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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Memorial Day in the Year 2020

Surely, this past Memorial Day has been the most peculiar in our nation's history. Nevertheless, many Americans went out of their way to make sure our fallen were properly remembered. Here are some of them.

Click on Images to Enlarge

Vietnam Memorial, Philadelphia, PA

Scene at the National World War I Museum and Memorial,
Kansas City, MO

Marine Rifle Team, Union Cemetery, Antioch, CA

Remembering a Loved One, Cudsworth Cemetery, MA

Headline Pennsylvania Patriot-News, PA

Nags Head, NC, Remembrance Ceremony

Member of the 3rd Infantry Honor Guard Placing Flags at
Arlington National Cemetery

Medal of Honor Recipient James McCloughlan (Black Shirt) Marched with a Color Guard Through Downtown South Haven, MI, Despite the Official Cancellation of the Annual Parade

President Trump Wreath Laying, Arlington National Cemetery

Virtual Memorial Day Video Program of the 
American Battle Monuments Commission

Fighting the Spanish Flu with Posters

Click on Images to Enlarge

Friday, May 29, 2020

My Western Front Walks During the 2020 Shutdown

This is actually a Roads Classic from 2016.  Like many of you, I believe, these days I need to get out of the house for walks to avoid climbing-up-the-walls syndrome. So, I'm getting in a lot of walking. On my list of preferred routes, this is one I hit at least once a week. Here's the original article.

I have been blessed with a hiking location just a few miles from my home in the East Bay area of Northern California, which—for reasons that will be explained below—provides me with many reminders of the Western Front. As you might guess, this is quite inspiring for someone who regularly leads tours of the actual battlefields. Before I share a little history of this site, let me show you some images of my favorite walking trails, at 2,300-acre Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, and share how some of the stops bring distant locations to mind.

Entrance Signage

Crossing the Rail Bridge from the Parking Lot into the Main Park, Reminds Me of Hill 60 at Ypres and the Site of Caterpillar Mine Crater to the Right (Actually It's the Site of the West County Jail.)

A Bunker in the Woods
Point Pinole has been a regional park since 1973. The previous owner was the Atlas Powder Company, one of several firms that manufactured gunpowder and dynamite at the site for a century. This is why it has bunkers and protected areas all over the site.

There Are Trench Remains Everywhere You Look
Just One Example Here

Demolished Site, Reminiscent of Y-Ravine at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme

There are craters formerly used as blast and burning areas and what appear to be trails where the routes for the mini-trains used to shuttle material around the site. These companies have an interesting financial history tracing back to the entrepreneurship of none other than Alfred Nobel and the anti-trust breakup of the DuPont Powder Company.

A Sunken Artillery Position

Hillside Pillbox
As you might guess, this West Coast plant for Atlas Powder did a lot of work during the Great War.  I don't have statistics for the Pinole site, but the firms derived from the trust breakup are said to have manufactured 40 percent of the munitions used by the Allies and the U.S. in the war, making well over a billion dollars (1914 dollars) during the war years.

Field Fortification

Same Site Up Close

Different Vegetation, but This Always Reminds Me of the Wheat Field
the Marines Crossed at Belleau Wood 

What I do know for sure is that we ended up with a great and evocative park. I've been taking advantage of it since 1984.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Remembering a Veteran: Signaler and Diarist Sergeant Cyril Lawrence, AIF

By Craig Fullerton

Australian Signalers at Gallipoli—Cyril Lawrence on Right
(Editor's Correction:  This article was revised and corrected on 2 June 2020.  The editor's were lately very surprised to discover that there were two members of the AIF named Cyril Lawrence, who served in Gallipoli and on the Western Front and were both diarists. Ignorant of the second diarist, your editor drew from the writings of both Cyril's to supplement Craig Fullerton's original article. In this revision, I have deleted the entries from the second Cyril and expanded the entries from Cyril #1.)

