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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Don't Give Up on the Italian Front!

Dear Readers,

When you operate a blog like Roads to the Great War, you have access to a lot of statistics.  I've been going over ours and have discovered a pattern I found a bit dismaying: whenever we publish an article about the Italian Front our readership dropped. [This could not possibly be connected to my including a photo of myself in the last article on the war in Italy, could it?] I'm also a little concerned that we are not getting any news accounts about centennial commemorations regarding the Italian Front here in the States.

I hope you will continue reading our postings on the subject. The war on the Italian Front is another dimension of the endlessly interesting War to End All Wars [NOT]. Here is a panel that makes the case I did for our La Grande Guerra website back when the Internet was the hot new thing.  

Signed,

Your Faithful Editor

P.S.  If this succeeds in stoking your interest, try entering "Italian Front" in the little search box at the top of the page.  You'll see a list of over two dozen articles we have published the past three years.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Recommended: The Coolest World War I Graphics on the Internet


Ngā Tapuwae - New Zealand First World War Trails

Possibly the most original WWI commemorative sites I have run across is Ngā Tapuwae (The Footprints in Maori) which allows visitors to follow the New Zealand experience at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. The presentation is multi-media, conventional website, and Facebook with apps of all types and downloadable PDF-formatted printable versions available.  

Ngā Tapuwae contains a lot of factual information, but it is absolutely masterful at using graphic arts of all kinds, photos, paintings, charts, and maps to convey information.

One of the its best visual aspects is  the absolutely smashing (and highly informative) collection of illustrated panels used to enhance the experience. Although I'm not a big fan of Facebook, if you know about New Zealand's battles in the Great War already, just scrolling through Ngā Tapuwae's Facebook photo section is a visual feast.

Click on Image to Enlarge Panel








Visit the main site at:

http://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/#trails


Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/NgaTapuwaeNZ

Friday, July 29, 2016

Why Was Billy Mitchell Court Martialed?


By Kimball Worcester
Mitchell the Aviation Hero

Billy Mitchell spent his postwar days proselytizing for an independent air force run by knowledgeable aviator warriors. His words and deeds were implicitly, and eventually explicitly, critical of his superiors in the Army and War Department. He also waged an ongoing doctrinal guerrilla war with the U.S. Navy especially after his public relations victory resulting from the sinking of the Osfriesland.  In 1925 it came to a head. 

Rebecca Maksel summarized the events nicely in Air & Space Magazine (July 1, 2009):

The popular Colonel Mitchell faced  a court-martial for his controversial remarks to the press on September 5, blasting two military disasters: a bungled flight during which three Navy seaplanes failed to make it from the West Coast to Hawaii; and the crash of the Navy airship USS Shenandoah while flying over the Midwest on an ill-advised public relations tour. “These incidents are the direct result of the incompetency, criminal negligence and almost treasonable administration of the national defense by the Navy and War Departments,” Mitchell stated. “The bodies of my former companions in the air molder under the soil in America, and Asia, Europe and Africa, many, yes a great many, sent there directly by official stupidity.”

Mitchell the Defendant at His Court Martial

Within days, the War Department charged Mitchell with violating eight specifications of the Ninety-sixth Article of War, which covered “all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the military service.” After more than seven weeks of testimony and 99 witnesses, he was found guilty of all charges and was sentenced to a suspension from rank, command, and duty, with forfeiture of all pay for five years. Mitchell resigned his commission and died in 1936. He received many posthumous honors for his visionary work.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

World War I at the Trocadéro


The Trocadéro, site of the Palais de Chaillot, is an area of Paris in the 16th Arrondissement across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. The hill of the Trocadéro is the hill of Chaillot, a former village.  Today it overlooks the Seine and the Left Bank and presents wonderful views of the city. The Trocadéro has several notable Great War monuments and attractions nearby.


