The Champagne Battlefields

In this episode, we have an introduction to the battlefields east of Reims in the vast open fields of the Champagne. We discover a surprisingly diverse battlefield where men of many nations fought during the Great War and hear the story of a disgraced English Colonel who found retribution here in 1915.


Podcast Extras: Champagne Battlefields

Podcast Extras: Massiges

The Main de Massiges website:

14 Comments on “The Champagne Battlefields

  1. Another excellent podcast, Paul. Just wondering whether you’ve read the chapter on Champagne in Stephen O’Shea’s travelogue about the Western Front, ‘Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I’, where he describes his visit to the Russian cemetery south of Auberive. What are we to make of his comments that ‘some of the tombs read “Soviet.” I suspect that these are not the soldiers who took part in a Soviet-style mutiny in Champagne during the closing stages of the Great War. Some Russian emigres who had been fighting alongside the French in their own battalions revolted against their officers and began espousing the newly triumphant Bolshevik truths after Lenin and his fellows had taken power in their homeland. The French command, terrified of a new wave of disobedience in its army, diverted a division to surround the would-be revolutionaries’ unit and eliminate them. Comrades-in-arms could not also be comrades.’? I don’t know enough about it but, if O’Shea’s account is to be taken at face value, it perhaps makes French care for Russian graves post-war all the more remarkable.

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  2. Another fascinating podcast and thanks as ever for sharing your great knowledge, really appreciated.

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  3. What an amazing area -I’ve never been but it looks like it deserves a trip, Great info and keep up the good work!

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  4. Paul…superb podcast, as usual. A few years ago I discovered a powerful book “To Conquer Hell” about the Meuse Argonne battles and this compelled me to visit the region, which I found fascinating. I managed to find the Main de Massiges on that trip and could not tear myself away. It is just as you described it. What was amazing was the plethora of rusting items of equipment lying everywhere. What has been disappointing is to find out in your podcast that what I took to be original trenches, dugouts etc., are in fact repros!! Nevertheless, if I was ever in the area again, I would return to it. It has its own singular atmosphere, atop that hill.

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  5. Paul
    Can’t thank you enough for the reference to Rose Coombs. Her book is just wonderful and while providing great new places to visit refers so accurately to places I have already been. Weekends are so much better listening to your talks that in like fashion, stimulate desire and reinforce great memories.

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  6. Another great podcast and a reminder of my trip with Leger to many of these battlefields in 2012. I’m old enough to remember watching the BBC Great War documentary when it was first shown in 1964. That started my interest in the Great War. A couple of years later I saw Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” which got me well and truly hooked. It was this film that the Souain Corporals affair was based. So visiting their monument at Suippes in 2012 was a highlight of the trip for me. The monument at Navarin Farm is, I think, one of the most impressive on the Western Front. As usual a good reading list. Is Marby’s book available in English?
    Thanks also for the correct pronunciation of Souain. Until I heard you I pronounced it “Sue Ain” as in pain. Clearly I should have paid more attention to my French teacher when I was younger, instead of watching too much TV!


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