Cyril Lawrence was apprenticed as a blacksmith in early 1913 when he was about 18 years old and working for a smithy in Brunswick, Victoria, when World War I broke out. He was probably living with his mother at 20 Staley Street, Brunswick, at the time. He enlisted as a sapper in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on 19 August 1914, just 15 days after Australia entered the war. He had just turned 19. He was allocated the service number 132 and assigned to the 1st Australian Division Signal Company. He listed his next-of-kin as his mother, Mary. He indicated that he had previous experience in the Signal Engineers and Senior Cadets for two years. Cyril was just 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed just 9 stone, 10 lbs, so he was not a big man. He had a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair.  

He left Australia on 20 October 1914 on board the HMAT Karroo, and his unit initially spent time training in Egypt. But by 5 April 1915 they had joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force off the Gallipoli Peninsula. The MEF was part of the British Army and commanded all the Allied forces at Gallipoli. At this time it was in the throes of planning for the Gallipoli landings, which took place on 25 April 1915. Cyril Lawrence was among those who created the Anzac legend on that fateful day. 

As soon as the sappers landed they established a divisional signal office and laid wires between HQ and the brigades at the front lines. This involved men physically rolling out miles and miles of cable—an extremely hazardous task. But by midnight the HQ signalers sat with telephones and message forms and were constantly in touch with the frontline commanders. One of Cyril’s signaler comrades from another battalion—Elias Silas—recorded an account in a book he published in 1916. His diary for 25 April provides a graphic account of what the signalers had to contend with on that day and the following days:

25 April: In the distance one can just discern the Dardenelles opening up – the thunder of the guns is much clearer – the weather this morning is beautiful; what will it be to-night? Studies. I have eaten well. I can now see fire from the guns. I wonder which of the men round me has been chosen by Death. I do not feel the least fear, only a sincere hope that I may not fail at the critical moment. 

5.30 pm: [Aboard ship] We are on the battlefield, well under the fire of the enemy – it is difficult to realise that every burst of flame, every spurt of water, means Death or worse. For days before we reached the final scene in the ‘Great Adventure’ we could hear the ceaseless thunder of the bombardment, we have been told of the impossible task before us, of probable annihilation; yet we are eager to get to it; we joke with each other about getting cold feet, but deep down in our hearts we know when we get to it we will not be found wanting.  

The Assembly is sounded – I have never seen it answered with such alacrity – there is a loud cheer as we gather together in the hold. Here for last time in this world many of us stand shoulder to shoulder. As I look down the ranks of my comrades I wonder which of us are marked for the land beyond. Perhaps I shall fly through the side of the ship to answer my question. I don’t  think I can carry my kit – I can scarcely stand with the weight of it ... I have often been told of the danger of signalling – that few signallers last more than three days. Now indeed is this brought home to me with considerable force – once more I pray that I may not fail the Battalion in the hour of need – I know full well that the miscarriage of a message may mean the lives of hundreds of men. The destroyer alongside us is signaling, but the Navy men are to quick for me – please God the others won’t be. The sailors are very kind to us, I think they know what we are going to face – can see boat-loads of wounded being towed from the shore – shrapnel just burst over our heads, thank God no damage – getting nearer the shore, Turks pelting us like anything. The ships are keeping the top of the ridges under a continual line of fire – am just told that we have landed 20,000 men. We are transferring into the boats – it is raining lead – Turks firing wide. 

Finally Ashore: It was relief to get ashore; we are packed so tightly in the boats and moreover so heavily laden with our kit that, had a shot hit the boat, we should have no chance of saving ourselves – it was awful the feeling of utter helplessness. Meanwhile the Turks pelted us hot and fast. In jumping ashore I fell over, my kit was so heavy; I couldn’t get up without help – fortunately the water was shallow at this point, otherwise – . It was a magnificent spectacle to see those thousands of men rushing through the hail of Death as though it was some big game – these chaps don’t seem to know what fear means – in Cairo I was ashamed of them, now I am proud to be one of them though I feel a pigmy beside them. Wish there wasn’t quite such damned noise with the guns, it is sending me all to pieces – don’t think I shall ever make a soldier. The beach is littered with wounded, some of them frightful spectacles; perchance myself I may at any moment be even as they are. Indians bringing ammunition mules along the beach – the scene of carnage worries them not all. It is commencing to get dark – we are now climbing the heights. I am given a pick to carry – half way up I had to drop it, it was too much for me. The lads on the top of the hill are glad to see us for they have been having an anxious time holding their position on the Ridge – ‘Pope’s Hill’ – they had scarcely time to throw up more than a little earth to take cover behind. The noise now is Hell. 

