World War I

Kipling and the first World War

Rudyard Kipling is a famous figure in English Literature and part of English history and culture during the early 20th Century. He gave an ultimate sacrifice with the loss of his son in the Battle of Loos during World War I. So many gave the ultimate and in so many ways, unnecessarily.

Kipling and his wife went after the war to visit the battlefield hoping to find their son's body or to hear more of the story around his death. It is hard to say if they got comfort by doing this.

Here is an article about this and how this episode relates to the current pandemic.

The Soviet LifeStyle

Bob and I have a number of history books about Russia and the period of communism as the Soviet Union. One knows of the horror of communism as it was put upon the Russian people if you delve into it. Sadly the horrors of Nazi Germany and Hitler are taught more with the horrors of Stalin is glossed over. The books of Robert Conquest of "The Great Terror" and "Harvest of Sorrow" will set you correct. The detail is horrifying to say the least. This article goes on to summarize the worst of totalitarianism.

"Ninety-nine years ago, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and, after a few months of weak parliamentary rule, the Bolsheviks seized power. We call that seizure the Russian (or October) Revolution, but it might better be designated the Bolshevik coup d’état. A party of 10,000 people gained control of an empire occupying one-sixth of the earth’s land area.

From the start, they made up for their small numbers with outsized violence. If at first their executions of liberals, socialists, workers who showed independence, and peasants from whom grain was seized at gunpoint seemed like a short-term necessity, it soon became evident that the violence would never stop. In fact, it was to grow, with Stalin proclaiming “the intensification of the class struggle” when Bolshevik control had long been total."

The Somme

It is almost a century later after the Battle of the Somme. Unbelievably, the loss of life for the British and the French was staggering at 1.2 million lives. That is inconceivable. More here.

The observation that one death is a “catastrophe,” one hundred thousand deaths a “statistic,” is both callous and flippant. But it carries with it some truth. How do we begin to conceptualize death on the Great War’s scale? In England, the chosen medium is ceramic poppies, which have been laid before the Tower of London en masse. On August 5, when this memorial was inaugurated, just 120,000 were in place — still enough to encircle the building. By November 11, there will be 888,246 — one for each British or Commonwealth soldier who died abroad. The installation has a fitting, if macabre, title: “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.” "

The Forgotten Genocide

One book that has stuck with me in its telling is "The Burning Tigris". I purchased "American Golgotha" as a followup though I have not read it yet. The story behind these books is the story that Turkey denies, the Armenian genocide. Christians killed for their faith and difference as a culture in Turkey during the first World War. I came across this article today and if the picture with it alone does not chill your blood, it is hard to say what will. Armenian Christian women crucified during the genocide.

Trench Railways

I came across an interesting article about trench railways from World War I. They were a technologic advance, light rail.

"Sir Eric Geddes spearheaded a revolution in logistics during World War I. But in terms of the railways, perhaps his most radical recommendation was the wholesale adoption of a new kind of technology. Light rail. From 1916, the British-held areas of the Western Front were transformed, as miniature railways began snaking their way across the trenches. In photographs, the dinky tracks and the scaled-down trains that worked them looked more suited to scenic tourist trains than life in the firing line. But what these narrow gauge-railways lacked in size they more than made up for in impact. They extended the railways’ reach all the way to the front line. Providing the struggling Tommies with a vital artery for essential supplies. However, convincing the British Army leadership of their advantages was an uphill struggle."

More of a look here.

Underlying Thoughts to Start of World War I

There is some interesting underlying history or thoughts of how World War I started. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was not that upsetting to be a trigger for war but it was a pretext for Austro-Hungary to draw Serbia into war for land. Due to treaties among various countries, more got drawn into the conflict. There is also some information here about what giving a white feather to a man not in uniform would mean.

"The commonly held notion that WW1 was started out of outrage over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie at the hands of the Serbian nationalist secret society known as the “Black Hand” isn’t entirely correct. In fact, the Emperor Franz Josef himself expressed relief over the assassination because it rid him of an heir that he deeply disliked. The Emperor commented that “God will not be mocked. A higher power had put back the order I couldn’t maintain.”"

Edith Cavell

Long ago, in a marriage far far away or at least before kids, Bob and I traveled to Canada. We journeyed through British Columbia north and then over to Alberta province. As we came south along the Rocky Mountains, we visited a different sites. One spot had a monument memorialized to Nurse Edith Cavell. She was considered a British hero, a martyr from World War I, shot by the Germans as a spy. Well, now more is known about her activities in Belgium. You can find the current true story here of Edith Cavell. Did she or didn't she?

Strange Story from World War I

One British soldier captured by the Germans was given leave by the German Kaiser to travel back to England to visit his dying mother, as long as he returned in 2 weeks. British honor being what it is, he did so, returning to the detention camp in Germany. The British were not so amenable to doing so for a German soldier with the same request. The story is here.


