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

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Returning to Flanders

A war never ends. This is one of the arguments against any war: a war never ends. Even when peace is declared, even when the armies have left and the generals are counting their decorations, a war continues to hang, like a menacing scythe, over the local population. Not only here, but in any battlefield, anywhere in the world.

Luc Dehaene, Mayor of Ypres, 2010

Lille Gate, Flanders, 1919

Yes, there was no doubt about it. It is the big pasture at R33 on the map. How often he came back there, he cannot think, but it is the place he remembers best, in all those wanderings from camp to billet. It is what he has been looking for, the reason of his detour by out-of-the-way Hondebecq, instead of following the usual route of tourists, visiting the Front.

The thing they call the Front, preeminently a place where men have died, soon saddened and sickened him, but at R33 perhaps one might catch a glimpse of the place where men had lived. Better here than anywhere else. The biggest and best known camp was only a war-time affair, inhabited by soldiers, cleared away since the Armistice. But the low two-storied old house, there at the back of the pasture, under the elms and round its cobble-edged manure heap, is a place that had kept its civilian character all through the War, and has survived, more or less intact, now that War is gone. He looks and looks and slowly he understands why it seems so strange. The pasture is empty. Not a soul stirs. Not even a pig is in sight. Leaning on the gate, he closes his eyes, to recall how it used to look.

Slowly the picture comes back. The quagmire about the gate, the “road” built of faggots and brick-ends from bombarded buildings that led to the house, the tents to the left, the transport parked to the right. He can feel the rough surface under his feet, can hear the lugubrious jollity of men doing odd jobs, the squawking and fidgeting of the mules, being as awkward as possible. At the corner of the barn, to the left, the cookers blacken everything, but on some of the hard ground just by the entry, the lip of the old dry moat it may have been, a party of men are falling in, to go up to the line for some special duty. He passes in front of them, watching the N.C.O. checking their equipment . . .

Unidentified Site in Postwar Flanders

He opens his eyes, and the sound, the sight, the odor vanish. Nothing! There is nothing there. Some birds are chattering in the elms, the greyish spring day is waning. It is no good standing there waiting for something to come back, which will never come back. At least one hopes not. He has still some time to put away before his train, he will follow the lane down to the pave, have a last glance from the high land there, and so back to the village and the station. That will be a good wind-up, for he feels that he will not come that way again.

From: The Spanish Farm Trilogy, R.H. Mottram

Friday, May 24, 2024

The 353rd "All Kansas" Infantry Regiment of the National Army, Part 2 — Early Days at Camp Funston

By James Patton

Camp Funston, also known as the 14th Cantonment, was constructed on a 2,000 acre site adjacent to the cavalry post at Ft. Riley, Kansas. Over 50,000 trainees passed through, including the entire National Army 89th Division and Regular Army 10th Division , (which later became the Panama Canal Division) and Funston was one of the eight camps that trained the men of the 92nd Division. At its peak, there were about 40,000 people on the site with about 1,400 buildings. By 1924 all had been razed, and the only traces visible today are a chimney and some foundations. 

The following is an extract from the History of the 353rd Infantry regiment 89th Division, National Army September 1917 – June 1919, by Capt. Charles F. Dienst and associates, published by the 353rd Infantry Society in 1921. It has been extensively edited for length, style and clarity.  Camp Funston is considered to be one of the early sites where the Spanish flu broke out. The 353rd left Funston in May, which was early in the pandemic. The influenza is not mentioned in the regimental history.

The First Men of the 353rd Report to Camp Funston

On the morning of 5 September 1917, the first five percent of the enlisted personnel arrived. The names of the men were checked off at Regimental Headquarters, then all passed under the cold showers. The surgeons gave each man a careful going-over before he received his clothing. Sizes were determined by the supply on hand: "Two each shirts O. D., one each trouser denim, one each jumper, etc." Civilian clothing couldn’t  be kept; it was either sent home or turned over to the Belgian Relief Commission. Drill began immediately, men arriving in the morning were on the drill field in the afternoon; and everyone the following morning.

By 19 September, when the 40 per cent increment had arrived (approximately one hundred twenty-five additional men per company), the system of assigning new men to the different companies had been perfected. Each company now supplied its men. Barracks planned for 150 men now were crowded with two hundred. As a result of this congestion various diseases made their appearance. But in spite of the inevitable monotony of drill, equipment shortages and disease, determined effort soon manifested itself in the military appearance of the new organization.

Hurrying Up and Waiting for Supply Issue

During the first six weeks, training was uniform. Every man was kept busy on Infantry Drill. "Letter perfect" was the requirement; "cheerful and immediate" in execution. Movements were diagrammed and demonstrated and repeated again and again until habit allowed no error in execution. 

Members of the French and British Missions arrived. These seasoned personnel saw little value in close order drill; modern warfare demanded "specialists” so emphasis was shifted from drill to instruction. Starting on 5 November 1917, schooling began in the French language, bayonet fighting, grenade throwing, field fortifications, automatic rifles, and scouting. 