"Monument to the Glory of French Armies," a massive bas-relief by Paul Landkowski (Christ over Rio), was completed in 1956 and depicts the French Army Corps of World War One. Landkowski completed a number of memorials connected with the war, including the tomb of Marshal Foch at Les Invalides and the haunting "Phantoms," the memorial to the Second Battle of the Marne, said to have inspired "Glory."


An equestrian statue of Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851–1929) honors the famous general as a marshal of both France and Poland. France sent support for Poland's postwar struggle with the Red Army. The statue was not completed until 1944. It is paired with a facing equestrian statue across the Seine of fellow marshal of France Joseph Joffre, who commanded the French Army at the start of the war.


Close by is Musée Clemenceau at 8 rue Benjamin Franklin. Georges Clemenceau lived for 35 years until his death on 24 November 1929 in this four-room apartment opening on to a garden with a view of the Eiffel Tower. His personality is revealed to the visitor through his books, his travel souvenirs, and his collection of curios. The first floor is dedicated to his life and work — portraits, books, newspapers, and manuscripts, as well as the famous coat and gaiters he wore while visiting the front lines of the First World War.


An interesting presence near the Trocadéro is that of Benjamin Franklin, namesake of the street with the Clemenceau Museum. A statue honoring Franklin (shown here) marks the start of rue Benjamin Franklin. The street soon changes names to rue Raynouard, on which Franklin maintained his residence from 1777 to 1785.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

At the Somme: A Reflection on Death



Whether a man be killed by a rifle bullet through the brain, or blown into fragments by a high-explosive shell, may seem a matter of indifference to the conscientious objector, or to any other equally well-placed observer, who in point of fact is probably right; but to the poor fool who is a candidate for posthumous honours, and necessarily takes a more directly interested view, it is a question of importance.  He is, perhaps, the victim of an illusion, like all who, in the words of Paul, are fools for Christ's sake; but he has seen one man shot cleanly in his tracks and left face downwards, dead, and he has seen another torn into bloody tatters as by some invisible beast, and these experiences had nothing illusory about them: they were actual facts.  Death, of course, like chastity, admits of no degree; a man is dead or not dead, and a man is just as dead by one means as by another; but it is infinitely more horrible and revolting to see a man shattered and eviscerated, than to see him shot.  And one sees such things; and one suffers vicariously, with the inalienable sympathy of man for man.  One forgets quickly.  The mind is averted as well as the eyes.  It reassures itself after that first despairing cry: "It is I!"

"No, it is not I.  I shall not be like that."

And one moves on, leaving the mauled and bloody thing behind: gambling, in fact, on that implicit assurance each one of us has of his own immortality.  One forgets, but he will remember again later, if only in his sleep.

Dead German Soldiers, Mametz Wood, Somme Battlefield
After all, the dead are quiet.  Nothing in the world is more still than a dead man.  One sees men living, living, as it were, desperately, and then suddenly emptied of life.  A man dies and stiffens into something like a wooden dummy, at which one glances for a second with a furtive curiosity.  Suddenly he remembered the dead in Trones Wood, the unburied dead with whom one lived, he might say, cheek by jowl, Briton and Hun impartially confounded, festering, fly-blown corruption, the pasture of rats, blackening in the heat, swollen with distended bellies, or shrivelling away within their mouldering rags; and even when night covered them, one vented in the wind the stench of death.  Out of one bloody misery into another, until we break.  One must not break.  He took in his breath suddenly in a shaken sob, and the mind relinquished its hopeless business. The warm smelly darkness of the tent seemed almost luxurious ease. He drowsed heavily; dreaming of womanly softness, sweetness; but their faces slipped away from him like the reflections in water when the wind shakes it, and his soul sank deeply and more deeply into the healing of oblivion.