Today is the Centennial of the sinking of the Lusitania during World War I. The ship was a cruise liner sunk by German submarines off the Irish coastline. The loss of life was large and was a trigger to bring the United States into World War I later on. Bob is reading a book about the Lusitania written by Erik Larsen called "Dead Wake".


Another Centennial Anniversary today. 100 years ago the British began the battle of Gallipoli against the Turks in the Dardanelles. It was a military disaster for the British that came within a hairs breadth of succeeding. Lack of coordinated planning and will led to their defeat. Many remembrances were held throughout the various UK associated countries. Many of the men who died came from Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC forces. Please read more about this episode in history here.

Armenian Genocide

Today is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Christian genocide started by Turkish Muslims. This occurred during the height of World War I, therefore it was easier to hide the loss of over 1 million people. I did not read about the serious nature of this genocide until I read a book called "The Burning Tigris". The horrors of that time can translate well into what is happening in the Middle East currently. Savagery never ends. More can be found in this article written by a descendant of Armenians who lived through the times.

The Yanks Are Coming

Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a bit fitting to blog about World War I again and an article about a book out about this period and how the Yanks came to fight over in Europe. There is a bit more about that time and the book that is available here.

“Though the country was unprepared for war and there were questions about the leadership of the administration, the threat of unrestricted warfare from German U-boats, the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania with American civilians on board, and the dubious telegram sent from Germany to Mexico—promising a return of territory in the American southwest if the central American country joined Germany in a war against the United States—drew America into World War I.”

Scarred Landscapes

History still shows and bears the scars of what are scenes from our war time history. A photographer has made a project of taking a number of photos from above and from different perspectives of the battlefields of World War I. The images are beautifully photographed and haunting. In the long run they are downright amazing. Please view them here. People lived and died here. No wonder the British call it Remembrance to

World War I Artists

I previously had a blog piece about the poets of World War I. Now it is on the artists of that time.

“When the firing ceased in 1918, the belligerents of World War I counted their dead, missing and wounded. They numbered not in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, as in previous wars, but in the millions.

A century after the carnage, the British artists whom art historians deem most consequential are those who reacted most aggressively against the heroic tradition of war painting, both in style and in content. We now automatically associate the Modernist works of Christopher R.W. Nevinson, David Bomberg and Paul Nash with the Great War just as much as we do the bitter and disenchanted poetry written by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. But seeing the conflict exclusively through their eyes leads us to neglect other talented artists who pictured the war in more conventional ways that the general public could readily understand. And so it is that many admirable artists who depicted the conflict, such as Henry Tonks, William Orpen and even John Singer Sargent (in his wartime paintings), are often undeservedly neglected.”

War Poets 100 Years Ago

There was a lot of poetry and literature that came from the angst and terrible times of World War I. Amazing thought and words on paper. With the War’s Centennial, there is an effort to highlight and showcase the poetry from that time. One example is Wilfred Owen, a soldier and poet, who died just before war’s end. More information is located online. Here is a demonstration of some of that work.

Three lives hath one life—

Iron, honey, gold.

The gold, the honey gone—

Left is the hard and cold.

—Isaac Rosenberg, from ‘August 1914’

World War I Galleries

One of the most interesting sights and museums Bob and I have visited over the years is the Imperial War Museum in London. It was big and full of so much history. I remember the section on World War II where they kept playing Neville Chamberlain’s speech as Britain entered the second World War. The Museum has ben renovated in anticipation of the centennial of the start of their declaring war for World War I on August 4, 1914.

“A moonscape of craters, mud and shattered stumps fills a wall-sized video screen; you can hear shrieking shells and shattering blasts; an enormous British howitzer, meant to pulverize the enemy’s defenses, points toward the fields. The only thing missing in this gallery, devoted to the Battle of the Somme at the Imperial War Museum here, is the ability to conceive of 20,000 British dead and 37,000 wounded or missing in the first day of fighting, and more than a million casualties over all during five months.

It is one of the most powerful presentations at the new First World War Galleries here, suggesting that this seemingly futile battle was actually a turning point. These galleries, which replace an older presentation that was a classic for a generation, are also part of a $67 million rebuilding of the museum, completed in time to commemorate the centennial of Britain’s entry into the war. That occasion was somberly observed across Britain on Aug. 4 with moments of silence, extinguished lights and the scattered petals of red poppies — the war’s symbol of bloodied innocence and death.”

World War l and the Movies

A look at World War l and its depiction in film...........

