Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

WWI Danger: Airplane-Eating Cows

Contributed by Mike Cox

Curtiss Jenny:  Particularly Toothsome for Cows

They appeared to walk around aimlessly, looking innocent until the right opportunity presented itself. Then, moving as quickly as they could, they struck. Soon, the unguarded flying machine’s two linen wings had been ripped to shreds — an airplane that had cost Uncle Sam $5,465.

At least twice during World War I, these destroyers of government property succeeded in grounding Army training planes at Dallas’s Love Field. Who instigated these home-front attacks on American aircraft? Trench-coated German saboteurs? Disloyal Texans bent on hampering the war effort? Draft dodgers venting anger at the government? Nope, cows. Not seditious cows, not even mad cows. Just hungry cows.

“The discovery that Texas cattle will eat the wings of an airplane…is one of the reasons why a general order to ‘Stick to the machine, no matter what happens’ is impressed upon every cadet aviator training in Texas,” the Associated Press reported from Dallas in June 1918. The plane that Texas cattle found so tasty was the Curtiss JN-4D, or Jenny. First flown in 1914, the Jenny had wings made from linen stretched over a wire-supported spruce frame.

To make the wings airtight, the Curtiss company painted them with cellulose. Army aviators called cellulose “dope”; for cattle, it was dinner if they could get it. The cellulose, the AP noted, “softens under their tongues, and the cattle in their eagerness to obtain it will chew the expensive linen planes to pieces to extract the…flavor.”

Cows, however, are still a threat to aircraft.  In 2013, some Indonesian cows forced this Boeing 730 of Lion Airlines off the runway while the pilot was trying to land.

Mike Cox is a chronicler of Texas history with a particularly strong interest in the Texas Rangers.  Try Mike's latest work Gunfights & Sites in Texas Ranger History at

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Ottoman Endgame
Reviewed by Bryan Alexander

The Ottoman Endgame: 
War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East,
1908 – 1923
by Sean McMeekin
Penguin Press, 2015

November 1914: Proclamation of Holy War Read in Constantinople

I came to The Ottoman Endgame in my quest to explore the global reach of WWI — i.e., everything beyond the Western Front. Sean McMeekin's latest book is perfect for this purpose, as it describes the conflict from the Ottoman empire's perspective. The results are impressive: an exciting, well-told, and illuminating narrative history.

This focus requires a somewhat broader perspective than a 1914–1918 battlefield account. McMeekin reaches back to 1900–1914 (indeed, begins in the late 1800s) in order to set up the "sick man of Europe" problematic, and to introduce the crucial Balkan Wars. He also continues the tale beyond 11/11/1918 as he views the Turkish story as bound up with the Russian Civil War, and, of course, carried on through the Turko-Greek War (1919–1922) and Kemal Atatürk's founding of today's Turkish state. There's also a strong if understated pointer to our time, as the book's last line reminds us — "Outside Turkey's borders, the War of the Ottoman Succession [see below] rages on, with no end in sight." (495)

And what a tale unfolds! Students of the First World War are familiar with the fact that it brought down so many empires; McMeekin gives us a front-row seat for the spectacular crash. We see intrigue, betrayal, ambition, disaster, epic struggle, and many, many battles. Not only is the Ottoman Empire destroyed and replaced with a constellation of states still unsettled (to put it mildly) today, but also the Russian Empire collapses into revolution and civil war, Israel's founding starts to move, and the whole, more familiar drama of the Western Front transpires.

A crucial argument in the book is to consider the Ottoman story as not a sideshow, in T E Lawrence's terms, but as "central to both the outbreak of European war in 1914 and the peace settlement that truly ended it." A second claim is that the Ottomans fought better, smarter, and harder than their enemies and much of posterity have given them credit for. Those are ultimately very persuasive arguments, especially given the close connections between the Ottomans and Russia ("Russia, always the prime [external] mover in Ottoman affairs", 286), for the former point.

