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World War I


  • Originally published 04/01/2014

    “Not all First World War soldiers were heroes,” says historian

    In a new book, Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914, Adrian Gilbert reexamines the opening campaigns in France and Belgium, and, amongst other things, notes instances where British troops broke and ran from the field of battle.

  • Originally published 01/10/2014

    WW1 Irish remembered

    Memorial Records go digital with list of all those from island of Ireland who died during war or as result of injuries sustained in battle in Belgium.

  • Originally published 01/09/2014

    1914 All Over Again?

    There are parallels between 1914 and 2014, but the differences are far more important.

  • Originally published 08/20/2013

    Berlin Denies Rift with UK over WWI Centenary

    The German government has denied British media reports that it tried to influence the tone of Britain's planned ceremonies to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. A spokesman has confirmed Germany sent an envoy to London to discuss the plans, though.The German Foreign Ministry on Monday denied allegations that it was attempting to influence Britain's plans to commemorate the 2014 centenary of the outbreak of World War I.A spokesman for the ministry confirmed reports that it had sent an envoy to London in early August to discuss the centenary ceremonies. But he added: "There was no intervention of any kind in how our friends and partners intend to shape their commemoration of World War I."The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday that the visit by Andreas Meitzner, a German diplomat tasked with coordinating European commemoration plans for the centenary, was prompted by German concerns that the ceremonies might have an excessively "declamatory tone," placing more emphasis on victory rather than reconciliation....

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Hometown memorials for Victoria Cross heroes

    Hundreds new memorials honouring those awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War are to be created to mark the conflict’s centenary.Commemorative paving stones will be laid in the home towns of the 480 British-born VC recipients, under plans announced by the Government on Sunday, 99 years to the day since the war broke out.The scheme to celebrate the winners of Britain’s highest award for battlefield valour will be a centrepiece of the events being planned from 2014 to 2018 to mark the conflict 100 years on.Ministers have also unveiled plans to provide extra help to people wanting to renovate previously neglected war memorials, in what is significant step forward for The Sunday Telegraph’s Lest We Forget campaign....

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    A secret sperm donor service in post-WWI London

    These days there are sophisticated and scientific solutions to the dismal problem of unwanted childlessness — there are IVF, Viagra and well-established egg and sperm donor services. We think of these as recent advantages and give thanks for the modern age.But what only very few people are aware of is that long before sperm donation was practically or ethically possible, in the early 20th century, a secret sperm donation service existed for those women most in need.Helena Wright was a renowned doctor, bestselling author, campaigner and educator who overcame the establishment to pioneer contraceptive medicine in England and throughout the world. Kind, intelligent, funny and attractive, Helena had a way with words and a devoted set of friends. She adored men and spent her life helping women....

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Henry Porter: The Great War: We Are as Blind to Our Times as the Innocent Lovelorn Boy was in 1913

    Henry Porter is a writer and journalist specialising in liberty and civil rights.The inscription carved into the huge beech tree, which stands on a hill path in Gloucestershire, reads PM 10/9/13 MKN. Next month, this piece of vandalism – though I cannot see it as that now – will be 100 years old, which seems incredible for something probably done on the spur of the moment. I often wonder about PM and MKN – if their love lasted and whether both made it through the First World War, which broke out 11 months later, on Tuesday 4 August.

  • Originally published 08/06/2013

    Don't Overestimate the Cohesion of the Military during Revolutionary Moments

    As Jack Censer’s post has pointed out, the role of the military in revolutionary situations is critical to understanding them. Yet, it varies so much that finding common threads can be extremely difficult, and even then misleading. Yet, clearly, they play central roles. Perhaps one useful way of exploring that is to examine the extent to which the military is unified in outlook -- ideological, cultural, social, and hierarchically -- or divided, most likely between officers and rank and file men, which in turn can reflect social or ideological differences (although there could be other fault-lines, such as religion or ethnicity). Moreover, this can change as the revolution progresses.In the Russian Revolution of 1917, for example, both officers and men were unhappy with the tsarist government of Nicholas II as the year opened, with discussion of palace revolution emerging among high-ranking officers by the end of 1916 while rank-and-file soldiers (and lower level officers) were alienated by the ongoing war (World War I). Both immediately supported the February Revolution -- indeed a rebellion of rank-and-file soldiers in the capital city garrison played a critical role in toppling the regime-- and the new liberal provisional government.

