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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Gustave Eiffel and the Great War

Eiffel Mounting a Monoplane Model in His Wind Tunnel

Arguably the most famous engineer of all time, Gustave Eiffel (1832–1923) became fascinated with aerodynamics during his career, especially while building his famous tower. Around the turn of the century he started applying his boundless curiosity to flight. In his early studies of airfoils he discovered that single wings (monoplanes) would be more efficient than dual wings (biplanes). To pursue his research he established a laboratory with an innovative wind tunnel at the base of the Eiffel Tower that was later banished to Auteuil in the suburbs because of the noise it produced. Eiffel was the first to test models of complete airplanes in his wind tunnels, and to show a correlation between test data and the actual performance of a full-size airplane Eiffel wrote several books on aerodynamics, most notably Resistance of the Air and Aviation, first published in 1907.

The Wind Tunnel at Auteuil

When war broke out he placed his facility at the service of his nation. Eiffel and his staff continued research on airfoils, propellers, and projectiles, (shells and bombs). Although two prototypes of a monoplane designed by Gustave Eiffel were produced during World War I, he is not primarily known for building airplanes, but his work in applied aerodynamics formed the basis for all subsequent developments in the field. This drop-test machine and wind tunnel laboratory form a fitting memorial to one of the world’s true pioneers of aviation.

Late addition: Posted on 30 June 2019

My beloved Donna, who is also an ace researcher, has discovered the photo below of the prototype fighter designed by Eiffel. It was known as the Breguet LE (Laboratory Eiffel). It was tested in March 1918. The first aircraft had landing gear problems but showed the level of performance predicted by Eiffel's designers. The second crashed and killed the pilot. The program was suspended afterwards.

Sources: Gustave Eiffel and the Wind: A Pioneer in Experimental Aerodynamics," by Dijana Damljanović, Scientific Technical Review, 2012, Vol.62, No. 3–4, pp.3–13; the Website:

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Well-Done, Longridge, Lancashire

Longridge is a small town and civil parish in the borough of Ribble Valley in Lancashire, England. It is situated 8 miles northeast of the city of Preston and 33 miles northeast of Liverpool. Nearly 100 men from the community fell during the Great War. They were remembered throughout the fall of 2018.

For the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, the schools of Longridge organized the largest and most elaborate community commemoration that has come to our attention. Under the leadership of Head Teacher Simon Wallis, over 700 primary and secondary students and over 100 staff from 15 schools participated. One hundred distinctive black cut-out wooden figures were distributed around the village forming “The Ghost Soldiers' Silent March” to raise awareness of the centenary of the war's end. At the same time, 25,000 red poppies were knitted for the final remembrance ceremony on Armistice Day.

Organizer Simon Wallis (above photo, top right) and his team saw every possible educational and artistic method was incorporated into the program. The preparations lasted through the students' 2018 fall term and culminated in two sold-out performances at the Preston Guild Hall on 11 November of a World War I pageant titled "Armistice: The Great War Remembered."

An outstanding two-disk DVD recording of the entire presentation is available for $20.00 (US). 
Email for ordering details

Remembrance Ceremony

I hope these photos capture the spirit of the enterprise. Well done, Longridge.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Day: 28 June 1919 — Part III, Execution

At 3:15 p.m. Clemenceau rose and announced, "The meeting is opened." He then spoke briefly in French:

An agreement has been reached upon the conditions of the treaty of peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and the German Empire. The text has been verified; the president of the conference has certified in writing that the text about to be signed conformed to the text of the 200 copies which have been sent to the German delegates. The signatures about to be given constitute an irrevocable engagement to carry out loyally and faithfully in their entirety all the conditions that have been decided upon. I therefore have the honor of asking the German plenipotentiaries to affix their signatures to the treaty before me.

Clemenceau Invites the German Representative to Sign the Treaty

The Germans rose quickly from their seats when he had finished his remarks, knowing that they were the first to sign, but William Martin, director of protocol, motioned them to sit down. Mantoux, the official interpreter, began translating Clemenceau's words into German. In his first sentence, when he reached the words, "the German Empire," or, as Clemenceau had said in French, "l'empire allemande," re-translated it as, "the German Republic." While this change reflected political realities, Clemenceau whispered, "Say 'German Reich,'" this being the term employed by the Germans.

Paul Dutasta, general secretary of the conference, then led the five Germans—two plenipotentiaries and three secretaries—to the treaty table where Mueller and Bell, two lonely men in simple black frock coats among the sea of colorful military and diplomatic uniforms, signed their names. Bell's pen did not work and one of Colonel Edward House's secretaries offered his personal pen for the German's use. Mueller appended his name in the cramped manner of a man trying to hide his involvement in a dubious action, while Bell, using the loaned instrument, scrawled his nervous approval in huge letters.