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Ottoman Endgame offers some intriguing perspectives on the first World War. It suggests reviewing the Middle Eastern theater (plus the Macedonian and Russian) as a War of the Ottoman Succession (xx, 483). There's the possibility of WWI breaking out in 1912, as the great powers maneuvered around the First Balkan War, which makes for a fascinating counterfactual. McMeekin, no fan of T E Lawrence, nevertheless picks up Lawrence's call for the British to land in the Ottoman realm, not at Gallipoli, but at Alexandretta (173ff), arguing that such a campaign might have been far more effective for the Entente than the disaster (or, from the Ottoman perspective, glorious victory) of Gallipoli. Speaking of Gallipoli, the book raises the possibility that a Russian attack on Constantinople (which had been promised) during the Entente's bloody campaign might have collapsed the Ottomans as early as 1915 (216ff). Speaking of Lawrence of Arabia, McMeekin falls squarely into the skeptic's camp. Ottoman Endgame portrays Lawrence as a bungling tactician, "an ineffective liaison officer" (416), a bag man for British imperial cash (according to "a Bedouin sheikh...'He was the man with the gold,'" 361), a maker of myths about himself. Two days after the fall of Damascus, to which his only contribution was to be chauffeured into town afterwards in a Rolls-Royce sedan (the Blue Mist), Lawrence asked [General] Allenby for permission to return to England, where he returned to begin composing his own legend (404n). McMeekin lets us revisit and understand familiar events in new contexts. The Allied attempt on Gallipoli makes more sense considered alongside the other Ottoman battles at the same time, in Suez, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus. The Young Turks and their maneuvers are more rational in their domestic setting. Sykes-Picot (or Sazonov-Sykes-Picot) appears more ramshackle that I recall, as well as more centered on Russian aspirations. British prime minister Lloyd George comes off as a dangerous fumbler. The Armenian genocide occurs in the midst of several military campaigns, rather than on its own. Ottoman Endgame also draws attention to under-appreciated or simply forgotten aspects of WWI, such as the Battle of Dilman (1915), which helped the Russians drive deeply into the eastern empire (227), and Wilhelm Souchon's brilliant escapades with the SMS Goeben. I was impressed that a second great battle took place in 1915 on the world historic site of Manzikert, almost a thousand years after the first one.

Turkish Troops En Route to the Suez Canal 1914

The first Ottoman attack on the Suez Canal doesn't get nearly enough attention; I completely missed that there was a second one, in 1916; McMeekin wants us to consider the latter as "the decisive turning point in the British-Ottoman war" (343). McMeekin also would like us to consider the scarcely ever mentioned Macedonian Front as "the real catalyst of defeat for the Central Powers "(394), which I'm not fully convinced by, but enjoy thinking through.

I'd forgotten that the Versailles process raised the idea of putting the United States in charge of big swathes of former Ottoman territory (420ff). The epic, intercontinental carve-up of the Russian Empire by the Germans and Ottomans, often neglected in favor of the epic 1918 Western Front battles, was very well presented. I was also pleased to see the author make the case once more for the vital importance and skills of Russia's one-time foreign minister Sergei Sazonov (example: 185-6) (this was a key point of McMeekin's previous book on WWI and Russia).

I was disappointed at some omissions and topics underplayed. The entry and rapid exit of Romania into the war was very significant in 1916 and had huge implications for the Balkans, but it barely receives a mention (ex: 326). More important, Austria-Hungary is barely mentioned (cf 370), which is strange, given its huge role in the Balkans, not to mention in kicking off war in 1914. On the Ottoman side I hoped to learn more about culture and society, such as public opinion, attitudes toward the war, etc., but this is more of a diplomatic and military history.

The Ottoman Endgame is well grounded in archival work, especially on the Turkish side.

One all too rare virtue, though, made me love this book the more — its maps. Oh, what a delight to read a history liberally speckled with maps! Each one is placed precisely where it is most germane. Every one is easy to read. Nearly every single geographical detail in the text is clearly apparent on the relevant map. Publishers and authors, please learn from this book's example!

Overall, I strongly recommend The Ottoman Endgame for every WWI reader, as well as for anyone curious about the modern Middle East, and for anyone interested in fine historical nonfiction.

Bryan Alexander

This review first appeared on Goodreads on 30 March 2016. Bryan Alexander also blogs on Future Trends in Technology and Education at

Monday, May 2, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: Albert I, King (and War Hero) of the Belgians

Contributed by Tony Langley

Albert I succeeded to the Belgian throne in 1909 and ruled until his death in 1934. He was the third king of the Belgians to reign since the independence of the country in 1830. Like many of the ruling family, he was a devout Catholic, but he was also a social progressive pushing for universal suffrage and for linguistic equality between the two language groups making up the country.

His reign is mostly associated with the Great War, during which virtually the whole of Belgium was occupied by the Germans. Constitutionally at the head of the armed forces during time of war, he led the country through these difficult times while gaining an international reputation for heroism and integrity. He was idealized in the written and illustrated Entente and Allied media during the war, while at the same time being mistrusted by war leaders and politicians. Both Britain and France feared that Albert I might make a separate peace with the Germans. That is why his government and military were never informed about or participated in any of the great Allied offensives until at the very last months of the war. The Belgian overall strategy was to wait out events and hope for the best.

This was borne out by events, and Albert I returned to a liberated Belgium, welcomed as a returning hero, ever steadfast in his resolve. After the Great War his stature and personal integrity were unquestioned. An avid mountaineer and rock climber, he died in an accident while climbing in 1934.

In the postwar years, towns and cities in many countries vied to erect public monuments commemorating the war. Even Paris has an equestrian monument of King Albert. This particular monument is one of many in Antwerp that were built during this period. The second photo shows details of the side groupings of Belgian soldiers and mourning families. Dedicated in 1930 in the presence of the king and queen themselves, it was of a grand design in the realistic school, one of the more ornamental and imposing monuments to the Great War in Belgium.

