Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the treadEdward Thomas, Roads
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
|Both Flags Fly at a Wartime Event in Philadelphia's Little Italy|
Somewhere around twenty to twenty-five percent of the United States armed forces during World War I were immigrants to this nation. Immigrants from Italy probably made up the largest national immigrant group represented in the U.S. military. Little Italy in the Great War: Philadelphia’s Italians in the Battlefield and Home Front looks at one specific Italian immigrant group and how they adapted to wartime in America. Author Richard N. Juliani, Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at Villanova University, has written extensively about the Italian immigrant experience, specializing in Philadelphia’s Italian population. In this book, Juliani “seeks to examine the impact of the war on men who served in the ranks of the military and civilians who defended the nation in industrial and civic roles on the home front” (p. 5). In doing so, Juliani points out the nuanced differences from previous works on immigrants showing their successful assimilation during the war.
Juliani’s survey of the community is vast. He discusses the origins of the war and the call from Italy for her army reservists to return for service in the war in 1915. This occasioned a deep interest in the war in the Italian community. Juliani discusses how the various sources of information and misinformation impacted the community. This, of course, is a microcosm of how the war was “marketed” to the American public in general during those years.
Juliani’s lengthy discussion of Italian immigrants in the U.S. military is thorough and helpful in understanding how these men served and how they viewed their service. The author also discusses various means of “Americanizing” immigrant soldiers of all nationalities, hundreds of thousands of whom enlisted or were drafted into the military. He provides plenty of examples and vignettes of those who served, including those who served stateside and those who served in combat. Final chapters cover the home front and the soldiers’ return to Philadelphia. A concluding chapter discusses the overall effects of the war on the veterans and the community in general.
In the end, Juliani concludes that while Philadelphia’s Italians had demonstrated their loyalty during the war, subsequent (1924) immigration quotas impacted the renewal of their pre-war life and language. Reformers’ efforts at assimilation were, according to Juliani, “made unnecessary alongside the inherent and inevitable results of daily life in America” (p. 260). Thus, Juliani sees the war as one step in the slower process of “Americanization” or assimilation that impacted individuals in different ways.
Juliani consulted a wide array of primary sources to bring us this important work that sheds light on a little-studied aspect of the war and American society. Little Italy in the Great War is a thorough analysis of how World War I impacted Philadelphia’s Italian community. It is a fine synthesis of military, social, urban, and immigration history. Our understanding of America's war effort would benefit from similar analyses of other immigrant communities. This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in Italian American history, as well as those interested in how American immigrants adapted to wartime in their new home country.
Peter L. Belmonte
Monday, February 6, 2023
|An Earlier Photo of the Future Sgt. Major Cavan|
|Dearest wife and bairns, off to France, love to you all, Daday|
|George Cavan's wife, Jean, and their three children |
(L-R) Lucy, Jean and Georgina
Sources: Article – Daily Mail, 26 February 2015; Photos – Private Collection of Maureen Rogers
Sunday, February 5, 2023
|Interior View Today|
|Position on the Battlefield|
|Topside View: Note Position of the Two Chimneys|
|Schematic Plan: The Entrances Are on the Backside of |
the Above Photo
|Partially Filled Entrance|
|Both Chimneys Survived All the Bombardments of the Battle|
|The Terrain Around Abri 320, a Century Later|
Saturday, February 4, 2023
By Katie Serena
Due to his dedication to the army, Jackie became the official mascot of the 3rd Transvaal Regiment and was taken everywhere with the soldiers. Jackie the baboon started out as a pet to a man named Albert Marr. Marr found Jackie wandering around his farm and decided to take him in and train him as a member of the family. As one does.
Jackie lived with Marr for several years, learning how to be a respectable young baboon. Then, in 1915, Marr was enlisted to join the war. Unwilling to leave Jackie behind, he asked his superiors if Jackie, too, could join the army. Much to everyone’s surprise, they said yes.
Once he was enlisted, he was treated just like all of the other soldiers. He was given a uniform, complete with buttons and regimental badges, a cap, a pay book, and his own set of rations.
He even acted like all of the other soldiers. When he saw a superior officer pass by he would stand and salute them correctly. He would also light cigarettes for his fellow officers and stand sentry, a job he excelled at due to his heightened sense of smell and hearing. He spent time in the trenches in France and was even wounded by enemy fire.
|Jackie with a Young Supporter|
During an explosive shootout in one of the trenches, Jackie was seen building a wall of stones around himself for protection. While he was preoccupied, a piece of shrapnel flew over his wall and hit his right leg.
