Category Archive 'WWI'
22 May 2016

Tolkien’s Webley

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TolkienWebley
The Webley Mk V [Correction: Mark VI -thanks to Hammond Aikes] of 2nd Lieutenant J.R.R. Tolkien.

According to the Imperial War Museum,

Tolkien was an Oxford University student in 1914 but was commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers soon after taking his degree in 1915. He joined the 11th Battalion of his regiment in France in June 1916, shortly before the Battle of the Somme. During the battle Tolkien served as the battalion signals officer. In late October 1916 he contracted trench fever and was sent back to England in early November. He spent most of the rest of the war convalescing. It was at this time that he began to write early versions of his Middle Earth stories. Debate continues regarding the extent to which Tolkien’s war experiences influenced his literary work.

Tolkien_1916

11 Nov 2015

Armistice Day, Later Known as Veterans Day, also known as Martinmas

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—this post is repeated annually—

WWI came to an end by an armistice arranged to occur at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The date and time, selected at a point in history when mens’ memories ran much longer, represented a compliment to St. Martin, patron saint of soldiers, and thus a tribute to the fighting men of both sides. The feast day of St. Martin, the Martinmas, had been for centuries a major landmark in the European calendar, a date on which leases expired, rents came due; and represented, in Northern Europe, a seasonal turning point after which cold weather and snow might be normally expected.

It fell about the Martinmas-time, when the snow lay on the borders…
—-Old Song.

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

St. Martin, the son of a Roman military tribune, was born at Sabaria, in Hungary, about 316. From his earliest infancy, he was remarkable for mildness of disposition; yet he was obliged to become a soldier, a profession most uncongenial to his natural character. After several years’ service, he retired into solitude, from whence he was withdrawn, by being elected bishop of Tours, in the year 374.

The zeal and piety he displayed in this office were most exemplary. He converted the whole of his diocese to Christianity, overthrowing the ancient pagan temples, and erecting churches in their stead. From the great success of his pious endeavours, Martin has been styled the Apostle of the Gauls; and, being the first confessor to whom the Latin Church offered public prayers, he is distinguished as the father of that church. In remembrance of his original profession, he is also frequently denominated the Soldier Saint.

The principal legend, connected with St. Martin, forms the subject of our illustration, which represents the saint, when a soldier, dividing his cloak with a poor naked beggar, whom he found perishing with cold at the gate of Amiens. This cloak, being most miraculously preserved, long formed one of the holiest and most valued relics of France; when war was declared, it was carried before the French monarchs, as a sacred banner, and never failed to assure a certain victory. The oratory in which this cloak or cape—in French, chape—was preserved, acquired, in consequence, the name of chapelle, the person intrusted with its care being termed chapelain: and thus, according to Collin de Plancy, our English words chapel and chaplain are derived.

The canons of St. Martin of Tours and St. Gratian had a lawsuit, for sixty years, about a sleeve of this cloak, each claiming it as their property. The Count Larochefoucalt, at last, put an end to the proceedings, by sacrilegiously committing the contested relic to the flames. …

The festival of St. Martin, happening at that season when the new wines of the year are drawn from the lees and tasted, when cattle are killed for winter food, and fat geese are in their prime, is held as a feast-day over most parts of Christendom. On the ancient clog almanacs, the day is marked by the figure of a goose; our bird of Michaelmas being, on the continent, sacrificed at Martinmas. In Scotland and the north of England, a fat ox is called a mart, clearly from Martinmas, the usual time when beeves are killed for winter use. In ‘Tusser’s Husbandry, we read:

When Easter comes, who knows not then,
That veal and bacon is the man?
And Martilmass beef doth bear good tack,
When country folic do dainties lack.’

Barnaby Googe’s translation of Neogeorgus, shews us how Martinmas was kept in Germany, towards the latter part of the fifteenth century

‘To belly chear, yet once again,
Doth Martin more incline,
Whom all the people worshippeth With roasted geese and wine.
Both all the day long, and the night, Now each man open makes
His vessels all, and of the must, Oft times, the last he takes,
Which holy Martin afterwards Alloweth to be wine,
Therefore they him, unto the skies, Extol with praise divine.’

A genial saint, like Martin, might naturally be expected to become popular in England; and there are no less than seven churches in London and Westminster, alone, dedicated to him. There is certainly more than a resemblance between the Vinalia of the Romans, and the Martinalia of the medieval period.

Indeed, an old ecclesiastical calendar, quoted by Brand, expressly states under 11th November: ‘The Vinalia, a feast of the ancients, removed to this day. Bacchus in the figure of Martin.’ And thus, probably, it happened, that the beggars were taken from St. Martin, and placed under the protection of St. Giles; while the former became the patron saint of publicans, tavern-keepers, and other ‘dispensers of good eating and drinking. In the hall of the Vintners’ Company of London, paintings and statues of St. Martin and Bacchus reign amicably together side by side.

On the inauguration, as lord mayor, of Sir Samuel Dashwood, an honoured vintner, in 1702, the company had a grand processional pageant, the most conspicuous figure in which was their patron saint, Martin, arrayed, cap-à-pie, in a magnificent suit of polished armour; wearing a costly scarlet cloak, and mounted on a richly plumed and caparisoned white charger: two esquires, in rich liveries, walking at each side. Twenty satyrs danced before him, beating tambours, and preceded by ten halberdiers, with rural music. Ten Roman lictors, wearing silver helmets, and carrying axes and fasces, gave an air of classical dignity to the procession, and, with the satyrs, sustained the bacchanalian idea of the affair.