The delegation from the United States followed the Germans. President Wilson rose, and as he began his walk to the historic table, followed in order by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Colonel House, General Tasker Bliss, and Henry White, other delegates stretched out their hands in congratulation. He came forward with a broad smile and signed his name at the spot indicated by William Marten. Lloyd George, together with Arthur Balfour, Viscount Milner, and Andrew Bonar Law, followed the Americans. Then came the delegates from the British dominions, followed by the representatives of France, in order, Clemenceau, Stephen Pichon, Louis Klotz, André Tardieu, and Jules Cambon; the president of the council signed his name without seating himself. The general tension that had prevailed before the Germans had signed was now gone. There was a general relaxation; conversation hummed again in an undertone. The remaining delegations, headed by those of Italy, Japan, and Belgium, stood up one by and passed onward to the queue waiting by the signing table. Meanwhile adventuresome onlookers congregated around the main table getting autographs. Everything went quickly. The efficient officials of the Quai d'Orsay stood attentively in position indication places to sign, enforcing procedures, blotting with neat little pads.

Suddenly, as Ignace Jan Paderewski, the Polish plenipotentiary, was signing his name, from outside came the crash of guns thundering a salute, announcing to Paris that the Germans had signed the peace treaty. Through the few open windows came the sound of distant crowds cheering hoarsely.

German Plenipotentiaries Hermann Mueller and
Johannes Bell Signing the Treaty

At 3:50 p.m. the signing was complete. The protocol officials renewed their "Ssh! Ssh!" injunction, cutting short the loud, invasive chatter. There was a final hush. Clemenceau announced, "Gentlemen, all of the signatures have been given. The signing of the peace conditions between the Allied and Associated powers and the German Reich is an accomplished fact. The conference is over. "

The Germans were the first to leave the Hall of Mirrors, conducted out like prisoners from the dock, their eyes fixed straight ahead. They immediately took their automobiles to their hotel where they issued a statement to the press:

We have signed the treaty without any mental reservation. What we have signed we will carry out. The German people will compel those in power to hold to and conform to the clauses. But we believe that the Entente, in its own interest, will consider it necessary to modify some articles when it becomes aware that the execution of these articles is impossible. We believe that the Entente will not insist upon the delivery of the Kaiser and upon that of the high officers. The central government has now made every effort to prove that she is worthy of entering the League of Nations.

In the palace the delegates rose and congratulated each other as the ceremony concluded in the roar of the cannonade. Many lesser notables streamed out of the building to join the crowd that had begun shouting in wild enthusiasm with the first sound of the guns. Slowly the crowd in the great hall cleared, the press through a side door, the rest through the Hall of Honor. The famous fountains of the park added their display to the joyous moment for the first time since the onset of the war.

Clemenceau invited Wilson and Lloyd George to view the fountains with him. The moment that the three men appeared before the distant crowd a great wave of wildly cheering humanity burst through the cordon of troops and swept toward them. They locked arms and, proceeded by a protective cordon of troops, worked their way to the terrace above the beautifully maintained grounds. After a brief look at the grounds they hurried back inside, Clemenceau, with shorter legs, being hard put to keep pace with his Anglo-Saxon colleagues. The three leaders then went to the salon of the old senate where they had tea—the ritual beverage of the conference—with Baron Soanino of Italy and Baron Makino of Japan. Afterward they went their separate ways.

At 9:45 that evening, Wilson, together with his wife and several friends and associates awaiting him at the Gare des Invalides in Paris, boarded a special train for the trip to Brest, where the liner George Washington lay ready for departure. He was eager to begin the ratification process. Lloyd George likewise left Paris that evening. He had grave domestic issues at home requiring his attention.

The Germans, Mueller and Bell, left their hotel at 9 p.m. Their automobiles drove through the city to a small, remote station, Choisy-le-Roi, where a special train waited for them. The French officials who had acted as their escort took perfunctory leave. Everyone was painfully correct. As the train moved along, crowds of Frenchmen stood at the small local stations to observe its passage. At various points individuals shouted jeers and gave obscene gestures; at some stations others threw rocks. But the train continued into the night toward the German frontier.

French 75s Preparing to Fire the Celebratory Barrage

For the rest of the day and throughout the night, Versailles and Paris, throwing aside the requested "calm and dignity," gave themselves up to a delirium of joy and celebration. As darkness fell Paris went mad in a sea of pyrotechnics. Before 6 p.m. the crowds had become so dense that all motor traffic ceased throughout the principal thoroughfares. After 8 p.m. crossing the boulevards was virtually impossible, while moving from square to square in less than an hour was a record speed. American soldiers, wild with joy, some wearing strange hats, caromed along the streets, arm-in-arm with their triumphant French comrades. Impromptu bands gathered on street comers to play for the dancing merrymakers. The most heard songs were the "Marseillaise" and "Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here."

Across the Rhine, in somber contrast, every town in Germany hoisted mourning flags at half-staff. Newspapers, with heavy black bands, headlined "The End" and "Germany's Fate Is Sealed." There were no cheers and no music.