Into Action: Cannot find any Signallers of my Station – I will look for my Captain, Margolin, they are sure to be with him. There was no time to wait for orders; I must work on my own initiative – in any case the Captain will want a Signaller with him. Now some of the chaps are getting it – groans and screams everywhere, calls for ammunition and stretcher bearers, though how the latter are going to carry stretchers along such precipitous and sandy slopes beats me. Now commencing to take some of the dead out of the trenches; this is horrible; I wonder how long I can stand it. ‘Signaller’ – I just had to get a message to Headquarters – it had been raining a little, I found it almost impossible to keep my foothold, I kept slipping down all the way along. Colonel Pope seemed very worried and tired; have just heard that our Signal Lieutenant Wilton and Sergeant Major Emmett badly wounded in abdomen. Turks playing funny bugle calls all night long and yelling out, always in English. Bursts of fire from our men – officers doing all they can to stop it as we are getting short of ammunition – more bugling by Turks, makes me think of a Cairene descendanTs of marY Jones 497 Bazar; the idea of the bugles is supposed to impress us – the Turks would be vexed if they knew what we really thought. I have been running dispatches all night and in between endeavouring to make a dug-out – I couldn’t lift the pick so had to use my trenching tool. Wonder what I am going to do for rations – I had to throw mine out, it was too heavy for me to carry. Feeling very weak and tired. . .

27 April: Still fighting furiously – now all signalers have been wiped out of A and B Companies except myself. Just had a shell each side of my dug-out – I felt in a real panic as it is a most horrible sensation. Our ships have missed the range and sent eleven shells into us in a minute; I do not think anyone has been hit – the Turks’ trenches are so near ours that it is marvelous how accurately the ships find the range. For three days and nights I have been going without a stop occasionally having a go at my dug-out which, up to the present, is nothing more than a hole – the continual cry of ‘Signaller’ never seems to cease. While going up to the Captain’s dug-out with a message from Headquarters I nearly got pipped by a machine-gun; fortunately one of the lads pulled me down into safety – I don’t seem to feel it’s any use worrying; if I’m to get hit nothing can stop it, and to keep dodging down into dug-outs gets on my nerves – I can’t stand being cramped into small spaces. The Turks have now got hold of the names of our officers and keep giving messages purporting to emulate from said officers. All night long the Turks have been harassing us heavily – ever and anon ‘Enemy advancing on the right,’ ‘Enemy advancing on the left’ – all messages now have to be whispered along the line. There is a pale moon – any minute we are expecting the enemy to rush the trenches – we have no reserves. 

Somehow, Cyril Lawrence also survived the mayhem and carnage of these opening days at Gallipoli. However, on 26 May his luck ran out and he was wounded, receiving a shrapnel wound to his right leg. He was evacuated to the No. 1 General Hospital in Heliopolis, Egypt. By 15 June he had recovered, was discharged, and rejoined his unit at the front. Just over a month later he was back in hospital with a bout of influenza that laid him up for two weeks. He rejoined his unit on 7 August, when it was in the midst of the Battle of Lone Pine.

The Australians suffered an estimated 2,277 casualties and the opposing Turkish forces between 5,000 and 6,000 killed or wounded during that battle. Two months after enduring the horrors of the Gallipoli landings, Cyril was still in the thick of it. Later, he would vent about the mismanagement of the campaign.

The New Sergeant
(Author's Website)
On 1 December 1915 he was promoted to the rank of 2nd corporal. This was initially a temporary promotion necessitated by the evacuation of 2nd Corporal Burns, who was sick, but he was confirmed in the rank on 12 January 1916. He rose rapidly after that, attaining the rank of corporal on 28 February 1916 and just over a year later, on 30 March 1917, sergeant. The Australian 1st Division left Gallipoli in December 1915. Sometime before his departure, Cyril made one of his most lyrical entries one evening:

He boarded the Grampian on about 21 March 1916 bound for France, disembarking at Marseilles a week later, on 28 March. On 28 May he was once again admitted to hospital and finally rejoined his unit on 17 August and within a few days was sent to England for training at the Royal Engineers Training Depot at Hitching in Hertfordshire. He would spend his 21st birthday there, and his training concluded on 21 March 1917 when he set off to rejoin his unit in France, arriving six days later. By this time the 1st Australian Division Signal Company was in Baizieaux, in the Somme region in the northwest of France. 

