January 2006

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: Here's my end of the year review. The number of unique visitors to the Trip-Wire each month is now at 16 - 17,000 and is growing. The most frequent request I receive is to start providing a printed version of each issue. But, that simply would be impossible. On the surrounding pages, you will find 12 major and minor articles and 21 photos. However, there are also hyperlinks to 30 other articles and websites. I'm afraid the Trip-Wire is a creature of the internet. Even if I could get permission to publish all the linked material, it would take me more than a month to produce a single issue which would be well over 100 printed pages.

Here, though, is one area where I think we can improve. I recently re-read all the previous issues of the Trip-Wire. One area where I saw a deficiency is in the coverage of the classic "signature" battles of the war. In this issue, to help correct this, well-known battlefield expert Tony Noyes has joined our list of contributors. In his Battle Diary Tony will give month-by-month accounts of the greatest struggles of the Great War. In accordance with our 90th Anniversary series, in this issue we begin with the Preluce to Verdun. Next month Tony's Battle of the Somme diary will commence and will run concurrently with the Verdun series for the rest of the year.

I want to thank all of you who have sent messages of advice and encouragement in 2005 and wish all our readers a happy and productive 2006. MH

The Real Deal

Indian Troops Moving to the Front
Via Double-Decker Bus
This Month's
Special Feature

War Experience

General Maurice Bailloud
Succeeded Gouraud as French Commander at Gallipoli. Clashed with Ian Hamilton and moved his forces to Salonika. Died in air crash.

New at the Websites of the Great War Society and Our Friends

Click on Title to Access
At Great War Society Sites At the WFA-USA

Where is this? Italian troops on the March
Italy or the Western Front? (email)
Media Events

The entire collection of the Doughboys' newspaper, Stars and Stripes, is available at the website of the Library of Congress. (link) The definitive work on the newspaper which which was staffed by such journalistic luminaries as Harold Ross, Alexander Wolcott and Grantland Rice, The Stars and Stripes [Greenwood Press, 1984] was written by Great War Society member Alfred E. Cornebise.

H.H. Munro, aka Saki, gained popularity before the Great War for his witty and off-beat stories. He could have avoided serving, but Munro enlisted and died at the Somme in November 1916 at age 45. Sometime before his death, he made this contribution to war poetry titled Carol:

While shepherds watched their flocks
     by night
  All seated on the ground,
    A high explosive shell came down
      And mutton rained around.


"Titans of the Admiralty: Fisher & Churchill"

Churchillian Society At the Pacific Union Club, San Francisco

February 4 (email)
Verdun and Somme 90th Commemorative Events

Comprehensive Double Calendar

Scheduled Throughout 2006 (link)
WFA-Pacific Branch Spring Seminar

Bay Street Armoury, Officer's Mess At Victoria BC

March 10-12 (email)
WFA-USA East Coast Branch Seminar

Baltimore, MD

April 1 (email)
The First World War and

Popular Culture
Newcastle Inst. for the Arts & Social Sciences

March 31 - Apr. 2 (link)
WFA-USA National Seminar

Aurora, Colorado

May 19-21 (link)
WFA-USA Florida Gulf Chapter Seminar

Hilton Garden Inn, Tampa North

August 16 (link)
Send additions/corrections:
Email Response

Thanks to Ambassador Len Shurtleff for this: Senate Rule 22 providing that 60 votes are needed to end a filibuster dates back to World War I and the threat presented by Imperial German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917. Specifically, the rule was adopted after 11 Senators ("a little group of willful men" in Woodrow Wilson's words) took advantage of the traditional rule of unlimited debate to prevent a vote on a bill to authorize arming of American merchant vessels as a deterrent to German U-boat attack. The House had already passed the bill by a comfortable margin of 403 to 14). Later in the spring of 1917, the newly-elected Senate adopted a bill providing that a two-thirds vote was needed to overcome a filibuster. This was amended to three-fifths (60 votes) in 1975. The arming of American merchant vessels proceeded apace despite the failure of this legislation when Secretary of State Robert Lansing advised Wilson that he had the executive authority to take action without congressional approval.

Memorable Event

January 12, 1916

German aces Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke, First Aviators Awarded Pour le Mérite

Click on Name for Biography

I had entered the holocaust still childish and I emerged tempered by my experience, but with my illusions intact, neither shattered nor cynical.