This was the day at Versailles, 28 June 1919.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Day: 28 June 1919 — Part II, Preliminaries

The Hall of Mirrors, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansard in 1678, stretches 238 feet long but is only 35 feet wide and 40 feet high—more a corridor than a salon. The notable aspect of the room is a long line of mirrors that fills every inch of the 17 great arches rising on the wall opposite the 17 equally large windows that look out over the magnificent gardens. Overhead on the high ceiling are the allegorical paintings of Charles Le Brun eulogizing the career of Louis le Grand, creator of this fabulous palace. This was the where a king of France humiliated the Republic of Venice and declared his grandson king of Spain. In this spacious hall the King of Prussia held his triumphant court and had himself proclaimed German Emperor before the petty monarchs and princes of Germany, witnessed by the generals of an army victorious over France. While only a few peace negotiations had taken place in the great chateau of Versailles, the winning Allies understood symbolism. They gathered together to lay the German Empire in the dust in the very place of its origin.

A Group of Tourists in the Hall of Mirrors
(Steve Miller Photo)

At the end of the long narrow hall were row upon row of low, tightly bunched upholstered benches for the invited guests, the deputies and senators of the French parliament, and the delegation members. In front of these seats were tables for the secretaries of delegations. Beyond these administrative outposts, raised slightly on a short dais, rested the horseshoe table for the plenipotentiaries, extending along the mirrored side of the hall. At the middle of the table, facing the high, recessed windows, was the chair reserved for Clemenceau, president of the conference, premier of France, and symbol of victory. To his left, in the direction of the Hall of Peace, were places reserved for the delegates of Great Britain, the British dominions, and Japan. Here the angle in the table was reached, and then came chairs for Germany followed by the seats of Uruguay, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, Haiti, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

At the right hand of the "Tiger" sat the commissioners from the United States, then France, Belgium, and Italy to the turn of the table, where the order was Greece, Poland, Cuba, Romania, the Hedjaz, Serbia, and Czechoslovakia. Behind this main table were tables for secretaries. To the rear of these, extending toward the Hall of War with its glorious ceiling of Le Brun paintings depicting Germany, Holland, and Spain alarmed by the mighty conquests of France, were chairs for the representatives of the press. Inside the main horseshoe table were smaller desks for secretaries, with an isolated table in front of the chairman's place set aside for the official interpreter of the conference, Lieutenant Paul Mantoux. Before these desks, like a lonely guillotine, rested the rose and sandalwood table on which lay the peace treaty. There were two additional tables holding two other documents to be signed simultaneously with it: the protocol, to be signed by all of the delegates, and the Rhine province agreement, to be signed by the great powers, Poland, and Germany. Only the places reserved for the Chinese delegation would not be occupied. The Chinese commissioners, in protest against the treaty clauses agreeing to the transfer of the German leaseholds to Japan, had decided to boycott the ceremonies and the treaty. As one of them put the issue, "If we sign we shall not have a Chinaman's chance in China."

Clemenceau and Wilson Arrive

There was to be only one official treaty, printed on Japanese vellum, with a large margin and held together by red tape. The document, prepared at a reputed cost of 15,000 francs, was to be placed in the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs with an official copy to each of the signatory governments. All participating governments had previously agreed that both the French and English texts of the treaty should be considered authentic and binding. In order to expedite the signing, which at the most favorable speed possible would consume nearly an hour, the seals of the commissioners, which were considered necessary accouterments, had been placed on the document earlier. In many cases these were the personal seals of the signatories, for these men signed as representatives of their governments and not as plenipotentiaries. Their action was subject to legislative review and final approval. For this reason the Americans did not believe that President Wilson should use the seal selected for him, bearing the American eagle and the words "The President of the United States of America." Wilson substituted an emblem from a scarf pin given him at the time of his second marriage by the state of California, which bore his name in stenographic characters. Other representatives lacked both personal and national seals but obtained them before the ceremonies.

As the time for opening the historic session neared, the long hall filled with the throng of delegates, visitors, and newsmen from all over the world. The commissioners had put in almost an hour passing from table to table searching for autographs of men as notable as themselves. The guests bobbed up and down in their seats, stepping over the low bench-like stools to talk to friends or to observe the great men of the conference. Photographers unsuccessfully attempted to climb pillars for better picture-taking. A score of Gardes Municipaux provided security against souvenir hunters pilfering the pens and inkwells in the hall.

About 2:30 p.m., Georges Clemenceau entered the room and looked about him to see that all arrangements were in perfect order. He observed a group of wounded veterans at one side with their medals of valor pinned to their uniforms and, walking up to them, engaged them in a brief conversation. At 2:45 p.m. he moved up to the middle table and took his seat as the presiding officer. Observant spectators noted the singular fact that he sat almost directly under the ceiling decoration bearing the legend, "The king governs alone." The spot was as close as possible to the location of William I of Prussia when he had become the German Emperor in 1871.

