In an airship over the western front

November 11 2010

En dirigeable sur les champs de bataille is the name of a 78-minute film recently, the BBC tells us, discovered in the archives of the French army in Paris.

In August and September 1919 Jacques Trolley de Prévaux and his cameraman Lucien Lesaint filmed the remains of the Western front from an airship, from Nieuwpoort, on the North Sea in Belgium, to the Swiss Alps.

Clip from a (not entirely successful) BBC documentary about them directed by Mark Radice and presented by Fergal Keane. BBC blog. The First World War from Above is on BBC iPlayer in full until 10 pm on Sunday (UK only). It shows short extracts from the Trolley-Lesaint footage and also deals with the aerial photographs of the front taken during the war by the Royal Flying Corps, which are at the Imperial War Museum. It leaves many questions unanswered.

The RFC existed from May 1912 to April 1918, when it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the RAF.

Trolley de Prévaux had become an airship pilot through the navy and had a naval career. He became active in the Resistance. He and his Polish wife were arrested by the Gestapo at Marseilles on March 29 1944. He was tortured. They were executed by a firing squad at Bron in Lyon on August 19, one of the last German actions there.

We are told that he and Lesaint did not film the Somme. Did they really fly as far as the Alps? The maps we are shown fade out after Verdun.

Trolley’s remarkable film was not entirely unknown before this year, since there are references online to it from earlier. Was only part of it known? Had it been lost? Why didn’t the BBC show more? His daughter Aude, born 1943, hadn’t heard of it. Keane visits her in Paris and reveals to her, alive on film, glancing back at the camera, the father she could not remember.

The first four stills here, and possibly the fifth, show Ypres.

26 Responses to “In an airship over the western front”

  1. Mike Delahay Says:

    Is this French pilot’s airship camera footage available in full on dvd and if so, how can one acquire a copy

  2. Mike Delahay Says:

    Thank you David, I note there are many search results on the net for this title, but apparently no complete film footage available. Contacting the BBC online appears to be difficult.


  3. […] photography of the western front during the First World War, and may be taken from it. I did a post about that […]

  4. 1111A Says:

    Any progress on this? Just watched the BBC documentary, it’s sad how badly they managed to miss the mark, with such great material.

  5. GP Says:

    Hello, there, I watched the BBC documentary, and was curious if anybody had made any progress in getting the complete film, either from the BBC or the French government/military.

  6. harry stewart Says:

    with WWI centennial coming soon, the French must make the whole film available to the world.


  7. Any more news on the response from the French Army archives?

  8. olafmertens Says:

    According to a german newspaper-article ( http://taz.de/Schlagloch-Erster-Weltkrieg/!136464/ ) there are two copies of “En dirigeable sur les champs de bataille”. One is at the “Musée Alfred Kahn” (Paris?) the other in the media-library of the french ministry of defense ECPAD. It says in the article, that in both places one can get a dvd of the material…

  9. Mike Delahay Says:

    Reply below received but unable to date to find the film. Anyone else care to search the archives?
    ——————————————————

    Thank you for your interest in ECPAD.

    The answers to all your applications and online forms are on:

    http://www.ecpad.fr then prestations.fr

    The communication service ECPAD remain at your disposal for any further information.

    Best regards.

    communication Service
    ECPAD
    communication@ecpad.fr
    http://www.ecpad.fr

  10. Patrick L O'Brien Says:

    Well done Fergal, a remarkable story about a very brave French aviator and his piloting / filming exploits over the WW1 front

  11. Lukas prytikin Says:

    WHAT DO YOU MEAN. “NOT ENTIRELY SUCSESSFUL”. ?! THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST MOVING, POETIC DOCUMENTARIES OF ALL TIME ! “NOT ENTIRELY SUCSESSFUL”. ??? HOW CAN PEOPLE GET AWAY WITH SUCH MALICIOUSNESS AND REMAIN WIDELY UNCHALLENGED ! WHAT AN INSULT, WHAT A TRAVESTY TO THE PAINFULL MEMORY OF THIS WAR WITCH ONLY 21 YEARS LATER TRIGGERED THE SECOND WORLD WAR !


  12. HOW BADLY THE BBC IS MANAGED BY WHAT APPEARS TO BE SOULLESS, MINDLESS TECHNOCRATS IS AN ACT OF CULTURAL VANDALISM ! TO MAKE ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DOCUMENTARIES ABOUT WW 1, OF RECENT TIMES, A MOST MOVING, QIET, POETICAL MASTERPIECE IS ONE REMARKABLE ACCOMPLISHMENT BUT THAN TO HIDE IT IS AN UNEXPLAINABLE, RETICULES SHAMELESS ACT ! WHY SHOULD THIS DOCUMENTARY NOT BE SEEN FOR FREE BY ANYONE AROUND THE WORLD OVER THE INTERNET ! WHAT EVER THE COPYRIGHTS FOR THIS FILM, THIS COULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT PR-STATEMENT BY THE BBC ! IT BEGGARS BELIEVE HOW MANY OTHER UNIQUE PROGRAMS HAVE BEEN SYSTEMATICALLY WITHHOLD OVER MANY YEARS BY MINDLESS TECHNOCRATS AND APPARATSCHIKS ! SOMEONE ONE DAY FROM THE BBC WILL GO PUBLIC ONE DAY AND TELL THE WHOLE STORY ! THE BBC AS WE ONCE NEW IT IS DEAD ! IT’S UNIQUE TRADEMARK, IT’S UNIQUE STYLE HAS BEEN CHANGED BEYOND RECOGNITION ! ONE EXAMPLE ARE THE DREADFUL CONTINUITY-ANNOUNCEMENTS THESE DAYS WITCH ARE DESTROYING THE ATMOSPHERE OF SO MANY COUNTLESS PROGRAMS AND LITERALLY KILL OF THE SOUNDTRACK, KILL OF THE MUSIC ! WONDERFUL THEME-MUSIC IS STILL COMPOSED FOR THE BBC BUT THAN PEOPLE ARE ALOUD TO DESTROY IT BY DISRUPTING IT, BY TALKING INTO THE MUSIC ! THAT’S A CLEAR DISTURBING SING FOR ME HOW THE BBC IS FUNCTIONING TODAY ! IT’S ALL ABOUT RATINGS AND SIGNING PACTS WITH THE DEVIL ! (L.PRYTIKIN, MEDIA-RESEACHER)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s