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

Friday, January 31, 2020

Remembering a Veteran: Cecil John Kinross, VC, 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Pvt. Cecil John Kinross
Shortly After His Enlistment
There's much information to be found on the internet about the recipients of the Victoria Cross. Every effort has been made to make sure their heroics are never to be forgotten.  However, most such accounts don't cover the long term price to be paid by these men for the sacrifices they made on the battlefield.  Here's an exception to that, it's the full story of Cecil John Kinross, VC (1896–1957).  At Passchendaele on 30 October 1917, Kinross, crossing open ground in daylight, charged a machine gun, killed the crew of six, and destroyed the gun. Inspired by his action, his company advanced some 300 meters and established itself in an important new position. He was seriously wounded and his combat was over.  The war, though, would be with him for the rest of his life.

National Post reporter Joe O'Connor filled out the story in this 2017 article:

John Kinross-Kennedy spent his childhood summers at his mother’s family farm near Lougheed, Alta. Among his cherished activities was heading out into the field with his Uncle Cecil to gather wheat. Cecil Kinross was tall, slim and had piercing blue eyes. He had two younger sisters, preferred silence to talking, and never spoke of the war.

“My uncle never talked about what he had done at Passchendaele,” his 89-year-old nephew says from California. “He was very quiet, and very polite, and just the nicest uncle you could ever have.”

If Vimy Ridge is the First World War battle where Canada as a nation was born, then Passchendaele—another Canadian victory, won on 10 November 1917—is a monument to war’s waste. The months-long fight claimed nearly half a million casualties, both Allied and German, including 15,654 Canadians. The battlefield near the Belgian village of Passchendaele was a mud-sucking hell. Wounded men drowned in the stuff. Corpses were swallowed by it, and those who survived it were indelibly marked.

Cecil Kinross had scars on both his shins due to a run-in with a plough in the prewar years. He was born in England to Scottish parents in 1895 and came to Canada with the family as a teen to farm a patch of land near town. He enlisted in 1915, was wounded in 1916, recovered and arrived in Passchendaele with the reputation for being an incorrigible soldier of somewhat sloppy dress, when not on the firing line, but as fierce as they come in a fight.

On 29 October, Kinross and B Company of Edmonton’s 49th Canadian Infantry Battalion were being shredded by German artillery and machine-gun fire. The call went out for a volunteer. Pvt. Kinross stepped forward. He stripped off his heavy pack and greatcoat and, with just a rifle and a bayonet and a bandoleer of extra ammunition strung across his chest, launched a one-man, broad daylight charge across open ground against a German machine gun nest.

Kinross While Recovering from His Passchendaele Wounds 
Compare the Weary Eyes to the Photo Above

Kinross would kill six Germans, destroy the gun and continue fighting until he ran out of ammunition and was seriously wounded in the head and left arm. He walked himself back to an aid station. C.D. McBride, a stretcher-bearer attached to another unit, would recount how word of the “wild Canadian, running amok trying to defeat the entire German army single-handed,” rippled through the ranks, lifting morale.

He returned to Alberta in 1919, was feted by the mayor of Edmonton at a massive rally and presented with a purse filled with gold coins. The Canadian government gifted him a plot of land near Lougheed. Crowds cheered. Kinross waved but said little.

“The whole story is tragic,” says his nephew.

Kinross was barely out of his teens. He did what he did and for the remainder of his life—and even today—he is remembered for it. Mt. Kinross, near Jasper, is named after him, as is Edmonton’s Kinross Road. The house in England where he was born has a historical plaque affixed to it. His descendants donated his Victoria Cross to the people of Alberta in 2015. It is displayed at the mayor’s office in Edmonton.

Heroes, the lucky ones, come home, where their life stories—unlike their war story—continue. Kinross took out that German machine gun in a profound act of bravery, but at a profound personal cost. Passchendaele changed him. It made him the hero he was, but less of who he had been, or might have hoped to be.

Post-traumatic stress disorder wasn’t recognized as a psychiatric diagnosis until 1980. In 1919, there were no bandages or sympathetic labels applied to a soldier’s mental wounds. Demons got buried, and to keep them buried, many veterans drank.

“There was a sense that some of these guys who had gone to war had come back changed,” says Tim Cook, author and historian at the Canadian War Museum. “I think Kinross was no different than the vast majority, in that they tended to deal with it themselves, and they tended to deal with it with alcohol.”

Using alcohol as an opiate for wartime trauma is one of the untold stories of the First World War, says Cook. Military records track enlistment dates, battles fought, wounds received and medals won. But they don’t peer behind the curtain of a person’s inner life to see the veteran, years after the fighting is over, at the family dinner table or local bar or locked in their bedroom, drinking with a simple purpose—to forget.

Kinross went home to his family farm near Lougheed. He suffered from terrible headaches. Sleep was near impossible to find. His sisters, Ellie and Nancy, would walk him around the property at night. He never married. He kept to himself, mostly, unless he was drinking, and then he could charm, argue with, debate, defend—or offend—anyone within earshot.

“He liked to discuss anything that was controversial so he could raise hell at the local bar,” says Richard Conrad, the 85-year president of the C.J. Kinross VC legion branch in Lougheed. “His favorite expression was, ‘Well, you know it all, so why are talking to me?’ ”

John Kinross-Kennedy shares a family story about Uncle Cecil at the Dirty Dick, a London bar favored by Canadian troops. He was wearing his greatcoat. A fellow soldier, eyeing a man who seemed so familiar—Kinross’s photograph had appeared in the papers; he had met the king—drew back his coat, revealing the Victoria Cross.

“The pub went wild,” Kinross-Kennedy says. “He never could buy his own beer for the rest of his life.”

The 1930s were a miserable decade for Alberta farmers. Prairie droughts and grasshopper plagues ate away at crops. The Kinross family sank into debt and had their land repossessed by the railroad. Cecil leased out his government tract to other farmers in the area. He was too debilitated to work it on his own. And so he took on odd jobs, here and there, collecting his soldier’s pension and moving into the Lougheed Hotel, a wind-blasted, three-story box on Main Street. His room was kept clean. The hotel staff kept an eye on him, understanding that the local war hero had two personalities—one sober, one not.

“To me, his struggles with alcohol wasn’t a difficulty—it is what kept him alive,” his nephew says. “What comfort was there (for veterans) as they progressively got worse? None. Little wonder they took to drink.”

