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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Historial de la Grande Guerre

THE HISTORIAL WAS DESIGNED BY HENRI-EDOUARD CIRIANI WHO USED ITS ARCHITECTURE TO EXPRESS, WITH GREAT EMPHASIS, THE BUILDING’S VOCATION, WHICH IS TO EXPLAIN THE HISTORY OF WW1 IN A DIFFERENT MANNER, WITHOUT REDUCING IT TO BATTLES ALONE.

Concrete is a “structural material consisting of a hard, chemically inert particulate substance, known as aggregate (usually sand and gravel), that is bonded together by cement and water.” Encyclopedia Britannica.


Employed as early as Romans times, concrete became a widespread building material in 1848 with the advent of reinforced concrete, invented by Joseph Lambot. It was only from the early 1900s, however, that reinforced concrete was used in construction. Tested, developed and employed, notably by Auguste Perret, it was to provide the pioneers of modern architecture with the basis of their architectural language.


Le Corbusier used it by coating and painting it in order to obtain a smooth, uniform finish. To reveal his great penchant for this type of building material, he would later leave it in its raw and natural state.


At the Historial, Henri Ciriani used white concrete (obtained by using white cement) which he willingly called ‘poured stone’, thus emphasising the nobility of this material, on the same level as stone, brick and marble.




To achieve a smooth surface, Bakelite coated plywood was used for the shuttering of the Historial, and resinated wood for the pillars. Circular hollows, distanced 70 centimetres apart, can be seen on the various panels, corresponding to the spacers separating the sections of shuttering. In order to preserve the characteristic signs associated with the use of this material, these indentations have not been concealed.



On a more personal note my Grandfather fought in the First World War in the trenches not far from Peronne. Before being sent to France he had recently met the young woman who would eventually be his wife and my Grandmother.


He sent letters to her over a two year period which I acquired many years later. About forty in all, they were essentially love letters as well as vague chat about what was going on at the time. Soldiers had to be very careful what they wrote as letters were all censored due to fears of spying. One of the letters was sent from Peronne where they were on a break on R&R from the front line. My future Grandmother was English and doing war work in London when my Grandfather had met her when posted on guard duty at the Tower of London, before being deployed to France.


His family were from west Wales and in one of the letters he recounts that a letter my future Grandmother had sent to his mother had been translated for her into Welsh as my Great Grandmother did not speak English. He was eventually wounded by a shell and also gassed so was lucky to survive.


Having visited Peronne on one of many jaunts to France over the years I knew of the Historial de la Grande Guerre, a museum dedicated to the stories of ordinary soldiers and their lives during the Great War. I donated the letters to the museum so they went full circle ending up back in the town where some were first written.







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2 Comments


John Durham
John Durham
Aug 23, 2022

Amazing structure and purpose - wonderful that you had such a personal connection and were willing to contribute those private correspondences to further the enrichment of the museum.

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Aug 23, 2022
Replying to

We had stumbled on the museum when staying in the town. Then my Mum showed up with the letters and some were sent from Peronne so it seemed like the logical place.

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