The official title is "Monument for the Dead." It was designed and sculpted by Belgian artist Edward Deckers.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Royal Mail's Centenary Stamp Issue

The Royal Mail, formerly referred to as the General Post Office (GPO), played a huge and highly important role in delivering mail to and from the troops in the field. Less known is that the GPO contributed 12,000 of its employees to its own Pals Battalion. Of the 12,000 GPO employees in the Post Office Rifles, 1,800 were killed and 4,500 wounded. The Royal Mail has been delivering a spectacular year-by-year release of new WWI Centenary issues. Here are the latest with the artists and some details on the content.

In May 1915, Canadian military doctor Major John McCrae wrote a short poem titled "In Flanders Fields," which drew upon the image of delicate poppies and spoke with the voice of fallen soldiers, calling on their comrades to continue the struggle. The verses helped to turn the flower into a symbol of remembrance throughout the English-speaking world. Poppies, an abstract work by London-born artist Howard Hodgkin, was inspired by poppies from Normandy and was executed as a carborundum print. Hodgkin won the Turner Prize in 1985 and was knighted in 1992. 

In his four-stanza work "All the Hills and Vales Along," Charles Hamilton Sorley depicts troops singing as they advance toward the front line. As the poem marches on, the pastoral imagery gives way to an ever bleaker expectation of death. On 13 October 1915, 20-year-old Sorley was serving as a captain in the Suffolk Regiment when he was killed by a sniper. This poem was found in his kitbag and published posthumously. Sorley was later commemorated on a stone in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, dedicated to 16 leading First World War poets. 

Rifleman Kulbir Thapa was serving in 2nd Battalion, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, when his unit attacked German lines on 25 September 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos. Though wounded and separated from his battalion, he was able to reach the German front line. Finding an injured British soldier nearby, Kulbir stayed with him all day and night, before carrying him to safety the next morning. Despite his injuries, he then returned to the German trenches and rescued two fellow Gurkhas. For these selfless acts of heroism, Kulbir became the first Nepalese Gurkha to be awarded the Victoria Cross. 

In this image, British photographer Ernest Brooks captures a British soldier at a comrade’s grave at Cape Helles in an evocative sunset silhouette. Brooks was particularly keen on using silhouettes, as by rendering soldiers less recognisable, their outlines came to symbolise unknown soldiers. Cape Helles, on the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, had witnessed bloody fighting on 25 April 1915.
On 25 September 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos, this football was booted out of British trenches by Private Frank Edwards. Kicked across no-man’s-land by Edwards’ comrades in 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles, it became entangled in German barbed wire as British soldiers overran the enemy position. Though disapproved of by his officers, Edwards’s action may well have offered a welcome distraction to men faced with a dangerous advance through heavy fire. Preserved in the London Irish Rifles’ Regimental Museum since the war, the football underwent special conservation treatment in 2011.

Painter and sculptor Eric Kennington joined the London Regiment in 1914 but was wounded and discharged in 1915. During his recovery he worked on "The Kensingtons at Laventie." Painted in reverse by applying oil paint to a sheet of glass, this extraordinary picture depicts Kennington (left background in a black balaclava) and several identifiable comrades resting in a ruined village after an exhausting spell in the trenches during the winter of 1914–15. A complex composition, the painting honours the fortitude and solidarity of ordinary soldiers.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

New Memorial Planned for Hill 70 Battlefield

My spring 2015 battlefield tour had a great visit to the battlefields around Loos, the location of brutal fighting a century earlier. However, we were all quite disappointed to discover that the site of the 1917 victory by the Canadian Corps under Arthur Currie at nearby Hill 70 was hard to find and marked with the inadequate, unit-level memorial shown on the left. About the battle: following the victory at Vimy Ridge in the springtime, the Canadians continued operations in the Arras area to divert attention from the French front, and to conceal from the Germans the planned offensive in Flanders. In the Battle of Hill 70, August 15–25, Canadian forces captured this strategic position on the northern approach to the city of Lens and secured the western part of the city. The fighting here cost the Canadian Corps 9,198 casualties. However, considerable ground was gained and enormous casualties inflicted on the Germans by skillful use of machine guns and the creation of deliberate "killing grounds" across which the Germans would have to counterattack. The battle also hampered enemy plans to send fresh troops to Flanders.

Now for the good news. Canadians and local citizens, including the leaders of the excellent Loos Battlefield Museum, have succeeded in gaining approval of the new memorial shown below, conceptually.  It should be completed in time to make the 100th anniversary of the battle in August 2017.

Friday, April 29, 2016

U.S. WWI Venereal Disease in One Chart

I found the chart below at the website of the National Museum of American History (part of the vast Smithsonian collection).  Other than for some mathematical shortcomings, it says a lot about American society in 1917 and 1918.  Camp Lewis, Washington, the largest cantonment in the western states, trained men for the 13th, 40th, 91st Divisions, and several other formations and specialties. As you can see below, 88,000 men were mustered in at the Camp. This image caught my eye since a number of my relatives passed through Camp Lewis and are included in the statistics.