The regiment’s doctors took Jackie via stretcher to the camp’s hospital and tried to save his leg, but unfortunately, it had to be amputated. Due to being knocked out with chloroform, and the unknown effects of chloroform on baboons, the doctors were not confident that he would recover. However, within a few days, Jackie had done just that. For his bravery, Jackie was awarded a medal for valor, as well as promoted from private to corporal.
Eventually, near the end of the war, Jackie was discharged at the Maitland Dispersal Camp in Cape Town. He left with his discharge papers, a military pension, and a civil employment form for discharged soldiers. Like a true friend, Jackie returned to the Marr family farm, giving up his life of service for a life of leisure as a pet, until his death in 1921.
Source: All That's Interesting, 31 January 2019
Friday, February 3, 2023
|Hiram Johnson—Father of the Machine Gun|
|German Torpedo Boat G-136 at Sea|
A Reminder: This is a representative listing, not inclusive of all the articles we have published on this topic in Roads to the Great War. To search our archives for other articles on this topic, or to explore other World War One interests of yours, take advantage of the site search engine at the top left corner of every page on Roads to the Great War. MH
Thursday, February 2, 2023
False Hope: 8 November 1918
. . . The night of November 8 was indeed a wild one. It was on this night that the first report, or rather the false report, of the signing of the Armistice was received. Parades formed immediately: Flags appeared from every window and from all balconies. The cafes and restaurants were crowed to capacity. Everybody seemed happy. The next morning, however, the real facts were learned and the spirits of the people somewhat damped.
Anticipation: 0800 Hrs, 11 November 1918
And this is the end of it. In three hours the war will be over. It seems incredible even as I write it. I suppose I ought to be thrilled and cheering. Instead I am merely apathetic and incredulous. . .
1100 Hrs, 11 November 1918: The AEF's Happiest Day
Again stern orders were given to roll our packs for a final drive. It was now twenty minutes to eleven, November 11th, 1918. We fell in line and marched onward.
We had had no official word yet that the armistice was to be signed. In fact we had heard so often about Germany's peace talk that we paid no attention to wild rumors.
Exactly at eleven o'clock, came the message from Marshal Foch's headquarters, the "Armistice was Signed." Instantaneously wild shrieks, shouts and yells of thousands and thousands of voices could be heard. The night had been a thing of horror! Daylight brought her joyful tidings to thousands of wearied fighters! Visions of home and dear ones, of transports homeward bound, waiting for the boys who answered the call of their country - the boys in khaki - the Yanks!
Pvt. Mathew Chopin, 356th Inf., 89th Div
As noon approached, we became conscious of an unusual quietness all around us. Firing of all kinds had almost entirely ceased. The Germans were not firing even a machine gun, though our artillery continued to send over a shell now and then. The Germans occupied the crest of the ridge along the river, and if they had had sufficient numbers, could easily have cleaned us up. After eleven o'clock, all firing ceased entirely, not a sound any where. Soon everyone was talking about it. No word had reached us yet.
A wounded fellow from our company was discovered, down near the river bank, where he had laid since before daylight. Getting a stretcher, McDermott and I went to him and dressed his wound. He was shot through the hip, and just about unconscious, as a result of his exposure to the cold. We wrapped him in a blanket, and laid him on the stretcher.
While we were getting ready to take our wounded man to the rear, a runner appeared' with the official news that an Armistice had been signed. Most everybody let out a few healthy yells, but I did not. For one reason, didn't feel much like yelling. I had some difficulty getting three more fellows to help me carry the stretcher. The one I did get had to stop every few minutes and rest. I kept urging the necessity of getting the fellow under medical care as soon as possible, for he was badly in need of attention. As we had to go back along the river bank to where we had crossed during the preceding night, I had a good opportunity to see just what we had done, and the hazardness of our undertaking.
FINALLY CAME NEWS of the Armistice. Somehow we could not believe it was true the war was actually over. Then, on Dec. 7, we saw a beautiful sight. Here came a passenger train flying U.S. flags. We climbed aboard. We were leaving German territory. I had been in a prison camp only 58 days, but felt as if I had been there 58 years.
GREAT DAY !!! THE WAR HAS ENDED !!! PEACE HAS COME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
While we were eating mess, a French soldier came running by waving a flag and yelling "Finis la guerre!" Later, an official communication affirmed the great news. We are all overjoyed. . .