Members of Camp Funston's Foreign Mission

No part of military training appealed to the men so strongly as marksmanship. The six mile march to the range began at first light. All day long the firing continued in shifts, until the light grew too dim, and then came the return march. But interest in scores seemed to overcome hardships. Officers of the Foreign Missions admitted that these mid-western soldiers were better at the beginning of practice than the average British or French soldiers were at the end. Target practice was completed early in 1918. 

Another objective was "the excavation of a Divisional Trench System on Carpenter Hill." Digging on that hill was hard work and progress was slow. After the first foot or two the tough clay soil had to be picked loose. In some sectors rocks were near the surface. Fortunately there were some miners. For them digging was a welcome variation in the schedule. In at least two respects this training fulfilled its purpose—intensity and organization. 

Going Over the Top from the Practice Trenches

For field exercises the companies were lined up before sun-up and marched to Smoky Hill Flats, a distance of approximately five miles. Upon arrival the work began—bayonet training, live grenade throwing, Chauchat automatic rifle practice, trench and combat formations in unbroken succession. At four-thirty the return march was begun and entrance to camp was made after dark. When asked of the men about this time, they replied, "You'll be glad to see Camp Funston before the week is over."  

These exercises revealed the need of emphasis upon more practical organization. Exercises in minor tactics made up in aggressiveness where they lacked in accuracy. Both sides claimed the victory in many bloodless campaigns around Morris Hill. "You're a prisoner" was answered by "I killed you half an hour ago." In victory or defeat the aggressive execution of the general plan was expected of every officer and man.

The increase in the number of men in the different units and introduction of modern equipment demanded new formations and new methods of control. Instead of 150 men and three officers per company, there were now 250 men and six officers. In addition to rifles the infantrymen carried hand and rifle grenades, automatic rifles, bolos, and trench knives. Coordination and control of the increased personnel and these various arms of the Infantry appeared now as the problem of the future. 

But the preparation for service included more than was written in Training Plans and Field Orders. Colonel Reeves knew the value of recreation and comradeship. He insisted that soldiers must be broad-minded, loyal men before they could be good fighters and that the development of these qualities was as necessary as the manual of arms. This policy was advanced in the Regiment through the co-operation of the entire personnel. Officers Conferences and Non Commissioned Officers Committees were formed. These meetings were open and every valuable suggestion received encouragement, and plans were carried back to the enlisted men. In this way every man gained responsibility for the mutual welfare. 

A Squad from the 353rd's Machine Gun Company

On 5 October 1917  in the mess hall of Company "C" all of the officers heard General Leonard Wood plainly and frankly: "You men," he said, "need to get together. You are going to have to live under conditions that will make you absolutely dependent upon one another.” These meetings continued on the 5th of each succeeding month.

In order to provide a meeting place for the men with their relatives and friends, the "Kansas Building" project was conceived. Governor Capper took a leading interest in the movement and subscribed the first $100 on 26 October 1917. Support poured in from every section of the state. On 5 November 1917, the Regimental Bulletin was able to announce, "Construction of the Regimental Building is begun."

Officers and enlisted men of the 353rd did the work. On 15 January 1918, the massive three story all wooden structure—96 feet wide and 236 feet long with a seating capacity of 4,000—was dedicated to the welfare of Kansas men, with speeches by notable Kansas citizens and camp officials. This achievement was not only a matter of pride to the men but a revelation of the support on the part of the people back home. There was but one requirement with regard to the use of the building and that was summed up in the general order, "Treat this building as your home."

A Performance of Handel's Messiah Before
the Entire Regiment

Concerts were staged, including a pro bono appearance by the St. Louis Symphony. To the soldiers who had been shut up in the routine of camp life for five months, this entertainment appealed as the finest favor yet received from the co-operating forces of civilian life. The enlisted men held open houses for their parents, brothers, sisters, sweethearts, wives and children. Acquaintance between the men broadened to their loved ones at home and the spirit of comradeship grew stronger with the deeper appreciation of common problems and sacrifices.

Of equal importance were the local gatherings: boxing, athletic contests, regimental band concerts and shows helped to break the monotony of drill and study. Continued association in these various activities developed deep concern for the welfare of each man. 

Change was inevitable. On 28 February 1918 it was announced: "There will be a smoker in the [all wooden!] Regimental Building at 7 o'clock this evening to be attended by the entire Regiment. The guests of honor will be the 504 men who are to be transferred over-seas.” The transferees were given a rousing ovation, all joined in to sing many choruses of "Over There," then each one received a dollar out of the Company Fund to cheer him on his way. 

Continued transfers seemed to indicate that the hope of the men to remain in their own outfit was in vain. The final separation was more like breaking home ties than a military exercise. This attitude grew to be the strongest tradition of the 353rd and bore its finest fruit in self-sacrifice on the battlefields. 

Present Day Historic Markers at the Site of Camp Funston

Next Friday: The All Kansas regiment heads Over There.

