The lucid witness

Similar to Samuel Pepys habit of lapsing into French or even a bit of Italian to underplay, if not hide, his regular, affective adventures, and also perhaps to comfort himself in not having omitted anything in his diaries, Cœurdevey would lapse into his more fluent German, also disguising whatever else he considered personal.
But his particular case, confronted with the rigours and horrors of the Great War, would excuse him should any excuse ever be thought necessary.
The enormous value of Pepys notes, naturally including his endearing, affective adventures, are also beyond any bigoted dispraise.

Having read over 300 pages of almost 900 of Edouard Cœurdevey's diaries written during the whole of the first world war, I recently came across another particularly interesting passage :

8 juillet, 1916 (Somme)

'Les journaux ont le parfum du vin chaud. Trois nouvelles riches de promesses et d'espoir :
Les Russes arrêtés sur le Styr depuis trois semaines par les contre-offensives austro-allemandes ont eu le dernier mot, et leur victoire se développe hardiment. Les Anglais ont lutté durement mais valeuresement contre la Garde prussienne. "Ils" ont fait donner la Garde! Signe de temps. Enfin, plus grande victoire encore de nos Alliés- ils ont mis Lloyd George au ministre de la Guerre. The right man in the right place... Les veinards, ces Anglais, ils ont toujours eu et découvrent constamment, dans leurs crises graves, l'homme de la situation, l'homme audacieux, l'homme de l'avenir : Pitt, Gladstone, Lloyd George... et leur mérite, celui qui révèle le grand peuple qu'ils sont, c'est de le reconnaître, cet homme, et de lui faire crédit, de lui accorder une confiance hardie... Nous sommes moins favourisés et moins sages.' (Apparently written before Pétain, Foch and Clemenceau were to excel themselves).

Had such intelligence been put to better use, certainly in the first half of the Great War, (and this was a constant criticism that Cœurdevey himself often made in his diaries) perhaps there would never have been such an appallingly tragic and wasteful loss of lives, especially regarding the French, but that's another story.

For 'les Anglais' this is a moving and heart-warming observation of Cœurdevey. It also shows how perceptive and visionary he was, because history continued and still continues to reveal how true this observation is.
But it would be chauvinistic and unrealistic to attribute this exclusively to the Brits. History reveals that this is a global quality of humanity based on the will to survive and defend one's freedom and identity against those who directly threaten it.

It seems highly probable that Edouard Cœurdevey spent far more time writing in his diaries (carnets de guerre) than taking on the 'Boches'. It's just as well for posterity, and maybe also just as well for the 'Boches'.

To name only a few right men in the right place at the right time, omitting further English figures and national heroes of all other nations during the critical periods of history from the 18th century : George Washington (Commander of the Revolutionary forces against the British forces and the first President of the USA. Considered one of the greatest U.S Presidents. He symbolises republicanism and the founding of the United States of America). Abraham Lincoln (reunited the USA, made the famous 'Gettysburg Address'). Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (abolished the Sultanate, substituted Koranic laws with European ones and modernised Turkish Islam, defended Turkey and its national identity against the Allies at the end of WW1 and the Ottoman Empire). George Clemenceau ('Le Tigre' and 'le Père-la-Victoire' of WW1. Advocated 'la guerre jusqu'au bout'. With Foch and Pétain, in spite of the increasing doubts in French public opinion, adamantly led the French to victory). Maréchal Philippe Pétain (Verdun July, 1916, WW1). Ferdinand Foch (supreme commander of the Allied armies of WW1. Was to encouraged peace terms- Treaty of Versailles- to ensure that Germany would be militarily disabled. His declaration: "This is not peace. It is a 20 year Amnesty," proved to be fatally true).
Roosevelt (WW1 exponent of the submarine in the war effort, rejecter of U.S. neutrality in 1939, the start of WW2). Eisenhower, (allied commander WW2, 34th President of the USA). Charles de Gaulle (leader of the Free French Forces, principal encourager of French resistance against the Nazi German occupation of France, reunited the French population at the end of the war).

Sources- With grateful thanks- Edouard Cœurdevey Carnets de Guerre 1914-1918, Terre Humaine, © Plon Wikipedia, (Image- frame from First World War footage. Water-colour and montage of poppies by M). Text © Mirino (PW) June, 2009

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