Kinross was quiet but not reclusive. He curled and bowled and attended town functions. He loved children. When local kids would pester him with questions about the war and the famous medal he had won, he would tell them stories. Concocting fantastical tales, featuring himself as a bumbling battlefield hero, a soldier who didn’t win the Victoria Cross so much as stumble his way into it.

“He would never actually tell them the true story, he would tell them these fairy stories,” says Ed Dixon, a retired teacher and amateur historian in Scotland whose book, Tales from the Western Front, includes a chapter on Cecil “Hoodoo” Kinross.

People around Lougheed grew accustomed to Kinross’s “stunts,” unpredictable behaviors that took on a mythical stature—like having his tonsils removed and refusing the anesthetic. One frigid winter night, after a bout of drinking and debating with his bar mates about the nature of courage, Kinross peeled off his coat and plunged into an icy stream. Emphasizing his point, the story goes, that his famous charge at Passchendaele was no more courageous—or dumb—than going for a dip in the middle of a prairie winter.

He died alone in his hotel room in 1957. He was 62 years old. His funeral at the C.J. Kinross VC legion was standing room only. His sisters, long since departed to Vancouver, came. Hundreds more gathered outside in a gently falling rain. Kinross’s flag-draped coffin was transported on a gun carriage to the cemetery near town. A medal-bearer carried his Victoria Cross. A military salute was fired. Bagpipes played.

“Never in this town has there been such a gathering of mourners,” Jack Deakin wrote in the Edmonton Journal.

Cecil Kinross, Canadian war hero, returned to Alberta, but he never fully came home. It is a lesson of war, lest we forget.

Source: The National Post of Canada

A special thanks to friend Alan Kaplan, who alerted us to Cecil Kinross's story and Joe O'Connor's article.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Some Up-to-Date Wisdom from WWI Historian Barbara Tuchman

Barbara Tuchman (1912–1989)

Whole philosophies have evolved over the question whether the human species is predominantly good or evil. I only know that it is mixed, that you cannot separate good from bad, that wisdom, courage, benevolence exist alongside knavery, greed, and stupidity; heroism and fortitude alongside vainglory, cruelty, and corruption.

It is a paradox of our time that never have so many people been so relatively well off and never has society been more troubled. Yet I suspect that humanity's virtues have not vanished, although the experiences of our century seem to suggest they are in abeyance. A century that took shape in the disillusion that followed the enormous effect and hopes of World War I, that saw revolution in Russia congeal into the same tyranny it overthrew, saw a supposedly civilized nation revert under the Nazis into organized and unparalleled savagery, saw the craven appeasement by the democracies, is understandably suspicious of human nature. A literary historian, Van Wyck Brooks, discussing the 1920s and '30s, spoke of "an eschatalogical despair of the world." Whereas Whitman and Emerson, he wrote, "had been impressed by the worth and good sense of the people, writers of the new time" were struck by their lusts, cupidity, and violence, and had come to dislike their fellow men. 

The same theme reappeared in a recent play in which a mother struggled against her two "pitilessly contemptuous" children. Her problem was that she wanted them to be happy and they did not want to be. They preferred to watch horrors on television. In essence, this is our epoch. It insists upon the flaws and corruptions, without belief in valor or virtue or the possibility of happiness. It keeps turning to look back on Sodom and Gomorrah; it has no view of the Delectable Mountains*.

We must keep a balance, and I know of no better prescription than a phrase from Condorcet's eulogy on the death of Benjamin Franklin: "He pardoned the present for the sake of the future ." 

* The "Delectable Mountains" were the spiritually refreshing rest stop of Bunyan's Pilgrims on their trip to the Celestial City.

From Mrs. Tuchman's 1980 Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Three Months of the Trip-Wire

(Note for readers:  Yesterday your editor bungled the presentation of Jim Gallen's review of Crucible:  The Long End of the Great War.  We corrected matters and invite you to scroll down and read the article as we intended to present it. MH)

I  haven't been able to fit in my regular reminders that we have published several issues of the St. Mihiel Trip-Wire newsletter over the holiday season so here's a three-in-one article for those of you who read Roads to the Great War but don't yet subscribe to the Trip-Wire. Here are some links to the issues and some information on what you can find in each issue:

November 2019
17th Anniversary Issue

U.S. Infantry (Possibly 77th Division) Attacking North of St. Juvin During the 
Meuse-Argonne Offensive

Main Topic:  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive In-depth
New Articles:
The Centralia, WA, Armistice Day Tragedy
The Rainbow Soldier of Montgomery, Alabama
Plus all our regular updates and features

December 2019

A German Veterans Freikorps Unit, Berlin

Main Topic:  1919: Vestiges of the Great War
New Articles:
Western Front 1917 vs. Hollywood 2019
The Voyage of the Red Ark
North Carolina's Breaking of the Hindenburg Line Commemorated
Plus all our regular updates and features

January 2019

The Return of Private Davis from the Argonne by John Steuart Curry 
(Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX)

Main Topic: Burying the War's Dead
New Articles:
Kaiser Wilhelm II Escapes Extradition and Prosecution
Fitzgerald's: The Last Love Battle
Plus all our regular updates and features

Incidentally, if you wish to subscribe just click on the  "Sign Up..."    icon at the top of  any Trip-Wire issue.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Crucible: The Long End of the Great War and the Birth of a New World 1917-1924

by Charles Emmerson
Public Affairs, 2019
Jim Gallen, Reviewer

Benito Mussolini and His Pet Lion, 1924

Neither the Armistice nor the Treaty of Versailles restored the peace that had existed before the Great War. They were merely measuring lines on the beaker in which a new world was brewing. Crucible is a series of hundreds of snippets occurring between 1917 and 1924 that follow the people who would play roles in that new world.

The personalities are drawn from politics, the arts, and the sciences. Many are well known: Russians, Vladimir Lenin (the impatient revolutionary), Josef Stalin (the Georgian bank robber), Leon Trotsky (the principled non-tipper); Italians Gabriele D'Annunzio and Benito Mussolini; Turks Ismael Enver Pasha and Mustafa Kemal; Germans Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler; Winston Churchill and his cousin sculptor Claire Sheridan; scientists Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud; Emperor Charles of Austria; Black activists William Du Bois and Marcus Garvey; Irish nationalists and rivals Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera; Ernest Hemingway, and a host of others.