James Patton

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Eyewitness: The British Cabinet Declares War

Lewis Harcourt During the War

Lewis Harcourt (1863–1922), known as "Loulou," was the son of the prominent Liberal politician, William Harcourt. Although frequently involved intrigue, notably when Sir William tried to succeed Gladstone as premier in 1894, Loulou did not enter Parliament until 1904. Cooler-tempered, subtler, and less domineering than his father, if also less driven and passionate, he spent most of his career in government, becoming First Commissioner of Works in 1905, promoted to the Cabinet in 1907 and, the following year, taking up the more significant post of Colonial Secretary, which he held until 1915. 

Harcourt generally wrote his original rough notes of Cabinet meetings on copies of Foreign Office telegrams, which were routinely circulated to ministers. Most of these notes were rewritten more neatly by him, apparently soon afterward, to form a political journal, with stylistic changes to make them more easily understandable and the addition of some extra details, including events that occurred outside the Cabinet.  His decision to take down such a record did not go unnoticed, and he recorded that, during a meeting on 22 July 1914, Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, "remonstrated with me for taking notes of Cabinet proceedings, so I desisted…" But, within a few days he was back to his old habit. Consequently, his is one of only two Cabinet members accounts of the discussions and arguments that eventually led to Britain joining the Great War.

Having earlier criticized increased naval spending and, when these were disclosed in 1911, military talks with France, it was predictable that Harcourt would oppose involvement in European war in summer 1914 but,  like most initial skeptics in the Cabinet, he was eventually won over. His entries pertaining to the war begin on 26 July 1914.  He missed the Cabinet meeting of 24 July, when the international crisis was first mentioned.

Here are the war-related excerpts from Harcourt's journal for the last two days of the Cabinet's deliberations.  I've done minor editing to make is abbreviations and notations more easily understood and adopted a bullet point format.

3 August, Political Journal

Belgium recd. demand from Germany for neutrality & has categorically refused.

Germans concentrating at Liege.

Grey “We must support Belgium & France”.

I said. great advantage if Germany declared war on us.

Bonar Law & Lansdowne seen Asquith – they agreed with Burns, fleet proclamation is a declaration of War.

They attach great importance to our supporting Belgium.

Germany offered Belgium neutrality afterwards if they allow passage of German troops.

[German Ambassador]  Lichnowsky “pledges his govt. not to attack French coast with fleet”. Grey does not think Lichnowsky authorised to say this.

£4 mills per month extra wanted for Navy during war.

Asq.(Asquith):  army mobilisation now necessary (not for Expeditionary force, but for home safety & defence.) £8 mills for army mobilisation.

Crown Princess German ship with £2 mills American gold for us been diverted north to Germany – we can’t stop her.

We appoint Committee to deal with food supplies.

? "extend Bank Holiday" (next Monday) for two days. Huth Jackson against it.

Grey gave us summary of what he will say in H of C. today.

Sweden joins Germany in the War if we come in with France. 

Asq. then said, “Burns has resigned; Morley, Simon, Beauchamp also going; many others uneasy: the Cabinet with much shattered authority in time of great stress. Labour will be against us: Irish will act for Ireland. Under other circs. Asq would have resigned, but no Govt with a majority in H of C. – dislikes and abhors a coalition –experiment none would like to see repeated. Asq will not separate from Grey – remains in best interests of the country.

Asq will not separate from Grey – remains in best interests of the country. Asq “most thankless task to me to go on”.

J. Morley made a speech on his reasons [for refusing to support war]. Simon said. “if country at war it was the duty of men like himself and the peace party to support the Govt.”: he broke down. Pease, Crewe, Ll.Geo., I, Samuel, Runciman & Winston subsequently spoke. 

An appeal was made by Haldane & Winston to Simon & others not to resign now, or at least not announce it today. Simon and J. Morley were willing, Beauchamp not; sd. our party ought to be informed. No statement will be made by any of them today.

Resumed Cabinet at 6 p.m.

German ultimatum to Belgium came in: very stiff.

Churchill “the Fleet will be absolutely ready by 4 a.m. tomorrow”

Asq. Army mobilisation will be completed by Sunday – we have 3 days more.

Grey will telegraph to Germany tomorrow morning as to their ultimatum to Belgium & demand answer.

South Wales colliers sd. to have struck “won’t dig coal for War”. Since Grey’s speech this afternoon. [But, Miners President] Brace  told them to resume.

Following Note for 3 August:

Harcourt: ‘You don’t contemplate sending an expeditionary force to France?’

Asquith: ‘No, certainly not.’  [!!!]

This 1909 Cartoon Shows a Number of Cabinet Members Who Would Participate in the 1914 Decision for War: Richard Haldane, Winston Churchill (text balloon reads "Don't let my feet touch the ground!"), David Lloyd George, H.H. Asquith, John Morley. Front Row: Reginald McKenna, Crewe (text balloon reads "My boy, they are delivered into our hands!") and Augustine Birrell.