Recall now that these men had been passed medically for induction before arriving at the camp. So the 88,000 new soldiers represent a cross section of the fittest young males of the nation. From a 21st-century perspective, its report of an infection rate of .42 percent (incorrectly stated on the chart) from venereal disease (gonorrhea and syphilis) is shocking.  

Then, I thought, "Just a minute, we are living in a post-sexual revolution time in history. Maybe the statistics of 100 years ago are not out of alignment with today's less sexually inhibited population."  So, I looked up the pertinent statistics from the Center for Disease Control.

In 2014, men aged 20–24 years (roughly the equivalent population) had the highest rate of gonorrhea (485.6 cases per 100,000 males) and second highest rate of any age group for primary and secondary syphilis. (31.1 cases per 100,000 males).

Ignoring patients with a double diagnosis, this gives a composite figure of 516.7 cases per 100,000 males  or a 0.52 percent infected rate. Comparing our 2014 population to the Camp Lewis group, it appears that young men then were roughly 8 times more likely to be carrying what we now call sexually transmitted diseases.

What can we gather from this? Even after allowing for the post-AIDS "Safe Sex" campaigns, the figures for 1917–18 are still shockingly high. There was an apparently unknown epidemic, a monumental public health problem in America, because surely if the healthiest and fittest segment of the population was so afflicted, it suggests similar trends in the general population

I wonder if this would have been discovered if the need had not arisen to induct and medically examine millions of young Americans into the military.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Russian Chapel on the Italian Front

St. Vladimir Memorial Chapel

In the upper Soca/Isonzo Valley in the Bovec Valley, about 12 miles northwest of Kobarid/Caporetto, the Austro-Hungarian army could only be supplied through the Vrsic Pass (1156 m). Ten thousand Russian prisoners of war, who had been captured on the Eastern Front, were imported in 1915 to build a road over the pass. On 12 March 1916 an enormous avalanche charged down the nearby Mojstrovka mountain, destroying the Russians' camp. More than 300 prisoners and their guards lost their lives under the snow. The surviving comrades built beautiful St. Vladimir Chapel in their memory just below the pass. In 1937 all the victims were buried beside the chapel in a common grave marked with a little pyramid.

Difficult to See Through the Trees, the Chapel Is Located Just Off the Highway,
Originally Constructed by the Russian Prisoners of War

After the downfall of the Communist regime in Russia and the subsequent declaration of Slovenia's independence, diplomatic relations between two Slav nations improved and tourism grew. Since 1991, the chapel has been an important stopping point for Russian visitors who journey there to pay their respects.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Representations of German Soldiers on War Posters

Like all the combatants, Germany enlisted the services of their top-rung graphic artists to generate propaganda posters.  Here is a selection of their varied depictions of their nation's fighting men.

Sources:  Imperial War Museum,, and the Library of Congress

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914
reviewed by Ron Drees

Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914: 
The Outbreak of the Great War
by James Lyon
Bloomsbury Academic, 2015

Where It All Started

The assassination of the Archduke and those responsible, the war between Austro-Hungary and Serbia, and an analysis of the military decisions are the three, albeit unequal, sections of this book. The most informative section may be the first, as Lyon discusses the conspiratorial Black Hand organization, who its members were, and the Serbian government's role in the assassination. Political assassinations were common in post-1900 Europe, which explains why the Archduke's murder was not considered alarming at first. Surprisingly, the assassin Princip is still today a national hero.

Lyon carefully discusses the background of this war, which amounted to the third Balkan war in three years, and the devastating effect the prior wars had on Serbia, especially its army. Serbia had shortages of all kinds, including ammunition, rifles, shells and boots. There were no uniforms for the peasants whose trousers had no pockets so they carried both their rifles and ammunition in their hands. However, the Serbian Army did not lack for determination among its soldiers and sound military planning by its leaders. By contrast Austria-Hungary was fully equipped, but its leadership by Conrad and Potiorek was fatally flawed. This background information prior to the Great War may be the chief value of the book.

In contrast to A Mad Catastrophe by Geoffrey Wawro, Lyon does not refer to the ethnic diversity of the Austro-Hungarian empire which resulted in officers unable to communicate with the ranks, nor does he admit that the empire had a shortage of military equipment or other kinds of unpreparedness. Instead, he states that the empire never had a lack of ammunition or shells, just a long supply route that caused problems.

The empire and the nation hated each other with an incredible ferociousness. Descriptions of the atrocities are phenomenally gruesome while the combat descriptions are greatly detailed. More maps would have improved the reader's understanding but the front lines were so fluid that this was not so feasible. The war was fought to a near standstill until Serbia ran out of ammunition, food, men, and morale. The empire then pushed the Serbs back until there was no hope. Finally artillery shells arrived from the Allies, successful attacks reinvigorated the little country, and the pendulum swung back to victory in late 1914.