The Diplomats Jamming the Hall of Mirrors

Wilson and Lloyd George entered the room soon after Clemenceau, and the assemblage saluted them with discreet applause. At last the table was full, except for the German and Chinese delegations. Clemenceau glanced to the right and to the left; people had taken their seats but still conversed with their neighbors. He made a sign to the ushers who whispered, "Ssh! Ssh!" to the offenders. The talking ceased and only the sound of occasional coughing and the dry rustle of programs marred the silence. A sharp military order startled the audience as the Gardes Republicaine at the doorway flashed their sabers into their scabbards with a loud click. In the ensuing silence Clemenceau, his voice distant but penetrating, commanded, "Let the Germans enter." His direction was followed by a hush as the two German delegates, preceded by four Allied officers, entered by way of the Hall of Peace and moved to their seats. Dr. Mueller, a tall man with a scrubby little mustache, wearing black, with a short black tie over his white shirt front, appeared pale and nervous. Dr. Bell held himself calm and erect. The Germans bowed stiffly and sat down. The final moment had arrived at last.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Day: 28 June 1919 — Part I, Setting the Stage

When students and researchers write me and ask, "When did World War I end?" I always reply June 28, 1919, the day the Versailles Treaty was signed. In the back of my mind, however, I always acknowledge that my response is not a clean one, that I'm giving an exact five-year window around which they can organize their research and writings. Actually, it was more like what Trotsky called the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk—"No war, no peace." Real fighting continued after the signing of the treaty, including the Russian Civil War and Allied interventions, the Greco-Turkish War, and, later, the Russian-Polish War. Longer term, the ill will sewn by imposing reparations and the stigma of war guilt on Germany through the peace treaty insured implacable resentment by the defeated and their new generation of politicians.

Nevertheless, the signing of the Versailles Treaty was—at the time and still today—the most logical landmark that the war had truly ended. Over the next three days, we present an article by noted military historian the late Charles Burdick, who was an early mentor of mine, describing the events of that memorable day the treaty was signed at the Hall of Mirrors, the final act of the Great War.

The German Representatives Arrive in Paris

The setting was the same as that provided for the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871. The spokesman then was the grandfather of the last kaiser, William II, the imperial refugee now huddled in Holland. The day was the same as that awesome Sarajevo day in 1914 when Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and unleashed the furies of war. The Great War, thus, closed on the fifth anniversary of its triggering event while, concurrently, officially registering the German Empire's demise.

The recently installed revolutionary leaders of the German government had named Dr. Hermann Mueller, lately appointed foreign minister, and Dr. Johannes Bell, the new minister of justice, as their representatives to the final scene of the international drama. Their signatures on the treaty would announce to the world and to history the complete submission of Germany to the victors.

The train carrying the two Germans to Versailles arrived late the previous evening, 27 June. After a substantial delay in passing through the war-ravaged zones of France, the engine and six cars pulled into the St. Cyr station at 11:20 p.m. Waiting there was Colonel Marie Henry, chief of the receiving French military mission, with his staff, and Edgar von Haimhausen, leading a small contingent from the German delegation already in Paris.

Haimhausen initiated the reception by introducing the two German delegates to Colonel Henry and handing over their credentials. Both groups saluted each other without speaking. Colonel Henry broke the uncomfortable silence with, "Gentlemen, will you follow me?"

One of the Germans responded, "Willingly," and the group, under escort, hurried to the waiting automobiles for the trip to the Hotel des Reservoirs in Versailles. Accompanying the official German representatives were 14 minor German officials, interpreters, and secretaries. No one evidenced any pleasure over the hour or the purpose of the visit to Paris.

The caravan hurried through the peaceful streets of a sleeping city. While everyone in the group knew of the portentous events scheduled for the day, the post-midnight silence was serenely peaceful. The night's darkness obscured the numerous placards posted by the mayor of Versailles, Henri Simon, which read,

The great day of Versailles has come. The victorious peace will be signed in the Hall of Mirrors on Saturday, June 28. The government wishes the ceremony to have the character and austerity that goes with the memory of the grief and sufferings of our country. Nevertheless, public buildings will be decorated and illuminated. The citizens will surely follow this example.

All measures to preserve order have been taken by the government: the public is asked to conform to them for the successful outcome of the ceremony.

The day of Versailles will take place as should such a great day in the world's history.

The Treaty Is Delivered
When dawn broke on 28 June no one was in doubt about the import of the new day. This moment, this event, this ceremony marked the termination of so much emotion, sacrifice, and death. The pageantry and glamour of the final ceremonies, the carefully planned settings, and the studied simplicity of the closing act itself could not obscure the vigorous wave of French national pride. The local newspapers proclaimed, "The war was won in France under the command of a Frenchman, " and "The peace is being signed in France under the presidency of a Frenchman." France was once again the center of international attention. Throughout the world, war-weary millions turned to Paris for the final act of a tragic era and the birth pangs of a promised glorious age.