Each reader can pick the saga that most appeals to him or her and which whets the appetite for more. My favorite is the wrenching struggle for independence that the Irish fought against the Empire and amongst themselves. What is often thought of as a simple case of Irish versus British is shown as an international and intramural blood contest over the definitions of independence, plus the achievable and available means that fueled the flames of personal rivalries, splitting Ireland's leaders and tearing its land asunder.

I found the style of jumping from one incident to another to be unusual, but not too difficult to follow. When one thinks of it, life evolves as a series of seemingly unrelated incidents reported in our daily papers or conversations, not in a concentrated story line of a history or biography.

Jim Gallen

Monday, January 27, 2020

America's Future Commanders Observed the Russo-Japanese War

Capt. John J. Pershing (rt) and Correspondent
Frederick Palmer in Manchuria

Excerpted from: "The U.S. Army Military Observers with the Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905)",  John T. Greenwood, Army History, Winter 1996

Searching for answers to the slaughter of the trenches during the First World War, many military writers and historians fixed on the Russo-Japanese War as an unheeded warning signal of what was to come ten years later. Without doubt, that earlier war provided many lessons that were relearned at great and tragic human and national cost from 1914 to 1918. However, the tactical lessons of the Russo-Japanese conflict were certainly more obvious after 1918 than they were before 1914. Between 1905 and 1914 they had not penetrated enough "military minds," staff colleges, or field service regulations, except possibly to a limited extent in Germany, to shake the dogmatic foundations of prevailing beliefs and doctrines. The war in Manchuria generated nearly ten years of intense but inconclusive debate about its exact military meaning, but few lessons were ever really learned. "Prior to the present European War," Judson said in a 1916 speech, "there does not seem to have been a very thorough appreciation of the lessons of the Manchurian War in some European armies or I might say in our own."

One of the U.S. Army's most significant and least known experiences in learning lessons was in the Russo-Japanese War (February 1904–September 1905). By April 1904, 34 foreign officers had gathered in Tokyo to accompany the Japanese field armies—ten from Great Britain, five from Germany, four each from France and the U.S., two each from Spain, Austria-Hungary, and Switzerland, and one each from Italy, Turkey, Sweden, Chile, and Argentina. Second only to the British team with the Japanese, which eventually numbered 17 officers, during the war the U.S. military dispatched 12 official observers—three Navy and nine Army: Col. Enoch H. Crowder, Capt. Peyton C. March, Maj. Joseph E. Kuhn, Capt. John F. Morrison, Capt. Charles Lynch, Maj. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, Capt. Parker W. West, Capt. John J. Pershing, and Lt. Col. Edward J. McClemand.

The Russian adoption early on of a largely defensive strategy meant that the Japanese infantry, with only rare exceptions, attacked the Russians in their prepared defensive positions. Thus the American observers with the Japanese often saw the infantry in the attack, while those with the Russians witnessed the infantry on the defensive. Based on experiences in the Boer War, some European military thinkers held that infantry could not attack and take a defended position in the face of modern small-arms and artillery fire. Other theorists, usually of the French offensive school, but also some British and Germans, contended that nothing could stop the offensive when undertaken by well-trained and highly motivated troops. To these prominent tactical questions of the day, Manchuria provided some interesting, yet contradictory and perplexing, answers.

After examining the Russian positions at the battle of Nanshan (26 May 1904), Joseph Kuhn noted that "according to the text-books it should be impossible to carry such a position by frontal attack and yet this was accomplished by the Japanese." He did not mention that this success cost General Oku Yasukata's Second Army over 4,500 casualties and was only won due to the incompetency of Russian leadership and, as John Pershing astutely noted, its poor handling of available reserves. John Morrison, who later become the most influential Army tactician and educator of the pre-World War I era, questioned Oku's tactical conduct of the battle after studying reports of the Nanshan fighting. Rather than repeatedly attacking along the entire Russian front, Morrison thought that the Japanese should have concentrated on one point, broken through, and rolled up the Russian lines—the result would have been a quick, cheap victory.

Two factors had really made Japanese frontal attacks successful—the attackers' aggressiveness and willingness to absorb staggering casualties to take a position combined with the repeated use of enveloping movements to outflank the Russian defenses, which often panicked inept Russian commanders into hasty withdrawals. Few observers saw that this critical interaction in Japanese military operations essentially led to prolonged stalemates rather than victorious conclusions. The threatening encircling movement on the flank only forced the enemy's withdrawal to a new fortified defensive line where the frontal struggle would resume anew.

. . . In line with what the observers with the Russian side had observed so clearly, the Russians more often than not repelled numerous Japanese attacks until forced out by an endangered flank or a premature decision to retire. And yet, enough successful assaults were made to substantiate Kuhn, Morrison, and McClemand, and anyone else who claimed that frontal assaults worked against entrenched positions. So again, the lessons were confused and contradictory—the observers with the Russians watched defensive tactics and disclaimed the success of frontal attacks while those with the Japanese saw the very opposite. As with all such observations, much depended on where, when, and what the observers personally witnessed versus information they gleaned from other observers or received from detailed Japanese briefings. Such ambiguous "lessons" were difficult for any army to digest and accept as the basis for major doctrinal changes.

A View of the Future: A Japanese Trench in the War with Russia

From his Manchurian observations, Judson clearly saw that the improvements in field fortifications would force infantry tactics to change. In a prophetic description of the trench warfare to come, he wrote: "The properly fortified line then becomes practically continuous... These short trenches are not in a continuous line parallel to the front, but occupy what may be called a defensive belt, of a width between 200 or 300 yards and half a mile, depending upon the ground and importance of the sector...  With three or four thousand men to the mile of front, including all reserves, a fortified line of the belt type is invulnerable to frontal attack...

For many reasons, the lessons and recommendations that the American observers reported went largely unheeded. Even though many specific things that the observers mentioned were subsequently either introduced or implemented, often no obvious connection can be made to their recommendations. On the other hand, some recommendations had distinct impacts. Sometimes this was because the recommendations tipped ongoing debates in favor of a particular course of action, such as with the adoption of the sword bayonet as a standard infantry weapon or of a new entrenching tool.

