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Remembered Today:

French shells known as a 'bonbons'


bmac
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Bill

According to the 1918 dictionary 'L'Argot des Poilus', available online at -

www.archive.org/details/largotdespoilusd00duoft

- 'bon bons' is a slang expression for any type of bomb dropped from an aircraft. Does this sound to be contextually correct? At the very least, it should be one of the meanings. Incidentally, in looking this up under 'bon bons', I discovered that the French still make and flog a confection called an Obus de Verdun [Verdun Shell][/i] This is in chocolate, shaped like a shell with a fuse, which is lit. When it goes off, it explodes showering out sweets and party novelties. Say no more.

Jack

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Is it not possible that "bonbon(s)" is simply a contraction for "bombardement" the same way that Gigi is a contraction for Gisèle? In that case it might describe any explosive device. (???)

Russell

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Jack,

Thanks for that. The word appears in two French artillery war diaries, one with a battery taking delivery of some and then the 1st Colonial Corps Artillery War Diary entry for 28th June 1916 reads:

"At 7 a.m. we were able to make use of Bonbons on Assevillers and Herbecourt..."

The diary writer's handwriting is very poor but it looks as though it goes on to read:

"atmospheric conditions passable (something, perhaps 'brume'/fog?) light"

Though I could be wrong about several of those words (particularly as atmospheric is incorrectly spelled as 'athmospheriques'). I'll try to upload a version of the original.

Anyway reads as though it is some sort of shell. If it were a gas shell (where wind conditions would be important) these are usually referred to as 'obus speciaux'.

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Jack,

Braquier, who make the "Obus" have been in Verdun since 1783 making their world famous dragees. When I was last in their shop in Verdun they told me that since 9/11 their export market with the "Obus" speciality has been severely hit !

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I believe I have answered my own question and that 'bonbon' was an alternative description for a No 4 or 5 (or both) gas shell. Later in the 1st Colonial Corps Artillery war diary it gives daily shell consumptions and whilst, previously, they had been desribed as OE, OB and speciaux this is changed to normal and 'bonbon' just before the attack. So, there you go.

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Bill

Reading your post 4# it looks like a gas shell fits the description. Did some gases also have a 'sweet' smell? Hence a slight joke in the name?

John

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There was a firecracker (firework) of the time known as a bonbon. It made a whee or whiz followed by a sharp crack or bang - a whizz bang in other words.

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Cyanide smells like bitter almonds if I remember my spy stories correctly and phosgene apparently smells like new mown hay (if detected at all as there are stories of soldiers dying the following day from phosgene poisoning who were unaware of its presence). Most of the descriptions of use comment on a visible whiteish cloud which suggest phosgene/chlorine more than hydrogen cyanide as that is apparently colourless.

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Good evening All,

Obus_N___1_stand_4991865b3fa3a_165x220.j

A photo of the said "confiserie explosive"

By the way, out of interest I e-mailed Braquier today, they tell me they started making the "obus" in 1870 !!! They obviously weren't effective against the Prussians either !

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Good evening All,

Obus_N___1_stand_4991865b3fa3a_165x220.j

A photo of the said "confiserie explosive"

By the way, out of interest I e-mailed Braquier today, they tell me they started making the "obus" in 1870 !!! They obviously weren't effective against the Prussians either !

Brilliant. Have tube of Smarties!

:lol:

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