By 7 April the unit had relocated to nearby Bancourt where it engaged in the never-ending task of maintaining the communications network, laying miles and miles of telephone cable to the ever-changing infantry and artillery frontline positions as they began to get the upper hand over the beleaguered German forces. Upon being promoted to sergeant on 30 March 1917, Cyril was assigned to the No. 1 Artillery subsection. It was during battle on 18 May 1917 that he was hit by an enemy shell, receiving a severe wound in the back. He was evacuated and treated at the 34th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) situated in La Chapelette, near Peronne about 12 miles to the east of Amiens. Tragically, he died from his wounds just five days later, on 23 May 1917. In his last days he received a number of visits from the chaplain of the 34th CCS, Rev. John M. Forbes, who wrote to his mother, Mary, after Cyril’s death. Cyril was buried at La Chapelette British Cemetery. His grave is located at Plot I, Row E, Grave No. 7.

Back home, Cyril’s death was announced in The Argus:

LAWRENCE – Killed in action, somewhere in France, on the 23rd May, Sergeant Cyril Lawrence, dearly beloved eldest son of Mary and the late Harry Lawrence, “Selukwe”, 20 Staley Street, Brunswick; loving brother of Jean (Mrs Reitschell), Nellie, Florrie, and Aubrie, after two years and 10 months service in Egypt, Gallipoli, and France, of the First Contingent, aged 21 years and 8 months; late of Harrietville. Another Anzac hero Called for higher service (Inserted by his loving mother, sisters, and brother)

Excerpted from Craig Fullerton's IN THE SHADOW OF FEATHERTOP, 2014 winner of the Alexander Henderson Award for Best Australian Family History. The book can be ordered at Craig's website:

He also has information on all the members of his extended family that served, and in some cases lost their lives in the war here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Saga of Submarine Turquoise

1913 Photo of Turquoise

The British-French Dardanelles submarine campaign lasted from April through December 1915. Nine British and four French submarines took part. Several Allied submarines were lost attempting to go up the strait into the Sea of Marmara and one was lost coming out. One French submarine, Turquoise, successfully penetrated the straits in early October but ran into serious trouble on 30 October when it ran aground near Nagara Point within range of Turkish shore batteries. Captured, her captain failed both to scuttle her and to destroy classified information aboard. 

Turquoise Crew in Captivity, Bastille Day 1918

Included in the sensitive material onboard was material on a planned rendezvous of Turquoise with British submarine E-20 in the Sea of Marmara on 6 November. The Turks promptly passed that information to their German allies, and UB-14  waited submerged at the rendezvous point. When E-20 showed up on the surface, she was torpedoed and sunk by UB-14. Only nine of the crew survived. The entire crew of Turquoise survived and was held captive for the remainder of the war.

Müstecip Onbaşı

The boat, however, was moved to dry dock and quickly made available to the Ottoman Navy. Renamed Müstecip Onbaşı, the submarine served until Turkey's withdrawal from the war. It was officially returned to France in January 1919 and was eventually scrapped in Istanbul.

Source: Submarine Operational Effectiveness in the 20th Century: Part One. Australian War Memorial; Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pusher Aces of World War I

by Jon Guttman
Osprey Publishing, 2009
Dale Thompson, Reviewer

Farman MF11 Pilot and Observer Both Manning Machine Guns

Jon Guttman is well known for his treatment of WWI aviation history. In his latest, Pusher Aces of World War I, Guttman brings to life the history of the pusher aircraft and their pilots.

The pusher aircraft were so called because the propeller and engine were behind the wing, just like the Wright Fliers of ten years previously. They were deployed with the French and British squadrons at the start of the war, 1914. Initially they were used as observation and photo-reconnaissance platforms. What better place for the observer than out in front? As soon as the observers began shooting at each other it was found that the gunner did very well out in front; it was also found that these aircraft were highly vulnerable to attack from the rear.