At other times, the personal influence of an observer was clearly discernible as a deciding factor. One case of direct influence was that of Peyton March. Assigned to the Artillery Reorganization Board, March incorporated many ideas from his Manchurian experience into the Artillery Reorganization Act of 1907. The separation of field and coast artillery and the reorganization of artillery into regiments was partly due to March's experience in Manchuria. However, years of debate and discussion of the effect of technological change on artillery equipment, organization, and doctrine had also conditioned the artillerymen to the need for change and to these suggestions. Many artillerymen saw the Russo-Japanese War as critical proof of the need for additional change in directions they were already moving or seriously discussing. Few other such obvious instances can be singled out. Alfred Vagts has argued that the lessons and recommendations carried home by the observers from most countries could not percolate up through the chain of command. While his contention was only partly true in most cases, it was most assuredly not true for the U.S. Army. With a small and closely knit officers corps of only 3,709 officers in 1906, the observers knew and were known by most of the important officers of the General Staff, the various bureaus and departments, their own branches, and the War Department.

In addition, the American observers an spent some time on the General Staff upon their return from the Far East. Many of them gave lectures to the General Staff, at the Army War College, at various officers' associations, and to the public; and they wrote numerous articles for professional military journals. They also spoke at length about their experiences with the chief of staff, with the secretary of war, and with President Roosevelt upon their return to Washington. The observations and opinions of the American observers most likely percolated fairly well through Washington's military circles, the General Staff, and the Army. In the years following the Russo-Japanese War, debates over organization, tactics, doctrine, and equipment filled American military journals, lecture halls, and classrooms. Numerous articles and translations were published on all aspects of the war in Manchuria and its impact on American military doctrine. New books on the war were avidly reviewed and recommended. Students at the Army War College, and the School of the Line and Staff College at Leavenworth studied the war's campaigns in detail, and some officers even visited the battlefields to study the operations on the original terrain.

Because their observations provided the most cogent new information available on key tactical and technological issues, the works of the American ob servers were heavily read and used within the U.S. Army. The observer's Reports and articles were studied and used freely to support all sides of the various ideas then under debate, from the role and importance of machine guns to medical service, field fortifications, cavalry, the bayonet, and training. Where possible, the branches and schools incorporated relevant information into their manuals. The Engineer Field Manual of 1912 explicitly states that "much valuable information, especially as to railroads and field fortifications, was obtained from the reports of military observers with the Japanese and Russian armies..." While the observers' recommendations resulted in few concrete changes, their works certainly shaped much of the discussion of military organization and doctrine through 1916.

A Group of Foreign Observers at the Siege of Port Arthur

Actually, one of the most prominent pressures against the acceptance of the observers' recommendations came from the man most intimately interested in the Russo-Japanese War and the observers' experiences therein. President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Chief of Staff Adna R. Chaffee on 3 July 1905 expressing his concerns about accepting the apparent lessons of the victorious Japanese Army:

I think we must be careful about following in anything like servile fashion the Japanese merely be cause the Japanese have won. Doubtless you remember how, after the Franco-German war, it became the fashion to copy all the bad points as well as the good ones of the German Army organizations, so that in our own army they actually introduced the preposterous spiked helmets for the army; as foolish a kind of headgear for modem warfare as could be invented. We should be on the lookout now not to commit a similar kind of fault as regards the Japanese. Not all of the things they have done have been wise, and some of the wise things they have done are not wise for us.

While the recommendations derived from the Russo-Japanese War were of relatively little immediate benefit to the U.S. Army in doctrine, organization, or equipment, the service of these officers in Manchu ria constituted an important career experience. Duty as an observer in the Far East was not the determining factor for future promotion and a successful military career. A number of the American attachés were later to hold important positions in the Army, but most of them were already considered exceptional officers and that is why they were selected for such critical duty in the first place. Pershing, March, Morrison, Crowder, Kuhn, and Judson all played significant roles in World War I. March and Pershing were successive Army Chiefs of Staff from 1918 to l924. Yet it would be most difficult to assess the exact impact that service as a military observer in Manchuria might have had upon these officers' careers. So closely witnessing history's greatest war to that time must have left deep and lasting impressions on the more astute observers—as obviously happened with Peyton March, John Pershing, and John Morrison.

In a series of lectures on his role as the Army's wartime chief of staff to the Army War College during the 1930s, March frequently returned to the importance of his tour with the Japanese armies in Manchuria. In April 1933, he said:

There I began a careful and practical study of the operations of a General was soon apparent to me that our General Staff was not either organized along modern lines at that time, nor did anyone who had the power to reorganize it have the knowledge necessary to effect such a reorganization.... I found myself regarded, upon my return from Japan, as a firebrand, because of my outspoken opposition to many things which then existed; but I was not successful in forcing any reorganization of the General Staff at that time.... The conception of a true General Staff, which I acquired in my observations of a General Staff in operation in the field in Manchuria formed the basis of the orders which I issued on the organization of our own General Staff when I became Chief of Staff of the Army."

As with March, John Pershing subsequently acknowledged the value of his duty as an observer in Manchuria. Pershing told Frederick Palmer, his friend and colleague whom he had first met in Manchuria, that his Manchurian experiences had been "Invaluable!" Although he had missed the major battles, Pershing had seen for the first time large modem armies in a wartime setting with all the problems of command, logistics, training, manpower, and so on played out on the battlefield. He would carry those impressions with him to France and beyond. Frank Vandiver, in his biography of Pershing, concludes of his experience in Manchuria; "He had gone to Manchuria an accomplished small-unit leader, a master of light tactics; he came out skilled in the management of mass."

In Morrison's case, his experience in Manchuria was the primary reason that Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. J. Franklin Bell selected him to go to Leavenworth as an instructor in tactics in 1906. During his next six years at Leavenworth, Morrison personally shaped the development of the Army's Leavenworth schools, the content of the basic Field Service Regulations, and the tactical thinking of a generation of Army leaders who became his disciples, including General George C. Marshall, the Army's chief of staff during World War II.