On Monday at 11:30 am when the sound of cannon boomed the joyful news that the longed for peace had come ... The French seemed stunned at first--they couldn't in a moment throw off these four years of horror and grief. But [we in] the Red Cross turned out strong. [Outside, in the street], a drum appeared from somewhere ... and in a moment the crowd was singing the Marseillaise. So many people were crying that it was a little difficult. Then a procession formed ... If you could have seen me marching between a Tommy and a wounded Poilu, the latter helping me carry the flag with his good arm. A French boy scout carried the French Flag. The whole of Paris seemed to join in the parade. You never saw anything like it.
Somebody came out waving a white flag. An American officer stepped forward to greet the German. Then the German kids started coming down. We celebrated that day with the German soldiers. They came down and we mixed all up. Some of them could speak English and we could speak German. . . They were glad to see it over with, too.
Gene Lee, USMC, 51st Company, 2nd Division
Interviewed at age 104, 7 November 2003
Nov 11: Fighting stopped.We hardly knew what to do with ourselves for a while it seemed rather queer to not hear the screech of a shell or the sharp reports of rifles and machine guns. Tents were pitched in a nearby field the farmers furnishing straw to floor them with and we could have fires, smoke or anything else after dark.
On the morning of Nov 17th we started on a hike for Germany with the French making about 15 miles to a place called Dikilvenue where the company slept in a brewery and in the morning started on another hike to Borsbeke where we stayed for two days.
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
By James Patton
In 2011 Stephen Spielberg’s film War Horse was a box office smash hit, grossing $177.6 million. Spielberg’s subject character was fictional, but the move sparked an outpouring of stories written about the real "war horses." It has been estimated that at least eight million horses must have died in the First World War.
According to the Australian War Memorial, Australia sent about 136,000 horses overseas during that war. Most of these were Australian "Walers," a breed developed on the cattle stations in the outback of New South Wales that are roughly equivalent to American cow ponies. Walers were strong, quick, fast, nimble, possessed of great stamina and adapted to arid conditions. In 2015 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation produced a feature-length documentary The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse, which has never been broadcast in the U.S.
Only one of these 136,000 horses was ever returned to Australia. He was a Waler, a bay named Sandy. At 16 hands he was slightly taller than an American Quarter Horse. Due to his gentle disposition, he was picked by Major General Sir William Bridges KCB CMG (1861–1915), the commander of the 1st Australian Division. He had three mounts, but Sandy was his favorite. (See Jim Patton's earlier article on General Bridges HERE.)
Sandy’s back story is brief. He was foaled in 1907 in the "old" village of Tallangatta, Victoria, near the border with New South Wales, which was submerged by Lake Hume in the 1950s. He was owned by the O'Donnell Brothers, brickmakers.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, the O'Donnells sent Sandy to the war effort, and he was on the first convoy of ships to sail for Egypt. Somewhere along the way, he caught the eye of Bridges, though with a longish, slightly hooked nose, Sandy wasn't classically handsome.
He never landed at Gallipoli; he was one of 6,100 horses sent there, but the ship was turned around before they could be landed, as it was obvious that there would be no place for them at ANZAC Cove. He was returned to Egypt and was shipped to France six months later, where he was attached to the Australian Veterinary Corps Hospital at Calais. Though he was not used in the fighting, he was ridden by the veterinary personnel. One of his riders died in a gas attack but Sandy survived.
|Walers of the Australian Light Horse|
In October 1917 the Australian Minister of Defence, Sir George Pearce KCVO (1870–1952), decided that Sandy should be shipped home and stabled at Duntroon. There is a symmetry here. Bridges, who was fatally wounded at Gallipoli, was one of just two of the 60,000 Australians who died overseas in the First World War to be returned home for burial. His grave is at Duntroon, the Canberra-area military college that he founded in 1910.
Sandy was taken from France to England in May 1918 and embarked on the voyage from Liverpool to Australia in September. He arrived in Melbourne in November, but the war was over so he never got to Duntroon, spending the rest of his life at the central depot called Fisher’s Stables, on Remount Hill, at Maribyrnong, Victoria, which is now a part of metropolitan Melbourne. He had been there before, in 1914, when he and many other horses sent to the war had begun that journey.
He lived there until 1923, when blind and sick, he was put down. Most of Sandy’s remains are still buried there, in an unmarked site, but his head was mounted by a taxidermist and, along with one hoof, was displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. These artifacts are still there but have been in storage for a long time now. Another hoof was silver plated and given to the Royal Military College at Duntroon. The photo at the top is the only known photograph of Sandy taken when he was alive.
