"The guns you hear are ours. The attack must begin when those guns stop firing or the enemy will have time to recover. If the enemy has time to recover, they will slaughter my men. Do you understand me?"
P. Barc was a French officer, who served in the 2nd Army under General Robert Nivelle at the Battle of Verdun during World War I. He was assigned to Sector 4, and had an underground bunker in the trenches of Verdun as his command post and personal quarters. As a battalion commander in the field, he did not always think highly of some of the senior command staff, who issued orders without having experienced the results in the front lines.
Biography[edit | edit source]
In September 1916, Colonel Barc was stationed in his bunker, arguing with a major over the phone over the need for immediately delivery of boots for his men. Hanging up, he looked up to find a Belgian courier, Corporal Henri Defense (Indiana Jones), who delivered new orders from General Nivelle to attack Fort Douaumont. After realizing that the phone line to the front was down, Barc wrote a written order and gave it to Defense to hand deliver to Major Gaston in the front trenches, explaining the need for a speedy message delivery. Defense barely made it in time and watched as Gaston's charge resulted in no gain in ground, but many casualties to German artillery and machine guns.
At the 2nd Army Headquarters in Souilly that night, General Nivelle learned of the results of the day's attack, and blamed Barc for the failure, and demanded to Major Marat to have Barc in his office at six a.m. the next morning to report.
The next evening, Barc and Gaston required a spy to eavesdrop on German conversations in their command bunker, and sought out the Belgian couriers at Souilly for volunteers, as Belgians had a reputation for their language abilities. While Claude, Alex, and Rocco remained silent, late arrival Defense joined the line and when Barc repeated the call for German speakers, Defense volunteered, thinking they just needed an interpreter. Barc ordered him to report to his office in two hours.
Back in the bunker, Barc listened to Defense's ability to speak in German, and found his skills sufficient for the job, which then needed to be explained to Defense, who still was ignorant of the task. After Defense and Gaston returned from Defense's mission across no man's land, Barc learned from them that the Germans were bringing in two Big Bertha guns. Alarmed, Barc, already in his full dress uniform, took Defense to Souilly to report the intelligence to the senior commanders.
While Neville played billiards, Barc and Defense reported on the arrival of the Big Berthas. When Neville questioned Defense for loyalty, Barc backed up the courier. Not believing the report, Neville ordered a new attack, and sent Barc back to the front to get ready, even ordering the younger officer to get a haircut. Riled at both the insult and the complete dismissal of the intelligence, Barc stormed out of the room.
Back at his bunker, Barc eventually received written orders delivered by Rocco, from General Henri Philippe Pétain, canceling Nivelle's attack orders. While looking over the new orders, Barc received a phone call from Commander in Chief Joseph Joffre ordering him to re-start the attack. Barc, knowing the human cost of a pointless attack, argued that he could not obey Joffre because a written order could only be changed by another written order, a regulation created by Joffre. After Joffre hung up, Barc created an order for Rocco to deliver to Gaston, saying not to prepare for the attack until Barc's further order. Impressed at Barc's character, Rocco thanked the colonel and shook his hand.
As the rain started to come down, Barc waited in his dripping bunker, letting his men know that he had not yet received Joffre's change in orders. Those orders never arrived due to the fact that the courier Defense disappeared en route.
Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]
The Verdun, September 1916 comic shows his first initial as "P." through a sign on his desk. The comic also indicates that his bunker is the battalion headquarters. Barc is depicted in the comic as without a mustache.
In the episode, Barc and Defense leave immediately in the dark of night to report the Big Bertha news to the generals, but are not seen by the generals until it is quite light out in the morning. The Verdun, September 1916 comic has Barc ordering Defense to sleep in a cot and be prepared to return to Souilly at dawn.