A guest post by LH Member Suzie Grogan. This article first appeared in London Historians Members’ Newsletter from November 2013. Before 1914, the idea that war could be waged in the air was b…
The RMS Lusitania arrives in New York on the 13th of September, 1907.
At 9:05am on the 13th of September, 1907, the RMS Lusitania completed her maiden voyage from England.
The voyage from Liverpool, England via Ireland on what was then the world’s largest ocean liner had taken five days (and fifty-something minutes) to complete.
Promotional material for the ship’s first class dining room, alongside a photograph of the same scene.
The Lusitania stayed in New York for a week before departing again for England. During that time she was made available for tours.
New York, September 1907.
The ocean liner’s career would end when she was sunk by a German U-boat in the First World War, killing 1198 of the 1959 people on board.
When it comes to the total number of deaths one person is responsible for Hitler is hard to top (beaten only by Stalin and Mao). The number of non-combatants killed under the Nazi regime is in the region of 11,000,000 according to Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale. I find this to be a reasonable and accurate estimate based on my own research. The true devastation and trauma of murder is easily forgotten when simply tallying death tolls as statistics – even more so when we are discussing an amount as colossal as 11,000,000. As Snyder eloquently puts it himself:
“Discussion of numbers can blunt our sense of the horrific personal character of each killing and the irreducible tragedy of each death. As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, the difference between zero and one is an infinity. (1)
But how many deaths was Hitler personally responsible for? We discuss the answer below, looking at all…
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Lois Dean has researched and written this powerful story from Bolton’s archives.
Shot at Dawn and an Appeal for Forgiveness
The brave young Bolton soldier had faced guns before, at Gallipoli and the Somme, but those James Smith faced early on the morning of 5th September 1917 were to be fired by his own countrymen – friends and comrades from his own unit.
James ‘Jimmy’ Smith became the only Boltonian to be ‘shot at dawn’ after being found guilty by a military tribunal of desertion and cowardice. However, his experience of the horrors of war told a different story, one that led to his pardon nearly 90 years later.
Born in Noble Street, Bolton, in 1891, the son of James and Elizabeth Smith, Jimmy was brought up by his aunt and uncle when his mother died soon after his birth. At 18, he joined the Lancashire Fusiliers as a…
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Black Tom pier photographed on the 31st of July, 1916, a day and a half after the explosion.
On the 30th of July, 1916, German agents blew up a pier in New Jersey, USA in an attempt to sabotage American-made munitions intended for World War One.
The worst of the explosions took place at 2:08am, by which point some guards had fled at the sight of fire, knowing what was to come.
The explosion was so great some of the fragments became lodged in the Statue of Liberty, and a clock was stopped over a mile away. The time was frozen at 2:12am.
It is estimated that seven people were killed. Hundreds were injured, and the explosion was felt as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland.
It was later revealed that a Slovak immigrant, who had earlier served in the US Army, was responsible for the explosions, and…
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Christina Broom (née Livingston, 1862 – 1939) was a lone female London photographer of the Edwardian age and during World War One. Her achievements are all the more remarkable considering her small physical stature and the floor length dresses and elaborate hats she was obliged to wear at that time while lugging around cumbersome photographic equipment. Broom made a living out of postcards and also selling news images to the press. Lord Roberts and Queen Mary were among her great admirers, which helped to gain her often exclusive access to places like the Royal Mews and Wellington Barracks where she enjoyed carte blanche to shoot at will. The result was hundreds images of London’s streets and people during the early decades of the 20th Century.
In 2014 the Museum of London acquired a…
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On 31 July, the day after Russia demanded seizure of the two Turkish dreadnoughts, the British Cabinet, with its attention drawn to the crisis in Serbia, accepted that they should be retained by the Royal Navy. Churchill later said he requisitioned the ships on 28 July. His memory, though suspect, always ensured that he took all the credit.
British sailors boarded Sultan Osman 1 that same day and the Ottoman ambassador was informed that the warship was being detained for the time being.  Buoyed by the seizure of the Turkish dreadnoughts, and confirmation by telegram from France that the government there was in ‘hearty high spirits’ and ‘firmly decided on war,’  Russia continued full speed with the general mobilisation of her armies on Germany’s eastern border. At 4 pm on 1 August, the French also ordered general mobilisation. There was no turning back. It meant war.  Over…
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It was January 100 years ago when things turned badly wrong for 28 or so British Antarctic explorers under the command of Ernest Shackleton. Nowadays people jog up Kilimanjaro for charity and text home while they are doing it, but at the turn of the century there were still mountains unclimbed and places in the world unseen by human eye. And when you went to these places, they were, to coin a Shrek meme ‘far, far away’. The end was nigh though for explorers seeking firsts. Shackleton had wanted to be the first to the South Pole, but was beaten by Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1911.
Sir Ernest Shackleton
Though World War One had begun he was encouraged to set off to complete the challenge he set himself as consolation prize. The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was just that — a walk across the continent. Two ships were involved — one…
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Napoleon called the British a nation of shopkeepers. As the first Christmas of the 1914-18 war neared, those shopkeepers of Britain were concerned the country might be distracted from being a nation of customers. To remedy it for that year and throughout the war, much marketing effort was put into keeping the home tills ringing.
You could not beat hinting that what was right for the Royal Family is right for the masses, so in December 1914 a Derby stationer took those to task any who might be downsizing their Christmas in wartime. “Follow the Queen’s Lead” its advertisement bellowed. “Queen Alexandra has ordered her Christmas cards and presents — AS USUAL”. The queen in question was Danish-born Alexandra, the dowager mother of the monarch. She had always hated the Prussian side of Queen Victoria’s Saxe Coburg Gotha family, so you can bet that nephew Kaiser Wilhelm was off the…
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This military action on 11th November 1918 is breathtakingly monstrous.
Like some other powers, there are a great many misconceptions about the part played by the Russian Empire in World War I. This is true generally but also in regards to the Russian Imperial Army with about the only thing every historian seems to agree on being the courage and endurance of the average Russian soldier. As was not uncommon in those days, but particularly so in Russia, the army also had a special bond with the monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, and many of the misconceptions about Russia and the Russian military necessarily involve the Tsar. In the first place, there is a misconception as to the overall quality of the Russian Imperial Army at the start of the war and a misconception about the part played by the Tsar in, if not starting the war, at least escalating it from a regional conflict into a world war. In some ways, the two are linked as both are often related to the most recent conflict Russia had fought prior to August of 1914; the war with Japan. In both instances, the Tsar was accused of being recklessly aggressive and the army was, in both instances, accused of performing rather poorly. In fact, the opposite is true. In East Asia, just as Russia had earlier taken up the role of defending China, and so gain an ice-free port on the Pacific, so too did Russia move to defend the Han Empire of Korea from the Japanese. As master of the vastly larger power, in land, population and resources, the Tsar was confident that Japan…
Continue reading: The Mad Monarchist: The Russian Army in World War I.
I hope that nobody is unaware of the fact that 2014 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, in August 1914. To many of you, especially those still young, it might seem like a dusty old piece of history, played out on TV in black and white. You may well consider that it has no relevance any more, and it is of no interest to you whatsoever. You will have no intention of sitting through the endless documentaries, dramatised reconstructions, or worthy coverage of commemorations. Please think again. We can all learn much from the follies of this tragic conflict, and the reasons that it began.
My own grandparents were born in the year 1900. Both of my grandfathers were lucky enough to not have to serve in this war, as they only reached the required age of 18 as the war ended. Other…
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