Pendant la bataille de l’Aisne…
During the battle of Aisne. The heroic composure of our Allies
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. September 1914
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 10 from the series La Grande Guerre .
Britain and France had to overcome various mutual suspicions in 1914, with many on both sides calling the alliance ‘unnatural’. Although France and Russia had signed a treaty compelling them to fight, Britain was under no such formal obligation. France waited anxiously for Britain’s declaration of war, and four days later a British Expeditionary Force (BEF), comprising one cavalry unit and two infantry divisions, arrived in France. It was led by Field Marshall Sir John French (1852-1925), who only spoke English and did not have much experience commanding large numbers. This print post-dates the disastrous battle at Mons where the BEF were exposed after France retreated at Charleroi. The prints of La Grande Guerre are unfaltering in their praise of their allies (see also numbers 9 , 34 and 44 ). Customs and rituals were upheld at the start of the war. Joseph Joffre, chief of the French army, was known to go home for lunch, enhancing his reputation for unshakable calm. Here, English and Scottish soldiers are admired for taking their ‘five o’clock’ tea during a firing drill. Preoccupations with ‘English’ pastimes (such as walking) and traditional Scottish dress were common themes in French satirical prints of the early 1800s.
The French inscription with English translation:
PENDANT LA BATAILLE DE L’AISNE. L’HÉROÏQUE SANG-FROID DE NOS ALLIÉS
Dans une tranchée, une compagnie d’infanterie Anglaise vient remplacer celle qui fait le coup de feu. Sous une trombe de fer, les admirables fantassins anglais , avec leur flegme preverbial, preparent leur ‘FIVE OCLOCK TEA’. Imperturbablement un joueur de cornemuse écossais souffle dans son instrument des refrains du pays natal. C’est avec cet entrain, ce merveilleux courage que les soldats de général FRENCH sont allés au feu des memorable journées du 17 au 26 Septembre 1914. TOUJOURS EN AVANT! Telle est la méthode et la tenacité des enfants de la noble Angleterre.
During the battle of the Aisne. The heroic composure of our allies.
In a trench a British artillery company comes to replace the one firing shots. With their proverbial spirit, the admirable English infantry are preparing their ‘Five o’clock Tea’ under a whirlwind of iron. Imperturbably a Scottish bagpipe player blows into his instrument some choruses of the homeland. It is with this spirit, this wonderful courage that General French’s soldiers went into the action of the memorable episode of 17 - 26 September 1914. Always forward! This is the method and the tenacity of the children of noble England.