History of Modern France

The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 6

22 September 2021

Memories of the Western Front: Soldiers and their Experience of the Great War in France

with Mariam Habibi


The Great War was an event that changed Europe forever. It was a long and exhausting conflict for all, but France, as the theatre of the war on the Western Front, bore witness to it at close range. The front never reached Paris, but at times it felt uncomfortably close. The war proved to be much longer than expected and the French had to adapt to its presence on a daily basis.

 

Whilst enthusiastic at first, the soldiers started to show the strains of war near the end and many were court-martialled for mutiny. The military leadership’s tactics and decisions were, especially at the start, often catastrophic. The country was faced with an unprecedented situation and coped as best it could.

 

Through testimonies of soldiers and close relatives, photographs, paintings as well as accounts provided by historians, this talk will recount the events of the four years that left France scarred and traumatized.