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

Friday, November 30, 2018

Frogmen Sink a Battleship, Part I (A Roads Classic)

Part I:  The Plan and the Approach

by Brian Warhola

In the summer of 1918, as World War One was drawing to close, the Austrian Navy suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the Royal Italian Navy. The most powerful ships of the Austrian Navy retreated to the port of Pola, on the Adriatic Sea. The entrance to this harbor was protected by floating booms and barricades, designed to ensnare and destroy enemy ships. The Italian Navy made several attempts to attack the Austrian fleet at Pola but failed to breach the elaborate harbor defenses.

Austrian Battleships at Anchor in Pola Harbor

Lieutenant Raffaele Paolucci was an Italian naval surgeon who devised a plan to infiltrate the harbor at Pola and destroy the largest ships of the Austrian fleet. Although the sheltered enemy fleet seemed invulnerable to conventional attack, it occurred to Lieutenant Paolucci that he might be able to reach the Austrian ships by simply swimming to them, carrying explosives.

Paolucci consulted charts of the Pola estuary and concluded that, if he could be dropped off near the entrance to the harbor, “a swim of three kilometers would enable me to reach the objective."

Keeping his plan to himself, Paolucci began to train for the task of swimming alone into the harbor at Pola. At night Paolucci swam for hours in the lagoons of Venice, increasing his endurance until he could comfortably swim five miles without resting. As his stamina increased, Paolucci began dragging a 300-pound keg of water with him, to simulate the weight of an explosive charge he planned to take with him to destroy the enemy ships.

Lieutenant Raffaele Paolucci 
In May, confident of his ability to carry out his plan, Paolucci presented the idea to his commanding officers. He was advised of the obvious dangers attending such an undertaking but was told to continue his training.

In July Paolucci was introduced to Major Raffaele Rossetti. Paolucci learned that Rossetti had designed and built an entirely new kind of aquatic weapon, a manned torpedo that was perfectly fitted to the mission for which Paolucci had been preparing himself.

Using the long, slender shell of an unexploded German torpedo that had washed up on the Italian coast, Rossetti had built a sleek submersible craft that could be ridden through the water like a horse. Filled with compressed air that drove two small, silent propellers, Rossetti’s rebuilt torpedo was about 20 feet long, weighed one-and-a-half tons, and could carry a pair of riders through the water at a top speed of two miles an hour. At the front end of the apparatus were fitted two detachable watertight canisters, each of which had room for 400 pounds of TNT. The craft could be raised or lowered in the water by adjusting a series of control valves Rossetti had designed.

In the Italian naval shipyard in Venice, Rossetti and Paolucci practiced swimming and guiding the torpedo. “We had to be in the water,” Paolucci later wrote, “clinging to the machine, which moved slowly; we had to steer it with our bodies, and in certain cases were obliged to drag the apparatus ourselves. . .we accustomed ourselves to getting over simple obstructions and nets. . .we habituated ourselves to remaining in the water for six or seven hours at a stretch with our clothes on, and to pass ing unobserved beneath the eyes of the sentries posted along the Venice dockyard. . .we traversed the whole of the dockyard without our passage being perceived either by the numerous sentries, or by the officers in charge of them, who knew that the trial was being made.”

On the night of 31 October 1918 the two men and their hybrid water craft were brought within a few miles of the entrance to the harbor at Pola by a navy motorboat. Donning waterproof rubber suits, Rossetti and Paolucci slipped into the water, mounted their torpedo, and set out to sabotage the unsuspecting Austrian fleet.

Riding on the incoming tide, Rossetti and Paolucci submerged the torpedo until only their heads rose above the water’s surface. It was 10:13 p.m. as they set off for Pola. If all went well, Rossetti had calculated that it should take no more than five hours to deliver the explosives to the Austrian ships and return to the waiting Italian motorboat, which lay anchored out of sight of Austrian patrols.

As they approached the entrance to the harbor Rossetti shut off the air valve that powered the torpedo’s twin propellers. The two men then carefully guided the torpedo up to the first of the barriers that guarded the outer harbor. Enemy searchlights swept over the water, threatening to expose them to view. Each time, however, the searchlights passed over them without revealing their presence.

Major Raffaele Rossetti
Reaching the outermost barricade at 10:30, Rossetti and Paolucci found that it was made of “numerous empty metal cylinders, each about three yards in length, between which were suspended heavy steel cables." After waiting for an opportune moment, the two men lifted and pushed their craft over this obstacle, anxious that the sound of metal scraping on metal might alert Austrian guards on shore. Their struggles went unnoticed. “After great effort,” Paolucci wrote, “we got past the obstruction, when I felt myself seized by the arm. I turned around, to see Rossetti pointing to a dark shape which seemed to be advancing toward us.” An Austrian U-boat, running without lights and with only its conning tower above the water, glided past them and out into the Adriatic Sea, oblivious to their presence.

Restarting the torpedo’s motor, the two men steered slowly toward the seawall that guarded Pola’s inner harbor. While Rossetti waited in the shadow of the seawall, Paolucci swam ahead to look for the easiest entrance to the harbor. Instead, he found another obstruction, a gate made of heavy timbers studded with long steel spikes.

Paolucci swam back to Rossetti and told him what he had found. Rossetti decided to continue with the mission. The tide had turned, and the two men now fought the current, dragging the heavy torpedo up to the submerged gate.

Continued tomorrow. . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Austria-Hungary's Bravest of the Brave

The monument shown above is located in the upper Isonzo River Valley at the foot of Mte Rombon, which—thousands of feet of higher—was a ferocious battlefield from 1915 to October 1917 when the German-Austrian Caporetto Offensive secured the area for the Central Powers.  Note that the soldier on the left is wearing a fez.  This indicates that he was a Muslim soldier of  the 2nd Bosnian regiment.  The inclusion of this figure indicates the respect the Zweier Bosniaken,  known as "the bravest of the brave," earned during their loyal service during the First World War.