The exact value of their Manchurian experiences on later career and actions of Pershing, March, Morrison, and the other observers defies accurate appraisal. Detail as an observer with either army in Manchuria provided valuable personal and professional experience for the American officers. Such a unique career experience had to affect each officer's perceptions of his own army, its doctrine, organization, tactics, and equipment, and also his future role therein. For those observers with the Japanese, it was also a rare opportunity to watch closely as a vastly different, complex, non-Western culture and society organized, planned, and conducted war. The observers came away with great admiration for the spirit and discipline of Japanese soldiers, the skills of their officers, and the preparedness of the nation but also with great fears about the future course of Japanese-American relations and growing Japanese hostility toward Americans.

Dr. John T. Greenwood at the time of this publication was Director of Field and International Programs at the Center and Chief, Field Programs and Historical Services Division.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Four Incisive Comments About the July Crisis of 1914

The immediate cause of the Great War was the series of diplomatic decisions and maneuvers conducted by European governments in the month following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand that are known collectively as the July Crisis of 1914. Back when we were commemorating the 100th anniversary of the July Crisis of 1914, I picked out three quotes that—to me—showed how confused the situation was then and how perplexing it still is today that the best diplomats of the great powers managed to turn a manageable diplomatic crisis into a world war. I stumbled across them recently and thought they might be worth a revisit. I've also added a fourth, one that I discovered while researching my special issue of Over the Top on the July Crisis.  

None of the leading European statesmen either wanted or expected that the July Crisis would lead to a world war involving all of the great powers. Each preferred a negotiated settlement to avoid a world war, and none expected at the time of the assassination that the conflict would escalate all the war to a world war.
Jack S. Levy, Letter, International Security, Summer, 1991

The tragedy of political decisions derives from the fact that again and again politicians find themselves in situations in which they are constrained to act in ignorance of the consequences and without being able to assess calmly the probable results, the profit or loss which action may bring. . . Men are not motivated by a clear view of their own interests; their minds are filled with the cloudy residues of discarded beliefs; their motives are not always clear even to themselves.
James Joll,  The Origins of the First World War

The Russians felt they must act, not simply protest, and it was they who began the militarization of the July Crisis. Yet all the Powers understood that military precautions [e.g. partial mobilization initiated 26 July] could be misinterpreted as signalling an intention to fight. Even after the delivery of the ultimatum [to Serbia] Germany and Austria-Hungary did little to raise their preparedness, hoping this would help them contain the conflict. . . The Russian measures dramatically accelerated the tempo of the crisis and wrecked their antagonists' localization strategy.
David Stevenson, The Outbreak of the First World War

Evidence of the guilt of the German government, namely the Kaiser, and Austro-Hungarian government, namely Graf Berchtold, is based on documents that both governments suppressed and falsified. This proves commission of a breach of the peace in three cases.
Finding. Evaluation of German War Guilt—Opinion of the Legal Consultant to Germany's Weimar Government

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Clemenceau the Vampire

Recently, I ran an image of an over-the-top piece of war propaganda, Louis Raemaeker's cartoon, "Seduction."  Here's another extreme cartoon, this one from the period of the Paris Conference  published in the German magazine Kladderadatsch  that is unsigned. It's titled "Clemenceau, the Vampire."

Friday, January 24, 2020

J.B. Priestley Remembers His Wartime Service

John Boynton Priestley, OM, was an English novelist, playwright, screenwriter, broadcaster, and social commentator. Some of his writings ventured into science fiction and fantasy. He was also a veteran of the Great War.

Lance Corporal Priestley
Priestley served in the British army during the First World War, volunteering to join the 10th Battalion, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, on 7 September 1914 and being posted to France as a lance corporal on 26 August 1915. He was badly wounded in June 1916, when he was buried alive by a trench mortar. He spent many months in military hospitals and convalescent establishments and on 26 January 1918 was commissioned as an officer in the Devonshire Regiment and posted back to France late summer 1918. As he describes in his literary reminiscences, Margin Released: A Writer’s Reminiscences and Reflections, he suffered from the effects of poison gas and then supervised German prisoners of war, before being demobilized in early 1919.

In Margin Released he reflected back on his service nearly a half-century earlier with some bemusement and much bitterness:

The British Army never saw itself as a citizens’ army. It behaved as if a small gentlemanly officer class still had to make soldiers out of under-gardener’s runaway sons and slum lads known to the police. These fellows had to be kept up to scratch. Let ‘em get slack, they’d soon be a rabble again. So where the Germans and French would hold a bad front line with the minimum of men, allowing the majority to get some rest, the British command would pack men into rotten trenches, start something to keep up their morale, pile up casualties and drive the survivors to despair. This was done not to win a battle, not even to gain a few yards of ground, but simply because it was supposed to be the thing to do. 

All the armies in that idiot war shovelled divisions into attacks, often as bone-headed as ours were, just as if healthy young men had begun to seem hateful in the sight of Europe, but the British command specialised in throwing men away for nothing. The traditions of an officer class, defying both imagination and common sense, killed most of my friends as surely as if those cavalry officers had come out of the châteaux with polo mallets and beaten their brains out. Call this class prejudice if you like, so long as you remember, as I hope I made plain in an earlier chapter, that I went into that war without any such prejudice, free of any class feeling, No doubt I came out of it with a chip on my shoulder; a big, heavy chip, probably some friend’s thigh-bone (136-137).

Unlike most of my contemporaries who wrote so well about the war, I was deeply divided between the tragedy and comedy of it. I was as much aware as they were, and as other people born later can never be, of its tragic aspect. I felt, as indeed I still feel today and must go on feeling until I die, the open wound, never to be healed, of my generation’s fate, the best sorted out and then slaughtered, not by hard necessity but mainly by huge murderous public folly. On the other hand, military life itself, the whole Army “carry-on”, as we used to say, observed closely, seemed to me essentially comic, the most expensive farce ever contrived. To a man of my temperament it was almost slapstick, so much gigantically solemn, dressed-up, bemedalled, custard-pie work, but with tragedy, death, the deep unhealing wound, there in the middle of it (139).

One morning in the early spring of 1919 in some town, strangely chosen in the Midlands, I came blinking out at last into civilian daylight .[…] Glad to remember that never again would anybody tell me to carry on, I shrugged the shoulders of a civvy coat that was a bad fit, and carried on (140).