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The analysis section of Serbia and the Balkan Front tallies up the losses. The conflict claimed over 50,000 lives on both sides but this was dwarfed by 160,000 typhus deaths in Serbia, exceeding American fatalities in the Great War and Korea combined. Lyon goes on to explain the failures of the empire's military plans and the significance of this combat to the Allies on both the Eastern and Western fronts. The war recessed in this corner of Europe until October 1915 when matters again went very badly. The final peace of 1918 did not benefit Serbia. This episode of war was just one more event in centuries of continuing hatred which expressed itself again in the 1990s. No end in sight.

Ron Drees

Monday, April 25, 2016

Who Was H. Herman Harjes and What Did He Do During WWI?

Lt. Col. Harjes, AEF
Herman Harjes (1872–1926) was a banker, senior partner of the Morgan-Harjes Bank of Paris founded by his father John Harjes (1830–1914), and played a significant role behind the scenes in World War One by negotiating sizable loans for the Allies. In time, the Morgan Bank system became the exclusive purchasing agents in the U.S. for the Allies. Harjes was a prominent member of the American colony in Paris; he and his father had been among the founders of the American Hospital in Neuilly.

He became involved in relief work as soon as the war broke out. As head of the American Relief Clearing House, he presided over the channeling of American contributions to France in currency and in kind. 

As chief representative of the American Red Cross in France from 1914–1917, he founded the Harjes Formation, a volunteer ambulance driver group which later merged with Richard Norton's American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps to become the Norton-Harjes. When relief work was militarized under the American Red Cross in July 1917, Harjes stepped down and became chief liaison officer for the AEF with the French High Command.

Norton-Harjes Ambulance Drivers (Note Distinctive Overseas Caps)

Harjes, said to have introduced polo to France, was killed in 1926, in a polo accident which occurred during the "just one more game" he had promised his wife would conclude his polo career.

Source: World War I Document Archives

Sunday, April 24, 2016

100 Years Ago Today: Dublin, the Easter Rising

O'Connell Street, Dublin, at the Turn of the Century
The buildings on either corner were occupied by the rebels.
The GPO can be seen in the background, facing Nelson's Pillar

The six-day nationalist rising against the British centered in Dublin that started on Easter Monday, 24 April, in 1916 holds a peculiar place in the historiography of the Great War. Most American-written war histories don't mention it. Authors from Britain and Ireland, however, almost always consider it central to the war's story. My godfather, Owen Sweeney, was a boy in Dublin in those days, and since his accounts of the excitement of the rising are part of my life, I find the war and the Easter Rising inseparable. 

At noon on Easter Monday 1916 bemused Dubliners saw columns of Irish Volunteers and ICA members marching through their city, carrying antiquated guns or even pikes and pickaxes, wearing colorful and flamboyant uniforms — or civilian clothes. A number of the motley crew assembled in front of Dublin's General Post Office (GPO), listening to Patrick Pearse proclaiming the "Irish Republic" and witnessing the hoisting of the new flag. The GPO was elevated to headquarters, manned under the leadership of Pearse, Connolly, the terminally ill Joseph Plunkett, the doubting The O'Rahilly, Tom Clark, Sean MacDermott, and an virtually unknown but enthusiastic ADC named Michael Collins.

Other parts of the city were occupied by separate rebel detachments — Boland's Mill was claimed by Éamon_de Valera for the Irish Republic, Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz occupied the park in St. Stephen's Green, Eamonn Ceant housing estates in South-Western Dublin, Eamonn Daley the Four Courts.

Many important objectives were not achieved and became early warnings of what was to follow. The Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park was to be taken and plundered, but the commanding officer had the key to the bunker with him at the Fairyhouse Races. Dublin Castle was not attacked due to (entirely false) rumors that it was defended by a strong garrison. The occupation of the main telephone exchange was scrapped after a passing old woman told rebels that it was full of soldiers. The first British soldiers arrived there five hours later. And Trinity College, built like a fortress and a far better HQ than the GPO, was simply ignored due to lack of manpower on the rebels' side.

The occupation of St. Stephen's Green Park by the ICA quickly declined into tragedy as British troops displayed much more military aptitude than the rebels and used the adjoining Shelbourne Hotel to rake the park with machine guns, sending rebels scurrying for cover in the flowerbeds. This further declined into farce when a truce was observed to allow a warden to feed the ducks in the pond ...

First successes of the rebels were as much due to surprise as they were to British ineptitude. Unarmed reserves and untrained troops were marched straight into the firing line. And a spirited cavalry attack on the GPO under Colonel Hammond ended in disaster when the horses skidded and stumbled on Dublin's cobblestones.

But all this could not hide the fact that the rebellion was doomed unless all Ireland rose in support of the rebels, bringing about a military victory and expelling the British, or the British simply got fed up and left, or a German force landed in support of the rebels. All these were about as realistic as Connolly's opinion that the British would use no artillery to avoid destroying capital and investments.