Bosnian Mountain-top Machine Gun Position

While Bosnian Muslims served on most of the fronts where the K.u.K. fought, they are most remembered for their operations on the Italian Front.  In 1916, they captured Mte. Fior during the assault known as the Strafexpedition  (punishment offensive) on the Asiago Plateau. Further north they held Mte. Rombon against countless Italian attack prior to Caporetto, and then led the breakout deep into the Veneto after the October 1917 breakthrough. By war's end, the 2nd Regiment,  with 42 Gold Medals for bravery, held the highest number of such distinctions of any regiment in the K.u.K. army.

Field Marshal Conrad von Hötzendorf 
Decorating Soldiers of the 2nd Bosnian Rgt.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War
Reviewed by Jane M. Ekstam

Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War

by John Lewis-Stempel
Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 2017

A  Tommy and His Friend

Where Poppies Blow tells the story of World War One through the mirror of nature. It argues that the Englishman's patriotism in 1914–18 was closely bound up with nature worship—one of the key reasons for his volunteering to fight was the desire to keep intact the beauty of the countryside. Indeed, Lewis-Stempel demonstrates that "[f]or the generation of 1914–18 love of country meant, as often as not, love of countryside" (xxi). The eight chapters cover topics as diverse as the natural history of the British, birds of the battlefield, poems about horses, lice, and pests, disease, growing fruits and vegetables in the trenches, the importance of pets, British and empire naturalists who died on active service, and the quiet that came at the end of the war.

Nature was not only a powerful influence on soldiers, it was also where they lived: in the trenches, the soldiers "habited the bowels of the earth" (xxii). The ability of nature to endure inspired soldiers, nature had a palliative function by enabling soldiers to endure collective trauma, animals became much-needed friends in the turmoil of war, bird-watching was a favorite activity among officers, soldiers fished in village ponds and flooded shell holes, and flower and vegetable gardens flourished in the trenches. Many of the dead were buried in nature.

Edward Thomas,
Royal Garrison Artillery
Chapter One, "For King and Countryside", explores soldiers' diary entries as well as the poetry of Edward Thomas. The latter's "Adlestrop" is a famous example of the English soldier's love of the countryside. Adlestrop, in Gloucestershire, southern England, epitomizes the romantic view of nature that caused so many Englishman to sign up at the beginning of the war. Describing a train journey Thomas made in June 1914, during which he stopped at Adlestrop, the poem is imbued with the sweetness and perfume of glorious England:

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop-only the name.

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

It is no coincidence that Thomas believed that the greatest gift he could bequeath to his children was the English countryside.

Chapter Three, "All the Lovely Horses", is particularly moving. It demonstrates the English soldier's passionate love of his equine friends. The chapter includes the story of how William Parr, who served with the Canadian Field Artillery, overheard a driver say that if he were to die, he would wish to be buried with his horses. When the driver died just a few days later, Parr buried the driver and wrote the following lines to express his desire to be buried with his best friends:

And when the grand, great, final roll call comes,
To be the first upon parade we'll try,
Oh Lord of All please grant my only prayer,
To take my horses with me when I die. (137)
Chapter Five, 'The Bloom of Life', provides fascinating details about how soldiers managed to cultivate flowers, fruit and vegetables at the front. The journalist Carita Spence, for example, saw the soldiers' gardens at La Panne (Ypres), and wrote:

So the soldiers portioned off the rough earth beside the board walk that ran parallel to the rampart, and first they had a little vegetable garden, and next to it for beauty's sake a flower garden, and next to that a little graveyard, and then the succession repeated. (208)

There was, however, another side to the soldiers' love of fruit and vegetables. Captain Crouch gave a whole new meaning to the expression "trench raid" by encouraging his men to pillage the gardens of a nearby ruined village: "we get potatoes, rhubarb and spinach. This is very good for the men, and I encourage them to go out at night to get garden stuff" (207). Not surprisingly, Chapter Five also addresses the importance of the symbol of the poppy, referring not only to John McCrae's famous poem but also explaining how, long before McCrae's poem, the poppy had been an emblem of death, with its petals the colour of blood and its multitudinous seeds the colour of night. The poppy was also prevalent at Gallipoli.

Soldiers' pets played an important role in maintaining morale. Rabbits, for example, were kept as pets. A motorcycle dispatch rider wrote home to tell his relatives all about "Ration," a baby rabbit with a broken leg:

He has now grown up to quite a size, and although he cannot use one leg he gets about a lot. He goes into the cookhouse every day for his tea. We shall take him with us when we move, of course, as he is quite a favourite, and the pet of the section. (244).

The final chapter, "Quiet Flowed the Somme", describes the cemeteries, which constituted the "Empire of the Silent Dead" (311). Lewis-Stempel describes how the Imperial War Graves Commission ensured that the graves became gardens or small parks of remembrance and not merely "depositories for the deceased" (311).

Where Poppies Blow tells a side of the story of World War One that has been ignored or, at best, under-appreciated. Replete with fascinating extracts from diaries, letters, and poems, Where Poppies Blow helps explain how soldiers were able to endure the horrors of war. The eight substantial chapters and the photographs in the center of Lewis-Stempel's study provide a new perspective on the nature of war as well as the incredible ability of mankind to endure against the odds and to make the best of a world that had been neither envisaged nor chosen. It is a powerful and timely message in our troubled times of climate change and natural disasters.

Jane M. Ekstam, Østfold University College, Norway

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Great Anti-War Cartoon

"Enlisting the Neutrals" by Zurich cartoonist Karl Czerpien for the satirical magazine, Nebelspalter, August 1915.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Day 1918: A Roads Classic

Happy Thanksgiving from the 

Roads Editorial Team

Much of the American Expeditionary Force found itself stuck in France after the Armistice. Every unit and base pulled out the stops that Thanksgiving to give the troops a wonderful meal. Here is the menu from the Second Aviation Instruction Center at Tours. It includes a lot of special recipes for Château-Thierry Sauce, Dressing of the Argonne, and some delightful-sounding delicacies like "Submarine Fruits [of the Sea]" and "Dardanelles Turkey." Thanks to contributor Terry Finnegan, who found this in the Gorrell Reports.

Click on Image to Expand

Now sit down ye warriors bold, eat, drink and sing as in days of old. Tis said that man and beast and bird some day has its inning. The turn comes now for men who fight; give thanks above "La Guerre est Finie."