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    'Your Country Needs You' - The myth about the First World War poster that 'never existed'

    It is perhaps the best known and most enduring image of the First World War: the commanding, moustached face of Lord Kitchener, his accusing, pointing finger and the urgent slogan “Your country needs YOU”.The picture is credited with encouraging millions of men to sign up to fight in the trenches, many of them never to return.But new research has found that no such poster was actually produced during the war and that the image was never used for official recruitment purposes. In fact, it only became popular and widely-used after the conflict ended....

  • Originally published 08/01/2013

    Jim Cullen: Review of Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914" (Harper, 2013)

    At one point early on in The Sleepwalkers, University of Cambridge Professor Christopher Clark cites a perception -- certainly one I had growing up -- of the First World War taking place on the far side of a historical divide. "It was easy to imagine the disaster of Europe's 'last summer' as an Edwardian costume drama," he writes, attributing this view to Barbara Tuchman books. "The effete rituals and gaudy uniforms, the 'ornamentalism' of a world still largely organized around hereditary monarchy had a distancing effect on present-day recollection. They seemed to signal that the protagonists were people from another, vanished world."

  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    World War I photo hoax the very model of mischief

    A biplane pivots out of control with smoke billowing from the fuselage. The World War I pilot, who has evidently bailed out, can be seen hurtling towards the ground.Another black and white photo of a dogfight shows British and German aircraft twisting to avoid an almost inevitable midair collision....The photos attracted enormous interest as there were very few images of aerial combat at the time.But it was not until 1984 that they were definitively debunked by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington when archivists realised Mrs Cockburn-Lange was actually Betty Archer, wife of Wesley David Archer, a model maker in the film industry. He had painstakingly made models of all the aircraft and superimposed them on aerial backgrounds....

  • Originally published 07/23/2013

    Matthias Strohn: Remember World War I as a Global War

    Dr Matthias Strohn is a senior lecturer in the war studies department at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He has advised German and British government bodies on the centenary commemorationsThis time next year, nations across the globe will begin the centenary commemorations of the first world war – "the great seminal catastrophe" of the 20th century, as the American historian George F Kennan called it. It seems that Britain has chosen a sensible approach: a handful of national and international events, spread out over the four years from 2014 to 2018, supplemented by activities at a local level. By limiting the number of high-profile events, the UK will prevent a "commemoration fatigue" setting in among the population....

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    When Does a War End for the Veterans?

    Heroes Shakespeare and Company 70 Kemble Street Lenox, MassachusettsWhen does a war end for the men who fought it?That’s the question in French writer Gerald Sibleyras play Heroes, translated by Tom Stoppard, which just opened at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. The setting is 1959 somewhere in France. Three veterans of World War One, Phillipe, Gustave and Henri, reminisce about the war every day on the veranda of the Old Soldiers home where they live. Henry has been there 25 years and Phillipe ten. Gustave arrived six months ago.Sibleyras’ fine play seems slow moving and tepid at first. It appears to be the story of three perfectly harmless and lovable old men spending their golden years glorying in their wartime heroism long ago, cheered by all. As the minutes slip way, though, you see them as badly damaged individuals whose problems grow as each day passes. They don’t do anything well except re-fight World War One and act as much as soldiers as they can remember.

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    Sunken WWI U-Boats a bonanza for historians

    British archaeologists recently discovered more than 40 German U-boats sunk during World War I off the coast of England. Now they are in a race against time to learn the secrets hidden in their watery graves.On the old game show "What's My Line?" Briton Mark Dunkley might have been described with the following words: "He does what many adventurers around the world can only dream of doing."Dunkley is an underwater archeologist who dives for lost treasures. His most recent discoveries were anything if not eerie.On the seafloor along the southern and eastern coasts of the UK, Dunkley and three other divers have found one of the largest graveyards in the world's oceans, with 41 German and three English submarines from World War I. Most of the submarines sank with their crews still on board, causing many sailors to die in horrific ways, either by drowning or suffocating in the cramped and airtight submarines....

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    First World War centenary plans revealed

    The Queen is to lead the nation in commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War at a service where she will be joined by other heads of state.The monarch is due to attend the event at Glasgow Cathedral on August 4 next year. The city has been chosen as a focal point for activities to mark the start of the conflict, as it is hosting the Commonwealth Games which end the day before.Across the country, flags on public buildings will fly at half mast on the anniversary of the outbreak, while, in Belgium, another service will be held at St Symphorien Military Cemetery near Mons, where similar numbers of British and German war dead are buried, including the first and last Commonwealth soldiers killed in the conflict....

