Gregor Dallas

More To Him Than Vichy



Little Brown 558pp £30 order from our bookshop

The last time – it was around five years ago – I drove along the ‘Chemin des Dames’, on the high ridge overlooking Rheims, rusty old shells were still being piled at crossroads, where the local bomb-disposal squad would pick them up every fortnight or so like dustmen on their regular rounds. There were stories told, in cafés I drank in, of the odd tractor being blown up and of children playing in the limestone caves and being gassed to death when they accidentally kicked against phosgene bombs. It is the most terrifying old battlefield I know. During General Robert Nivelle’s disastrous offensive of 16 April 1917, French soldiers were mown down by hidden machine guns as they scrambled up that steep escarpment; fighting with hand-grenades and flame-throwers went on for days in the pitch darkness of the caves. The Chemin des Dames was, for the French, the turning point of the First World War. Mutiny followed, and the British took up the main burden of the Western Front – with their calamitous debut in Flanders that summer and autumn.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,
    • 'Keynes predicted that future generations would enjoy such an improved standard of living that they might work just… ,
    • 'Various dislocations ... emerge, iceberg-like, out of a troubled sea of unconscious motivation and confront Eisenb… ,