The moment at hand—victory, peace, German defeat—awakened the Parisians to the greatness and the sanctity of the day. By noon a steady stream of automobiles, flowing from all points of the compass, centered on the road to Versailles, the highway once traversed by the state carriages of the Sun King, Louis XIV. French soldiers, waving red flags as evidence of their authority, stood at every crossroad along the way, hurrying official vehicles toward their destination without interference. They followed the ancient route by way of Suresnes, Ville d' Aray, and Picardil. At the corner of the Avenue de Saint Cloud and the Rue Saint Pierre the cars carrying the tricolor proceeded along the latter street to the Rue des Reservoirs and from there to the Place d' Ames. At that point General Charles Brecard, commander of the Sixth Division of Cavalry, and his staff had taken position before the beautiful wrought iron grill in front of the Palace of Versailles. A double line of cavalry troopers, wearing horizon-blue uniforms and steel-blue helmets, the pennants of their lances fluttering red and white in the sun, guarded the streets leading to the palace. More troops stood throughout the palace courtyard, the Cour d' Honneur. The previous Sunday the area had served as a display place for captured German cannon. This day the guns were gone—removed by French officials anxious for a different atmosphere.

There was a veritable bouquet of generals waiting for the delegates: Henri Pétain of Verdun, Henri Gouraud with his flaming red beard, and Charles Mangin, the bloody one. They and a host of others stood in their most colorful uniforms resplendent with assorted decorations. Nearby were battle-scarred veterans for whom this moment held special meaning. Around them swirled a sea of banners, flags, and bunting hanging from the roofs, windows, and balconies outside the fence. Inside the grillwork, the palace buildings stood in somber stateliness, flying only one decoration, the tricolor of France, suspended above the small balcony at the head of the Cour d' Honneur. The French government had decreed that this solitary flag was to be the only banner displayed on the palace itself, in keeping with "the calm and the dignity" of the occasion.

The Crowd Gathers Outside the Palace

By midday, masses of people milled about outside the palace grounds, pushing and shoving against the iron barrier and converging on the entrance. Few members of the crowd heeded the calls of the sentries posted at the gate that "only the red passes permit admittance." The repeated shouts of the soldiers on guard inside the fence to "stand back, ladies and gentlemen" bounced ineffectively off the multitude of men and women who sought admission by every conceivable means. Only the mass itself and the small gates prevented chaos. The secretariat of the Peace Conference had taken great care to ensure that the signing of the treaty would be witnessed only by those who had a share in its making as plenipotentiaries or commissioners. There were several varieties of tickets admitting the bearer to different sections of the palace, although few of the fortunate recipients had any idea as to the significance of their pasteboards. A few ingenious souls had forged entry passes from the tops of cigarette packages embossed with an impressive coat of arms.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Wipers Times: The Famous First World War Trench Newspaper

Introduction by Christopher Westhorp
Osprey Publishing, 2018
David F. Beer, Reviewer

Jack and Jill on top of a Hill
Had built an O Pip Station,
But Frightful Fritz blew it to bits
To their great consternation

It wasn't easy to make the war on the Western Front seem funny at the time, but it could be done—as this book shows. After a brief introduction, we're treated to 331 pages of reproductions of the original Wipers Times from the initial edition of February 1916 to the final edition (titled the Better Times) of December 1918. The trench newspaper underwent a few name changes during its life but is generally referred to as the Wipers Times and was published around Ypres, which the British Tommies had long referred to as Wipers.

Capt. Fred Rogers
This was an "underground" newspaper in more ways than one. Found in a shelled building, a derelict printing press was "rescued" by Captain Fred Roberts of the Sherwood Foresters and his men, one of whom had been a printer in civilian life. Sometimes working under fire, they began to put out an anonymous trench paper somewhat regularly. The paper was heavily satirical, not unlike our contemporary version of the Onion, the TV series Black Adder Goes Forth, and the musical Oh What a Lovely War!

Leafing through this book is addictive. We find humor and satire of every kind: gallows humor, tongue-in-cheek humor, black humor—all of which seem to be classified as trench humor when talking about the Wipers Times. The paper organized its content in the same way a popular British paper of the times would, that is, with a lot of variety. Each edition had an irreverent editorial, mock advertisements, jokes, riddles, letters to the editor, an agony column, "dug-out musings." and poems. We often find caricatures of the style and content of well-known writers; behind many literary spoofs loom the ghosts of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Byron, Poe, Conan Doyle, and others.

The content of the paper was clever and entertaining. It's easy to see that the writers were educated and often of a literary bent. Few author names are given, except hinted ones such as Herlock Shomes and Tuckis Shurtin. So we might have an entry for a "serial novel" starting thus:

Chapter 3. It was raining. Shomes, who had business of a pressing nature that night, shuddered as he pulled aside the gas curtain of his dug-out, and looked up and down the trench. Dropping the curtain hastily he injected a good dose from his vermoral sprayer, and disguised himself as a sergeant. He then swallowed half-a-pint of rum and went out into the night, to proceed on an urgent and secret mission to the "Culvert Arms" at Hooge. (p. 157).