Damage Afterward

Ireland did not rise, and local disturbances were quickly put down, sometimes with the help of the National Volunteers. The British showed no intention of throwing in the towel. Within a few days, the British Army had deployed 19,000 soldiers. And the Germans stayed conspicuously absent. Even Connolly must have realized that he was fighting a lost battle when the gunboat Helga began shelling the GPO. Yet he still wrote "We are winning!" when the GPO collapsed around him — a misapprehension that might be due to the level of painkillers in his bloodstream after suffering two bullet wounds.

With the GPO in ruins, the Four Courts blazing and the ICA seeking shelter in the Royal College of Surgeons the situation became critical. There simply was no hope of victory for the rebels, tens of thousands of British troops were pouring into Dublin.

It was just a matter of time until the rebels had to surrender — and on the following Saturday the new commander-in-chief General Sir John Maxwell accepted this surrender. One hundred sixteen British soldiers were dead (plus nine missing), and 13 policemen of the Royal Irish Constabulary and three from the Dublin Metropolitan Police were killed too. On the rebel's side 64 were killed, at least two by "friendly fire." The highest losses were amongst civilians and non-combatants — 318 died in the crossfire.

In a rather hasty operation 14 rebels were shot in Dublin's Kilmainham Gaol — Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas Clarke, Edward Daly, William Pearse, Michael O'Hanrahan, Eamonn Ceannt, Joseph Plunkett, John MacBride, Sean Heuston, Con Colbert, Michael Maillin, Sean MacDermott, and James Connolly.

Éamon_de Valera

Thomas Kent was executed in Cork. Sir Roger Casement was hanged in London later, after a lengthy trial. Seen by fellow Irishmen as deluded troublemakers at the time of their arrests, the 16 were elevated to national martyrs mainly by Maxwell's heavy-handed approach. Only two rebel leaders escaped these executions. Countess Markievicz was sentenced to die, but this was commuted to a life sentence on account of her sex. And Éamon_de Valera could not be executed as a traitor, as he held no British citizenship. Both were released under the general amnesty of June 1917.  De Valera would later serve 14 years as the president of the Irish Republic.  

As the rising itself was ill-timed, ill-prepared, and ill-supported, it went into history not as a success, but was a spark that re-lit the enthusiasm for Irish independence.

Sources:, Wikipedia,

Saturday, April 23, 2016

London's Cenotaph

The Cenotaph, effectively the United Kingdom's World War I memorial, is located at Whitehall in London close to the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.

Unveiling Ceremony, 11 November 1920

The monument was originally built after the war as a temporary structure made out of plaster and wood.  It was erected for a parade in London held in  July 1919 to celebrate the signing of the official peace treaty. It was called the Cenotaph ("empty tomb") and was designed by Edwin Lutyens. The monument was so popular that this permanent version was built in 1920.

Queen Elizabeth II Lays a Wreath at the Cenotaph, Remembrance Sunday 2009

An annual Service of Remembrance is held at the site on Remembrance Sunday, the closest Sunday to 11 November (Armistice Day) each year. Lutyens' cenotaph design has been reproduced elsewhere in the UK and in other countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Bermuda, and Hong Kong.

Friday, April 22, 2016

20 April 2016: Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Re-Dedicated

Restored Memorial

On Wednesday, 20 April, the magnificent French-American Memorial outside Paris was rededicated. Thanks to the USAF-Europe Public Affairs office we have a few details and some great photos of the event.

F-22 Raptors Flying-Over the Ceremony

Excerpts from Report by Captain Lauren Ott, USAF

U.S. and French military and civic leaders attended the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial event in Marnes-la-Couquette, France, today, to commemorate the centennial of the flying squadron's formation. . . The memorial celebrates not only the 38 original pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, but all 269 American pilots who flew with the French Air Force as part of the larger Lafayette Flying Corps, 68 of whom were killed during the war and are interred at the memorial crypt. . . Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, remarked that, "We also honor all French and American citizens who have devoted their life to protecting our shared ideals. These valiant Airmen laid the foundation for an American Air Force that will forever stand with France."

U.S. Air Force Color Guard

During the ceremony, U.S. Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, along with French Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, Mr. Jean-Marc Todeschini, addressed those gathered for the memorial event. . . In speaking of the significance of the Lafayette Escadrille's formation, Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, 3rd Air Force Commander, commented, "I'm reminded, of course, of the great relationship between the French and the American people. We had a tremendous alliance. They were a huge part of our nation and its birth, and we were a huge contribution to helping them in the First World War."

B-52 Cruising Over Paris Before Its Fly-Over

Patrick Gregory at Centenary News has an excellent article on the Lafayette Escadrille and the importance of the memorial.

In our next monthly St. Mihiel Trip-Wire we will include eye-witness accounts from some of the participants in the re-dedication ceremony, plus an account of my upcoming visit with my Verdun battlefield tour group to the Escadrille's airfield south of Verdun, where they were deployed during the famous battle.

