‘Paths of Glory’ written by RMR soldier

Thursday, June 3, 1915

Rest billets, Oblenghem

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day:  “Resting and refitting.”[1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: One soldier who served overseas with the 14th Battalion with an interesting career was Private Humphrey Cobb, No. 1054426. Cobb was born September 5, 1899 at Siena, Italy, the son of American parents, Arthur Murray Cobb, an artist and Alice Littell Cobb, a physician. He attended boarding school in England for his primary education and at age 13 he went to the United States to continue his schooling. After being expelled from high school at age 17, he traveled to Montreal to enlist in a Canadian regiment.

At Montreal he enlisted on September 30, 1916 with the 244th Overseas Battalion, still only age 17. His attestation paper back-dates his birth year showing it as 1898 instead of 1899 to show his age as 18 at enlistment. He embarked from Halifax on March 25th, 1917, arriving at Liverpool on April 7th whereupon he was immediately transferred to the 22nd Reserve Bn. on the same date, and two weeks later transferred again to the 23rd Reserve Battalion. On October 4th 1917 he was posted to the 14th Battalion and served with the 14th Bn. throughout the rest of the war until transferring to a reserve unit on April 22nd 1919. He was discharged on demobilization May 31st 1919, aged 20 years 8 mos.

Following the war, Cobb worked in the stock trade, the merchant marine, publishing, advertising, and the Office of War Information (the US spy agency before OSS & CIA) writing overseas propaganda. He wrote Paths of Glory, while employed by George Gallup at New York’s Young & Rubicam advertising agency. Note: At least 4 other authors used the same title ‘Paths of Glory’ for their books.

Cobb wrote a second less well received novel, None But the Brave, which was serialized in Collier’s Weekly in 1938. From 1935 to 1940 he was employed as a screenwriter, including as the lead screenwriter on the movie San Quentin (1937). At the time of his death, April 25th, 1944, Cobb was working as an advertising copywriter for the New York firm of Kenyon & Eckhardt.

03 June 15“New York, June 3 – Humphrey Cobb, who went to France with the 14th Battalion, Montreal, has the book reviewers hitting a new high for superlatives today over ‘Paths of Glory,’ which he wrote as a means of getting away from employment with an advertising agency.

The deeper motive for the book was the bitter irony behind this headline in the New York Times of July 2, 1934: ‘French acquit five shot for mutiny in 1915; widows of two win awards of seven cents each.’

Cobb’s pages chronicle the fate which pursues three French soldiers arbitrarily selected by their superiors to be shot as examples because a make believe regiment failed to take a prominent bit of no man’s land called ‘the pimple.’

Cobb, an American in his mid-thirties, who joined the C.E.F. when he was 17 and was gassed twice, wins these bouquets from New York reviewers:

John Chamberlain, Times: ‘For sheer, unadulterated war realism it beats Remarque’s ‘All Quiet.’ What a commentary it offers on the ‘Pattern Called War.’”

Lewis Gannett, Herald Tribune: ‘You emerge from reading it a little shell shocked. You want never to hear the throb of marching feet.’

William Soskin, American: ‘Mr Cobb has merely dramatized a repulsed attack which led to the court-martial of one man from each company involved in the attack. But in so dramatizing the incident he has probed deep beneath the ambitions and vanities of generals, the essential rottenness of the military bureaucracy so loftily glorified in more romantic stories.’”

[1]  War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, June 3, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089757.jpg
[2]   With information from:  "Humphrey Cobb," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Humphrey_Cobb&oldid=603013542 (accessed September 3, 2014).
[3]   C.E.F. Veteran’s Book Wins Praise,” The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Tuesday, June 4, 1935, page 6, col. 1
[4]   Ibid

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