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Over the Top Magazine: The Complete Collection

As some of our readers might have read elsewhere, with the wrapping-up of the World War One Centennial commemorations, I have decided to conclude publication of my monthly subscription magazine, Over the Top.  December 2018 will mark the release of our final issue, the 144th.  However, all 12 years of the magazine will be available along with many other of our special features for purchase on our Complete Collection DVD.

Click on Images to Expand

Besides all the issues of the magazine the disk will include a long list of "extras" (listed on the cover) that we have published in conjunction with Over the Top and our other publications at Worldwar1.comThe retail price for the DVD is $64.00.

Silent Landscape at Gallipoli
Reviewed by Mike Hanlon

Silent Landscape at Gallipoli: The Battlefields of the Dardanelles, One Hundred Years On

by Simon Doughty (Author), James Kerr (Photographer)
Helion and Company, 2018

The Sphinx, North Beach, Anzac Sector

If you were to type "Gallipoli" in the little search box at the top left corner of this page and clicked enter, you will come up with a long list that includes 41 major articles and three book reviews we have previously presented at Roads to the Great War on the Dardanelles Campaign of 1915. I've contributed a large portion of these myself, since I've read much on the subject and led two tours of the battlefields there. What all of this set me up for, however, was to have my breath taken away when I opened up my reviewer's copy of Silent Landscape at Gallipoli.

Abandoned Artillery Piece, French Sector

Cemetery at Anzac Cove

V Beach, Cape Helles

It would be easy, and quite incorrect, to categorize this large-format work as a picture book. It does have 108 magnificent color photographs (examples shown here), including overhead and oblique aerial shots by gifted landscape photographer James Kerr, but it presents much more. Excellent accounts of the military operations written by Simon Doughty are included, as well as the observations, memories, and verse of various participants and interested parties. The gulp-inducing first page sets a serious and patriotic tone for the work quoting Homer's Iliad, "Without a sign, his sword the brave man draws, and asks no omen, but his country's cause."

Silent Landscape at Gallipoli is going to be a permanent part of my personal World War One library. It is a gem of literary "packaging" with the text, photos, and maps, all seamlessly integrated and beautifully laid out. Further, I learned much about the campaign I'd previously missed and am a little embarrassed to have discovered I sometimes brought my groups past significant sites I knew nothing of. For someone wishing to learn about what happened at the Dardanelles in 1915 and is just getting started, one couldn't do better than to combine readings of either Robert Rhodes James's or Alan Moorehead's Gallipoli classics with a study of this gem by Doughty and Kerr.

Mike Hanlon

Monday, November 19, 2018

Remembering the Tommies

The 1914 Original BEF Shortly After Arriving

Unlike France, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, Great Britain entered the First World War with a small, volunteer force. It believed it could rely on the Royal Navy for most of its contribution should general war come. But the war that came in 1914 seemed to be a land war on the European continent. War Minister Gen. Horatio Kitchener quickly apprehended that major increases in the British Army were needed. A mass volunteer army was recruited at his recommendation. They became known as "Kitchener's New Armies."

As the professional British Army was devoured in the futile 1914 and 1915 campaigns, the new units trained, fated to have their main entrance onto the stage of war on 1 July 1916 at the Somme. Alas, even the mighty recruiting effort of Kitchener proved insufficient to the demands of total war. Eventually, the nation turned to conscription to bring the war to its conclusion.

Recruiting Poster from Mid-War Period

● "Tommy" as a name for British soldiers came from the name in the sample paybook given to new recruits in Wellington's time: Thomas Atkins.

● The original 1914 British Expeditionary Force was composed of six infantry and one cavalry division. totaling 150,000 men.

● 5,704,416 Tommies from the United Kingdom (Great Britain & Ireland) eventually served in the war.

● About 2,670,000 volunteered, of which 1,186,000 had enlisted by 31 December 1914.

● About 2,770,000 were conscripted.

● 724,000 Tommies were killed; 2,000,000 were wounded; and 270,000 were POWs.

● Besides the regulars, the British Army overseas was supplemented by "Territorials," volunteer reserves, originally  intended for home defense, but who could opt for "Imperial Service" overseas.

● "Pals" battalions were special units of the British Army composed of men who enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbors, and work colleagues ("pals"). By one count, there were 643 Pals battalions. 

A 1917 Illustration from The Sphere Depicts WWI's Tommy
As He Is Remembered Today

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Canada's Golgotha

"Canada's Golgotha" is a 32-inch-high  bronze sculpture by the British sculptor Francis Derwent Wood, produced in 1918.  During the Second Battle of Ypres, rumors circulated that a Canadian soldier had been crucified on a Belgian barn door, a story the Germans denounced as propaganda. Whether truth or fiction, "Canada's Golgotha" illustrates the intensity of wartime myths and imagery.  Its first display in 1919 provoked an angry diplomatic exchange with Germany, which demanded details to back up the story. The crucifixion remains unproven. Today the statue is in the collection of the Canadian War Museum.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Remembering a Veteran, Capt. T.C. Montgomery, AEF, District of Paris

Captain Thomas Carlisle Montgomery, AEF, had a most interesting war. A lawyer in civilian life, he was commissioned as an infantry officer, but was reassigned to the the Headquarters of the Lines of Communication for Pershing's forces.  This led to his spending most of his WWI years in Paris.  Monty as he was known (but apparently as Carl for his mother)  wrote over 100 letters, typically weekly, typically Sundays, that chronicle detailed observations and constitute a diary in their entirety. The letters give a unique rear-echelon view of the wartime experience. They have been collected by Monty's nephew Merrill Boyce at the blog:

In this early section from the series, we find Lt. Montgomery on his was to France.

On board S.S. Carpathia – at sea 
Sept. 30, 1917 

RMS Carpathia

Dear Mother —

This is our tenth day at sea and we are supposed to dock tomorrow or the next day so this might be on its way back to you soon.