Sources: Wikipedia; Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers in the Great War

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Great War and the Coming of Prohibition in America

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol was adopted by both houses of Congress in December 1917 and ratified by the necessary two-thirds of the states on 16 January 1919. The amendment was implemented by the National Prohibition Act (known as the Volstead Act after Andrew Volstead, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a leading prohibitionist) in October 1919. Under the terms of the act, Prohibition began on 17 January 1920. The act defined "intoxicating liquor" as anything that contained one half of one percent alcohol by volume but allowed the sale of alcohol for medicinal, sacramental, or industrial purposes. The final push for  imposing an unpopular,  and ultimately socially disastrous, program on the American public came during the First World War, when 4.7 million Americans, almost all men, were under arms with over half of them deployed overseas or on the high seas.

The Ohio State University "Temperance & Prohibition" website takes the position the war did not  help push Prohibition "over the top:"

It is a myth that the First World War somehow "caused" the United States to enact prohibition. The prohibition movement was already very powerful before the nation declared war in 1917--the dry forces had already elected two-thirds majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States Congress. When the elections of 1916 concluded, both wets and drys knew that the battle was nearly over. . . The war, however, provided powerful new emotional messages on behalf of prohibition.

America's Heroes Succumbing to Temptation

I find one flaw, though, in the thinking of the Ohio State group, however.  Although the United States did not enter the war until 1917, it was fully engaged in the Great War from its outbreak in August 1914. The make-up and behavior of the combatants resonated through the nation first in what we now refer to as the national security sphere and then into domestic politics, where the drys were trying to finalize their long crusade and the wets were fighting a last-ditch defense. Looking back, it's clear the drys won this final battle, and their creative use of the war was a critical, if not the key, to their winning strategy.

The temperance folks were masters both at manipulating anxieties Americans had about getting involved in a foreign war and associating German brewery owners with Germany's heavy-handed military and that "Beast of Berlin," Kaiser Wilhelm II. Also, the war presented calls for managing resources, especially food. [See our article by Keith Muchowski on the crisis with grains HERE.] Wartime restrictions implemented in the Food and Fuel Control Act (August 1917)  would condition the American public for a permanent cut-off of the supply of Demon Rum. 

Through some incredibly skillful framing of the discussion, by the time the 18th Amendment had been proposed in Congress (December 1917) prohibition was labeled "100% Americanism" by its promoters. And a critical mass of the great American public bought it. The Great War amazingly gave the drys the opportunity to offer Prohibition as a matter of patriotism, sacrifice for nation, and a way to stand united against militarism, decadence, and moral corruption.

Sources: Wikipedia, HistoryExtra, the National World War One Museum

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The AEF’s First POW

Later, the AEF Would Capture Many More Prisoners

By Paul Albright

American infantry made their first cautious ventures into no-man's-land in late October 1917. It was there that an AEF patrol captured their first German prisoner of war. He was a teenage mailman. The wounding and capture of this young mail courier was headline material in newspapers across the U.S. The most detailed account was in the New York Tribune by correspondent Heywood Broun, who later in his career became a nationally known journalist, author, sportswriter, columnist, and a founder of the Newspaper Guild.  Broun wrote in his despatch: 

“There had been great rivalry as to which company would get the first captive, but he came practically unsought,” Broun reported. “The American patrol were (sic) almost back in their own lines, after an excursion into No Man’s Land, when they heard the noise of somebody to their left. He was making no effort to walk quietly. As he came over a little hillock of ground, his outline could be seen for a second. The doughboys recognized the German helmet.

“The German saw the Americans at the same time and turned to run, but one American, after calling out for the enemy to halt, took a snapshot with his rifle and hit the man in the left arm. Another soldier’s bullet lodged in the German’s abdomen. 

“The patrol carried the prisoner to the trench. He seemed more dazed by surprise than by the pain of the wounds.

“'You’re not French,' he said several times as the curious Americans gathered about him in a close, dim circle, illuminated by pocket flashlights. The prisoner guessed next what they were English, and when the soldiers told him they were Americans, he said that his comrades had not been informed the Americans were in the line opposing them.

“Somebody gave him a cigarette, and he grew more chipper, in spite of his wounds. He began to talk, saying: ‘Ich bin ein Esel (donkey).’ There were several Americans who had had enough German for that, and they asked him why. The prisoner explained that he had been assigned to deliver letters to the soldiers. Some of the letters were for men in a distant trench which slanted toward the French line, and so to save time he had taken a short cut through No Man’s Land. It was a dark night, but he thought he knew the way. He kept bearing to the left. Now, he said, he knew he should have turned to the right. He said it would be a lesson to him.

“The little German was a pretty sick boy when I saw him for a moment in the field hospital yesterday (October 29, 1917). He gave his age as nineteen, but he looked younger and not very dangerous, for he was just coming out of the ether. The doctors were giving him the best of care. He had a room to himself and his own nurse. The doctor in charge was a young reserve officer and seemed professionally anxious about the case. 

“’I could pull him through sure,’ he said, ‘if it wasn’t for that second bullet,’ and then he added, almost reproachfully: ‘That was an awful bad place to shoot a man.’”

Broun's  Article

The German mail courier died on 30 October 30 1917, with the press reporting that he would be buried with military honors. 

The Associated Press reported that there had been two Germans near the American trenches. They bolted when called on to halt, with the slightly built blond teenage soldier being fatally wounded. Some of the letters he was carrying were reported to have some value to the AEF. 

“He declared that the German soldiers did not know that Americans were on the front or in France, the officers telling them nothing,” reported the AP. At the time, only American and German artillery were exchanging shell fire. 

Speaking from his hospital cot, the mortally wounded mail courier was quoted in the New York Times: “The soldiers do not know you Americans are here, but the officers probably do. They tell us nothing. The German soldiers in the ranks are tired of the war and want it to end, but the officers want it to continue, as they are well paid. Our food is good, but we know nothing of conditions in the interior of Germany. Sometimes no mail is permitted to reach us for eight weeks at a time.” 

  • The AEF in Print: An Anthology of American Journalism in World War I, by Chris Dobbs and John-Daniel Kelley, eds., University of North Texas Press, 2018.
  • Our Army at the Front, by Heywood Broun, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922.
  • New York Tribune, 30-31 October 1917.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The First World War: Literature, Culture, Modernity

Ideologues by Max Beckmann, 1919

Edited by Santanu Das and Kate McLoughlin. Proceedings of the British Academy
Oxford University Press.2018
David F. Beer, Reviewer

This collection of eleven essays by British and American scholars presents a modernist analysis of an international range of writers including Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, David Jones, and Robert Service. Also included are Mary Borden and Enid Bagnold and a variety of civilian authors such as H. G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, and others. The visual arts are also engaged through some film and the work of Käthe Kollwitz.