French and International Color Guard at the Ceremony

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Lasting Wisdom of Captain Liddell Hart

Basil H. Liddell Hart (1895–1970) was an English soldier, news correspondent, author, historian, and military strategist. Wounded and gassed in the Great War, he afterward became a prolific commentator on all things military building on his own experience and observation. An early advocate of mechanized warfare and airpower, he ironically was probably more influential in Germany during the interwar years. Something of an eccentric in his private life, much of his work still holds up, such as his one-volume history of 1914–1918, The Real War.

Below are ten quotes from his body of work that seem to me to have as much relevance today as they might have had in 1918 or 1939.

Liddell Hart During His Military Service
1.  It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles heel of the opposing government’s power to make war. 

2.  The aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that if it does not of itself produce the decision, its continuation by a battle is sure to achieve this. In other words, dislocation is the aim of strategy.

3.  In the history of war [moral issues] form the more constant factors, changing only in degree, whereas the physical factors are different in almost every war and every military situation.

4.  It is folly to imagine that the aggressive types, whether individuals or nations, can be bought off… since the payment of danegeld stimulates a demand for more danegeld. But they can be curbed. Their very belief in force makes them more susceptible to the deterrent effect of a formidable opposing force.

5.  The most consistently successful commanders, when faced by an enemy in a position that was strong naturally or materially, have hardly ever tackled it in a direct way. And when, under pressure of circumstances, they have risked a direct attack, the result has commonly been to blot their record with a failure

6.  For whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.

7.  It is thus more potent, as well as more economical, to disarm the enemy than to attempt his destruction by hard fighting…A strategist should think in terms of paralyzing, not of killing.

8.  As has happened so often in history, victory had bred a complacency and fostered an orthodoxy which led to defeat in the next war.
(Strategy, 1954; discussing the French Army between the World Wars)

9.  Adaptability is the law which governs survival in war as in life…To be practical, any plan must take account of the enemy’s power to frustrate it; the best chance of overcoming such obstruction is to have a plan that can be easily varied to fit the circumstances met.

10. The downfall of civilized states tends to come not from the direct assaults of foes, but from internal decay combined with the consequences of exhaustion in war.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Recommended: The Best Website on the Lafayette Escadrille

Today outside of Paris, the magnificent Lafayette Escadrille Memorial is being rededicated after its two-year restoration.  If you would like to learn or refresh your memory about the Escadrille, recall their exploits, and remember how important it was to the creation of American airpower, there is no place better to start than at the New England Air Museum's remarkable and thorough website. Shown here is their Lafayette Escadrille homepage.

Visit the Complete site here:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Stop At Suzanne's: And Lower Flights
reviewed by Courtland Jindra

A Stop At Suzanne's: And Lower Flights
by Greayer Clover
George H. Doran Company 1919

Lt Greayer Clover
When I started researching World War I memorials in Los Angeles, I quickly became aware of Greayer Clover. A war memorial that was put up by an American Legion Post named after him first brought the name to my attention (unfortunately the post is now defunct). It did not take long to become aware of other memorials. He's listed on stained glass in a memorial library roll of honor to alumni of L.A. High School lost in the war, two parks are named after him, as is a road in Santa Monica, and the old name for the adjacent airport was Clover Field. By a quirk of fate even the 2008 science fiction monster film Cloverfield owes its name to 2nd Lt. Clover — as producer J.J. Abrams's office was on the adjoining thoroughfare and decided to just use that as the title during production.

So who was this man and why was he so recognized? A Stop at Suzanne's: and Lower Flights is a memorial volume to Greayer "Grubby" Clover — who died in an accident on 30 August 1918 as, I assume, he was readying himself for the Saint Mihiel battle two weeks away. He had just won his wings shortly before and was on a cross-country flight to the French base at Romorantin when he lost control on his landing attempt. Grubby's father, Samuel, had been an L.A.-based newspaperman who apparently waited to move to Virginia until his children were done with high school to run a paper there. Probably because of his father, Greayer was able to publish several articles about his wartime service in newspapers and magazines. After he was killed, the family gathered all they could on Grubby and packaged it together as a tome for posterity.

The volume is separated into three main sections. After a short introduction by Samuel Clover that gives an overview on his son's life and death, the book begins with all the articles Greayer published from France. A small middle section includes letters and other tributes received from Greayer's friends, college administrators (Clover began at Stanford before transferring to Yale, representatives from both sent their condolences), and others. It ends with letters he sent home from Europe.

(Courtesy of Clergeau Fund 
(AD Loir-et-Cher) - Rights filed.)
Apparently Grubby Greayer was a promising talent. The first article included is the titular one. "Suzanne's" was a small restaurant (Greayer made sure to tell us it wasn't the real name) that aviators would stop at as they were taking their final flight test to get their wings. Suzanne was the daughter of the owner. When her betrothed, an early French aviator, died early on in the war, the family did all it could to welcome any aviator who stopped there. Because of this, the course for the final exam "was made to go by there so the newly minted flyers could stop and share in the hospitality." This was a beautiful little story than I am in no way doing justice to. It was worth reading the book just for that.