Our destroyer escort met us yesterday afternoon and I think everybody felt better to see them coming over the horizon and very quickly thereafter get up to and take a position around us. Our ship is one of a bunch of fourteen coming over together all of which mount from 1 to 5 guns and we’ve also had a cruiser escort but, now that we are in the real submarine zone, all protection is welcome and the destroyers very comforting. 

Monty in Paris
I left Port—New York—the day I expected—Sept.10th—but also, as I thought, didn't come directly over. We went to another port where we waited on board ship for over a week for the convoy to assemble. There we officers were allowed to go ashore two days after first giving our word of honor not to attempt to communicate with friends or relatives. There are a bunch of troops aboard besides some 75 of us unassigned officers and the enlisted men certainly looked envious when we went to shore and they couldn't go. Felt sorry for them but they couldn't all be trusted not to give information which might have endangered all of us.

This ship is, as you may know, English—a Cunard liner, being the one which picked up the Titanic survivors several years ago. The officers and crew are typically English and have been an interesting type to me.

There are four of us to a stateroom and I consider myself lucky in my roommates. The senior is a prominent Boston lawyer of 43—Stackpole—and a Harvard law man. One of the others is also a Bostonian and a Harvard man of about my age while the third is a Yale man from New Haven of about the same age. 

Luckily we were quite congenial and also all fond of bridge so I have killed a lot of time very pleasantly at bridge. We have an hour conference on some military subject every morning, an hour of French and half an hour of physical exercise in the afternoon. The rest of the day is at our disposal and there's nothing much to do but read and play bridge. We also have a boat drill about once a day at the sound of the steamer’s whistle all running to our stations with life belts. It has become so much a matter of habit now that I believe if we were torpedoed we’d all go to our stations with very little excitement. 

The weather got rough the second day out and lots of the fellows were seasick but luckily I escaped. Didn't feel any too easy the first day of rough weather but after getting by that day, was all right. It calmed down a couple of days ago and is very smooth today.

Tell Kate I’ve lived in the sweater she gave me almost ever since coming aboard—it has been most useful. It will be hard to go back to a stiff collar and blouse when we land.

Two Columbians [i.e. Columbia University graduates] are on board who know Kate and Frank—Dr. La Bruce Ward and Captain Chisholm of the Engineers.

Three days later—as I write we are drawing up to the dock at Glasgow. Have been on deck since breakfast watching the hills of Bonnie Scotland. 

The next day—Didn't write any further yesterday as scenery was too interesting and I stayed on deck until we docked. Am now in Glasgow getting up town from the ship last night, and we go on to London tonight. Am very glad we got this opportunity to see Scotland for it has been most interesting. We are the first American troops to be in Glasgow and are a sight for the natives. They welcomed us with open arms and you hear expressions of good will from all sides. Haven't done any sightseeing yet but expect to go out on a tour this afternoon. Will write you again in a day or two when I find out where I’m to be.
Love to all, 


From:  Lieut. Thomas C, Montgomery,
Inf. - U.S.R. - American Expeditionary Force.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The AEF Keeps Fighting After the Armistice—in Northern Russia

An Eyewitness Account of the Battle of Toulgas

From: The History of the American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki Campaigning in North Russia 1918–1919

The Bolshevik whose frantic rearguard actions during the fall campaign had often been given up, even when he was really having the best of it, merely because he always interpreted the persistence of American attack or stubbornness of defense to mean superior force. He had learned that the North Russian Expeditionary Force was really a pitifully small force, and that there was so much fussing at home in England and France and America about the justice and the methods of the expedition, that no large reinforcements need be expected. So the Bolsheviks on Armistice Day, 11 November, began their counter-offensive movement, which was to merge with their heavy winter campaign. So the battle of 11 November is included in the narrative of the winter defense of Toulgas.

Toulgas was the duplicate of thousands of similar villages throughout this province. It consisted of a group of low, dirty log houses huddled together on a hill, sloping down to a broad plain, where was located another group of houses, known as Upper Toulgas. A small stream flowed between the two villages and nearly a mile to the rear was another group of buildings which was used for a hospital and where first aid was given to the wounded before evacuating them to Bereznik, 40 or 50 miles down the river.

The forces engaged in the defense of this position consisted of several batteries of Canadian artillery, posted midway between the hospital and the main village. In addition to this "B" Company, American troops, and another company of Royal Scots were scattered in and about these positions. From the upper village back to the hospital stretched a good three miles, which of course meant that the troops in this position, numbering not more than five hundred were considerably scattered and separated. This detailed description of our position here is set forth so specifically in order that the reader may appreciate the attack which occurred during the early part of November.

On the morning of 16 November, while some of the men were still engaged in eating their breakfasts and while the positions were only about half manned, suddenly from the forests surrounding the upper village, the enemy emerged in attack formation. Lt. Dennis engaged them for a short time and withdrew to our main line of defense. All hands were immediately mustered into position to repel this advancing wave of infantry. In the meantime, the Bolo [sic] attacked with about 500 men from our rear, having made a three day march through what had been reported as impassable swamp. He occupied our rearmost village, which was undefended, and attacked our hospital. This forward attack was merely a ruse to divert the attention of our troops in that direction, while the enemy directed his main assault at our rear and undefended positions for the purpose of gaining our artillery. Hundreds of the enemy appeared as if by magic from the forests, swarmed in upon the hospital village and immediately took possession. Immediately the hospital village was in their hands, the Bolo then commenced a desperate advance upon our guns.

At the moment that this advance began, there were some 60 Canadian artillery men and one Company "B" sergeant with seven men and a Lewis gun. Due to the heroism and coolness of this handful of men, who at once opened fire with their Lewis guns,  the advancing infantry was forced to pause momentarily. This brief halt gave the Canadians a chance to reverse their gun positions, swing them around, and open up with muzzle bursts upon the first wave of the assault, scarcely 50 yards away. It was but a moment until the hurricane of shrapnel was bursting among solid masses of advancing infantry, and under such murderous fire, the best disciplined troops and the most foolhardy could not long withstand. Certain it was that the advancing Bolo could not continue his advance. The Bolos were on our front, our right flank and our rear, we were entirely cut off from communication, and there were no reinforcements available. About 4:00 p. m. we launched a small counterattack under Lt. Dennis, which rolled up a line of snipers which had given us considerable annoyance. We then shelled the rear villages occupied by the Bolos, and they decamped. Meanwhile the Royal Scots, who had been formed for the counterattack, went forward also under the cover of the artillery, and the Bolo, or at least those few remaining, were driven back into the forests.