Literary parody is never far away in the Wipers Times. One entry for OUR DIARY, a regularly appearing feature written not surprisingly by a Lieut. Samuel Pepys, begins with

On the Thursday of last week we did take up our
residence in a new part of the trench. 'Tis a
noisome place. And I am disgusted with it. The
mud is of a terrifying stickiness, and I am feared
for my breeches, which cost me one guinea at the
Hope Brothers' establishment in Cheapside.
Also, I have spoiled my new coat on the barbed wire. . .
(p. 237)

Poetry has a distinct presence in every issue of the newspaper and is often with a familiar tone. "The War Lord and the Chancellor" is quite typical and is printed with apologies to the late Lewis Carroll. Here are the first two of seven stanzas:

The War Lord and the Chancellor,
Were walking hand in hand;
They laughed like anything to see
The devastated land;
"If this belonged to us," they said,
"It really would be grand."

"If fifty Huns with fifty guns,
Swept it for half a year;
Do you suppose," the War Lord said,
"That vict'ry would be near?"
"I doubt it," said the Chancellor,
And shed a bitter tear. (p. 134).

It helps to have a knowledge of English and American poetry to fully appreciate the parodies and puns that resound in much of the newspaper. Also useful is some familiarity with British idiom and reference—especially in some of the mock advertisements that call up London establishments and events such as the "SPRING EXHIBITION at The 'Munque' Art Gallery" (any tube or train to Hyde Park Corner will get you there), and which is Open Day and Night; "Crumps may come and crumps may go,/But do not miss this wondrous show" (p. 71).

Advertisements were a graphic part of the paper, often taking up half or a whole page. One extols "THE DRINK HABIT," which can be acquired in three days with skilled help. The advertiser's qualifications follow: "For the first 15 years of my life I was a rabid teetotaler, but since the age of 16 I have never been to bed sober..." Publishers sometimes listed their latest releases, such as God's Good Man, an Autobiography by William Hohenzollern (Author of "The Innocents' Abroad," "Misunderstood," "The Christian," etc.), A Thief in the Night by Little Willie, and It's Never Too Late to Mend, by Dr. Wilson—a sly dig? (p. 186).

It's impossible in a short review to illustrate all the wit and satire in the Wipers Times and reproduced in this book. If you wish to delve deeper I strongly recommend John Ivelaw-Chapman's excellent 1997 book, The Riddles of Wipers: An Appreciation of The Wipers Times, a Journal of the Trenches. Also, you can go to YouTube and watch the full-length movie produced a few years ago about the newspaper. In spite of the thick British accents at times, I found the film quite interesting.

Finally, I leave you with this deep thought:

You can have your blooming Shelley,
Browning too, what did they know?
They could only see a poem in the way
the daisies grow;
Had I got five francs to bet 'em then I'd
very quickly risk it
That they couldn't find a poem in a
blooming Army biscuit (p. 272).

David F. Beer

Monday, June 24, 2019

Recommended: 100 Years Ago—The Greco-Turkish War Opens

By Christopher Kinley
Presented by Origins, from the History Departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University

A 1919 Protest of the Allies' Occupation of Constantinople

One hundred years ago [in May], the Greco-Turkish war erupted. The war resulted in the largest compulsory population exchange in history up to that time (two million people) and helped define the concept of ethnic conflict. The war also brought about the Turkish Republic, and its severity indelibly shaped modern Greece and Turkey to this day.

The armistice of 11 November in 1918 is credited for ending the fighting of the First World War, but just 12 days prior, the Allied Powers and the Ottoman Empire signed the Armistice of Mudros. The Ottoman Empire was to be partitioned among the Allies, with all powers sending contingents to occupy Constantinople. As part of the deal, Greece received the city of Smyrna.

Smyrna was a wealthy city inhabited mostly by minorities in the Ottoman Empire: Greeks, Jews, and Armenians. For Greece, the city was more than just a prize for participation in World War I. It validated the Greek foreign policy goal of capturing Constantinople and reviving the Byzantine Empire, or “Greater Greece” as they called it.

Greek troops landed in Smyrna on 15 May 1919 and the war began. Local ethnic Greeks and Armenians joined forces with Greek troops. Reports soon circulated that these untrained volunteers committed acts of violence against their Muslim neighbors. Rumors of such brutality enraged an already growing revolutionary faction within the Ottoman Empire led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Greek Troops Landing in Smyrna, 15 May 1919

Initially, the Greek Army’s intent was to secure the region surrounding the Smyrna occupation zone, but by the summer of 1920, Greek forces eyed Ankara and began to push deep into the heart of Anatolia. Britain backed this move into Turkish lands because it saw the Greek military as a conduit to crush Kemal’s revolutionary movement. By October of 1920, Greek troops had gained control of northwestern Anatolia. This advance, however, was met with staunch resistance.

Turkish revolutionary forces using guerrilla warfare slowed the Greek Army’s progression, and Greek soldiers’ acts of violence against Muslim villagers created fear and panic and fueled ethnic conflict. In acts of reprisal, revolutionary forces brutally murdered Greek Orthodox villagers and forced many others to migrate east to the Greek occupation zone. The violent acts against civilians committed by both sides did not go unnoticed by the international community and spawned numerous humanitarian relief campaigns.