From:  The Middle Parts of Fortune: Somme and Ancre, 1916 by Frederic Manning (1882-1935)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Nine Innings for the King: The Day Wartime London Stopped for Baseball, July 4, 1918
reviewed by Pete Belmonte


Nine Innings for the King: 
The Day Wartime London Stopped for Baseball, July 4, 1918
by Jim Leeke
McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015

Author Jim Leeke has been a journalist, sportswriter, and baseball historian—the perfect combination to write this book. He writes in a folksy style that is evocative of the argot of the Doughboys. Although his book will not appeal to everyone, it makes for fun, easy reading.

In the midst of horrifying news from the battlefields, two teams of U.S. soldiers and sailors took a break to provide a well-needed diversion to the nobility and citizenry of England. This incongruous event took the form of a baseball game played on 4 July 1918 in front of a large crowd that included the King and Queen, other nobles and British citizens, and rowdy American servicemen. It is this game that Jim Leeke chronicles in his book. But the book is much more than a record of a single, if noteworthy, game. In fact, the actual account of the game doesn't start until page 147.

Spectators for the Game Arriving, Pickwickian Style

Before this, Leeke gives a general history of American influence on prewar baseball in England. In the process, he reports on, and gives a much deserved nod to the Canadian soldiers who, like their American friends, were avid baseball players. The Canadians, of course, reached England well before baseball bat-wielding Doughboys did, and they formed some good teams in a league with at least one team composed of American civilians living in London.

The confluence of events that resulted in the game played before the king included not only the Canadian servicemen and Americans living in London, but also the Anglo-American Baseball League (AABL). The AABL was the brainchild of some American ex-patriots in London, and the league eventually consisted of four U.S. military and four Canadian military teams. It was under the auspices of the AABL that the game was played. Leeke also includes interesting reviews of key actors in the event, including some professional players who were in the U.S. Army or Navy, and some who were civilians but impacted the sport in England.

Leeke's description of the actual game is based on contemporary reports and includes, as much as possible, a batter-by-batter account. Baseball statistics fans will like the abbreviated box score included as an appendix. I won't reveal which team won the game, but, suffice to say, it was a pitchers' duel. A chapter on postwar British baseball (the sport never really caught on there) and a wrap-up of the lives of some of the key players concludes the account.

Action from the Game

The book is peppered with pleasing little anecdotes. For example, we read with pleasure that the British were mystified by our seventh inning stretch tradition; on one occasion, British bobbies reported to a field, fearing some sort of disturbance, during a seventh inning stretch. Likewise, we smile at a description of a YMCA worker tossing oranges to Allied soldiers: Doughboys seemed to be able to catch the fruit easily enough, even with hands full or when on horseback; French soldiers, however, had a more difficult time fielding the orange, a legacy of different national sports. Leeke, who used contemporary U.S. and British newspaper accounts heavily, treats us to some of the 1918-style fan razzing:

"Ah, you pikers, where was you raised?""Say, buddy, you can play ball-maybe."
"Hey, pitcher, quit the plate and send yer li'l brudder."
"More ivory! More ivory!" (p. 57)


That Brits were mystified as to the finer points of the sport should come as no surprise. Consider the reaction of a British newspaper reporter when a man from Pittsburgh tried to explain the action on the field: "[I]f you think I understood his explanation of the game or the brilliant strategy of the players, who wore jockey caps and long stockings and boxing gloves and fencing helmets [referring to catchers' masks], and swung Indian clubs, gentle reader, you are in error (p. 155)."


Order Now
This book pairs well with Jim Leeke's previous book on professional ballplayers who served in the U.S. military during the war (Ballplayers in the Great War: Newspaper Accounts of Major Leaguers in World War I Military Service, McFarland, 2013). If you are a baseball fan and Great War historian, you should read this book.