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    Maria Miller: we won't be judgemental about causes of WWI

    Official plans to commemorate 100 years since the First World War will let people make up their own minds about who was to blame for the conflict, Maria Miller has said.Maria Miller said the Government would not take a judgemental position on the cause of WWI, as this is the job of historians.Her comments come amid accusations from campaigners that the Government is being too anxious to avoid appearing patriotic and triumphalist for fear of upsetting the Germans.Historians have criticised the current plans for failing fully to recognise the achievement of British forces and skipping over their biggest victories in an effort to emphasise the futility and carnage of the war....

  • Originally published 05/31/2013

    WWI Christmas truce less peaceful than thought

    It was a fleeting moment of friendship across the battlelines which now stands as testament to the unwavering spirit of human kinship that not even savage warfare could extinguish.But newly discovered letters sent from the trenches of the Western Front have cast new light on the famous Christmas Day truce of 1914, when the guns of First World War fell silent and sworn enemies put hostilities aside to play a game of football.The previously unpublished letters sent by Major John Hawksley, of the Royal Field Artillery, to his sister Muriel at her home in Coatham Mundeville, near Darlington, show that not everyone on the frontline agreed with the unofficial ceasefire....

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Hunt for lost First World War submarines

    Explorers are launching a new project to locate dozens of British and German submarines which sank off the coast of England during the First World War, as part of a major new study to mark the centenary of the conflict.The English Heritage research will involve identification and analysis of all submarine shipwrecks from the period which are within territorial waters - 12 miles from the coast.Preliminary research by the team, studying historical records, has already identified three British and 41 German submarines from the conflict which are known to have sunk in the area.The locations of some of these have already been established, but others have yet to be discovered....

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    New book shows Tommies ate well in WWI trenches

    In the BBC series Blackadder Goes Forth, Baldrick memorably described the finest culinary delight available in the trenches of the First World War as “rat-au-van” – rat that had been run over by a van. In fact, new research suggests the standard of fare on offer to the men on the Western Front was, if perhaps repetitive, at least nutritious, plentiful and, on occasions, flavoursome.Andrew Robertshaw, curator at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, has produced a guide to the food eaten by British soldiers of the First World War, complete with recipes for some of the meals.Although there was no rat-au-van, there were some now largely forgotten dishes, such as beef tea, mutton broth, brawn, potato pie and duff pudding.But Mr Robertshaw also shows how some modern favourites, such as egg and chips, and curry were popularised by the conflict.The research, contained in a new book Feeding Tommy, involved an investigation of the archives of the RLC – the successor to the Army Service Corps, whose job it was to feed the men – as well as study of memoirs from serving soldiers....

  • Originally published 05/14/2013

    Romanov's final days seen in new photos

    Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the last Russian Tsar, was already smoking at the age of 15, encouraged by her proud father Nicholas II.The anecdote about the Grand Duchess, a key figure in the conspiracy theories that followed the gunshot and bayonet murders of the Romanovs, has been revealed by a series of photographs found in a remote museum in the Urals.Taken in 1916 near Mogilyov, where the Russian military was headquartered during World War I, the photo shows the young girl puffing at the cigarette with every encouragement from her father.“At the time there was not the same stigma attached to smoking,” wrote the Siberian Times, which described the pictures found in the local history museum of Zlatoust, a small city about 186 miles from Yekaterinburg. It was there that the tsar and his family were slaughtered in 1918 by the Bolsheviks on the orders of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin....

  • Originally published 05/13/2013

    Mapping the legacy of the Great War on home soil

    In the popular imagination, it is a conflict associated with foreign battlefields and, above all, the muddy trenches of the Western Front.But a major new project aims to identify and record thousands of remaining traces of the First World War on the landscape of the British Isles.The research is expected to run for the four years of the centenary of the conflict, 2014-2018, and will cover sites such as factories, camps, fortifications, airstrips and dockyards, as well as locations that were bombarded by German ships and aircraft....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Historians complain Government's WW1 commemoration 'focuses on British defeats'

    Historians and campaigners have also criticised the tone of the plans unveiled so far; they believe politicians and officials are focusing too much on British defeats and the carnage and futility of the war, because they are too anxious to avoid upsetting Germans and want to make sure the events are not considered triumphalist.However, the critics argue that by doing so, the Government is presenting only the modern, orthodox view of the conflict: that it was avoidable and unnecessary. It thus ignores arguments that, like the Second World War, it was a fight for survival.They say that under the current plans, the Government has missed an opportunity to explain why the war was fought and failed fully to recognise the achievement of British forces.The historians also compare the proposals unfavourably with more ambitious events being organised by Australia, Canada and New Zealand, whose men fought alongside the British....