4 August — Notes of Cabinet Meeting

We are to fire on German dreadnought (Goeben) in the Mediterranean if it tries to stop French transports: we to stop her getting out to prey on our commerce in the Atlantic.

We are sending an ultimatum to Germany & to have the answer by midnight.

Belgium has informed  that her territory will be violated by force of arms.

Discussed seizure of German colonies: I said “No, better wait a bit”. I told the Cab.  I was holding back Dominion Exped. Forces for the present & they approved. I spoke about Territorials & farmers horse & begged they should not be impounded now in the middle of the harvest. I want a Committee at once to deal with food distribution.

The Goeben will be warned that if she shoots at French transports we shall sink her. Germany has now declared War on France. I insisted, and Asq. agreed, that orders shd. be sent to our Mediterranean Fleet not to fire on Goeben till we have become at war with Germany. Winston was compelled to send these orders & at once. The wireless was sent off at 12.50 p.m.

Grey read us his telegram to [British Ambassador] Goschen at Berlin, which is an ultimatum: we say we must have an assurance from Germany – similar to that from France last week – as to the neutrality of Belgium.

Germany said to have sent an ultimatum [demanding neutrality] to Sweden & may do so to Norway. Grey wants to offer Holland & Norway (as well as Belgium a guarantee of future integrity if they will remain neutral now.

In telegram just received by French Embassy, it is said that the Germans have penetrated to Verviers [in Belgium] between Liege and German frontier.

Separate Note of Downing Street Meeting, 4 August:

Went to Downing St. 11.15 p.m.

Grey, P.M., Churchill, Ll.Geo., McKenna there.

German answer unsatisfactory & Goschen asked for his passports – War Declared.

Sent all my tels. to Cols & Dominions

Long discussion as to tactics. Churchill wants to block Amsterdam & mouth of Rhine, Asq. Grey & I insisted we wd. not violate neutrality of Holland. Our defence of small nationalities our greatest asset. We insisted on this.

Some discussion about Expeditionary force. I pointed out dangers of doing this to India & Crown Colonies and home (possible revolution in North). I told Asq. & Grey this was vital to me. No decision – perhaps discuss tomorrow. I think Ll. Geo. weakening in his peace “convictions” under the impression of mad popular enthusiasm in streets for war.  

5 August Prime Minister Asquith at the House of Commons

Our Ambassador at Berlin received his passports at seven o'clock last evening, and since eleven o'clock last night a state of war has existed between Germany and ourselves. We have received from our Minister at Brussels the following telegram: "I have just received from Minister for Foreign Affairs—" that is the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs— "a note of which the following is a literal translation: 'Belgian Government regret to have to inform His Majesty's Government that this morning armed forces of Germany penetrated into Belgian territory in violation of engagements assumed by treaty.'"

Editor's Note:  Harcourt left the government in 1915, when Asquith decided a coalition government was in order. His public service continued, and despite being married and the father of four, Harcourt had a reputation as a compulsive sexual predator that followed him until his death in 1922. 

Source:  Lewis Harcourt’s Journal of the 1914 War Crisis, Edited and Introduced by John W. Young, University of Nottingham; full document (26 July4 August) available HERE.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Joffre Moves France from Plan XVI to Plan XVII

General Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre and His Wife
in 1911, the Year He Became Chief of Staff 

Following the disastrous defeats of the French Army in 1870 and 1871, there was a complete reorganization of the French military establishment. In 1887, after the completion of the strong defensive areas close to the frontier, the conservative, defensive policy was discarded. In Plan VIII, a general offensive was to be directed against Alsace-Lorraine with the recovery of these lost provinces as the initial and primary objective. Thereafter, throughout the succession of plans, the offensive was the keynote of French strategy.  

Plan XVI

In 1911, the relations between France and Germany were close to the breaking point. Plan XVI, then in force, established the main French assembly area near the German frontier preparatory to invading Alsace-Lorraine, and took little account of the possibility of a German attack from the north—the very plan which had already been adopted by Germany. General Michel, Vice President of the Superior War Council, thought Plan XVI fraught with danger. As the result of the maneuvers in 1910, he was convinced that the Franco-German frontier was unsuitable for decisive operations and concluded that the main conflict would be fought farther to the north. He submitted to the Minister of War a plan calling for a regrouping of the French armies by concentrating 1,000,000 men between Lille and Rethel and correspondingly reducing the forces along the Franco-German frontier. This plan did not abandon taking the offensive at  the start of the war but did contemplate such an offensive being made toward Germany through Belgium.

For various reasons, important ones of which were the proposed drastic reorganization of the army at what appeared to be a critical period, and a slower mobilization resulting from reorganization, Michel's plan was not adopted. His post of Vice President of the Superior War Council was abolished, and a new post, that of Chief of the General Staff of the Army, was created, of which the incumbent automatically became commander-in-chief in time of war.