Since these writers and artists are considered in the light of modernism, the editors are heedful of explaining what they mean by the term. They admit that "a single, exhaustive definition of modernity [is] impossible," and so "have chosen to focus on three fundamental areas where it intersects most powerfully with the war" and its literature (p 6). They identify these areas as uncertainty, intensification, and cosmopolitanism. The three sections of the book fall under these subheadings and each section contains three or four scholarly essays analyzing WWI writers and artists in light of these terms.

The viewpoints of the essayists are varied and complex, as the editors admit in their lengthy introduction:

Modernity, as understood in this volume, is no fixed or homogenous category: it occurs at different levels, at different points in time, affects different groups in different ways. For some, it is a collapsing line of Enlightenment thinking; for others it is new terrors in the skies and in the mind. For still others it is unprecedently heightened battle experience arising from the sheer scale and industrialized nature of the conflict; for yet others it is a first encounter with technological modernity as well as with foreign lands and different races (p. 11).

The first section of essays deals with uncertainty but is titled "Unfathomable." The connection soon becomes clear: the writers discussed all reveal one thing—that the war was "incomprehensible, unassimilable and (hence) unshareable" (p 40). Wordsworth's 1798 poem "The Discharged Soldier" is the starting point here but then follow analyses of work by Rebecca West, Virginia Woolf, and David Jones. How can we possibly fathom, let alone share, the experiences and losses of what was at the time an unthinkable cataclysm? Or as Vincent Sherry, in the final essay in this section states:

I am recovering one formal sense of the original horrors of the war, where an older notion of the value of human life, as reckoned in the cultural understanding of sacrifice, is undergoing a massive and shattering change. The record of its undoing offers one of the most telling narratives of the difference the war made in the history of modernity (p 83).

Part 2 ("Scoping the War") deals with the different kinds of intensity captured in film and literature of the time. How did the arts capture and attempt to transmit the various kinds of intensity experienced in the war? A big drawback was that those who were in the war were often unwilling to talk about it—or found the effort futile. Civilians were unable to truly understand. Thus the first essay, "Civilians Writing the War: Metaphor, Proximity, Action," studies passages from H. G. Wells's Mr. Britling Sees it Through, Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room, and Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone. Following is an essay on a group of films, including The Battle of the Somme (1916) and J'Accuse (1919), in which the author points out that:

The complex relations between distance and proximity in film-at once a detached world in which the spectator cannot intervene and at the same time one which produces the most powerful identification between seer and seen-are an important source of this characteristic intensification of experience (p 127).

Also in this section is an essay on what the zeppelin raids on Britain meant in terms of the intensification of the war in civilian experience, followed by an interesting comparison of the dissent found in significant writings by Wyndham Lewis and Henry Williamson.

Part 3, "Cosmopolitan Sympathies?" is, as the editors point out, "political in character, with essays examining cultural encounters and exchanges across the boundaries of nationality and race" (p 6). Here we find the war scrutinized through a quite different lens than we're used to. We tend to forget that during the war several million people of various ethnic groups traveled to all theaters to fight or labor for the British and French armies. They were "soldiers and labourers, officers and privates, Indian sepoys, Senegalese tirailleurs, Maori pioneers, doctors, nurses, writers..." (p 25).

The essays here look at what this global upheaval meant to many people. How did it influence the work of artists like Käthe Kollwitz, especially her seven woodcuts titled Krieg (War), and the 50 etchings, aquatints, and drypoints of Otto Dix? What can we unearth of cosmopolitanism in poets such as Isaac Rosenberg, Thomas Hardy, Robert Service, Wilfred Owen, and Mary Borden? A final essay by Santanu Das explores the extent to which this cosmopolitanism caused eruptions and frictions of racism and anti-colonialism, sometimes in a "climate of anxiety and fear" (p 240). Less known but also important figures come to light in this essay, such as Kris Manjapra, Mulk Raj Anand, Rabindranath Tagore, and the memoirist Sisir Prasad Sarbadhikari.

This is a scholarly book which includes several intriguing black-and-white photos and artwork. All bibliographic references are included in the copious footnotes on each page, and an index concludes the text. A fascinating study for those interested in uncovering some overlooked aspects of the Great War through the eyes of modernism.

David F. Beer

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Halberstadt CL IV

On Display at the National Museum of the USAF

Introduced into combat during the last great German offensive of World War I, the CL IV supported German troops by attacking Allied ground positions. Equipped with both fixed and flexible machine guns, hand-dropped grenades, and small bombs, the CL IV proved very effective in this role, but it lacked the armor necessary for protection against ground fire. Nevertheless, it proved to be one of the most effective ground attack aircraft of World War I, relying on its good maneuverability to avoid ground fire. 

The Specimen at the National Air and Space Museum Nicely Shows
the Late-War Camouflage of the German Air Service 

The CL IV became a hunted target of Allied pursuit squadrons, but it gave a very good account of itself in dogfights. A versatile machine, the CL IV also performed as an interceptor against Allied night bombing raids and served as a night bomber against troop concentrations and airfields near the front lines.

The Halberstadt CL.IV was one of the most effective ground attack aircraft of World War I, relying on its good maneuverability to avoid ground fire. It appeared on the Western Front toward the end of the German offensives in 1918. Flights of four to six aircraft flew close-support missions, at an altitude of less than 100 feet, suppressing enemy infantry and artillery fire just ahead of the advancing German troops. After these late German offensives stalled, Halberstadt CL.IVs were used to disrupt advancing Allied offensives by striking at enemy troop assembly points and flying night sorties Allied airfields.

Toward the end of the war, on bright, moonlit nights, CL.IV squadrons attempted to intercept and destroy Allied bombers as they returned from their missions.

The USAF museum acquired the Halberstadt CL IV on display in 1984. Badly deteriorated at the time, its restoration was a joint international cooperative venture by the Museum für Verkehr und Technik in Berlin, Germany, the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It is marked as the CL IV of the squadron leader of the Schlachtstaffel 21, which is known to have engaged elements of the U.S. Army's 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons in mid-July 1918 during the Chateau-Thierry battle.