A multitude of beggars, ‘howling most lamentably,’ followed the warlike saint, till the procession stopped in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Then Martin, or his representative at least, drawing his sword, cut his rich scarlet cloak in many pieces, which he distributed among the beggars. This ceremony being duly and gravely performed, the lamentable howlings ceased, and the procession resumed its course to Guildhall, where Queen Anne graciously condescended to dine with the new lord mayor.

14 Sep 2015

Shooting the Chauchat

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Chauchat
Lot 3767: “Fusil Mitrailleur Modele 1915 CSRG”, better known as the Chauchat

James D. Julia is selling a Chauchat in the course of their October 5-7 Firearms Auction and has released today another of the highly informative Forgotten Weapons videos devoted to this famous, but widely despised, particular weapon of WWI.

Wikipedia article.

17:48 video

27 Apr 2015

Gallipoli, Then and Now

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Gallipoli
The hillside at Suvla Bay where British troops landed in August, 1915.

Historic WWI photos superimposed over current photos. HuffPo

24 Jan 2015

Ships’ Dazzle Camouflage WWI

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Dazzle1
Dazzle2

The Battle of Jutland must have looked like all the admirals had recently dropped acid.

Belacqui:

Modern art, wartime strategy and perceptual psychology converged during World War I giving rise to dazzle camouflage. The only color visual records of dazzle camouflage from the period are paint-scheme drawings made by the Admiralty and modernist marine paintings. The picture by Group of 7 artist Arthur Lismer of HMS Olympic in dazzle is not a fauvist hallucination, but a true record of the ship’s appearance just after the Armistice. The modernist painter Edward Wadsworth (British, 1889-1949) supervised the application of dazzle camouflage at the Liverpool naval shipbuilding yards during World War I. He painted the image above and others, and also made wood block prints depicting ships in dazzle. After the war, he also painted abstract compositions based on dazzle patterns.

ArthurLismerOlympic
Arthur Lismer, Olympic With Returned Soldiers, Halifax, 1918, Canadian War Museum

05 Jan 2015

How to Prevent WWII

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jealousy_and_flirtation
Haynes King, Jealousy and Flirtation, 1874, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Every once in a blue moon, Quora has an amusing and informative answer to a question.

Asked for a small act which might prevent WWII, Jon Davis responds:

I’d give a flower to a very particular young lady at a very particular moment in time.

This would have to be a very particular young lady, of course. Given the consequences of the choice, it had better also be a very particular flower. But either way, I would give a flower to a lady.

This young woman would a be very important girl in history, because at the time I would meet her, she should rightly be meeting someone else. If I were to succeed in gaining her attention, the attention of one girl history only remembers as a footnote, and even that for only a few short minutes, history would never have been the same.

As I said, this girl must be special, so special that there is no other girl like her in the world. She must be the Duke of Cleveland’s daughter. The time would have to be around 1837.

Read the whole thing.

18 Nov 2014

Battlefield Landscapes from WWI a Century Later

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GermanWWICemetery
German cemetery at Tetes des Faux.

Telegraph slideshow

20 Aug 2014

Irish Guards 1914

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IrishGuards

An Irish Guards machine-gun team in 1914. Not a single one of these men pictured here survived the war.

Via Fred Lapides.

04 Aug 2014

“The Guns of August”

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A documentary based on the Barbara Tuchman book.

04 Aug 2014

August 4, 1914

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nyt-ww1

Germany implements the Schlieffen Plan, violating Belgian Neutrality, in an attempt to outflank the French Army and gain a quick victory by knocking France out of the war.

In response to the invasion of neutral Belgium, Britain declares war on Germany.

“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.” remarks British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey.

09 Jul 2014

Dachshund, WWI

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03 Jul 2014

WWI

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ReimsCathedral
German shell striking Reims Cathedral, France, September 1914

German shell striking Reims Cathedral, France, September 1914

Wikipedia:

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop’s palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage.

Via Ratak Monodosico.

23 Jun 2014

Now That’s How to Sell Victory Bonds!

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TankCrushingCar
Tank Crushing Car, November 11, 1918, University Avenue, Toronto

Via Ratak Monodosico.

21 Mar 2014

Tolkien the Soldier

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The King Edward School (Birmingham) Cadet Corps in 1907. The 15-Year-Old J.R.R. Tolkien (mouth open) is fourth from the left in the middle row.

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24-Year-Old Second Lieutenant J.R.R. Tolkien, Lancashire Fusiliers, 1916.

A school photo of the schoolboy J.R.R. Tolkien in Cadet Corps uniform recently made the British papers after being unearthed from the archives of his old school in Birmingham.

The Kind Edward School Cadet Corps had just been founded in march of 1907, and had the honor of being inspected by Lord Roberts of Kandahar in April.

Not many years later, most of these boys would find themselves as junior officers with the life expectancy of a mayfly on the Western Front. Tolkien participated in the Battle of the Somme, specifically in the assaults on the Schwaben Redoudt and the Leipzig salient, but happily survived, when so many others did not, because he was incapacitated by trench fever. He spent the rest of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duty, having been found medically unfit for further front-line service.

Via John Garth.

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