Author Jim Leeke's organization, the Anglo-American Baseball Project (AABP), plans to recreate the historic military baseball game cheered by King George V at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, during World War One. They intend to present the new game in England exactly 100 years later, on the Fourth of July, 2018. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, they are supporting veterans groups in the U.S. and UK and are endorsed by the United States World War One Centennial Commission. Worldwar1.com will be supporting this project as it unfolds. Please visit the project's website to learn more: http://www.aabaseball.org/

by Pete Belmonte

Monday, July 25, 2016

Verdun from Above: By a Pilot of the Escadrille Américaine



[Editor's note:  The Lafayette Escadrille, made up of American volunteers fighting for France, first caught the nation's and the world's attention during the Battle of Verdun. This, in part, was due to their own showmanship and self promotional abilities. (I'm not saying there wasn't the heroic stuff, too.) Among its founding members was James McConnell who proved to be an outstanding combat reporter.  By the way, at Verdun the unit was still known as the Escadrille Américaine.] 


Fort Vaux As It Looked to Sgt McConnell

Immediately east and north of Verdun there lies a broad, brown band. From the Woevre plain it runs westward to the "S" bend in the Meuse, and on the left bank of that famous stream continues on into the Argonne Forest. Peaceful fields and farms and villages adorned that landscape a few months ago - when there was no Battle of Verdun. Now there is only that sinister brown belt, a strip of murdered Nature. It seems to belong to another world. Every sign of humanity has been swept away. The woods and roads have vanished like chalk wiped from a blackboard; of the villages nothing remains but gray smears where stonewalls have tumbled together. The great forts of Douaumont and Vaux are outlined faintly, like the tracings of a finger in wet sand. One cannot distinguish any one shell crater, as one can on the pockmarked fields on either side. On the brown band the indentations are so closely interlocked that they blend into a confused mass of troubled earth. Of the trenches only broken, half-obliterated links are visible.

Columns of muddy smoke spurt up continually as high explosives tear deeper into this ulcered area. During heavy bombardment and attacks I have seen shells falling like rain. The countless towers of smoke remind one of Gustave Doré's picture of the fiery tombs of the arch-heretics in Dante's "Hell." A smoky pall covers the sector under fire, rising so high that at a height of 1,000 feet one is enveloped in its mist-like fumes. Now and then monster projectiles, hurtling through the air close by, leave one's plane rocking violently in their wake. Airplanes have been cut in two by them.


James R. McConnell, Sergent-Pilot, Escadrille Américaine. KIA March 1917 
From: Flying for France With the American Escadrille at Verdun

If you would like to learn more about the Escadrille Américaine at Verdun we will be featuring a two part series on their service there by aviation historian Steve Ruffin in our sister subscription publication OVER THE TOP: MAGAZINE OF THE WORLD WAR I CENTENNIAL.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Admiral Fisher on the U-boat Threat

Say what you will about Admiral Jackie Fisher's big ship naval planning, and his fingerprints on the Gallipoli fiasco, he did see the biggest naval threat of the Great War coming just over the horizon.  

Admiral John "Jackie" Fisher

Until his retirement in 1910, Fisher warned how swarms of U-boats would make the "Narrow Seas" quite untenable by conventional warships. One of his publicists, retired army colonel Charles à Court Repington, "leaked" Fisher's views in a series of journal articles in 1910, which concluded that, "there will be no place for any great ship in the North Sea." With what turned out to be a surprising prescience, he painted a submarine anti-tonnage campaign that would affect the ability to feed "some tens of millions," cause a great rise in food and fuel prices and very possibly food riots. Since nothing had been invented or built to defeat the U-boat, he wrote, "Nothing we can effect with naval means can, with any certainty, prevent German submarines from putting to sea when they please, and from appearing off our coasts at their own sweet will."

Later, Admiral Fisher warned Prime Minister Asquith in a memorandum less than four months before war broke out of the near invulnerability of the submarine:  "(N)o word of a submarine destroyer has ever been heard because it has been forced upon us, by experience, that submarines cannot fight submarines, nor has any successful antidote been found even by the most bitter anti-submarine experts with unlimited means for experiments."