The German aircraft in 1914 were all tractors, with the engine and propeller ahead of the pilot. At that time the British and French were developing their own tractor-type fighter aircraft that began to displace the pushers. With the arrival of the Fokker Eindeckers and their synchronized machine guns in 1915, the pushers were completely outclassed as fighters.

Pusher Aces traces the development and deployment of these aircraft, following their combat action and the pilots and gunners who flew them. This book will serve as a valuable source for historians who are studying either aircraft or combat crews during World War I. There is little detail on he developmental history of the various models built by Voisin, Farman, Vickers, de Havilland, and others. The book, though, features substantial detail about the crews and combat the pushers encountered.

Author Guttman's editors augmented this book with 24 superb color plates showing makes, models, and color schemes for the pushers. A fine collection of black-and-white photos is also distributed throughout the book. The appendix includes a table of the aces who flew these aircraft, tabulated by name, scores, aircraft type and serial number, and their squadrons. This listing should be of special interest to researchers. A bibliography is included in the appendix. Jon Guttman has contributed yet another valuable volume on WWI aircraft and pilots and their contributions in that war.

Originally Presented in the Winter 2010 Issue of Relevance: Quarterly Journal of the Great War Society

Monday, May 25, 2020

George Marshall Reflects on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

Marshall at Ft. Benning
Former chief of operations for the U.S. First Army during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive,  Lt. Col George C. Marshall led the Army’s Infantry School at Fort Benning during the post-World War I period from 1927 to 1932. In 1931, one of his former instructors, Capt. Lloyd Winters, then assigned to the 21st Infantry Regiment in Hawaii, wrote Marshall to ask for comments for a lecture he planned to deliver for on the Meuse-Argonne operation. Below is the response. I have underlined some points I found particularly striking

Critical reviews of the Meuse-Argonne operation are usually concerned with strategical and larger tactical aspects of the battle. The most instructive phases would seem to be those related to smaller affairs, matters of direction and method within the brigade, and especially in the battalion and the company. However, every lesson should be learned with a clear understanding of the special conditions under which the battle was fought—a tired and outnumbered enemy, unable to strike a heavy counter-blow but extraordinarily skillful in the employment of artillery and machine guns; our troops [were] strong and vigorous, but deficient in training and lacking that finesse of troop leadership which comes from experience.

To me, the following were the most instructive aspects of the battle:

The chaotic conditions which usually developed within a few hours of a formal “jump off”. Troops could be lined up for a set assault and carried through the first phase in comparatively good order, but as the necessity for local decisions, maneuver, adjustments and cooperation developed the efforts became disorganized or confused to a remarkable degree, and only the courage and determination of the natural leaders enabled the troops to press on. Leaders understood how to deploy but seldom how to [re-de]ploy or regroup their scattered forces without bringing the action to a standstill. Fighting of this character will be normal to open warfare.

The inability of subordinate leaders to achieve a combination of fire and movement. Under the stress of battle headlong attacks were usually launched, and while often successful, heavy losses and disorganization usually robbed the unit of further striking power.

Inability of local leaders to approximate any idea of the situation beyond their immediate flanks. The misunderstandings and unfortunate results, due to the above reason, made tragic history over the entire battlefield. The strain of the fighting was so intense that the brain of leaders seemed a blank to all but the violent impressions of their immediate front.

The small part pure tactics played in the handling of most situations. Local decisions were usually dominated by reasons other than tactical,—fatigue, inability or unwillingness to alter existing dispositions, and response to orders to renew the attack by efforts straight to the front. Yet in our training we usually consider only the tactical problem.

Doughboys Advancing in the Argonne

The serious effect of poor arrangements to provide hot food to the fighting line. In the few divisions where the supply of hot food was rigorously required, the more so when the fighting was desperate, troops performed feats utterly beyond those who received cold food or went hungry. The former were able to remain “in the line” for much longer periods, to the great saving of the army reserves being collected to stage a renewed general assault. In prolonged fighting the delivery of food is as important as the maintenance of communications.