The enemy losses during this attack were enormous. His estimated dead and wounded were approximately 400, but it will never be known as to how many of them later died in the surrounding forests from wounds and exposure. This engagement was not [only] disastrous from the loss ofmen but was even more disastrous from the fact that some of the leading Bolshevik leaders on this front were killed during this engagement. One of the leading commanders was an extremely powerful giant of a man, named Melochofski, who first led his troops into the village hospital in the rear of the gun positions. He strode into the hospital, wearing a huge black fur hat, which accentuated his extraordinary height, and singled out all the wounded American and English troops for immediate execution, and this would undoubtedly have been their fate, had it not
been for the interference of a most remarkable woman, who was christened by the soldiers "Lady Olga."

This woman, a striking and intelligent-appearing person, had formerly been a member of the famous Battalion of Death, and afterwards informed one of our interpreters that she had joined the Soviets out of pure love of adventure, wholly indifferent to the cause for which she exposed her life. She had fallen in love with Melochofski and had accompanied him with his troops through the trackless woods, sharing the lot of the common soldiers and enduring hardships that would have shaken the most vigorous man. With all her hardihood, however, there was still a touch of the eternal feminine, and when Melochofski issued orders for the slaughter of the invalided soldiers, she rushed forward and in no uncertain tones demanded that the order be countermanded and threatened to shoot the first Bolo who entered the hospital. She herself remained in the hospital while Melochofski with the balance of his troops went forward with the attack and where he himself was so mortally wounded that he lived only a few minutes after reaching her side. She eventually was sent to the hospital at the base and nursed there. Capt. Boyd states that he saw a letter which she wrote, unsolicited, to her former comrades, telling them that they should not believe the lies which their commissars told them, and that the Allies were fighting for the good of Russia.

At daybreak the following day, five gun boats appeared around the bend of the river, just out of range of our three-inch artillery, and all day long their ten long-ranged guns pounded away at our positions, crashing great explosives upon our blockhouse, which guarded the bridge connecting the upper and middle village, while in the forests surrounding this position the Bolo infantry were lying in wait awaiting for a direct hit upon this strong point in order that they could rush the bridge and overwhelm us. Time after time exploding shells threw huge mounds of earth and debris into the loopholes of this blockhouse and all but demolished it.

Here Sergeant Wallace performed a particularly brave act. The blockhouse of which he was in command was near a large straw pile. A shell hit near the straw and threw it in front of the loopholes. Wallace went out under machine-gun fire from close range, about 75 yards, and under heavy shelling, and removed the straw. The same thing happened a little later, and this time he was severely wounded. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal by the British. Private Bell was in this blockhouse when it was hit and all the occupants killed or badly wounded. Bell was badly gashed in the face but stuck with his Lewis gun until dark when he could be relieved, being the only one in the shattered blockhouse which held the bridge across the small stream separating us from the Bolos.

For three days the gun boats pounded away and all night long there was the rattle and crack of the machine guns. No one slept. The little garrison was fast becoming exhausted. Men were hollow-eyed from weariness and so utterly tired that they were indifferent to the shrieking shells and all else. At this point of the siege, it was decided that our only salvation was a counterattack. In the forests near the upper village were a number of log huts, which the natives had used for charcoal kilns, but which had been converted by the enemy into observation posts and storehouses for machine guns and ammunition. His troops were lying in and about the woods surrounding these buildings. We decided to surprise this detachment in the woods, capture it if possible and make a great demonstration of an attack so as to give the enemy in the upper village the impression that we were receiving reinforcements and still fresh and ready for fighting. This maneuver succeeded far beyond our wildest expectations.

Company "B," under command of Lt. John Cudahy, and one platoon of Company "D" under Lt. Derham, made the counter attack on the Bolo trenches. Just before dawn that morning the Americans filed through the forests and crept upon the enemy's observation posts before they were aware of any movement on our part. We then proceeded without any warning upon their main position. Taken as they were, completely by surprise, it was but a moment before they were in full rout, running panic-stricken in all directions, thinking that a regiment or division had followed upon them. We immediately set fire to these huts containing their ammunition, cartridges, etc., and the subsequent explosion that followed probably gave the enemy the impression that a terrific attack was pending. As we emerged from the woods and commenced the attack upon upper Toulgas we were fully expecting stiff resistance, for we knew that many of these houses concealed enemy guns. Our plans had succeeded so well, however, that no supporting fire from the upper village came and the snipers in the forward part of the village seeing themselves abandoned, threw their guns and came rushing forward shouting "tovarish, tovarish," meaning the same as the German "kamerad." As a matter of fact, in this motley crew of prisoners were a number of Germans and Austrians, who could scarcely speak a word of German and who were probably more than thankful to be taken prisoners and thus be relieved from active warfare.

During this maneuver one of their bravest and ablest commanders, by the name of Foukes, was killed, which was an irreparable loss to the enemy. Foukes was without question one of the most competent and aggressive of the Bolo leaders. He was a very powerful man physically and had long years of service as a private in the old Russian Army, and was without question a most able leader of men. During this four days' attack and counter attack he had led his men by a circuitous route through the forests, wading in swamps waist deep, carrying machine guns and rations. The nights were of course miserably cold and considerable snow had fallen, but Foukes would risk no fire of any kind for fear of discovery. It was not due to any lack of ability or strategy on his part that this well-planned attack failed of accomplishment. On his body we found a dramatic message, written on the second day of the battle after the assault on the guns had failed. He was with the rear forces at that time and dispatched or had intended to dispatch the following to the command in charge of the forward forces: 

"We are in the two lowest villages—one steamer coming up river—perhaps reinforcements. Attack more vigorously—Melochofski and Murafski are killed. If you do not attack, I cannot hold on and   retreat is impossible. (Signed) FOUKES."