U-boat Raider in Action

However, right up to the war, Fisher was met with skepticism. Winston Churchill, then the Admiralty's First Lord fairly summed up this attitude in a memo to Admiral Fisher, after the latter had written that Germany would likely use her submarines against Britain's commerce. Churchill thought his senior naval officer had written an "excellent" paper [on the German naval threat] but that it was "to some extent, marred by the prominence" it gave to the idea of a U-boat commerce war. "I do not believe," he wrote, "this would ever be done by a civilized power."

Source: Historian Jan Breemer, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lives and Treasure: What World War I Cost the United States


The United States mobilized about 4.800 million men in World War I. About 2.086 million went overseas, and about 1.390 million saw combat. Although it is true that America’s losses paled in comparison with those of the European combatants, and were substantially less than those America experienced during the American Civil War, they were nonetheless substantial. About 204,000 Americans suffered non-mortal wounds, and about 117,000 died. Of those who died it is estimated that about 53,000 died in battle, and about 63,000 died from [other causes] . . .


Compared to the total U.S. population in 1920 of 106,466,000 or the total labor force of 42,434,000 these numbers may look relatively small: deaths were only .11 percent of the population and only .28 percent of the workforce. But they had a major psychological impact, not only on the families and friends of those killed or wounded, but on the country as a whole, certainly enough to produce strong reservations about any future involvement in a European war.

The most detailed and thoughtful effort to measure the economic costs of the loss of life and other costs of the war is John Maurice Clark’s (1931) "The Cost of the World War to the American People." Indeed, Clark’s study seems to stand alone. There has been no similarly exhaustive study of the impact of World War II. In part, the lack of a similar study for World War II reflects the revolution of ideas held by economists. Although Clark believed that increased spending could have a multiplier effect on aggregate demand (Dorfman 1970), his analysis was essentially neo-classical: resources allocated to the war effort had alternative uses. By the end of World War II most U.S. economists were Keynesians. Wartime spending increased total GDP by more than the initial spending: the war had, from an economic point of view, almost no costs. The war paid for itself by increasing total output through the multiplier process. In World War I, moreover, the U.S. economy was already at full employment when active American involvement began. World War II was different. Although the economy was expanding rapidly in 1941, there was still considerable slack when the U.S. entered the war.


To estimate the costs of the war Clark began with the Treasury’s estimate of total expenditures by the Federal government to 30 June 1921 ($27.2 billion) and then made certain additions and subtractions to bring the total closer to one reflecting resource costs.  Clark (1970, 112, and passim) added (1) the worth of foreign obligations, $7.5 billion, on the grounds that these represented output transferred during the war (and unlikely to be returned later), (2) an adjustment to bring the wages of persons in government service into line with what they could have earned in the civilian sector of $.2 billion, and (3) miscellaneous additions of another $.2 billion. Clark then subtracted (1) interest on war debt of $2.7 billion on the grounds that it was a transfer rather than a use of resources, and (2) part of the deficits of the Federal Railroad Administration of $1.2 billion on the grounds that these were a transfer from taxpayers to shippers. The net result was $31.2 billion. Additions of expenditures made by state governments and private organizations brought the total to a round figure of about $32 billion. 

Sources:  Article: "UNTIL IT’S OVER, OVER THERE: THE U.S. ECONOMY IN WORLD WAR I"; Table: Economic History Association; both by Hugh Rockoff, 2004
Working Paper 10580 NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH


Friday, July 22, 2016

A Roads Classic: Your World War One Poetry Library

Your World War I Poetry Library
Recommended by Professor David Beer, PhD

To enhance one's remembrance experience, there is nothing like reading some of the great verse created by those who served in the war or who were trying to understand it better.  Regular Roads contributor, David Beer, PhD, has made a lifetime study of the Great War's poetry.  For the September 2013 issue of our sister publication, Over the Top magazine, he contributed a full issue on some of the forgotten poets of the war, which also included his recommendations for experiencing the full range of  the poetry of the war.  Here is the full list, which he presents in a recommended reading sequence.