Close-up of Gunner's Position

Armament: One or two fixed 7.92mm Spandau machine guns and one flexible Parabellum 7.92mm machine gun; anti-personnel grenades; and four or five 22-lb. bombs
Engine: Mercedes D III 6-cylinder in-line, water-cooled engine of 160 hp
Maximum speed: 112 mph
Range: 300 miles
Ceiling: 21,000 ft.
Span: 35 ft. 2 7/8 in.
Length: 21 ft. 5 1/2 in.
Height: 8 ft. 9 1/8 in.
Weight: 2,350 lbs. loaded

Data and photos from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, except as indicated.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

My Take on the Movie 1917

By Editor/Publisher Mike Hanlon

George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as
Lance Corporals Schofield & Blake

I want to strongly recommend 1917 to anyone interested in the First World War as an immersive experience into what the frontline soldiers saw and heard. The fictional story the film tells is quite contrived (more on that below), but the techniques used by director Sam Mendes create a you-are-there feeling of immediacy and a sense of identification with two soldiers sent on a dangerous mission. The fabricated, yet authentic, battlefield he has conjured up takes  decisive precedence over the dubious premise of the story, various holes in the plot, and occasional gaffes missed by the script editors and quality-control people. Further, while 1917 is not a history lesson about the specifics of the Great War, it is, though—to my thinking—a remarkable appreciation of the dutiful attitudes and sensibilities of the men who served in the war.

I saw the film on 14 January with my lady and will share here some of my thoughts on it with my readers. There are a few minor spoilers below, but I don’t think that they are going to ruin things for anyone who hasn’t seen 1917 yet.

1. An Effective Start

Wake Up!

The opening scene of the movie is a kick in the butt. No, really. A very old-school sergeant applies his boot to a dozing lance corporal (one of the film’s two principal characters) and rudely tells him, “Blake, pick a man. Bring your kit.” With that one action not only are Blake and his sidekick Schofield set in motion but the audience is primed for the ensuing and accelerating action, of which there is a lot to keep up with.

2. My Favorite Special Effect
The movie incorporates CGI and every technological trick of the 21st-century movie industry. An authentic looking disabled Mark II tank dropped into a crater in the middle of no-man’s-land was my favorite. It appears early in the film and the men pass it in a flash, but it will please those of you who—like me—crave authenticity in his war movies. Runner-up is the trench network from which the two messengers start out. Those trenches are the dirtiest and most lived-in I’ve ever seen in a movie. They made me itch.

Moving Past a Destroyed Mark II Tank

3. Buy the Premise and Move On
Blake and Schofield are ordered to hike overland nine miles through terrain recently abandoned by the Germans bearing orders for a gung-ho colonel to cancel an attack he is intending to mount the next morning. The colonel is not aware that he is facing the newly installed Hindenburg Line and that the 1,600 men of his two battalions will be utterly slaughtered if they attack it as he intends. We are to believe there is no other way to get a cancelling message through. Telephone lines have been cut. Wireless, flags, flares, etc, don’t seem to be available or feasible. No aircraft can be spared to drop a message on the position. And, although he has lost all communications with his rear and artillery support, as well as for any possible resupply of ammunition and other essentials, the colonel on the spot is apparently making no effort at correcting these deficiencies so he can check in with his headquarters, open up his supply lines, and get some artillery support for his attack. I just don’t buy the setup or the utterly oblivious colonel out of touch with the entire British Army.

To be honest, though, I knew about the implausibility of all this before I saw the film. As a result, I didn’t bother to even reflect on the logic of the mission as the general (well played by Colin Firth) explains it to the two soldiers. I just got on board, and I would advise future viewers to move on and not let it disturb the enjoyment  of a movie which has so much to offer. Just as you have to accept faster-than-the-speed-of-light travel to appreciate a good science fiction movie, accept General Erinmore’s description of the situation as real and watch on.

From Top Left: Andrew Scott as Lt. Leslie;
Mark Strong as Captain Smith; Unnamed & 
Uncredited Rat

4. Best Supporting Players
The cast is uniformly excellent, but three supporting actors hypnotically take over the screen in their brief segments. Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) is a delight as the bitter, sarcastic lieutenant charged with inserting the two messengers out into no-man’s-land in broad daylight. Mark Strong, who frequently plays heavies, is outstanding as the highly capable officer in charge of a passing truck convoy that plays a critical role in supporting the floundering mission. Last, I found myself enchanted by an unnamed and ultimately suicidal rat, who is to my thinking is the most agile and athletic rodent in movie history. I couldn’t tell if he was animatronic, computer enhanced, or simply incredibly well trained, but I’m now a member of his fan club. 

There's a Lot of Action in This Town

5. What Town Was That Burning?
I had to do a little research on this when I got home. Écoust, is a little town southeast of Arras. Its location fits the historical narrative quite well, although the real  Écoust is much more rural-looking than the town in the film. Also,  I've never noticed a river with raging rapids running through it when I've passed through the town on my visits to nearby Bullecourt. Nevertheless, the fictional Écoust plays a spectacular and haunting role in the film.

6. A Few Quibbles
I’m trying to avoid giving away too much here, but these are details that jarred me, as I found them totally implausible.
A single Sikh soldier from the Indian Army who is somehow serving in an otherwise all-British regiment
The most ungrateful  wounded enemy combatant  ever
A hokey blind jump  action sequence borrowed  (I think) from Indiana Jones
The presumably improvised, yet elegant-looking, assault trenches for the final over-the-top scene that appear to have been dug by excavating and contouring machinery
An aristocratic British officer who tells an exhausted enlisted man to “F*** off”

The Devonshires Just Before Battle

7. Brought Tears to My Eyes

The death of one of the messenger soldiers
The surviving soldier, who is lost,  but still hoping to find the Devonshire Regiment, stumbles upon them in a wood, where a single soldier is movingly singing the ballad “Wayfaring Stranger”
Soldier 2 encounters now deceased Soldier 1's brother in the last scene of the movie

8.  A Most Fitting Conclusion

In the end credits the film is dedicated to Lance Corporal Alfred H. Mendes—the director's grandfather, who served in the war.  Mr. Mendes, you did your grandfather, and all his mates, proud. Well done.