The small understanding of the practical proposition of maintaining morale. Few officers understood the fatal effect on their troops of a pessimistic attitude and of criticism of seniors. Where the opposite condition existed the troops often achieved the impossible. Their success was seldom due to tactics or technique, unless it was the technique of leadership. It might truthfully be said that in most instances the performance of the troops could be accurately measured by the mental attitude and bearing of the leaders. It was seldom that a determined, resourceful leader failed. It was seldom that a dispirited or disgruntled or critical leader succeeded. Courage was a common trait, but not fortitude and unquestioned loyalty.

In general, it has seemed to me that we discuss the battle in a large or ponderous fashion, ignoring those features which really determined the issue in the hundreds of local situations which made up the great operation. Unless we deal with the facts about these, the errors will all be repeated, and to a more serious degree in warfare of movement with an army taking the field in the first month of a war.

Source: Lloyd N. Winters Papers, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Krieg (War) by Käthe Kollwitz

The Sacrifice

Most readers are probably familiar with Käthe Kollwitz's dramatic Grieving Parents sculpture. (Article HERE.) After the Great War, however, her work shifted from sculpture to graphic art.  One critic described her later work  as featuring "strong arresting images with simple dignified subjects. The forms are deceptively simple. They reflect her single-mindedness yet belie the grueling struggle for technical perfection and clarity of expression which was involved in their perfection."

The Volunteers

The Mothers

From the MOMA website:

In 1919, Käthe Kollwitz began work on Krieg (War), her response to the tragedies endured during what she called those "unspeakably difficult years" of World War I and its aftermath. The portfolio's seven woodcuts focus on the sorrows of those left behind—mothers, widows, and children. Kollwitz had struggled to find the appropriate means of expression until she saw an exhibition of Ernst Barlach's woodcuts in 1920. Revising each print through as many as nine preparatory drawings and states, Kollwitz radically simplified the compositions. The large-format, stark black-and-white woodcuts feature women left to face their grief and fears alone, with their partners, or with each other.

The Widow II

The Widow

Only one print, Die Freiwilligen (The Volunteers), shows the combatants. In it, Kollwitz's younger son, Peter, who died in the war, takes his place next to Death, who leads the troops in an ecstatic procession to war.  Kollwitz wanted these works to be widely viewed. By eliminating references to a specific time or place, she created universally legible indictments of the real sacrifices demanded in exchange for abstract concepts of honor and glory. The prints were exhibited in 1924 at the newly founded International Anti-War Museum in Berlin.

The Parents

The People

Sources: Australian War Memorial and the MOMA Websites

Saturday, May 23, 2020

New Paired Memorials at Halifax and Passchendaele

I continue to learn of new WWI memorials that were dedicated as part of the recent Centennial commemorations. These two monuments below connect Halifax, Nova Scotia, from which 350,000 Canadian soldiers departed for the Western Front, and Flanders, where it is believed over half of the 67,000 Canadians who died in the war fell.

Click on Images to Enlarge

Embarkation Point for Departing Troops at Halifax

Canada Gate Is Located at Crest Farm from Which Canadian Forces Launched Their Final Assault to Capture the Village of Passchendaele, November 1917

Friday, May 22, 2020

"OOPS," said the editor.

Dear Readers, 

I regret to report a major goof on my part.  Roads to the Great War's comments section was spam-bombed by someone who has a lot of free-time these days.  In attempting to selectively remove dozens of malicious comments, I guess I got carried away with the delete button.   I removed—forever apparently—all your comments posted between 6 April 2020 and yesterday. You can, of course, repost them if you are inclined to.  Alas.

An American Airman Forsees His Death

I couldn't help thinking of Yeats's poem when I found this in an issue of Air and Space magazine.

Lt. Grider
(Replaced 22 May 2020)
John MacGavock Grider from Arkansas was one of 210 cadets who joined the aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps shortly after the United States entered the war in 1917. Volunteers from the group were sent to England for training. In May 1918, Grider was assigned to Royal Flying Corps 85 Squadron, where he downed four enemy aircraft [fact challenged]. On 18 June he was killed in action. After his death, his letters were edited and published by his friend Elliott White Springs. “I can’t write much these days,” wrote Grider. “I’m too nervous. I can hardly hold a pen. I’m all right in the air, as calm as a cucumber, but on the ground, I’m a wreck and I get panicky. Nobody in the squadron can get a glass to his mouth with one hand after one of these patrols. Some nights we have nightmares. We don’t sleep much.”