However, there is much more to like. After "Suzanne's," Greayer's last published story, we move to his first and proceed chronologically. Greayer volunteered to drive ambulances shortly after the U.S. declared war, but then when he got to France he realized he could get into action faster if he drove ordnance and supplies to the front, so he enlisted for six months in the camion service. He has many stories of close calls, feeling proud of his work (early on), as well as jaunts taking unapproved trips. When Grubby's service in the field is up he offers his services to the flying corps. After much frustration at being passed over he was accepted and we read about the ups and downs of flying school.

Lt. Greayer Grave
St. Mihiel Cemetery
The memorial section of the book is truly heartbreaking, as you can see what Clover meant to so many people (at least one of whom did not survive the war either). In it we find out that he was paying the tuition of a young Belgian refugee and had given the family much of his blankets and warm weather clothing. A letter that the boy, André Vandendaele, sent a few weeks before Greayer's death thanking his benefactor is included as Mrs. Clover's touching letter to the boy. That was truly the part of the book where I felt like crying for this good young lad who tragically lost his life. Here is a snippet of this note where you can see the mother's anguish and yet hope that maybe through this boy, Greayer can live on and his death will have a higher purpose:

You and your family stood to him for the outrages practiced upon your country he wanted to save, to restore, to free Belgium from the iron monster that now occupies her soil. That is what all America wants, and it is what we have sent our precious sons to do for you. I want every opportunity that you can get to fit you to serve your king, when he comes home again, and to take a useful part in the building up of a new world that shall have more kindness and more justice.

I wonder what happened to this boy, and I also wonder if the Clovers ever visited him as the mother said she wanted to do in the letter.

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The final "Letters to home" section is probably the weakest because much of it is repeated from other sections. Quite a few of the things Greayer wrote about in prose form he mentions as asides in these notes, plus a lot of typical family type stuff. It's still fairly moving, especially as one gets closer and closer to August of 1918 as his excitement over really flying is captured. But we know what is coming and our dread is made worse by his youthful exuberance.

By the end of the book I was left with great sadness. You can read about the statistics, and even in books on combat it is tragic when men you have grown to like die, but this work is truly a memorial. One really gets to know this world traveler — from Los Angeles to Stanford, to Yale, to France; serving in the camion "Bastard" section; and then experiencing the glorious freedom of flight. Today he lies in Saint Mihiel American Cemetery. If I ever visit France, I want to say hello and wish him well.

Courtland Jindra

Monday, April 18, 2016

American Homefront: A Typical Day's Headlines

Thanks to reader Joan Coleman. Gladys Leigh, the tragic war bride mentioned in the first headline, was Joan's grandmother's sister.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Transporting the AEF: How Many Were Lost?

You may occasionally read that not a single member of the two-million-man AEF was lost in transit to Europe. Alas, although the record of the convoying system was excellent, it was not quite perfect.  Here are some details.

Temporary cemetery in Islay, Scotland, with the interments of those who died
in the sinking of the SS Tuscania.
(National Archives)

On 5 February 1918 the troopship SS Tuscania was close to the end of her two-week voyage from Hoboken, NJ, when disaster struck off the coast of Scotland. Near the island of Islay, the ship — with more than 2,000 on board — was torpedoed by a U-boat and sank in less than four hours. While most of the passengers were saved, over 200 American soldiers lost their lives.

On 29 May 1918, USS President Lincoln left Brest, France, bound for the United States along with three other troopships. Two days later she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-90. The President Lincoln sank soon afterward. Most of the passengers and crew were saved, but 26 went down with the ship.

Survivors of USS President Lincoln in lifeboats off the coast of Brest, France, 1918. (National Archives)

On 26 September 1918, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tampa was part of a convoy from Gibraltar to the United Kingdom. Under orders to break off from the convoy, the Tampa proceeded independently toward Milford Haven, Wales, when it encountered a German submarine in the Bristol Channel. The U-boat fired a torpedo, sinking the Tampa off the Welsh coast. The vessel sank with all hands, including 115 officers and men, and 16 passengers.

Troopships also faced dangers from accidents. On 6 October 1918, while leading a convoy, HMS Otranto — a Royal Navy vessel serving as a troopship for American soldiers — was accidentally rammed by another vessel in rough seas near Islay. Severely damaged, the Otranto drifted for a short time before it smashed into the rocky coastline and sank. Many of those on board were saved, but over 460 perished in the disaster, including more than 350 Americans.

Source: American Battle Monuments Commission

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Images of Hungary at War

Hungary is taking advantage of the Centennial to remember its 661,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the war. Thanks to exhibition last year at Budapest's Várkert Bazár, at the foot of the former Royal Castle on the Buda side of the Danube, titled "A New World Is Born — The European War Between Brothers," many images of Hungary's war effort never seen in the west  have been released. Here are a few I've come across.