General Joffre was appointed Chief of Staff on 28 July 1911. He was a veteran of the War of 1870, with a long record of distinguished accomplishment. Since 1909, he had been a member of the Superior War Council and Director of the Services of the Rear, a post which had given him ample opportunity to become familiar with the problems of mobilization, transportation, and supply. Without friction but with great firmness, as Chief of Staff, he dominated the Superior War Council. His decisions were rarely questioned and never disapproved and he became France's supreme military authority. He prepared a new war plan, Plan XVII, which  controlled the concentration and early operations of the French Armies in 1914 as Chief of Staff, he dominated the Superior War Council. His decisions were rarely questioned and never disapproved and he became France's supreme military authority. He prepared a new war plan, Plan XVII, which controlled the concentration and early operations of the French Armies in 1914.

1905 Schlieffen Plan in Concept


The MISSION of the French Armies was . . . to defeat the German Armies in order to regain the "Lost Provinces", and to regain the prestige of France as a military power which was lost during the Franco-Prussian War. The initial PHYSICAL OBJECTIVE was to regain Alsace and Lorraine. Defensive operations, alone, could not attain this objective; hence, from the outset, the campaign was to be offensive In CHARACTER. Furthermore, an agreement had been reached with Russia in 1911 to the effect that in the event of war, the French and Russian armies would cross the frontiers on the sixteenth day after mobilization and would pursue a vigorous offensive.

The reorganization of the Russian army and a closer understanding with the British General Staff—developments during the period since Plan XVI had been adopted—gave rise to the belief that France could reasonably expect more cooperation from Great Britain and Russia. Improved diplomatic relations with Italy indicated that the latter country might be  unwilling to join Germany and Austria against Great Britain and France. This permitted some modification in plans for defense of the Franco-Italian border.  Improved railway communications In eastern France permitted concentration of troops closer to the German frontier. On the  other hand, the German railways had been improved near the Belgian border and there were other indications which might have led to the belief that Germany planned to march across Belgium.

General Joffre believed that the French and German armies would assemble face to face, separated at most by a few days' march, and that heavy fighting would follow almost immediately after mobilization, and also that the war would be of short duration. With reference to a German invasion of Belgium, Joffre did not believe that they would go north of the Meuse because such a move, it was thought, would make the attack too weak by over-extension of the front.

In considering Courses of Action open to France, Joffre advocated, in 1912, a French advance through Belgium and Luxembourg, pointing out the advantages of taking the initiative in that direction, and suggesting that it night be feasible to make previous arrangements with Great Britain and Belgium for this action. This was vetoed by President Poincare because it would probably align Belgium against Prance and would surely alienate Great Britain. In fact, in November 1912, Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of Staff of the British Armies, notified Joffre that Great Britain would join Germany if France violated Belgium's neutrality. Such action would be very disadvantageous to France—the consequences as to cost would be too great; on the other hand, the violation of Belgium's neutrality by Germany would surely bring Great Britain and Belgium to France's aid—a great advantage to the latter country.

Click on Image to Enlarge

General Joffre's DECISION, following the tradition of Plan XVI and its predecessors, was to concentrate the main body of the French armies in the region of the German frontier with a view to taking the offensive into Alsace and Lorraine upon the completion of the concentration.  It will be noted that Plan XVII was a plan of CONCENTRATION rather than a plan of OPERATIONS. Whereas the German Plan actually prescribed the operations to be undertaken, the French plan left the Commander-in-Chief freedom to take such action as might be indicated by the situation after the concentration had been completed.

The provision of a strategic reserve so located as to permit its use to assist in opposing a German advance against either flank was intended to increase his Freedom of Action. Upon completion of the concentration, on the 13th day of mobilization, Joffre declared in general terms his intention to take the offensive, as follows: 

Whatever the circumstances, it is the Commander-in-Chief's intention to advance with all forces united to the attack of the German armies. The action of the French armies will be developed in two major operations: one, on the right, in the country between the wooded district of the Vosges and the Moselle below Toul, the other, on the left, north of the line Verdun-Metz.  These two operations will be closely connected by forces operating on the Haute de Meuse and in the Woevre.

In following this plan, it was hoped to secure such initial successes as to imperil the German armies in the north. If the French attacks proved unsuccessful, a defensive stand would be made on the fronts Bclfort-Nancy-Verdun-Charleville. Should this line give, a further stand could be made behind the line of the Aisne, the Oise, and the Somme. It was also expected that Russian attacks on the Eastern Front would necessitate the withdrawal of German forces from the west and thus weaken that front so as to permit the chance of a decisive defeat of the Germans there. 

Joffre as Victor of the Marne

Plan XVII was the plan with which France went to war in 1917.  It would fail dramatically, but before the weaknesses of the Schlieffen Plan became clear to the German High Command.  Joffre thus had a time advantage for developing a new strategy—which would fortuitously bear fruit on the Marne in September 1914.

Source:  "Military Strategy of the World War", U.S. Naval War College, 1938

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A Nearly Forgotten Classic: Luxury Fleet: The Imperial German Navy, 1888-1918

Purchase This Title HERE

By Holger Herwig
Allen and Unwin, 1980
Ashland Highlands, 1987 Revised Edition

Previously, we have recommended Holger Herwig's Luxury Fleet: The Imperial Germany Navy, 1888-1918 as one of the dozen BEST BOOKS on the Naval War of 1914-1918.  