Today funds are being raised to erect memorial statues of Sandy at sites in both the "new" village of Tallangatta and at the site of the depot in Maribyrnong. There is also a memorial to all of the Walers and the Light Horsemen who rode them at Tamworth, New South Wales, and talk of another Waler memorial to be erected at Albany, Western Australia.
And what became of all of Australia's other war horses? Around 30,000 died in field service. Several thousand who were over 12 years of age or in poor health were put down. Some were sold off in France, mostly for slaughter. The rest were transferred to the British and Indian armies. The Australian government had judged it to be too expensive to ship the horses back to Australia where they would be surplus to military needs, glut the market and sold for cheap, thereby bankrupting horse breeders.
It is said that around 250 light horsemen couldn't bear to leave their Walers to an uncertain future in Palestine or Egypt so they shot them instead. This poem was written about one of these men:
I don’t think I could stand the thought of my old fancy hack
Just crawling round old Cairo with [Egyptians] on his back
Perhaps some English tourist out in Palestine may find
My broken-hearted Waler with a wooden plough behind
No: I think I’d better shoot him and tell a little lie
“He floundered in a wombat hole and then lay down to die”.
Sources: the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian War Memorial
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
|General Smuts on an Inspection Tour of the Western Front|
The scene is set historically and geographically. South Africa had emerged from its war between the Afrikaner Republics and the British as a country divided between empire loyalists and Boer nationalists. Its neighbors included German Southwest Africa, later Southwest Africa and now Namibia, and German East Africa, later Tanganyika, and now the mainland portion of Tanzania.
The central figure of this work, General Jan Smuts, was, like his mentor and superior Prime Minister Louis Botha, a multi-faceted man. A scholar in literature and science, placed by at least one commentator on a par with John Milton and Charles Darwin, a lawyer, a politician and a military leader, Smuts is one of the most impressive figures of both world wars.
A fighter for the Afrikaner Republics during the South African War, Smuts, along with Botha, became political leaders who strove to unite Dutch and English settlers in a Dominion of the British Empire. A political and military leader, in the tradition of Napoleon, he balanced a vision of political expansionism with his public’s desire for low casualties. Though an Empire loyalist, Smuts remained a practitioner of the South African way of war. An advocate of maneuver rather than frontal attack, he lacked the will to annihilate his enemy but led his men to victory.
|South African Troops in Action|
Envisioning the expansion of South Africa to encompass Africa to the equator and the position of the dominant Dominion in a Cape-to-Cairo British domain, Smuts’ war aims meshed with those of his British colleagues. As rulers of the waves, Britannia sought to drive the German Navy from the South Atlantic by capturing the German Western African ports of Luderitzbucht and Walvis Bay and the destruction of the German wireless stations in those ports and Windhoek. While achieving those goals, Smuts led his South African forces to capture the whole territory. Success having been achieved in the West, Smuts and his forces turned to German East Africa which it conquered in joint actions with British and Belgian units.
With South Africa holding sway over much of the southern portion of the Continent, Smuts was dispatched to London to be part of the Imperial War Cabinet and to participate in the peace conference. Resisting offers of the Egyptian Command, deeming it a sideshow, and a secret mission to Russia, which he regarded as a spent force, Smuts played roles in the development of air power and the settling of Welsh strikes. In peace discussions, Smuts’s expansionist goals were thwarted but South Africa emerged as an enhanced Dominion, and his international reputation would carry him into prominence in the Second World War.
Smuts’ war was in a secondary theatre. Why should a Roads reader take the time to add this study to his Great War canon? I see several reasons. It is well written. Katz has skillfully woven cultural, political, and military themes into his account. The text is helpfully supplemented by maps, tables, photos, a bibliography, and cartoons. A student of military operations will appreciate the detail with which they are presented.
Smuts is depicted, in my view, as more of a Pershing, in his preference for movement, than a Haig, Nivelle or Smuts's British colleagues in South Africa in their practice of static warfare and direct attack. Smuts, the Afrikaner political leader, first had to draw public opinion into support for the war before marching onto Mars’s fields. One is reminded of Confederate heroes, Joseph Wheeler and Fitzhugh Lee, who re-donned the blue to rally Southern support for the Spanish American War. Katz illustrates that some warriors fought in a manner unlike the bloodbath of the Western Front. This book reminds us that the Great War was, after all, a world war that profoundly shaped world history beyond Europe and even the Middle East. It provides a perspective lacking in most Great War histories.