Out of our force of about 600 Scots and Americans we had about 100 casualties, the Scots suffering worse than we. Our casualties were mostly sustained in the blockhouses, from the shelling. It was here that we lost Corporal Sabada and Sergeant Marriott, both of whom were fine soldiers and their loss was very keenly felt. Sabada's dying words were instructions to his squad to hold their position in the rear of their blockhouse which had been destroyed.

It was reported that Trotsky, the idol of the Red crowd, was present at the battle of Toulgas, but if he was there, he had little influence in checking the riotous retreat of his followers when they thought themselves flanked from the woods. They fled in wild disorder from the upper village of Toulgas and for days thereafter in villages far to our rear, various members of this force straggled in, half crazed by starvation and exposure and more than willing to abandon the Soviet cause. For weeks the enemy left the Americans severely alone. Toulgas was held.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

100 Years Ago: Whither Alsace and Lorraine?

French Troops Occupy Strasbourg

Alsace, except the Belfort district, and Lorraine had been annexed by the German Empire on 14 August 1870. Article 2 of the Treaty of Frankfurt (10 May 1871) provided Alsace-Lorraine inhabitants could choose French nationality up to 31 October 1872 but would in that event be obliged to leave the country. After that time, they would become Germans.

During the Great War, approximately 250,000 residents of Alsace-Lorraine were mobilized in the German army. They served mainly on the Eastern Front. The law of 5 August 1914 allowed some of them to gain French nationality by signing an act of engagement in the armed forces for the duration of the war. The majority of them were sent to North Africa and the overseas territories, some becoming workers in the weapons factories. 

Georges Clemenceau and Raymond Poincaré Visit Alsace

Those who chose to fight on the Western Front often took on an assumed name to avoid retaliation. The situation is also complex for civilians, sometimes interned in German or French camps on the suspicion that they were too Francophile or Germanophile.

From February 1915, a committee was tasked with looking into all the administrative, religious and school problems that would arise were Alsace-Lorraine to be reattached to France. On 6 October 1918, it was decided that the “Recovered Provinces” would be occupied by French troops in the same way as the liberated French departments.

On 17 November, the French army entered Mulhouse. The president of the Republic, Raymond Poincaré, born in Lorraine, and Clemenceau were hosted in Lorraine and Alsace from 8 to 10 December 1918. They bestowed the French marshal’s baton on Pétain on 8 December 1918 in Metz.

Petain Receives His Marshal's Baton in Metz, December 1918

After the initial joy, unease arose when Clemenceau opted for rapid assimilation, without taking into account the specifics dear to these populations, or even their language, which was not French. Lorraine became the French department of Moselle, while Alsace, was divided into Upper Rhine and Lower Rhine. Around 110,000 German residents were evicted, while the problem of “mixed” families emerged. Again, the Alsatians and some of the Lorrains were asked to choose between the French and German nationalities. They were divided into four categories, each with a specific identity card.

Source:  French Army Museum Blog

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

President Trump's Armistice Day Speech: 11 November 2018

Suresnes American Cemetery, France
11 November 2018

President Trump on Behalf of the American People Presents a Flag to Major General William Matz, Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you very much. Please.

Major General Matz, I want to thank you and everyone at the American Battle Monuments Commission for doing just an absolutely fantastic job.

Exactly 100 years ago today, on November 11th, 1918, World War I came to an end. Thank God. It was a brutal war. Millions of American, French, and Allied troops had fought with the extraordinary skill and valor in one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history.

We are gathered together, at this hallowed resting place, to pay tribute to the brave Americans who gave their last breath in that mighty struggle.

Earlier, Melania and I were deeply honored to be the guests of President Macron and Brigitte at the Centennial Commemoration of Armistice Day. It was very beautiful and so well done.

To all of the French military leaders and dignitaries in attendance with us now: Thank you for joining us as we honor the American and French service members who shed their blood together in a horrible, horrible war, but a war known as the Great War.

We are also joined by many distinguished American military leaders. Thank you to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. Thank you, Joe. Thank you. Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley. Thank you, Mark. Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti. General, Thank you. And Air Force Commander Europe, General Tod Wolters. Thank you. Thank you, General.

Thank you as well to the members of Congress who have joined us: Ralph Abraham, Anthony Brown, John Carter, Paul Cook, Henry Cuellar, Richard Hudson, Bill Huizenga, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Rutherford, and Steve Stivers. Thank you all very much for being with us. Thank you very much. I know you wanted to be here very badly. We appreciate it.

In the United States, Armistice Day is now enshrined as Veterans Day. We have a number of amazing veterans with us today, including six veterans of World War II:

James Blane. James? Where is James? James, thank you. Thank you, James. Frank Devita. Thank you, Frank. Thank you very much. You look so comfortable up there, under shelter — (laughter) — as we’re getting drenched. You’re very smart people. (Laughter.) Pete DuPre. Pete, thank you very much. Gregory Melikian. Thank you, Gregory. Steven Melnikoff. Thank you. Thank you, Steven. And Jay Trimmer. Thank you. Thank you, Jay. Thank you.

You look like you’re in really good shape, all of you. (Applause.) I hope I look like that someday. You look great. America is forever in debt, and we are forever in your debt. And we really appreciate you being here.

We’re also joined by another very special guest: a 13-year-old boy from the United States named Matthew Haske. Matthew is in the eighth grade, and he worked and saved all of his money for two years to make this trip to France. He wanted to be here in person to honor the American heroes of World War I. Matthew, thank you. You make us very proud. Where is Matthew? Matthew. Matthew. (Applause.) Thank you very much. You’re way ahead of your time, Matthew. Thank you.

On this day, in the year 1918, church bells rang, families embraced, and celebrations, as you know, filled the streets like never before, in towns throughout Europe and the United States.

Suresnes Cemetery Outside of Paris is the Final Resting Place
for 1,500 Americans

But victory had come at a terrible cost. Among the Allied Forces, more than one million French soldiers and 116,000 American service members had been killed by the war’s end. Millions more were wounded. Countless would come home bearing the lasting scars of trench warfare and the grisly horrors of chemical weapons.

