The First World War ended with the deaths of a generation of young men. But the devastation of the conflict didn’t end with that last blast of a howitzer. Thousands of soldiers went home still re-living their horrific experiences of the battlefields for many years. Their lives were damaged by shell shock, a condition many had suffered from during their military service. And, throughout Britain, doctors were baffled by this …
I have been in hospital for two weeks, hence the gap in transmission.
Lawrence tried to convince his superiors that Arab independence was in their own best interest, but found himself undermined by the Sykes-Picot agreement, negotiated in secret between French and Br…
As we pause and remember the sacrifices made all those years ago, here’s a true story that I often tell as part of my Tower Hamlets Cemetery tour. This story of heroism from a lege…
No Petticoats Here tells the stories of remarkable women who lived during the First World War, through song. As a folk singer, songwriter and some time teacher of history, I take great interest in combining music with stories from the past. Frustrated at the relatively small amount of attention given to women’s stories during the centenary commemorations of the First World War, I decided to look closer at…
Although this is fiction, it is written in the spirit of the times in which my grandparents lived. Originally posted in 2014.
Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger have set up a grand venture to commemorate WW1. For them ‘it is important to move away from cenotaphs, poppies, and the imagery we associate with war memorials’.
We can all contribute: ‘If you could say what you want to say about that war, with all we’ve learned since 1914, with all your own experience of life and death to hand, what would you say? If you were now able to write to the unknown soldier, a man who served and was killed during World War One, what would you write?’
If you’d like to take part, you can do so now. All contributions will be published on their website from 28 June. To read more about this project, click here.
‘Five foot ten of a beautiful young Englishman under French soil. Never a joke, never a look, never a word more to add to my store of memories…
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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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This post is dedicated to the memory of my great great uncle Thomas Alexander Gillanders, who was killed in action one hundred years ago today, and to those who fought alongside him at Gallipoli.
Tom was a native of Inverness and the eldest of eleven children. He was a much-loved brother of my great-grandmother who fondly recalled the time he took her on a trip to Edinburgh when she was thirteen years old. He had recently spent some time working on a farm owned by cousins in Winnipeg but had returned announcing that he did not want to face another Canadian winter and had decided to try New Zealand. His father decided that the whole family would emigrate, as the other sons would likely follow Tom eventually anyway.
The family left for New Zealand in 1908 and in 1910 they…
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Today is the centenary of the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle, the first major British assault of the Great War. It was not the first attack on the German lines as the trench war had begun in late 1914 and in December there had been several localised attacks. But these had been small scale affairs compared to Neuve-Chapelle which saw more than 40,000 British and Indian troops make a major assault on the village. The Indian Army had taken part in First Ypres and much of the fighting in late 1914 but with the Indian Corps now accounting for a sizeable part of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders this was one of their major battles of the Great War on the Western Front.
The Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial was designed by Sir Hubert Baker and unveiled in October 1927. It commemorates more than 4,700 Indian troops…
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The first submariner to be awarded the Victoria Cross was Lieutenant Norman Holbrook, captain of HMS B11. He received Britain’s highest award for gallantry after his boat sank the elderly Ottoman pre-dreadnought battleship Messudieh (alternatively Mesudiye) on 13 December 1914.
The British Admiralty, keen to move as many ships as possible to the Grand Fleet, had proposed that the blockade of the Dardanelles be left to the French. However, the threat from the German battlecruiser Goeben, now flying the Ottoman flag, meant that the French insisted that the British battlecruiser HMS Indefatigable should remain.
Consequently, the blockading force consisted of Indefatigable, the light cruiser HMS Dublin and the French pre-dreadnought battleshipsGaulois, Vérité, St Louis and Charlemagne, the armoured cruiser Amiral Charner and seaplane carrier Foudre. Each navy also contributed six destroyers and three submarines.
The British submarines were B9, B10 and
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On 3 September 1914 the Admiralty was put in charge of the defence of the United Kingdom against air attack. Its strategy was to use its limited number of aircraft in attacks on airship bases rather than on defensive patrols.
A seaplane carrier raid was launched against the airship base near Cuxhaven on 25 December 1914. An attack on the Emden base was planned, but was postponed on 14 January 1915 because the weather was unsuitable for seaplanes.