However, we have never been able to find a reviewer to take on this work for Roads to the Great War and I want to encourage our readers to read this singular and valuable book before it's forgotten.  Below is a collection of some of the most telling comments on Luxury Fleet that I've been able to find online.

Originally published in 1980 'Luxury' Fleet (the phrase was Winston Churchill's) was the first history of the Imperial German navy from 1888 to 1918. After tracing the historical background to German naval ambitions, the first two sections of the book analyse Admiral Tirpitz's programme of building a battle fleet strong enough to engage the Royal Navy in the North Sea. The author shows the fleet in its European setting and describes the warships and the attitudes of the officer corps and seamen. The final section of the book discusses the tactical deployment of the German fleet during the First World War, both in home waters and overseas; and it weighs the balance between those who supported fleet actions in preference to those who favoured cruiser and submarine warfare. 
Amazon Review

Herwig is well qualified to provide the first overview of the Imperial Navy that reflects the recent scholarship "that has radically altered accepted views" of the [German Navy]. . . Herwig touches upon all the major "debatin points" in the building of the "luxurry fleet": the German justification for alarge blue-water navy; naval strategy and planning; German-English naval rivalry; the impact of the Dreadnought; and the role of Tirpitz.  The broad scope of the book, however, results in several topics receiving short shrift, most notable the issue of unrestricted submarine warfare on the naval mutinies of 1917-1918. . . Historians will find the book informative and most original in Herwig's analysis of the navy's political history, particularly the role of Tirpitz and the officer corps in the development and deployment of the High Seas Fleet.
Naval War College Review,  1981

My personal view is that in Luxury Fleet Holger Herwig constructed one of the most intriguing and seductive Table of Contents in the History of Military History. 

1. Modest Beginnings: The Prussian/German Naval Tradition to 1888 
2. Kaiser Wilhelm ii: the Years of Hope and Misdirection, 1888-1898 
3. The ‘New Course’: Alfred v. Tirpitz, Architect of the Battle Fleet, 1897-1905 
4. The Dreadnought Challenge: The Master Plan Goes Awry, 19-05-1911 
5. ‘We Have Them Up Against the Wall’: Dénouement, 1912-1914 
6. A Place in the Sun: The German Colonial Empire and the navy, 1884-1914 
7. ‘Men Fight, not Ships’: The Personnel of the Imperial German Navy 
8. August 1914: The War That Came Too Soon 
9. Jutland 1916: Missed opportunity or Fortunate Escape? 
10. ‘Museum of Experiments’: The End of the Battleship Era, 1914-1918 
11. ‘Between the Thames and Helgoland’: German Naval Policies, 1917-1918 
12. The Sun Sets: Scapa Flow, 21 June 1919.


Monday, May 20, 2024

The Striking Black-and-White Lithographs of War Artist George Harding

Artist George Harding

Capt. George Harding (1882–1959) was one of the eight official artists appointed by the United States War Department. He was a Philadelphia-born artist and architect. Before becoming a full-time artist and writer, Harding worked briefly as an architect while studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He contributed illustrations to The Saturday Evening Post and Harper’s Monthly, taught briefly at the University of Pennsylvania and Moore College of Art, and established his own studio. In addition Harding painted mural decorations for theaters, hotels, and other civic projects.

These images—displayed at width=580px—can be viewed at width=1000px by clicking on them.

Between Shells at Chateau Thierry

American Troops Entering a Village in Pursuit of the Enemy during the Advance across the Marne, July 13, 1918

American gun fire, early morning

As a war artist, Harding was particularly intrigued by the new technologies of war. His war pictures are full of guns, airplanes, motorcycles, trucks, and tanks. He returned to America in February 1919 and before the end of the year published a lavish portfolio of his war art, The American Expeditionary Forces in Action. In 1922, Harding became the head of the department of illustration at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, remaining at the school until his retirement in 1958.

Night Patrol, No Man's Land

Mopping Up, Argonne, October 1918

Searching Germans Just Captured

Harding was the only AEF artist to serve in both World Wars. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Harding become a 60-year-old Marine captain. He painted the Marine landings on Bougainville, New Georgia, Guam, and elsewhere. Ninety-two of his combat sketches were publicly displayed even before the war ended.  

Machine Gunners, Argonne

Going Through Gas

Château-Thierry Refugees, May 31, 1918

Sources: Smithsonian;  Villanova University Library; U.S. Army Art Collection

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The First Victoria Cross of World War II Went to a Gallipoli Orphan

2nd Lt. Richard Wallace Annand, VC

Richard Wallace Annand was born in Westoe, South Shields, County Durham, on 5 November 1914. He was the son of Lieutenant Commander Wallace Annand (1887–1915), who served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) during the Great War, and his wife Elizabeth (née Chapman). Richard was just seven months old when his father was killed at Gallipoli, and an uncle became his guardian.