“Beyond their stated or implicit concerns, movies in some way always reflect the times in which they were made. And films about World War I are no exception. In the century since the start of the war, variously commemorated throughout Europe and the U.S. this summer, the conflict has often been portrayed on screen—represented at different times as either a misguided enterprise or a glorious cause. Less appreciated is the Great War's use as propaganda tool as new hostilities arose throughout the 20th century and into the present one. Such pictures shed light not only on how the war itself was perceived at different points following its conclusion, but also on the manner in which subsequent generations bent the narrative to their own purposes.”

July 1914

Did circumstances explode past the some countries’ expectations in the crucial month of July 1914? Was the war inevitable as some believed? Or did Germany let Austria take control of the issue and drive the continent into war unnecessarily? Sadly, did such loss of life inevitably need to occur before countries realized the overwhelming destructive nature of the conflict and avoid it in the future (or the future after World War ll). Here is another article discussing the nature of the summer of 1914.

August 1, 1914

100 years ago today, imperial Germany declared war on Serbia to support their ally, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On July 28, a few days prior, the Austro-Hungarian government has attacked Serbia in response to the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Four and one-half years later millions were dead and injured while countries world-wide were impacted. Why was it so deadly to so many? Here is an opinion page article giving some thought and voice to that question.

The Dread Signal

June 28 was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. It was the spark that light the fuse for World War I (sorry for the cliche). Yet, it is apt. Many leaders of countries were “itching” to show their importance and demonstrate they should not be taken for granted. Others were drawn in by holding to their word of support of another if attacked. It was a conflagration that was inevitable in many ways and yet not if rational people stepped back and re-thought the consequences. Here is a short summary of what the start of Armegeddon meant.

Are We Going Down That Path?

There is going to be endless speculation of whether 2014 closely resembles 1914 enough in turmoil to where we end in a major world conflict. Will it happen? Anyone’s guess and here is another article speculating on the topic.

Another World War l Commemorative

This year will probably have a lot of articles of interest on the Civil War (sesquicentennial) and World War l (centennial). Being a military history buff, many will end up here for a blog piece. This article is another example, a review of a book written from the soldier’s perspective. For these men, they did not know it was the first of two world wars. It was just day to day reality of war.

“The Great War featured an unusual number of highly literate soldiers for both the Allies (chiefly the Triple Entente of France, Britain, and Russia, and, much later, the United States) and the Central Powers (chiefly Germany and Austria-Hungary), who had no inkling of the inferno that awaited them. We know of the remarkable trio of war poets—Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon—and we expect that generals would convey their accounts and impressions. But it is the insight and sensitivity of innumerable junior officers and enlisted men that bring home the terrors of bombardment, from which there seemed no exit, and the eternal presence of mud.”

Enduring Legacy of World War l

I have written a number of blog pieces about World War l. The tragic and lethal war that it was to a generation of young men from England, France, United States, and in the end Germany too. A number of books about the experiences of what happened during the war have been written. They have carried through the last 100 years and now more are writing about current wars and their legacy. Read more here about the war’s legacy in other areas of our culture.

Animals in World War l

The Atlantic Magazine has another edition of the World War l in photos. This edition is focused on the animals as part of the war effort. Primarily dogs and horses. The photos can be found here. Due to this was war and “war is hell”, I caution that some of the photos are more graphic in nature and some may not want to view them.

“But the need for constant resupply, movement of new heavy weaponry, and the transport of troops demanded horse power on a massive scale -- automobiles, tractors, and trucks were relatively new inventions and somewhat rare. British and French forces imported horses from colonies and allies around the world, a near-constant flow of hundreds of thousands of animals across the oceans, headed for war. One estimate places the number of horses killed during the four years of warfare at nearly 8 million. Other animals proved their usefulness as well: Dogs became messengers, sentries, rescuers, and small beasts of burden. Pigeons acted as messenger carriers, and even (experimentally) as aerial reconnaissance platforms. Mules and camels were drafted into use in various war theatres, and many soldiers brought along mascots to help boost morale.”

Technology and World War l

Most would consider World War l as the war that ended dreams of young people. A destroyer of the old order. A war to end all wars. It actually oversaw the birth of modern technology of warfare. Not necessarily a good thing though the technology was developed with the idea to save lives and end the war sooner. Yet, it didn’t work that way in the end. Take a look into this world and see photos from the era. This is the third part of a 10-part series on World War l in The Atlantic.

“Industrialization brought massive changes to warfare during the Great War. Newly-invented killing machines begat novel defense mechanisms, which, in turn spurred the development of even deadlier technologies. Nearly every aspect of what we would consider modern warfare debuted on World War I battlefields.”

10 Myths about World War I

I have a fascination with military history, especially the World Wars. The first or the Great War has become more of an interest after early reading in my life focusing on the Second. So I often click and focus on writings about World War I. I came across this on about the Top 10 Myths regarding World War I found in BBC Magazine. I am not sure I quite accept all of them as they do. It is always good to debate and not take statements as absolutes. We should challenge or keep reading and studying. Maybe I can someday make a more informed or determined decision about whether I agree with their list.