By the time Grider wrote the following entry, he was already a man forever changed: 

It’s only a question of time until we all get it. I’m all shot to pieces. I only hope I can stick it out. I don’t want to quit. My nerves are all gone, and I can’t stop. I’ve lived beyond my time already. It’s not the fear of death that’s done it. It’s this eternal flinching from it that’s doing it, and has made a coward out of me. Few men live to know what real fear is. It’s something that grows on you, day by day, that eats into your constitution and undermines your sanity. I have never been serious about anything in my life, and now I know that I’ll never be otherwise again. Here I am, twenty four years old. I look forty and feel ninety. I’ve lost all interest in life beyond the next patrol.

A few days later, Grider was shot down 20 miles behind German lines. He was given a decent burial by the Germans, and his grave was later found by the Red Cross. Death must have come as a relief to him.

[Ed. note: Contrary to this article, John Grider is listed on the Tablet of the Missing at the American Flanders Field Cemetery.]

[Ed. note2:  In the comments section below, you will see a reader has challenged the facts behind this article, most importantly, whether Lt. Grider was actually the author of the diary entry that forms the substance of the posting.  I will be contacting the author of the original source material [for me], a 2018 article published in Air and Space Magazine to get his view.  Our commentator cites the author of Warbirds, Elliot White Springs, as the true originator of the diary entry. My understanding, however, is that Springs drew heavily on the diary of Grider and eventually conceded this at the behest of Grider's family. The commentator was correct, however, about the photo of Lt. Grider, which I have replaced above.

Sources:  Air and Space magazine, February 2018; Find a Grave (Photo)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Secret of the Paris Gun

The Paris Gun Test Firing

During my Bat Soup Plague incarceration, my better half issued orders for me to commence de-cluttering my office forthwith. Unable to evade the mission, I soon found myself looking through my back issues of Military History Quarterly, and I re-discovered  this interesting entry from Major General David Zabecki. He rather concisely reveals the secret to  the Krupp-built Paris Gun's phenomenal 78-mile range (theoretically 81 miles according to the Encyclopedia Astronautica).

Designed by Krupp’s Professor Fritz Rausenberger, the officially designated Wilhelmgeschütz (Kaiser Wilhelm Gun) was one of the most remarkable artillery pieces ever built. Its maximum range of 126,000 meters far exceeded that of any gun built before. Or since. The Germans used three of them against Paris between March and July 1918, earning them the name Paris Guns. Very few conventional artillery pieces fired in war have been able to achieve even half their range.

The Paris Gun was constructed by inserting a 210mm liner tube into a bored-out 380mm naval gun barrel. The liner extended some 39 feet beyond the muzzle of the base barrel. A 19-foot smooth-bore extension was then added to the front of the extended liner, giving the composite barrel a length of 130 feet. The entire composite barrel required an external truss system to keep it straight.

Virtually all artillery pieces achieve their maximum range when the barrel is elevated to an angle of 45 degrees. Anything over 45 degrees is classified as high-angle fire, and as the elevation increases the range decreases. The Paris Gun, however, appeared to defy the normal laws of ballistics by achieving its maximum range at an elevation of 50 degrees. The reason was that at 50 degrees the round from the Paris Gun went significantly higher into the stratosphere than at a 45-degree elevation. The reduced air density at the higher altitudes caused far less drag on the body of the projectile, which resulted in the greater horizontal range.

Read our earlier article on the operation of the Paris Gun HERE.

Source:  Military History Quarterly, Autumn 2014.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Aviation by the U.S. Official War Artists

Click on Images to Enlarge

Valley of the Marne at Mont St. Père
George Harding Matthews

Alert Nieuports – 147th Aero Squadron
Harry Everett Townsend

Double Escape (Observation Balloon)
Harry Townsend 

Boche Plane Falling in No Man's Land
George Harding Matthews

Lame Ducks, Issoudun
J. André Smith

Vanquished by the Boche Plane
George Harding Matthews

Aero Squadron Near Toul
J. Andre Smith

Forced Landing Near Neufchateau
Harry Everett Townsend