Click on cover to learn more and order from Amazon.com

(Note: You Will Need To Suppress Any Ad Blockers to View Slideshow)


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Honoring Captain Albert Ball, MC, DSO, VC (14 August 1896 – 7 May 1917)



Albert Ball joined the Sherwood Foresters at the outbreak of war but was disappointed at his assignment at home in Britain. He paid for his own flying instruction and joined the RFC in 1916. Starting out, he flew the BE-2 but was able to get into single-seat scouts, where he found his role in life.

After rapidly gaining 17 victories Ball was posted home in October 1916 and received much adulation in the press. He was the Royal Flying Corps's first hero after ultimately receiving the Distinguished Service Order with two bars (i.e., three awards) and the Military Cross. Later, he would posthumously receive the Victoria Cross.


Restless at home, he lobbied for return to combat and was assigned to 56 Squadron in February 1917, flying both Nieuport 17s and SE5s, which he preferred. His preference was for the latter with its twin guns and superior stability. Ball suggested a Lewis gun mount for the SE5s.

The circumstances of Ball's death are uncertain. On a mission near Annoeullin, 15 km SW of Lille, he emerged inverted from low clouds and crashed in a field. The Germans credited Lothar von Richthofen—the Red Baron's brother—but vertigo is a more likely explanation. 


Recognizing Ball's distinguished record, the Germans provided a military funeral. His grave remains in the German extension of the Annoeulin community cemetery—the only non-German burial—with a private memorial provided by his family. His father also purchased the field where Ball's plane had crashed and installed a marker which still stands.



Images Contributed by Steve Miller


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gregori Rasputin: Ten New Things I Learned About History's Most Famous Russian



1.  There is actually a Grigori Rasputin Museum run by what seem to be serious collectors and archivists.  It stands in the Siberian hometown of the monk, Pokrovskoe, and is operated by Vladimir and Maria Smirnov. By the way, the Smirnovs are the source of the claim that Rasputin is history's most famous Russian. I am sure this has nothing to do with promoting the museum.

2.  The Smirnovs discovered Grigori's birth date in parish records to be 9 January 1869.

3. Rasputin had three children – daughters Matryona and Varya, and son Dmitry. As of 2012 he had one authenticated great-granddaughter still alive in Paris by the name of Laurance Io-Solovieff.  Naturally, there have been hundreds of claimants to be illegitimate descendants of him.

Rasputin Museum at Pokrovskoe

4. Rasputin was something of an early vegan, he abstained from eating meat or milk.

5. Although illiterate he knew the Holy Scripture by heart and recited it for both church officials and the Tsar's family.

6. The Smirnovs dispute the claim that Rasputin was poisoned with cyanide at one stage in his murder. They cite a corner's report that did not find any poison in his blood.

7.  His hometown folks loved him. He helped his neighbors, built a church there, and gave gingerbread to the kids.

Personal Artifacts at the Museum

8.  Like American gangster John Dillinger, the prodigiousness and preservation of Rasputin's penis is the source endless rumor and speculation.  

9. Two months before their murder, the former tsar and his family passed through Pokrovskoe and stood outside Grigori's house.

10.  Apparently, Rasputin founded a temperance society.

Sources:  The Moscow Times, Russia Beyond the Headlines

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

G.H.Q, Montreuil-sur-Mer
reviewed by Ron Drees


G.H.Q, Montreuil-sur-Mer
by Sir Frank Fox
Hardpress Publishing Company, 2016,(reprint)


. . . looking back, reflecting on all the woeful results that might have sprung from a careless blunder, from too great haste, from too deliberate hesitation, from over fear or over confidence, it is to be seen how fantastic, how abnormal was the life centred in that little walled town of Montreuil, the focus of a spider's web of wires, at one end of which were the soldiers in their trenches, at the other the workers of the world at their benches.
Frank Fox, intro.


