The story of Philip Edwards is the main focus of the proposed feature film or made-for-TV movie based on my book. In the book, children learn about the people he loved, the choices he made, and what motivated him to put his love of country above all else. The newly revised second edition (2015) of One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass contains a section called “The Journey Continues — Author’s Update 2015.” This section describes the extensive research performed by one of France’s finest military historians into Private Philip Edwards’ service in World War I.
Here are two excerpts from that section of the book:
“In 1999, as my research into Philip Edwards continued, I had the good fortune of locating and corresponding with a very knowledgeable military historian named Gilles Lagin of Marigny-en-Orxois, France. Gilles spent a significant amount of time tracing the route of Philip Edwards and the 2nd Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Division. He supplied me with photographs, maps, a time-line, and regimental history tracking Phil’s final days in France. From Gilles I learned that Phil’s name appears on a wall inside the 26th “Yankee” Division Memorial Church at the entrance to Belleau. The stone building is the only memorial in France dedicated to the men of the Yankee Division.”
In September 2011, after a tip from author James Carl Nelson (The Remains of Company D), I had a researcher visit the National Archives and pull the World War I Burial Case File for Private Philip Edwards, U.S. Army Serial Number 65385. The extensive information in the file included first-hand accounts from fellow soldiers of how he was killed. They also noted he was “well liked by all the men, good natured, a company runner, about 5 ft. 5 in. tall and weighed 120 pounds with light hair and complexion.”
“In the spring of 2012, I contacted military historian Gilles Lagin who had performed research for my book over 10 years earlier. Using new and detailed information found in Philip Edwards’ Burial Case File at the National Archives, and original battlefield maps, Gilles planned a trip that summer to see if he could find the precise location where Phil’s company had fought and where he had died. On July 22, 2012, almost 94 years to the day that Phil was killed in action, Gilles found the fighting position of Phil’s company in the forest, some U.S. World War I cartridge cases, and even the shell hole where Phil had initially been buried with three other American soldiers. Gilles took numerous photos around the place and the view of Trugny from that area noting that the wheat had not yet been harvested, so the fields were much like those Phil would have seen in July 1918.”
“In 2012 and again in 2014 Gilles made trips to the 26th Division Memorial Church, as he had done at my request many years earlier. During these visits he took beautiful photos (with better camera equipment) inside and outside the church including Philip Edwards’ name carved on the honor wall with other members of Boston’s 26th Division who made the supreme sacrifice for their country.”
Today Gilles continues his work as a battlefield tour guide in France specializing in the Marne River salient of 1918 (the Reims, Chateau-Thierry, and Soissons area) and the battles fought by U.S. forces there; as well as the battles fought by the U.S. Marine Corps at Belleau Wood, Hill 142, and Bouresches. He has served as a military advisor for the movie “The Lost Battalion” and has an extensive role in the upcoming documentary film “The Devil Dogs” that follows an American family’s pilgrimage to learn more about their ancestor who fought with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Battle of Belleau Wood. Gilles is the owner/operator of the only museum in France devoted solely to the American Expeditionary Forces, located in Marigny-en-Orxois.
Note: The photo at the top of this blog post shows Gilles Lagin working with a group of students during a battlefield tour.
The video below, produced for the movie pitch, called “Finding Philip Edwards in France,” contains the photos Gilles took of the areas where Phil fought and the church where his name is carved.