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Poilu: The World War I Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918


by Louis Barthas

Postcard image of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiser Franz Joseph, in the Secessionist style. The men are in a hexagonal lozenge, an image that may have been drawn from them riding in a carriage. Kaiser Wilhelm is wearing the uniform and shako of the Death's Head Hussars. Above the image, the word "Völkerkrieg" (people's war); below "1914; In Treue Fest" (fixed in loyalty).

Postcard of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiser Franz Joseph, in the Secessionist style. Kaiser Wilhelm is wearing the uniform and shako of the Death's Head Hussars.

Poilu: The World War I Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918 Translated by Edward M. Strauss with a Foreword by Robert Cowley and Introductions and Afterword by Rémy Cazals

Corporal Louis Barthas, a reservist in the French Territorial Army, served for the duration of the War, fighting in the Second and Third Battles of Artois in May and September, 1915, at Verdun in the spring of 1916, in the Battle of the Somme, in Champagne and the Argonne. A barrel-maker by trade, a socialist in his politics, Barthas leads men and later boys throughout the war.

Barthas on himself, p. 170, after he is demoted from corporal to private: 'Take away my stripes because I lack military spirit, for my socialist and antimilitarist opinions—so be it. . . . But the words "setting a bad example" were just too much.'

Barthas is humane. He longs to see young men and women working, laughing, and flirting at harvest time, as he would have done. In the war, he is an older man. And when he and his men have an opportunity to help harvest, he assists and elderly couple who have no one else.

Barthas would be a man well worth meeting.

Publisher: Yale University Press, 2014

Copyright: 2014 by Yale University