Order Now
This is a reprinted account about the Great War written by a veteran, Sir Frank Fox, then a 42-year-old Australian amputee with a crippled left arm and profound deafness. Nonetheless, he earned an OBE (Military) and was mentioned in dispatches for his service in QMG's (Quarter Master General) Directorate at G. H. Q. (General Headquarters), the focus of this book. Combat is mentioned in only a general way and Haig barely at all but with reverence. Instead, Fox is concerned with the work of G.H.Q., its environment, logistical decisions and support of the Allies, horse rations, German thinking and decisions, and thoughts upon other aspects of the war. There are also statistics on munitions usage, train movements, and horses. This book is for those versed in the war, not the neophyte.

Montreuil-sur-Mer is a small French town. The only maps in the book—and the only ones needed—locate the town in far western France, about 80 miles from France's Atlantic coast. A peaceful place, it was chosen as the BEF HQ partially because it is not near anything, giving it a constructive isolation from the world. This allowed the staff to concentrate wholly on their work, and as he stressed, frequently there were no other activities possible because of work demands.

Written in what is almost a Victorian style, the text can be a bit of a slog, which at times doesn't even sound like the Great War, yet there are passages that give new insight to the support of the troops. Interestingly, for an Englishman, Fox makes the astounding statement that "…the actual final blow to the Germans' hopes was delivered when the United States of America declared war." Elsewhere in that chapter, Fox is quite complimentary about American troops.


General Haig Completes Inspection of the Troops at G.H.Q.

G.H.Q, Montreuil-sur-Mer is recommend reading for background information about the logistics and planning of the war effort that is generally not discussed elsewhere—but have patience with its wordiness. The details discussed here are useful and lead to a better understanding of the conduct of the Great War.

Ron Drees

Monday, July 18, 2016

Images of the First Day on the Somme Centenary Commemoration



The Somme Centenary Committee has published photos from the day long commemoration at various sites around the Somme battlefield.  Here are some images from the day's events.   There will be a daily event at noon at the Thiepval Memorial on each of the 141 anniversary days of the battle.  You may be interested to know that my group will be attending the ceremony on 19 August 2016 and will lay a wreath on behalf of our group, Valor Tours, Ltd.  and you all the readers of the various publications of Worldwar1.com  We will post photos of the event here.


The Day Started at Lochnagar Mine Crater

At 7:28 the Explosion of the Mine Was Commemorated by a Blast of Red Poppies

The Scottish Cairn Memorial at Contalmaison

Honor Guardsmen at Thiepval Memorial for the Noontime Ceremony


The Royal Horse Artillery Lent Support


Modern Visual Displays for the Thiepval Crowd




The Ceremony at Newfoundland Park at the Caribou Monument


Ulstermen Remembering the 36th Division's Trials on 1 July

Sunday, July 17, 2016

O Canada

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee

Canadians in the Trenches Somewhere on the Western Front

There are two astonishing details about the contribution of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Great War. The first is Canada's enormous per capita casualty count. From 1915 to 1918, a nation of barely 7,000,000 citizens lost 67,000 killed and 173,000 wounded. The second concerns the sheer number of battles in which Canadian units played a positive and sometimes decisive role. The list includes:

Canadian Machine Gunners, Vimy Ridge
  •  Neuve Chapelle
  •  Second Battle of Ypres
  •  Festubert and Givenchy
  •  Battle of St. Eloi, Mont Sorrel, Hill 62
  •  Battle of the Somme, Courcelette
  •  Vimy Ridge
  •  Hill 70, Lens
  •  Passchendaele
  •  Battle of Amiens
  •  Second Battle of Cambrai
  •  Return to Mons


Besides their legendary victory at Vimy Ridge, Canadian forces saved the day at Ypres in 1915 by plugging the gap in the Allied line with their attack from Kitchener Wood, and they played a prominent and effective role in the great turn-around battle at Amiens on 8 August 1918.