Monday, January 30, 2023
|Banting in World War I|
|Dead Canadian Lewis Gunner at Canal du Nord|
|Banting in World War II|
The bodies of the three passengers were recovered on 23 February. A funeral ceremony was held in Toronto on 4 March 1941, and Banting was buried in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Lady Banting was given the Memorial Cross on Major Sir Frederick Banting’s behalf.
Source: Banting House — Birthplace of Insulin
Sunday, January 29, 2023
|President Harding Signing the Resolution, 2 July 1921|
Saturday, January 28, 2023
|Not a Natural-Looking Politician:|
With His Son Alongside, Pershing Manages to Appear Dour at an Event Honoring Him at His Hometown in January 1920
|General Leonard Wood|
Pershing Came to Despise
His Former Booster
Friday, January 27, 2023
15 October – 2 November 1914
|Indian Troops Called In to Defend Messines Ridge|
|London Scottish Territorials, Decimated at Messines, Withdrawing|
Thursday, January 26, 2023
|A Schneider on Display at the French Tank Memorial, Berry Au Bac|
Since the beginning of hostilities Colonel Jean-Baptiste Eugène Estienne was fascinated with the idea of armored transports that could bring infantry safely up to the enemy trenches. After observing frontline action the first weeks of the war, on the 25 August he declared in front of his staff and officers "Gentlemen, victory will be owned by the one of any belligerents that could place a 75mm gun on a car able to move on all terrains". He learned during the summer of 1915 that Eugene Brillié was already working on an armored prototype able to cross barbed wire, based on a Holt tractor. After gaining the approval of General Joffre for 400 orders, he gathered a small team in early February to produce the prototype of the CA-1 on the basis of the Schneider chassis, which was ready within two weeks. After relatively successful tests, Schneider began building the infrastructure for mass-producing the CA-1. This process was quite long. The first units were ready in September. At the same time Estienne was named at the head of the newly formed "Special Artillery" corp. The first unit was ready for combat in April 1917, in time for the Nivelle Offensive.
The strange tank's armament was irregularly placed. A single 75mm cannon was on the Schneider's right forward corner and had only a limited traverse. Its location inside the tank necessitated a very compact design, which resulted in a very short barrel. The short barrel length had an adverse effect on both projectile velocity and accuracy.
By period artillery standards, the Schneider had to be virtually on top of German lines before it could score chance hits at maximum range, a little over 2,000 meters or a bit above one mile. Aiming was coordinated by both the gunner and the driver, as the Schneider had to face enemy trenches at an oblique angle for the gun to face the right direction. In addition to the single 75 millimeter gun, two machine guns were mounted internally.
Amazingly, a crew of six were expected to fit inside the Schneider: two machine gunners, a driver/commander, a 75mm cannon gunner, a loader for the cannon, and one mechanic/machine gun loader. Ventilation in the terribly cramped space was achieved through ventilation slits in the roof, which were intended to suck hot air and shooting fumes outside the vehicle. Though significantly more capable than preceding tank designs, the Schneider CA-1 had several design flaws that hindered its usefulness. Externally carried fuel tanks were prone to catching fire when hit. Moreover, in order to increase range, additional fuel was sometimes carried inside and was very likely to explode if enemy artillery penetrated the Schneider's armor.
|Schneider CA-1s Attacking at the Chemin des Dames, April 1917|
The first batches of CA-1s were ready for action on 16 April 1917, just in time to be sent into action during the Nivelle Offensive at Berry-au-Bac. A hundred and thirty-two tanks, almost all models then available, were engaged. But the result was a disaster. Many found the rough terrain was too much for their tracks, and their forward rail acted to overhang the hull, prone to ditch itself in any solid obstacle. The engine was not powerful enough, and many broke down at the very beginning. The others advanced in broad daylight and the Germans deployed a lethal artillery barrage using field guns at short range in direct fire, firing on flat trajectories against tanks which were designed to only sustain machine gun and infantry fire. Eventually, the Germans learned to target the exposed forward gasoline reserve and many burst into flames, earning it the infamous nickname of "mobile crematoriums." A total of 57 CA-1s were lost that day. Forty-four broke down at the start and the remainder managed to reach their objectives, breaking through German first and second lines. However poor coordination meant that the infantry failed to support them and retreated. Only 56 survived. The entire, futile offensive, was a disaster and Nivelle was sacked. Later on, in 1918, available Schneider CAs were reorganized into 20 Artillerie Spéciale units and given to then-general Estienne. They participated in some minor offensives including the American capture of Cantigny.
Sources: Tank-Encyclopedia.com; The National Interest