  • Originally published 04/28/2013

    The Black Russian and the Jews

    George Frederick Thomas in 1896. Courtesy of the author.Jews were, in a sense, the “Negroes” of the Russian Empire.  The discrimination and violence they suffered under the tsars -- which forced over a million to emigrate to the United States in the decades around the turn of the nineteenth century -- is one of the reasons their descendants empathized with black Americans and played a major role in the civil rights movement.  Even earlier in the twentieth century, the anti-Semitism that had compelled Jews to emigrate from Western Europe led their leading figures to support black activists and to help found the NAACP and the National Urban League.  American blacks reciprocated, and for much of the twentieth century shared a sense of solidarity with Jews that was motivated by their common goal of social justice.

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    WWI poem wins UK poetry award

    A poem inspired by her late mother's stories of the first world war, which has drawn comparisons with Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, has won the poetry journal Agenda's editor Patricia McCarthy the National Poetry Competition.McCarthy, who has published several poetry collections of her own, beat 13,040 other entries to win the anonymously-judged prize. Her winning poem, "Clothes that escaped the Great War", tells of the plodding carthorse who would take boys away to war, and then return, later, with just their clothes. "These were the most scary, my mother recalled: clothes / piled high on the wobbly cart, their wearers gone," writes McCarthy.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    New book traces education of Adolf Hitler

    Historian Othmar Plöckinger argues that Adolf Hilter's time in the military facilitated his transformation into a murderous dictator. His new book traces how in the army Hilter acquired skills and an education that he would put to use during his later rise to power. What does a soldier do after his country has lost a war and he is left with nothing, has no education or vocational training, and no family and no friends? He remains a soldier.On Nov. 21, 1918, 10 days after the armistice, lance corporal Adolf Hitler reported for duty at his regiment's garrison in Munich. He was given free rations, a monthly wage of about 40 Marks and a heated place to sleep, an important concession that winter....

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    John Blaxland and Rikki Kersten: East Asia in 2013 Resembles Europe in 1913

    Dr John Blaxland is Senior Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University.Rikki Kersten is Professor of modern Japanese political history in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the College of Asia and the Pacific, the Australian National University.The recent activation of Chinese weapons radars aimed at Japanese military platforms around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is the latest in a series of incidents in which China has asserted its power and authority at the expense of its neighbours.

  • Originally published 02/04/2013

    Jutland survivor to get a facelift

    It is the last remaining survivor of the 1916 Battle of Jutland with its glory days far behind it.But now, the future of this historically significant war ship looks decidedly brighter.HMS Caroline has been given a grant of £1million for urgent repairs.The vital money will pay for work that will prevent further decay to the Belfast-based light cruiser while plans are finalised for its long-term future in the city.Works will include making the ship wind and water tight and incorporate the removal of dangerous asbestos while the ship is in situ and afloat....

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Divers find First World War "Mystery Ship" which ambushed submarine

    It was perhaps one of the most hazardous roles of the First World War – acting as bait for German submarines.But that was exactly the job of HMS Stock Force, one of the Royal Navy’s top secret “Q-ships” or “Mystery Ships” – specially adapted decoy vessels with concealed guns, which lured U-boats to the surface and then engaged them in a deadly duel.The Stock Force was sunk in just such a clash, in what became one of the war’s most celebrated naval encounters, which led to its captain, Lieutenant Harold Auten, receiving the Victoria Cross, and inspired an early action film....

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Europe’s odd couple, France and Germany, 50 years later

    BERLIN — France and Germany recently issued a joint postage stamp as part of a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, the landmark agreement between the two former enemies.The stamp is identical, except for one telling difference. In each country, it bears a picture of a man and woman, side by side, peering through lenses colored in blue-white-red and black-red-gold. But the French stamp costs 80 euro cents, while its German twin sells for only 75.In a year loaded with symbolic gestures and 4,000 commemorative events, including Tuesday’s joint session of Parliament, joint cabinet dinner and a concert, that 5-cent disparity is a reminder that despite the decades of friendship and enormous day-to-day cooperation, significant, often devilish, differences persist.

  • Originally published 01/17/2013

    National WWI Museum to play key leadership role in Centennial Commission

    The World War I Centennial Commission Act establishing a Centennial Commission based at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial was signed into law by President Obama on January 14, 2013. The 12-member Commission will meet initially and regularly at the National World War I Museum and will develop programs, projects and activities to commemorate the Great War’s Centennial from 2014 to 2018. The Commission will also be in charge of fundraising for commemorative events as no tax dollars were appropriated in the law. The Museum will play a pivotal role as plans continue to develop for America’s efforts to remember the First World War. Not only will the Commission be based out of Kansas City, but the Museum is appointed to one of the twelve seats on the Commission. “We are proud that the Centennial Commission Act has become law,” said Dr. Mary Cohen, Museum Board of Trustees Chair. “The upcoming Centennial affords a unique opportunity for Americans to explore an important time in our nation’s history. The Museum looks forward to working with the Commission to honor those who served in World War I.”