As the fight dragged on, the Greek public grew weary of the war and troop morale declined rapidly. Greek desertions soared. Britain, anxious about the perceived instability of the Greek government, withdrew its support. Into this vacuum, the Soviets began providing munitions to the revolutionary forces in an effort to check Western expansion and turned the tide of war in favor of Kemal’s forces.

Continue reading the article at:

Sunday, June 23, 2019

You Will Love Sgt. Stubby *

* Unless, of course, you are one of those fastidious military history obsessives, who insists every historic detail be accurate to the nth degree and the entire narrative purged of all sentimentality.  If this be the case, PLEASE, DO NOT READ ON.

Stubby and His Mates in the Trenches

After a long, long wait, NETFLIX finally sent us the number one request on our queue, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.  In case you're not familiar with the good sergeant, Stubby was a real war dog, who was wounded in action and decorated for his heroism. Adopted by the troops of the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th, Yankee Division, he followed his caretaker, Private Bob Conroy, to the trenches. The division saw a lot of action, so the animated film mostly focuses on two major operations,  their initial deployment along the Chemin des Dames when they were introduced to gas warfare and the Seicheprey Raid of April 1918,  in which Stubby and Conroy's outfit, the 102nd Infantry were the main targets.

The Real Stubby and the Division Arriving Home

It's a family movie, so some (but not all) of the harsher sides of combat are filtered out. There are a few historical errors and a lot of stretching and "cutting and pasting" of history, but I didn't find it too distracting. On the other hand, for me,  the illustrators and writers capture the dangers and spectacle of war wonderfully.  The camaraderie among the troops is also well explored, with  the inner group of soldiers including a French soldier, voiced by Gerard Depardieu, who seems to be allowed to travel with the Yanks from sector to sector.  He's a swell addition in any case.

Reading a Letter from Home

I liked the style of animation used in Sgt. Stubby, although of a different technique, it seemed to me to have a feel similar to the Wallace and Grommit, films.  It's not visually overwhelming like the recent super-hero flicks Hollywood is cranking out. Speaking of Hollywood—Sgt. Stubby is not a "Hollywood" movie. Watching the credits, I learned the main production was in Canada, the financing was from Ireland (!), and a good part of the cast (the voices) was non-American, like Depardieu, and Helen Bonham Carter, who does a fine job as Robert's sister Margaret, the main narrator of the film.

Try to see Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.  You'll love it and so will the kids in your family.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

How the Great War Reduced Crime in the UK

Great Britain had a notorious spike in criminality during the Second World War. Horace Rumpole's favorite clients, the notorious Timpson Clan, must have had a glorious time in those days. Too bad for them Horace was serving with the RAF during the hostilities. What happened in WWI was just the reverse, however.

An Empty Cell in a British Prison

While crime in Great Britain had been declining from the start of the 20th century, arrests and convictions simply crashed once war started. A 1918 paper, "Crime and the War" by Edith Abbott, reported that in England: "Convictions per 100,000 of the population had fallen . . . to 369 per 100,000 in 1913-1914, the year before the war began. Since the war the decline has been abrupt, falling to 281 per 100,000 in 1914-1915, to 159 per 100,000 in 1915-1916 and to 118 per 100,000 in 1916-1917."  This constituted a 59% reduction in crime in two years.

Similar trends were reported for Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.  For example: 

Commitments to Prison in Scotland

1914       43,535
1915       27,340
1916       19,946

What's the behind this?  Several reasons are cited by Abbott:

(1) The enlistment of many habitual petty offenders; 

(2) The restrictive orders issued by the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) and those made by the justices and by the military authorities; 

(3) The great demand for labor, rendering employment easy and well paid, and resulting in ability to pay fines, this latter being greatly aided by the operation of Section 1 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act of 1914.

One anomaly to the general pattern involved an increased number of arrests of females for drunkenness.  Many more of them were working, few had left for the continent to serve, and they had more quid to spend in the pubs while be able to avoid incarceration by simply paying fines, as allowed by the 1914 Act. Otherwise, however, the overall downward trend in criminality held for all categories of violations and regions, and for both sexes.

The article's second half included a worried discussion of the likely postwar bounce back to old numbers around this theme: "Now the importance of all this at the present time is the fact that every belligerent nation must be prepared for a grave increase in crime after the war and that the obligations upon society were never greater than they are today to see that every effort is made to save men convicted of minor offenses from the demoralization of a prison term."

As to what actually happened when the troops came home, I've found only anecdotal evidence that the feared return of higher crime rates did not occur.  However, if any readers would like to post some more specific data in the comments section, I'd be happy to add it to this article.

