Welcome to a blog in which you will find examples of my work in two areas and comments on whatever topics come to mind.

Monday, November 23, 2009

FRANCE'S LETHAL LEFTOVERS -- Continued from Nov. 20:
   Though tourist offices are understandably reticent on the subject, the otherwise richly rewarding and exceptionally beautiful land of France holds deadly reminders of a sanguinary past.  All too often the inhabitants of towns and villages in various parts of the country are obliged to leave their homes while an unexploded shell or bomb is rendered harmless.  In February, 2003, 6,OOO residents of Rennes were evacuated and an area of 540 metres was cleared following the discovery by workers preparing the foundation for an apartment building of a 250 kilogram bomb dating from a British bombardment of 1944.  In April of the same year 9,000 inhabitants of Lens, about a quarter of the population, left the city centre for six hours in order for a 250 kilogram bomb, again unearthed on a construction site, to be dealt with.  A month later it was the turn of residents of Etampes; a Second World War bomb dating from a bombrdment of 10 June, 1944 -- a bombardment which cost close to a thousand German victims in the garison there and 125 French civilians -- was discovered by a worker on a site on the Avenue de la Libération, beside the Buffolo Grill restaurant.  That December saw 1,200 inhabitants of Lille evacuated for the sake of a 250 kilogram bomb also from the Second World War; sirens sounded, loud speakers blared, some 500 police officers were deployed to bar access to the bomb zone, shops closed, and the rail timetables of the Eurostar, Thalys and TGV were disrupted.  A year later, in May, 2004, at Fresnoy-Folny, a 250 kilogram bomb was found in the city dump -- not the first of its kind there, the dump having been the site of a launch pad for VI rockets and frequently targeted by the Allies.  In October, 2004, a similar discovery at Brest in Brittany necessitated the evacuation of 2,000 persons.  It is estimated that 30,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped on that city during the Second World War.

   At war's end France was written off by certain experts as a country devastated, made permanently hazardous in the presence of millions of unexpleded bombs and shells.

   Official figures for unexploded munitions of war vary, but a Senate report of 2001 estimates that a quarter of a billion shells, conventional and chemical, fired during the First World War and around 17 million fired during the Second World War failed to explode during these conflicts.  In Aftermath: The Remnants of War (Pantheon, 1996), Donovan Webster puts the number of unexploded shells and bombs at 12 million in Verdun alone.  Authorites once claimed it could take three to seven centuries to recover all the shells and bombs from the battlefields of the Somme, the Oise, Champagne-Ardenne, the Marne, and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais.  At least twenty sites are listed by the Sécurité Civile as the most dangerous zones.  And the bombs and shells from the two major wars make up only part of the story.  According to the official Bilans Finançiers et Pertes Françaises, some 15 million mines were buried in 370,000 hectares of land and hundreds of thousands of mines sunk in France's coastal waters.
   (To be continued)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

'It's for me, Maman.'

A Paris scene, mother and daughter. Oil on canvas, 24cm x 32cm; 10in x 13in.

Friday, November 20, 2009


  On November 6, 2004, an eleven year old boy from the wartime evacuation town of Dunkerque in northern France died of injuries after handling a mortar shell he had unearthed while playing in a forest with friends the day before.  On August 13 the previous year at Morienval in the département of Oise in the Picardy region children were found playing with a shell they had discovered in a stream.  The intervention of adults prevented them from making what they had hoped would be an exciting fireworks display -- and from suffering the fate of the eleven year old boy from Dunkerque.

   The finding of 'buried treasures' such as these is not a rare occurence in France.  Farmers, construction workers, people out for a Sunday walk in the woods, along with adventurous children, regularly come upon unexploded munitions of various kinds, classic as well as chemical, which have silently worked their way to the surface in fields and woodlands.  Farmers have been and still are most at risk, their heavy equipment failing to distinguish between a sugar beet or potato and a recently surfced grenade or shell.  Thirty-six agricultural workers were killed by such deadly remnants in 1991 alone.
     (To be continued)

Monday, November 16, 2009


Oil on board. 42cm x 34cm; 18in x 14in

This is my first Blog. And this the first of my paintings to appear on it. Subject: my wife, done a couple of years ago