  • Originally published 10/10/2013

    The Myth That Makes the GOP Suicidal

    Right-wingers' desire to be left alone and safe behind symbolic fences is driving their party's self-destructive policies.    

  • Originally published 09/18/2013

    Revolutions, Liberation Movements and Peoples in Europe and Africa

    What is most striking about the analyses to current times are that the parallels with the French revolutionary experience can so easily be made. Editor's Note:  This is a guest post from the blog The French Revolution Network. David Andress is the blog's editor.I recently returned from a workshop at the University of Pretoria, organised as part of the project The Comparative History of Political Engagement in Western and African Societies led by a team at the University of Sheffield. As well as enjoying a very hospitable welcome, I also had a very stimulating series of discussions, which have given me much food for thought about further extension of the debate on ‘revolution’ in the modern world. While recent events have made us focus attention on ‘bottom-up’ revolutionary upheavals, the role of spontaneous interactions and technology in popular mobilizations, and the general question of ‘crowds’ and their agency, a closer look at African examples reminds us that ‘top-down’ modes of revolutionary activism also continue to have a strong role to play. Henning Melber offered us an excellent overview of the extent to which African liberation movements into the present continue to use the rhetoric of liberation as closure, of the achievement of a sort of ‘end of history’ through the movement’s leadership, and necessarily alongside that, the closing-off of possibilities for dissent. Such movements demonstrate simultaneous abilities to use, for example, laws established in the colonial period to repress opposition, and rhetoric that brands such opposition as neo-imperialist conspiracy. Lloyd Sachikonye observed how electoral processes in ‘liberated’ African nations were routinely undermined by violence, over 80% of which came from ruling parties and their affiliated organisations, and Brian Raftopoulos offered a vivid case-study of the steady destruction of an autonomous labour movement in Zimbabwe through its subordination to the demands of a ‘National Democratic Revolution’, that was in practice technocratic and authoritarian – and prejudiced against urban workers in general through its political powerbase in land-hungry war-veterans. David Anderson presented chilling evidence of the example that systematic persecution of Mau Mau soldiers by the British authorities in the 1950s gave to the essentially anti-Mau Mau governments of independent Kenya. Torture and shameless violence continued to mark politics throughout the late twentieth century. This included the astonishing story of Nyayo House, an office-block in Nairobi, completed in 1984, and later exposed as having purpose-built torture-chambers in a sixth-level sub-basement. Like many African conflicts, that in Kenya tangled the concept of ‘national’ identity within colonial boundaries with that of ethnicity, and lived senses of community. Baz Lecocq showed us how in Mali the ‘black’ Mande ethnic leadership took the post-independence lead in defining the supposedly egalitarian features of their agricultural traditions as Malian national identity, while treating the ‘white’ Tuareg of the north of the country as a deviant, lazy, backward-looking feudal remnant. Policies of forced settlement alongside continual cultural humiliations were a systematic effort at cultural delegitimisation, and at the heart of a movement towards open revolt from the Tuareg as socio-economic conditions worsened towards the end of the century. Finally on Africa, Emma Hunter offered a stimulating series of questions about how, outside mechanisms of overt violence, different mechanisms of public engagement could work with and across post-colonial governments. The tensions that result are illustrated in the history of Tanzania’s Ujamaa under Julius Nyerere – despite governmental claims, Swahili did not provide the common language to overcome tribal divisions, and movements to ‘villagization’ cut coercively across claims about cooperation and consultation. Nonetheless, organs including the press remained open as routes of dissent, even if having to tread a careful line of framing loyalty. What, for me, was most striking about all of these analyses was the extent to which parallels with the French revolutionary experience could so easily be made. It would be trite to rehearse these here, ‘as if’ the earlier merely fed unmediated into the later, but the discussions in and around these papers clearly showed that there is a wider comparison, and structural analysis, to be made. The various models of ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ revolutionary mobilization have clearly had a recurrent influence across the centuries of modernity – and indeed are a substantial constituent of ‘modernity’ as a concept itself. A global perspective shows us that we never did reach the ‘end of history’ so vaunted a generation ago, and for historians, there is much more reflection to be done on the cycles of hope and dread packaged as ‘revolutionary’ progress.

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