His father, Wallace, had joined the RNVR as midshipman on 11 April 1907, being attached to HMS Satellite on the Tyne. On the creation of the Royal Naval Division, he was promoted lieutenant and was initially employed training men until appointed to the Division's Collingwood Battalion. Just before leaving the camp at Blandford, he was gazetted lieutenant-commander, 8 May 1915. Wallace Annand was killed near Achi Baba, Gallipoli and was buried on the battlefield. His body was never discovered. His name is listed on the Cape Helles Memorial. An unidentified officer afterward sent a letter to his family:

On June 4th (in the third battle of Krithia) he was well in advance during the big attack, urging the men on, and was shot early in the engagement at about the same time as the C.O. His loss is irreparable. he was a man of infinit tact and strong personal character, which commanded respect from all his seniors and endeared him to all of inferior rank.

Lt. Cmdr. Wallace Annand

Richard Annand, who was known to his school friends as "Dickie," was educated at Pocklington School, East Yorkshire. After leaving school, he worked for the National Provincial Bank from 1933–1937, first in its South Shields branch and later in Rugby, Warwickshire, and London. His move to the capital saw him attend three nights of drill on HMS President stationed on the River Thames, for he intended to follow his father into naval service.   In 1937, Annand applied for a commission in the Royal Navy as a seaman officer but was refused on the grounds that, at 22, he was too old. However, he was still young enough for an army commission and, in January 1938 (by then 23), Annand was gazetted as a second lieutenant into the Durham Light Infantry (DLI), thereby ending his career as a banker.

After one month’s army training in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he was attached to the regiment’s 2nd Battalion based at Woking, Surrey. On 26 September 1939, Annand joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. Then, in October of that year, he moved to Bercy, Lille, on the Belgian frontier during the so-called Phoney War. . . As the assaults on the Low Countries progressed, the River Dyle in Belgium formed an Allied  defensive line, east of Brussels. It was on one night in May that Annand, then aged 25, distinguished himself in resisting a fierce German attack.

The citation for his VC, published on 23 August 1940, detailed his action: 

“For most conspicuous gallantry on 15-16 May 1940, when the platoon under his command was on the south side of the River Dyle, astride a blown bridge. During the night a strong attack was beaten off, but about 11am the enemy again launched a violent attack and pushed forward a bridging party into the sunken bottom of the river. Second Lieutenant Annand attacked this party, but when ammunition ran out he went forward himself over open ground, with total disregard for enemy mortar and machine gun fire. Reaching the top of the bridge, he drove out the party below, inflicting over 20 casualties with hand grenades. Having been wounded, he re-joined his platoon, had his wound dressed, and then carried on in command.

“During the evening another attack was launched and again Second Lieutenant Annand went forward with hand grenades and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. When the order to withdraw was received, he withdrew his platoon, but learning on the way back that his batman was wounded and had been left behind, he returned at once to the former position and brought him back in a wheelbarrow, before losing consciousness as the result of wounds.”

Annand was evacuated back to the UK for hospital treatment of his injuries, which included the loss of some hearing.  Annand later lost the rest of his hearing during rifle training, as a consequence of which he served the remainder of the war in the UK. His tasks included training commandos in Scotland and working in the War Office. 

The Old Warrior

In 1948, Annand was invalided out of the army as a captain, having declined the opportunity to be transferred from the DLI. For the next three decades, Annand devoted himself to the welfare  of the disabled, including those people who were deaf or hard of hearing. From 1948–1970, he was personnel officer for the Finchale Abbey Training Centre for the Disabled near Durham. His other roles included being president of the Durham County Branch of the Normandy Veterans, president of the Durham County Association for Disabled; deputy lieutenant of Durham and president of the Durham and Cleveland branch of the Royal British Legion. He was also president of the North East League of the Hard of Hearing and a founder member of the British Association of the Hard of Hearing.

Once a brave man, always a brave man. On 26 February 1979, when aged 64, Annand saved his wife’s life by diving into the bitterly cold River Tyne in the dark after she had fallen off a ship’s gangplank. The couple, who did not have children, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on 9 November 2000. Annand died at the University Hospital of North Durham on Christmas Eve 2004.

Sources: Find a Grave:

Friday, May 17, 2024

The 353rd "All Kansas" Infantry Regiment of the National Army, Part 1 – An Overview

Series Introduction by Editor/Publisher  Michael Hanlon

Since I became interested in the First World War, one of my efforts has been to share the story and experiences of the Doughboys who went "Over There" to fight the Kaiser's troops and "Make the World Safe for Democracy." I've tried to draw on the best AEF histories available to share with our readers. For some time, however, I've been aware of a gap in what's to be found on this subtopic—the service of the "National Army" units in France.  These were the divisions made up primarily (not exclusively) of draftees. These units were eventually to be the bulk of the four-million-man army America planned for the war.  