Night attacks were expected in 1914, so some restrictions on lighting were introduced in London, Birmingham and coastal towns. These did not entail a full blackout because of the potential effect on road safety and business. Major thoroughfares and bridges had their lighting broken up and parks were given lights in order to stop enemy airmen using them to find their targets. Lights on public transport were reduced to the…
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Previous entries in this blog have dealt with the several sinkings of British cruisers by German U-boats: HMS Pathfinder by U21 on 5 September 1914, HMS Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue by U9 on 22 September and HMS Hawke on 15 October 1914, also by U9.
British submarines also scored successes in the early stages of the war, with E9 sinking the German cruiser SMS Helaon 13 September and B11 the Ottoman pre-dreadnought battleship Mesudiyeon 13 December 1914. The first loss of a submarine to a warship had come as early as 9 August, when HMS Birmingham rammed and sunk U15.
The main impact of submarines in the rest of the war and in the Second World War was against merchant shipping, although they continued to sink warships. In the early stages of the First World War, however, they were used mainly against warships.
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Vice Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee’s East Asia Squadron of the armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst (flag) and Gneisenau and the light cruisers SMS Dresden, Leipzig and Nürnberg arrived at the Falkland Islands on the morning of 8 December. Their intention was to destroy the local facilities and wireless station
These were the ships that had won the Battle of Coronel on 1 November. The previous entry in this series described the intervening events, including the despatch of the battlecruisers, HMS Invincible (flag of Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee) and Inflexible to the South Atlantic.
The Falkland Islanders had expected to be attacked by Spee since they learnt of Coronel on 25 November. They had formed a local defence force in case of invasion, whilst Captain Heathcoat Grant had deliberately beached the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Canopus on mud to protect the harbour. A signal station had been established on…
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Originally posted on MILLSVERSE
The last British Tommy, Harry Patch (1898-2009) described World War One and World War Two as follows. ‘The politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.’ He made a vow not to kill Germans and, before he died, advised young men today not to join the army. His advice was whooshed from the internet. He also raised an all-important question, ‘At the end of the war, the peace was settled round a table, so why the hell couldn’t they do that at the start without losing millions of men?’ (Harry Patch with Richard Van Emden – the Last Fighting Tommy. Bloomsbury.)
The answer to Harry’s question can be found on Jim Macgregor & Gerry Docherty’s Hidden History site that Britain not only started the war, but sustained it for profit. That ‘gallant little Belgium’ was a in a secret military alliance with Britain and France. That Britain mobilised one week before the invasion of Belgium. And Sir Edward Grey, of the famous ‘lamps are going out all over Europe’ quote, was far removed from his carefully cultivated Establishment image as the gentle, tragic, Edwardian, P.G. Wodehouse gentleman, who wrote a book on fly fishing in his spare time. Instead, he was a sinister…
Update: I should point out that it’s not as grand as it sounds since they are publishing everyone’s contributions as it is a special UK project to commemorate the First World War.
‘Five foot ten of a beautiful young Englishman under French soil. Never a joke, never a look, never a word more to add to my store of memories. The book is shut up forever and as the years pass I shall remember less and less, till he becomes a vague personality; a stereotyped photograph.’
Captain Noman Austin Taylor © Sarah Vernon
Take care and keep laughing!
By 1914 military involvement overseas had long been leaving its mark on the English language. We can go back to the Elizabethan age, for example, to England’s deep engagement in the Eighty Years’ War in the Netherlands and find loanwords entering English from both Spanish, the language of the enemy, and Dutch, the language of the ally on whose territory the conflict played out. From Spanish we get tercio (an infantry formation that might be described as the tank of its day), major, and reformado (a term which became common during the English Civil War). From Dutch there is freebooter, roiter, beleaguer (originally with the literal meaning ‘besiege’), and Moff. In this context, it comes as no surprise to find French, the language of the ally on whose territory the conflict played out, and German, the language of the enemy, having a similar influence on English during World War I.
German was the source of a quite different set of loans, mainly words referring to German weapons and vehicles, such as minenwerfer (and the diminutive Minnie) and U-boat. But perhaps the most significant German loanword of the First World War – one which outlasted the war, has been fully naturalized in English, and is no longer perceived as markedly German – is strafe.
Gott strafe England! (‘May God punish England!’) was a German slogan of the First World War, widely used in propaganda. By summer 1915…