During the final battle of the war, over 26,000 Americans lost their lives and more than 95,000 were wounded. It was the single deadliest battle in United States history. Thank of that — 26,000 Americans lost their lives in a battle.

Here on the revered grounds of Suresnes American Cemetery lie more than 1,500 U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War. Among those buried here are legendary Marines who fought in the Battle of Belleau Wood.

In that treacherous forest and the surrounding fields, American Marines, soldiers, and Allied Forces fought — and they fought through hell — to turn the tide of the war. And that’s what they did — they turned the tide of the war.

It was in that battle that our Marines earned the nickname “Devil Dogs,” arising from the German description of their ferocious fighting spirit. John Kelly knows that name, “Devil Dogs,” very well, John. Right?

Earlier this year, President Macron presented an oak sapling from Belleau Wood as a gift to our nation — an enduring reminder of our friendship sealed in battle. We fought well together. You could not fight better than we fought together. Sergeant Eugene Wear from Hazleton, Pennsylvania was one of the Marines at Belleau Wood. Eugene raced straight into a barrage of enemy fire, like no one has ever seen before, to bandage his friend’s wounds and carry him back to safety.

Months later, Eugene was mortally wounded. He passed away one day after Christmas. His mother would come right here to mourn by the grave of her precious son. She loved him so much. She was one of the thousands of American moms and dads whose beloved children found their final resting place on the hillside of Suresnes.

Each of these marble crosses and Stars of David marks the life of an American warrior — great, great warriors they are — who gave everything for family, country, God, and freedom. Through rain, hail, snow, mud, poisonous gas, bullets and mortar, they held the line, and pushed onward to victory — it was a great, great victory; costly victory but a great victory — never knowing if they would ever again see their families or ever again hold their loved ones.

Here are the words of a young soldier named Sergeant Paul Maynard from a letter he wrote only a few days before the end of the war: “Dear Mother, I think of you all at home, and I know if I am spared to get back, that I shall appreciate home more than ever, [ever] before. It will seem like heaven to me to be once more where there is peace and only peace.”

On November 11th, 1918, Paul died in the final hours of battle, just before the end. No, sadly, he did not make it. He was among the countless young men who never returned home. But through their sacrifice, they ascended to peace in heaven. Rest in peace, Paul.

The American and French patriots of World War I embody the timeless virtues of our two republics: honor and courage; strength and valor; love and loyalty; grace and glory. It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago.

An Army Chaplain Gives the Benediction

It is now my great honor to present Major General William Matz with an American flag, as a symbol of our nation’s gratitude to the American Battle Monuments. The Commission has done such an incredible job. And, General, we very much appreciate it. Today, we renew our sacred obligation to memorialize our fallen heroes on the soil where they rest for all of eternity.

Thank you very much. And, General, this is a great honor. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Thank you all. God bless you. This has been a wonderful two days we spent in France. And this is certainly the highlight of the trip. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. (Applause.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Captured Germans (British POW Camps in the First World War)
Reviewed by James Patton

Captured Germans 
(British POW Camps in the First World War)

by Norman Nicol
Pen and Sword Military Books, 2017

German Prisoners Before Transport to England

I selected Captured Germans to review because I knew absolutely nothing about the subject. Having grown up in the shadow of WWII, my childhood reading included the POW classics such as The Trojan Horse, The Great Escape, The Colditz Story, Maybe I'm Dead and The One That Got Away, to name some. I learned that the POW experience in WWI Britain was different. The camps were not nearly as big, many were country houses, schools, or old factories, and the populations numbered in the dozens rather than thousands.

The Preface is worth a read. Nicol relates how he got started on this project by trying to research a photograph of three German officers in the doorway of a building that turned out to be mislabeled.

Eventually he goes on to wax philosophical: "It is a dark side of history, and for reasons that have never been fully resolved, many of the locations used to intern civilians and combatants during the First World War have been lost in time." There is no one document that records every location that was used. The intention of Nicol's project was to record where these camps were.

It was never the intention to make comparisons how each country apportioned its benevolence … nor was there any intention … to judge how Britain treated those in internment, but one can never compile a document such as this without emotive issues being touched on. Without this, I was informed by an academic, my work would have no intrinsic value, as it would not contribute to the great historical debate. If my endeavours have not added anything to the 'academic argument', it will not cause me to have sleepless nights.

The 20-page introduction is a gem. Nicol begins with a fascinating recap of the history of POWs, a subject that I knew nothing about. He then explains how the detention scheme was organized in the UK and how it evolved from totally unprepared to highly complex. By 1918 there were 521 "camps" throughout the country, and this doesn't begin to tell the story, as there were hundreds of parties of POWs detached for farm or construction labor who were billeted in groups of a dozen or so in small communities. Last, Nicol gets into the statistics, of special interest to an analytically oriented person like me.

The rest of the book is a compilation, admittedly not complete, of the locations where Germans, Austro-Hungarians, Turkish, and Irish nationalists were interned in the UK. This list runs for 358 pages, and while a lot of it is just location data, there are some stories about the history of a site as well. One in particular that stuck with me involved three German officers who escaped and somehow managed to arrange to be picked up by a U-boat, only to have the navy botch the job.

Finally, Captured Germans is a reference book, useful to those who want to locate these sites, perhaps even visit them, but not suitable for a long weekend's read.

James Patton

Monday, November 12, 2018

Updated: World War I Commemorative Brochures from the U.S. Army Center for Military History

The Army has released three more volumes in their new series of WWI brochures that will eventually cover the entire war.  Here's a list of what is available now. The works are very informative and well illustrated, using Signal Corps photos and official U.S. Army artwork from the war. They  can be downloaded as PDF documents at no charge from the address at the bottom of the page.  Now available are the works covering the Punitive Expedition through the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

In the Doughboys' Own Words: Armistice Day 1918

From In Their Own Words at the Doughboy Center

False Reports

. . . The night of November 8 was indeed a wild one. It was on this night that the first report, or rather the false report, of the signing of the Armistice was received. Parades formed immediately: Flags appeared from every window and from all balconies. The cafes and restaurants were crowed to capacity. Everybody seemed happy. The next morning, however, the real facts were learned and the spirits of the people somewhat damped.

