as property of an enemy alien. Quoting Wikipedia on the sorry story of a squadron of lawyers all dipping their bread in the gravy:
Liquidation proceedings were started in 1919 in application of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which gave the Allies the right to keep such property ["to the victor the spoils"]. Sixtus and Xavier took Elias to court to obtain a greater share of their father's estate. They claimed that the 1910 family agreement violated the French law which mandated equal division between siblings [and still does]. In 1925 the French courts determined that Sixtus and Xavier should have a larger share, but in 1928 this judgement was overturned on appeal. In 1932 the Court of Cassation upheld the appeal on the grounds that there was a valid agreement between the siblings to this unequal division. Elias' rights to the château de Chambord were thereby recognised - but the wartime confiscation was upheld and Elias was financially compensated with 11 million francs.
So the only real winners were the lawyers.... and the link is ....
Gytha our 2CV, an awful lot of other 2CVs and some fat bint at Chambord, 2006

Death of an engineer

Leon Chester Thrasher, of Hardwick, Massachussetts, a 31-year-old mining engineer and an American citizen, lost his life on Sunday March 28, 1915, along with 103 other passengers and crew of the British steamer RMS Falaba.

This purports to be Leon Chester Thrasher in uniform, I remain unconvinced

The Falaba had left Liverpool the day before and was on her way through the Irish Sea to Sierra Leone, when she was sunk by the German submarine U-28, captained by Georg-Günther Freiherr von Forstner of the Kaiserliche Marine.

The torpedo hits...

It was widely reported that the U-boat captain had not given the civilians on board time to get into the lifeboats and out of the way, and that his crew had mocked those struggling in the water, refusing to help save them.

The sinking of the Falaba - as imagined

Remarkably, there was a photographer on board the Falaba who took a number of pictures of the panicking passengers and crew on deck and launching the lifeboats before the torpedoes struck, and that photographer and his glass plates survived, although these were only published much later.

Panic on the Falaba
An upturned lifeboat

On 1st April the New York Times reported furious reactions in the British and French press, but predicted that the US government would not respond until the facts of the case were known. A list of NYT articles on the Falaba can be found here but you have to subscribe to TimesMachine for full details.

Indignation over the unfortunate engineer's fate rattled the windows of newspaper offices throughout the English- and French-speaking world. These journals often printed undigested lumps of agency reports garnished with their own sparkling prose. The international agencies gave his name as Thrasher, but American local papers referred to him as Thresher. The name "Thresher or Thrasher" appears in genealogy databases as an old British name derived from the occupation of threshing or thrashing corn, to separate the grain from the husk. It was only in the 19th century that British names became the fixed properties they are now.

("The Thresher incident" is a much more recent affair, involving an explosion aboard an American nuclear submarine, and not the same thing as "the Thrasher incident".)

On 2nd April the NYT reported confirmation that Thrasher was indeed an American citizen, and that he was on his way to Africa to work as a steam fitter and mechanic. The NYT highlighted the reticence of the US government to say how it would react.

The background to "the Thrasher incident" was that the British Admiralty under Winston S Churchill had, early in the war, in secret directed all merchant vessels in British waters to paint over their names and ports of call and to fly under the flag of a neutral nation. They were not to stop when challenged by a German u-boat but to open fire at once or, if unarmed, to attempt to ram.

In response, orders came from the German Imperial navy on February 4th that as of February 18, 1915, the waters around the British Isles, including the Channel, were a war zone. Any merchant ship found in that zone would be immediately destroyed without first determining if the ship were neutral.

Let! first service.
The US dispatched an ambassadorial note to Germany to the effect that "a critical situation" might arise should an American be killed in such action.

In response, the British issued an Order in Council proclaiming a complete embargo on trade with Germany, denying her not only munitions but all other goods.

Let! second service.
The American government responded with a protest to the British government; they saw no need to starve Germans.

Le Matin of 3rd April relates the "violent indignation" of Americans to Thrasher's death, quoting (in French, which I have translated back into English) the reaction of great American dailies including the New York Times:
So great was the indignation aroused by these German crimes that there is no room to hope that our government will not respond. If it is true that an American has perished in the sinking of the Falaba, we must protest on the spot.
This is some of what the NYT actually said:

In the weeks to come the u-boats are universally called "the German pirates".

The New York Tribune adds that it hopes that
"these savages are captured and hanged."
The Press:
"The Germans from now on are struck from the roster of civilised races."

The New York Herald:
It is inconceivable that a single one of those partisans that Germany can count in the United States might not hang his head in shame.
And so on and on.  

Our clipping is of a supporting voice in the general brou-ha-ha.

Of course, a significant proportion of the American population was and is of German, Austrian, or Hungarian descent, and support for revenge upon Germany for Thrasher's death was by no means universal. Britain and France tried to whip up anti-German feeling in the USA in order to draw her into the war.

On April 5 the Imperial navy issued a communiqué (reported in the Gazette de Cologne) describing as "shameless lies" the  reports in British and Neutral newspapers such as the Illustrated London News of statements by survivors that the sailors of the U-boat had laughed at the struggles of the drowning passengers and crew, and had refused to help them. In support of their attacks on merchant ships, the Imperial Navy pointed out that Britain had supported attacks on German submarines by merchant ships, and awarded prizes for success.
However, witness statements from the sinking of the Falaba offered proof that the captain of U-28 gave adequate warnings and time for the Falaba to offload passengers. Instead, the crew of the Falaba had used that time to radio the position of the submarine to nearby armed British patrol ships. As the warship approached, the submarine fired at the last minute — and detonated nearly thirteen tons of contraband high explosives in the Falaba's cargo. This discovery allowed a diplomatic delay in the American response and the decision of whether to go to war.
It was not until 6th April 1917 that the USA declared war on Germany.

Thrasher's body was found off the Irish coast along with that of the Falaba's captain. The body was repatriated to the USA with those of passengers of the torpedoed liner Lusitania. This new disaster led to the loss of 1,202 civilian lives, including 128 Americans.
Nowadays both the wearing of false flags to disguise armed vessels and the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians would be described as war crimes (discuss),

There is a grave with a headstone in Stradbally Burial Ground, Kerry, Ireland, dedicated to Leon Chester Thresher, Hardwick, Mass, USA, and a suspiciously new-looking headstone bearing that name and those of his parents in Hardwick churchyard, Massachussetts.

See Ireland Genealogy Projects
 Find A Grave Memorial# 31297904
A lot of the information here comes from the Great War Forum on the sinking of the Falaba. Follow the link for the latest information, including rather sadly for lost information. The disappearance of national and regional newspaper content into pay-per-view archives is a crime too, in my opinion. I can't find out who owns the copyright on most of this material.