Canadian Forces Advancing During Battle of Amiens

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Recommended: Mark Steyn on the Meaning of the Red Poppy



For Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, we present this piece from the first 11 November after 11 September (as anthologized in Mark's book The Face of the Tiger). I can't precisely pinpoint the day when "the day that everything changed" changed again and consigned the post-9/11 era to history, but this is how it was in those first weeks of a new war:

On CNN the other day, Larry King asked Tony Blair what it was he had in his buttonhole. It was a poppy — not a real poppy, but a stylized, mass-produced thing of red paper and green plastic that, as the Prime Minister explained, is worn in Britain and other Commonwealth countries in the days before 11 November. They're sold in the street by aged members of the Royal British Legion to commemorate that moment 83 years ago today, when on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent on the battlefields of Europe.

The poppy is an indelible image of that "war to end all wars," summoned up by a Canadian, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, in a poem written in the trenches in May 1915:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Row on row on row. And, in between, thousands of poppies, for they bloom in uprooted soil. Sacrifice on the scale McCrae witnessed is all but unimaginable in the west today — in Canada, in Britain, even apparently in America, which instead of sending in the cavalry is now dropping horse feed for the Northern Alliance, in the hope they might rouse themselves to seize an abandoned village or two, weather permitting.

Nonetheless, though we can scarce grasp what they symbolize, this year the poppies are hard to find. Three Canadian provinces had sold out by last Monday, and by the time you read this the rest of the Royal Canadian Legion's entire stock of 14.8 million will likely be gone. That's not bad for a population that barely touches 30 million and includes large numbers of terrorist cells plus those students at Montreal's Concordia University who openly celebrated the attacks on the World Trade Center. Evidently the public has made a connection between 11 September and 11 November, though no one seems quite sure what is: A general expression of solidarity with the victims? Or a renewed respect for the men who gave their lives so we could get fat and complacent and read celebrity features about Britney?

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Continue reading the essay here:


http://www.steynonline.com/7285/remembrance

Friday, July 15, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: Hero, General and Fatality of the First Day on the Somme – Bertie Prowse

Brigadier-General Charles Bertie Prowse, DSO (1869–1916), commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade was the senior British officer killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  He had fought earlier at Le Cateau, the Battle of the Marne, and with distinction at the First Battle of Ypres. 

Elegant Prowse Point Cemetery just north of Ploegstreert Wood is the only cemetery in Ypres Salient named after an individual. The cemetery is the site of the stand by the 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion the Somerset Light Infantry in October 1914, which featured the heroism of (then) Major Prowse of the Somersets. 

His leadership in that action was of such a character that the location on future trench maps was simply designated as "Prowse Point." Succeeding units at the location started a cemetery and gave it the name of the location on their maps, likely having no familiarity with Prowse himself.

Prowse Point Cemetery

Meanwhile, the charismatic and inspiring Prowse rose from major to brigadier in nine months and in April 1915 was given command of the 11th Brigade, 4th Division. On 1 July 1916 the division attacked north of Beaumont Hamel and Prowse's men captured a German trench.  While attempting to re-establish his brigade headquarters in the trench, he was killed by machine gun fire from Ridge Redoubt.  He is buried at Louvencourt Military Cemetery on the Somme battlefield.

Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.

Prowse's elder brother Captain Cecil Irby Prowse had died a month earlier when his ship the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary was sunk at the Battle of Jutland.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

100 Years Ago: Bastille Day in Paris


One hundred years ago, despite having its army deeply involved in a double death-struggle – both at Verdun and on the Somme – the celebration of the Republic's great national holiday went on. At least one commentator noted that the celebration had a peculiar international feel. Certainly the images of the day's events reflect this. (The poster above from the day involves a fundraising relief effort at the Paris city hall.)


One or two Poilus surrounded by members of the Allies' forces.


This was the only photo I could find identifying a French unit in the parade. (I'm a bit suspicious that it might be an Italian unit, though.)


Scotsmen on parade.


The Parisians seem enchanted with the Sikhs of the Indian Army.


The fabled Russian Expeditionary Force put in an appearance.  There was no snow on their boots, however.