World War I and After

As I mentioned on a previous post of January 1, there is a lot of commentary about current world status opposed to factors surrounding pre-World War I days, during and then post-war changes. This is all stemming from the centennial time for the beginning of World War I. Part of this article supposes that the after effects of World War I changed the political environment enough to grow Progressivism and the advance of the administrative state. How are does that relate to today? How are Progressives from that time alike or different from today’s. Could the world commit suicide again 100 years later?

2014, Another Great War?

I have touched on this subject in recent posts, even the one yesterday. What is we were to have a Great War this year, 100 years after the last? Could we? Are the circumstances leaning that way? Here is an article discussing if it could happen and that it would have to entail the United States and China to come close to the impact of the Great War, being they are two super powers who could make the difference. Take a read. See what you think.

Did the West Lose Control in 1888?

Another counterfactual article written about historical events of the 19th and 20th Centuries. The premise of this article is that the death and short reign of Frederick III of Germany led to the build up of hostilities of World War I. The reason is that Frederick III was a reformer and a liberal. He would have led Germany away from a militaristic build up in attitude and materials. Since he died slightly over 3 months into his reign, his son, Kaiser Wilhem II who was quite militaristic and confrontational, led Germany into pacts with other nations that in the long run led to inevitable war in 1914. The issue is that we still may have had war or revolution in Russia, possibly Germany and Britain due to the build up of socialist and communist revolutionaries. Their point also being that the devastation of World War I led to the opportunity of Hitler’s control of Germany and therefore, World War II. Crisis and economic turmoil lead to further destabilization and revolution which occurred throughout much of the 20th Century and into current times.

World War I Counterfactual

2014 will be the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the Great War. One article today in the Guardian discusses what might have been the fate of the world or at least the European Continent if the Germans had won the war instead of lost. It is possible their suppositions could be the way it would have gone. I would surmise that the Bolshevik Revolution or Communism would have taken even better root in England or maybe in Germany. The plan of Marx was that Germany then England would be the initial staging for his revolutionary concepts in the proletariat. To read this counterfactual, go here.

The Great War's Echoes?

Are we cruising close to many of the same issues and triggers that lead up to the Great War, aka World War I. This war affected the European continent to an unbelievable extent. So much of the fruit of youth was annihilated on the battlefield and in the trenches. 100 years later we are still dealing with the fall out of policies and colonial decisions that affected a large part of that area of the world. Some feel we are looking at many of the same scenarios and problems that set the world ablaze then. Are we? Could we repeat many of the same mistakes? Are we Balkanizing and forming alliances that could hurt us later? This is one opinion page’s take on the possibility.

The Cenotaph

One example of the simplicity and power of a war memorial is described in the article about the Cenotaph. A description of how the Cenotaph came to be follows.........

“With the signing of the peace treaty at Versailles in 1919, the War Cabinet, led by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, planned Peace Day. This was to be a festive celebration of the end of the carnage. The government Office of Works, under the direction of Alfred Mond, asked Edwin Lutyens to design a temporary memorial to be erected in Whitehall, along the route of a massive victory parade of the allied troops through central London. Lutyens, who had made his mark designing handsome country homes, was the architect of the new capitol of the British Raj in New Delhi, a commission that had catapulted him to international fame.

Just two weeks after hearing from Mond, Lutyens had a plan in hand, one deeply rooted in the classical past, not only in form but in function. The monument was to be a cenotaph, a structure incorporating an empty tomb, often built to memorialize a missing warrior. Constructed of wood and plaster, Lutyens's four-sided composition, which ascended through a series of subtle setbacks toward a summit capped by a sarcophagus, was ready for the Peace Day victory parade of July 19, 1919.”

Armistice Day

World War I is the war that set the table for many of the remaining wars of the 20th Century. Some may argue with that premise, I firmly believe it. We still are living with the consequences of the issues leading up to the War and the fall out for what happened during and after the war. So to read more about the beginning of the end and what happened at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, you can find information here. We now refer to this day as Veteran’s Day. It’s roots are based in the tragedy engulfing Europe from 1914 to 1918.

World War I Battle Deaths

Even almost 100 years later, the United States and Europe still feels the effect and remembers the crushing loss of so many promising lives during World War I. It seems as if every town and major city has a memorial to World War I in Great Britain, listing the names of the men who were lost from that community. This article lists the top battles of this war in the numbers of war deaths. To read through it is to give one a sense of why the memorials are still so important in those communities. We do not have a World War I memorial in Washington DC. Looking at the battles with the most loss of life, they occurred when the United States was part of the action. Maybe a stronger push should be made to create that memorial.
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