Friday, June 21, 2019

100 Years Ago: The Great Scuttling at Scapa Flow (A Roads Classic)

Today is the anniversary of one of the most memorable postscripts of World War I, the scuttling of the German surrendered fleet at Scapa Flow. Of the 77 ships interned, 52 were irretrievably sunk. In their rage, the British summarily executed a number of German sailors who posed no danger to them; nine were shot dead and many more wounded. Only a few cruisers, destroyers, and the 15-in-gun battleship Baden were rescued; the remaining German fleet sank to the bottom, where seven of them remain to this day. It was the largest sinking of naval tonnage in a single incident ever—more than 400,000 tons.

German Destroyer Sinking

On 21 June 1919, a party of schoolchildren from the town of Stromness was being taken on a trip around Scapa Flow to view the German Fleet. Little did they know when they left home that day what they were to witness.

The following is a piece written by one of the children, James Taylor, one of the pupils who witnessed the scuttling:

On Saturday June 21st 1919, I rose very early, as it would never do to be late for a school treat which was to take the form of a cruise on the Flying Kestrel to visit the surrendered German Fleet. The though of sailing up to them made us boys almost sick with excitement!

At long last we came face to face with the Fleet. Their decks were lined with German sailors who....did not seem too pleased to see us. Suddenly without any warning and almost simultaneously these huge vessels began to list over to port or starboard; some heeled over and plunged headlong, their sterns lifted high out of the water.

Battle Cruiser SMS Seydlitz Rolling Over

Out of the vents rushed steam and oil and air with a dreadful roaring hiss.

And as we watched, awestruck and silent, the sea became littered for miles round with boats and hammocks, lifebelts and chests....and among it all hundreds of men struggling for their lives.

As we drew away from this nightmare scene we watched the last great battleship slide down with keel upturned like some monstrous whale.

Sources:  Scapa Flow Website and U.S. Navy Archives

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Recommended: Art of the American Soldier

The Cover Illustration Showing Wallace Morgan at Work at Neufchateau, France, by Fellow Official Artist  J. Andre Smith

Art of the American Soldier is a 295-page PDF download available from the U.S. Army's Center for Military History.  It covers the full range of work done by both official war artists and and soldiers of various ranks and specialties that had an artistic bent. I would estimate that about twenty percent of the images in the document are from the First World War. Four from the Great War period are shown here. However, the part I personally enjoyed most is the great selection of illustrations from our post-Vietnam wars. Almost all were new to me and a great reminder of the sacrifices our servicemen and women are still making every day. Take in its entirety, Art of the American Soldier is a wonderful tribute to all those who served and sacrificed throughout the nation's history. 

Army Camp by George Harding

Charles Baskerville Was an Officer in the 42nd Division. 
He Make These Sketches While Recuperating from Wounds and Later Sold Some to Scribner's Magazine.

Going Through Gas by George Harding

Download Here

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

What Was the Dover Patrol?

A Destroyer Torpedo Boat of the Dover Patrol Leaving Harbor

In late July 1914, with war looming, twelve Tribal-class destroyers arrived at Dover to join the near obsolete destroyers already at anchor in the harbor, most of them built in the late 1800s. These destroyers formed the nucleus of the fledgling Dover Patrol, which, from its early beginnings as a modest and poorly equipped ad hoc operation, became one of the most important Royal Navy commands during both world wars. Its first commander was Rear Admiral Horace Hood, who would later die aboard his battlecruiser squadron flagship, HMS Invincible at Jutland.

At its bases in Dover and Dunkirk, France, the patrol assembled cruisers, monitors, destroyers, armed trawlers and drifters, paddle mine-sweepers, armed yachts, motor launches and coastal motor boats, submarines, seaplanes, aeroplanes, and airships. With these resources it performed several duties simultaneously in the southern North Sea and the Dover Straits: carrying out anti-submarine patrols; escorting merchantmen, hospital, and troop ships; laying sea-mines and even constructing mine barrages; sweeping up German mines; bombarding German military positions on the Belgian coast; and sinking the ever-present U-boats. 

Admiral Bacon
Vice Admiral R.H. Bacon commanded the Dover Patrol from January 1915 until 31 December 1917, He had been one of the prewar Royal Navy's ablest officers, Director of Ordnance, an ally of Jackie Fisher, and ironically one of the founders of Britain's submarine service. His open-mindedness and willingness to work with General Douglas Haig helped to initiate and almost to pull off one of the most innovative concepts of the Great War, a plan to penetrate the enemy's rear along the Flanders coast with an amphibious, 15,000-man, tank-supported landing code-named "Operation Hush".  Sadly, for the Allies, that scheme had to be tabled due to the lack of progress toward the coastline by the main British forces during the battle of Passchendaele. Isolated, the landing force would have suffered a similar fate to the BEF of 1940 at Dunkirk.

In 1918 Vice Admiral Roger Keyes replaced Bacon and was charged with the special duty of blockading the German-held Belgian ports and the U-boats based there. This was to culminate in what was the patrol’s "finest hour," the raid on Zeebrugge and Ostend on 22/23 April 1918.

Sources: Over the Top July 2013; the Dover, England, Municipal Website