Monday, 18 March 2013

My Seventy-Five - Paul Lintier

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Airforce magazine. Therefore, the material is proprietary to the Air Force Association of Canada and is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the association. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Airforce magazine ( ). I support the Air Force Association’s important mission to inform new generations of Canadians about the value and importance of their country’s air force. A link to the AirForce Magazine website is:
Title: My Seventy-Five
Author: Paul Lintier
ISBN: 9781907677304
Pages: 140
Illustrations: 8 b/w
Publisher: Helion & Company

    One of the most interesting ways of narrating history is through the experiences of those who were on the ground, living the events in real time. Many of these personal histories are drafted after the fact, drawn from the memories of the participants. What makes Paul Lintier’s book “My 75” different is the fact that it is from his actual journal entries written on the day of the events being related.
     Enlisting in the 49th Artillery Regiment in 1913 at the age of 20, Lintier was already recognized as a talented and insightful author. Commencing Aug 1st with mobilization, he began a daily log outlining his experiences and thoughts. This was carried on religiously until September 25th when, having been  seriously wounded in the hand,  he was taken off duty. The writer’s intent was to record the environment and his insights surrounding the declaration of war, mobilization of his battery, their advance through Belgium, the initial clashes with the Germans at Virton, the subsequent retreat to the Marne, the Battle of the Marne and ultimately the Battle of Aisne where he was wounded on September 22nd. Lintier’s account was originally published in 1914 as ‘Ma Piece’ and was followed by a second journal that traced his experiences from July, 1915 to the day of his death in combat on Mar 15th, 1916.
     Lintier’s account is written from the view point of a non-commissioned soldier, working with his battery. While this gives the reader unprecedented insight into the mindset and feelings of the author, it does not provide the context of the operational and strategic picture; this is addressed through the translator’s preface. Understanding the context is critical as it gives the reader the capacity to greater appreciate the environment of Lintier’s experiences. Otherwise, one would be limited to his narration within which to empathize with the Unit’s circumstances.
     Lintier’s approach does not glorify war nor does it denigrate it. Insightful and poignant, he puts a human face on the French soldier of 1914. Through his writing, one can begin to empathize with the excitement and nervousness associated with the declaration of war and mobilization.  Tracking forward, the initial rush of adrenalin from first contact is followed by the progressive exhaustion and disorientation of long marches, little sleep and adverse weather as the advance into Belgium turns into retreat. The reader begins to understand the degree to which the French soldier was unaware of what was happening outside of their immediate area and the debilitating effect that this had on their psyche. Lintier refers many times to the rumors that permeated the front lines and the effect they had on overall morale. His writings betray the fear of being cut off and the reliance that the soldiers had on not only each other but also on their immediate chain of command (in fact the book is dedicated to his Battery Captain and the impact that his loss had on the unit).
     The personality of the soldiers of the different gun crews come out in the storyline. At no point do commanders above the Battery Captain enter into the narrative. This ensures that the insights of the diary are very focused in keeping with view of a soldier not exposed to the larger plans. The fact that the diary is written in ‘real time’ and not in retrospect means that the daily entries are not impacted or diluted with the advent of hindsight or additional information from outside sources.
     Lintier, despite his and his peers growing exhaustion and apprehension, proves himself to be very perceptive and insightful writer. His descriptions, for example, of the plight of the civilians and refugees that he encounters during all phases of the book puts a very human face/dimension upon the tragedy, comedy and sensitivity of the interface between them and soldiers in times of war and displacement. This is also evident in his candid portrayal of the relationship that the soldiers had with their animals.  In 1914, a battery of artillery was made up of teams of men and horses. Soldiers of any period have always had a special affinity for animals and Lintier’s repeated references and descriptions of the plight of wounded and starving horses is indicative of this sensitivity. The fact that, as the narrative progresses, the reader senses a subtle, gradual but progressive diminishing of his idealistic outlook is especially telling.
     This is a very moving and intense book. The narrative is honest and forthright and speaks to the reader in a frank, direct manner. One is transported through the narrative and can readily empathize with the emotions and struggles of the men and women who, against a backdrop of intense upheaval, face an environment unlike any they have ever faced before.  It is a simple and honest book that any student of military history, or the human condition, should have in their collection.

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