Sgt. Albert Haas, 78th Division, 
In Vichy, France, recovering from wounds

11 November 1918: The AEF's Happiest Day

Again stern orders were given to roll our packs for a final drive. It was now twenty minutes to eleven, November 11th, 1918. We fell in line and marched onward.

We had had no official word yet that the armistice was to be signed. In fact we had heard so often about Germany's peace talk that we paid no attention to wild rumors. 

Exactly at eleven o'clock, came the message from Marshal Foch's headquarters, the "Armistice was Signed." Instantaneously wild shrieks, shouts and yells of thousands and thousands of voices could be heard. The night had been a thing of horror! Daylight brought her joyful tidings to thousands of wearied fighters! Visions of home and dear ones, of transports homeward bound, waiting for the boys who answered the call of their country - the boys in khaki - the Yanks! 

Pvt. Mathew Chopin, 356th Inf., 89th Div

As noon approached, we became conscious of an unusual quietness all around us. Firing of all kinds had almost entirely ceased. The Germans were not firing even a machine gun, though our artillery continued to send over a shell now and then. The Germans occupied the crest of the ridge along the river, and if they had had sufficient numbers, could easily have cleaned us up. After eleven o'clock, all firing ceased entirely, not a sound any where. Soon everyone was talking about it. No word had reached us yet. 

A wounded fellow from our company was discovered, down near the river bank, where he had laid since before daylight. Getting a stretcher, McDermott and I went to him and dressed his wound. He was shot through the hip, and just about unconscious, as a result of his exposure to the cold. We wrapped him in a blanket, and laid him on the stretcher. 

While we were getting ready to take our wounded man to the rear, a runner appeared' with the official news that an Armistice had been signed. Most everybody let out a few healthy yells, but I did not. For one reason, didn't feel much like yelling. I had some difficulty getting three more fellows to help me carry the stretcher. The one I did get had to stop every few minutes and rest. I kept urging the necessity of getting the fellow under medical care as soon as possible, for he was badly in need of attention. As we had to go back along the river bank to where we had crossed during the preceding night, I had a good opportunity to see just what we had done, and the hazardness of our undertaking. 

Pvt. Clarence Richmond, 5th Marines, 2nd Division

On November 11, the authorities deemed it advisable to keep all men off the streets and accordingly issued orders that all patients were to be confined to their quarters. Across the street from the Globe Hotel was a large bulletin board. About noon, a large printed poster was hung there which soon attracted eager and interested groups of people. After reading, they gave vent to their feelings in various ways. Some wept; some shouted for joy; some tossed their hats in the air and embraced their comrades. Little children and older men and women ran along the streets shouting 'Fini La Guerre.' In the evening a band appeared and judging from the general appearance of of the instruments, they had not been usd for some time. It was also quite evident that those playing them had not had a great deal of preliminary practice. The band passed in front of the hotel and we were able to recognize, by use of a little imagination, that they were trying to play The Star Spangled Banner. We appreciated the effort and applauded. 

I thought of what had happened in the past two months, of what I had experienced in that short time and was swept by a peculiar and indescribable feeling. I was glad. Glad that the war was over, glad for those people who endured four years of misery and hardship, and who were now to know better conditions. I though of home and how the folks at home felt when they received the same good news; of other folks whose loved ones would not come home, and what the stopping of fighting meant to them. It was the end of the most terrible four years of warfare the civilized world had ever known.

Sgt. Albert Haas, 78th Division, 
In Vichy, France recovering from wounds

PEACE HAS COME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
While we were eating mess, a French soldier came running by waving a flag and yelling "Finis la guerre!" Later, an official communication affirmed the great news. We are all overjoyed ... 

Sgt. Edwin Gerth, 51st Artillery

On Monday at 11:30 am when the sound of cannon boomed the joyful news that the longed for peace had come ... The French seemed stunned at first--they couldn't in a moment throw off these four years of horror and grief. But [we in] the Red Cross turned out strong. [Outside, in the street], a drum appeared from somewhere ... and in a moment the crowd was singing the Marseillaise. So many people were crying that it was a little difficult. Then a procession formed ... If you could have seen me marching between a Tommy and a wounded Poilu, the latter helping me carry the flag with his good arm. A French boy scout carried the French Flag. The whole of Paris seemed to join in the parade. You never saw anything like it.

Elizabeth Ashe, American Red Cross
Memoir, Intimate Letters from France & Extracts from the Diary

Somebody came out waving a white flag. An American officer stepped forward to greet the German. Then the German kids started coming down. We celebrated that day with the German soldiers. They came down and we mixed all up. Some of them could speak English and we could speak German. . . They were glad to see it over with, too.

Gene Lee, USMC, 51st Company, 2nd Division
Interviewed at age 104, 7 November 2003

Nov 11: Fighting stopped.We hardly knew what to do with ourselves for a while it seemed rather queer to not hear the screech of a shell or the sharp reports of rifles and machine guns. Tents were pitched in a nearby field the farmers furnishing straw to floor them with and we could have fires, smoke or anything else after dark.

On the morning of Nov 17th we started on a hike for Germany with the French making about 15 miles to a place called Dikilvenue where the company slept in a brewery and in the morning started on another hike to Borsbeke where we stayed for two days. 

Pvt. Robert L. Dwight, 148th Infantry, 37th Division 

FINALLY CAME NEWS of the Armistice. Somehow we could not believe it was true the war was actually over. Then, on Dec. 7, we saw a beautiful sight. Here came a passenger train flying U.S. flags. We climbed aboard. We were leaving German territory. I had been in a prison camp only 58 days, but felt as if I had been there 58 years. 

Pvt. Charles Dermody, 132nd Infantry; 33rd Division
Prisoner of War at Rostatt, Germany, at time of Armistice

After the Armistice, those of us not involved in the Occupation were encouraged to seek educational opportunities. I studied French at the Sorbonne. Later on, this training led to Douglas MacArthur appointing me to the faculty at West Point. It changed my life completely.

Lt. Ralph Smith, 4th Division
                                                                                                                                                               1989 Interview