The early fighting by Pershing's forces was accomplished, though, by already formed "regular" formations of soldiers and Marines and the National Guard units that had recently been active on the Mexican border. The National Army divisions, on the other hand, had to be created from scratch. The draft had to be organized and implemented. The training bases called cantonments had to be constructed. Only then, the process of turning  civilian citizens into trained warriors could begin. This process took over a year to crank out the first troops ready for deployment. The first of these 28,000-man divisions, the 77th,  arrived in France just in time for the Second Battle of the Marne in August 1918, and ten more saw action, with six more preparing for deployment just before the  Armistice came. It's been my observation that the contributions of the men in these units—except Alvin York (82nd Division)—have been somewhat neglected since the war.  

Our frequent contributor, Jim Patton,  has come up with a corrective measure for this deficiency.  He has researched a representative, highly active  unit of the National Army and prepared a ten-part series on its service. The 353rd Infantry Regiment was a component of the 89th Division, which was formed with men from the Midwest. All the men of the 353rd, initially, were from Kansas, and the unit trained at Camp Funston in Kansas. The regiment saw action in both the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives with its parent division and was subsequently called upon to participate in the occupation of Germany. Their story will give you a good idea of the effort required to take typical young American men of the period lacking any military experience and turn them into capable and successful soldiers of the Republic.

The 353rd "All Kansas" Infantry Regiment of the National Army, Part 1—An Overview

The Helmet the Kansans Wore in France with the
89th Division Insignia

By James Patton

The 89th "Rolling W" Infantry Division was established at Camp Funston, Kansas, on 5 August  1917. At inception, it was under the command of Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood (1860–1927), a famous Apache fighter and the former CO of Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba, who, along with Teddy, had become a spokesman for the Preparedness Movement in the U.S. In 1915, Wood was one of the founders of the Plattsburg Camps (held at Plattsburgh, NY) for the training of future officers. One of the four regiments of this division was the 353rd Infantry, formed on 5 September, with an initial strength of 2,974 men, all of whom were draftees from Kansas, so the regiment was named "All-Kansas."

The commander of the 353rd throughout (with a short stint as the acting commandant of the 177th Brigade) was Col. James H.  Reeves (1870–1963), a native of Alabama and a member of the West Point Class of 1892. Having previously served in Cuba, the Philippines, the Boxer Rebellion, and two stints as a military attaché in China, he was promoted and transferred from the 3rd Cavalry, then serving on the Mexican border. 

Division Commander MG Leonard Wood

The Timeline of the 353rd "All-Kansas" Infantry Regiment

Organized at Camp Funston, Kansas, September 1917

Left Camp Funston, 26 May 1918

Left Hoboken, NJ, two ships (111 officers, 3401 enlisted men) on 4 June

Reynal Training Area, France, 24 June–4 August

Lucey Sector, 5 August 5–11 September

St. Mihiel Offensive,  12-16 September

Euvezin Sector, 16 September–7 October

Reserve Fifth Corps,  9-19 October

Meuse-Argonne Offensive—Bantheville Wood

19 October- 1 November

Final drive Meuse-Argonne Offensive, 1 November

Barricourt Woods-Tailly and Army Line, 2 November

Capture of Stenay, 11 November

Army of Occupation, 24 November 1918–6 May 1919

Left port of Brest, France, USS Leviathan (105 officers, 2533 enlisted men) on 14 May 1919

Arrived at Hoboken, NJ, 22 May 1919

Demobilized 2 June 1919 at Camp Funston, Kansas

Ready for Occupancy: A Newly Constructed Camp Funston

The All-Kansas men had a hot war, with heavy fighting in both the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives. Members of the regiment were awarded two of the 89th Division’s nine Medals of Honor. By the way, the 353rd had a song that the folks back home could stand around the piano and sing: The Kansas Hymn, dedicated to the "All-Kansas Regiment" with words and  music by  Lillian Forrest. We will tell you more about Lillian's song in our final installment, when we cover the legends and traditions of the 353rd Infantry.

Incidentally, unlike many National Army regiment-sized units, the 353rd had a post-WWI life. After the 1919-1920 demobilization period, the 353rd was reactivated in the new Army Reserve on 24 June 1921. It was no longer All-Kansas, though, having added units based in Nebraska and South Dakota. Recalled to active duty on 15 July 1942, the regiment fought in the latter stages of the European campaign. The regiment was active in the Army Reserve from 1948 until 2008, when certain active-duty training battalions at then-Fort Polk, LA, were badged to the 353rd Infantry. In 2020, only the single battalion 3/353rd remained, assigned instead to the Security Force Assistance Command based at Fort Liberty, NC. 

Over the course of the next nine Fridays, we will continue to follow the progress of the All Kansas men as chronicled in The History of the 353rd Infantry Regiment, 89th Division, National Army September 1917 – June 1919 by Capt. Charles F. Dienst and associates, published in Wichita by the 353rd Infantry Society in 1921. 

Next Friday we will rendezvous with the thousands of young Kansans who have been ordered to report to Camp Funston, Kansas, to begin their military training.

James Patton