Anthony Eden,
Future British Prime Minister

Another World

Gone West

We have received announcements of the passing of three World War I veterans:

Jerzy Pajaczkowski-Dydynsk, 111
Polish Member of Austro-Hungarian Army. (link)

Professor Harold W. Lawton, 107
Member of BEF and Prisoner of War after the German 1918 Offensives. (link)

William (Duke) Procter, 107
Member of Canada's Forestry Corps. (link)

State Funeral of Paul von Hindenburg, Tannenberg War Memorial, August 7, 1933.
Key Step in Hitler's Ascendency to Power, But Note Absence of Swastikas
Page Two

Report on Innocence Slaughtered
An International Conference Organized and Hosted by the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, November 2005

From Jack V. Sturiano, GWS Member

The conference was well attended with 112 registered participants mostly from UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, but India, Israel, Iran, Norway, USA (3) and Canada were also represented. The program was under the direction of Dominiek Dendooven and was moderated with old world courtly charm by Prof. Dr. Koen Koch. The initial lectures were devoted to the first use of chemical weapons (WMD'S) by Germany on April 22, 1915 at Langemark, Belgium. This conference was about men--not materials--as is not often the case with some museums.

Shells Combed from Flanders Fields

Many topics were covered and I learned some interesting details: how the gas affected soldiers and civilians; Canada's role on that fateful day; reactions of governments and their media's role in reporting the attack; and debates or lack of debate in Allied response to the use of chemical weapons. The choice of Langemark for the location was not accidental, but a revenge attack for the "Kindermord" battles of the previous October. The code name for this gas attack was German for "disinfection", an ugly term given that it presages use by of gas on civilians in WW2. Fritz Haber personally setup the gas tanks and was later given a medal.

A "Livens" Shell Awaiting Disposal
Contains 8 Liters of Phosgene

We also had a lecture on recent use of chemical weapons by Iraq in Iraq-Iran war from Dr Shair Khateri who is director of the Society for Chemical Weapons Victim Support, www.scwvs.org . His organization deals with the legacy of that war with 50,000 survivors still suffering effects, mostly from mustard gas.

The afternoon of the last day was a tour of battleground where gas was used and a trip to Belgian Army Ammunition Disposal unit (DOVO). Each year 250 tons of ordnance is still removed from Flanders' fields. Of this quantity, 5% are chemical weapons(phosgene and mustard gas) which are very carefully separated from the explosive charges. The liquid is shipped to an incinerator in Antwerp. All this is done in modern state of art decontamination centers by personel in full NBC outfits. Now, I know why I carried a gas mask in Vietnam . The fear unleashed that fateful day persists right to today whether its use is real or threatened. There is a lot more about this event which I am willing to share with anyone interested at jvs@surfglobal.net

World War I Headlines
in the
21st Century

Honorary Degree for 107-Year-Old Veteran

     New Tunneling Under the Western Front

          Story of a French Café

                Last Tommy to have State Funeral


January 1916 and Before:


Click Here to See a Large Battlefield Map of Verdun

In late December 1915 Col Gen Falkenhayn visited the Kaiser to offer his plans for bringing the war to a successful German conclusion in 1916. His idea was that if France would stop fighting, the British would go home, since there would be no point in their continuing with the war, alone. Therefore the answer was simple: to bring the French armies to a place that they would wish to defend to the death and where they would be slaughtered by German artillery, and thus sue for peace. At Verdun. The Kaiser agreed.

Falkenhayn: The Architect
All the staff war games at which he had been present in the far-off days of peace showed the need to attack Verdun on both sides of the sluggish Meuse river running South to North through the middle of the coming battlefield. Falkenhayn chose to attack with nine Divisions on the East Bank of the river only. Feverish preparations and enormous efforts were made by all involved to get everything ready, from the building of light railways, to underground barracks near the front lines, to new hospitals in the rear and especially, to building gun positions and getting the guns bedded in at night under the noses of the French. It was hoped that they would not notice these immense preparations. They did.

In December Colonel Driant was commanding two battalions of light infantry in forward positions approximately in the middle of the front to be assaulted. He was very unhappy with the condition of the positions and complained bitterly in August 1915, from his position as a Deputy (a member of Parliament), that all was very unwell. His complaints brought forth an investigation by the Army Council which found in his favour. Joffre was very unamused.

However, and as a direct result of these events, in late 1915 supplies grudgingly began to make their slow way to the front at Verdun. At the same time incoming situation reports from the French front lines spoke of increasing evidence of the huge build up behind the German lines. French Intelligence said that these reports were not feasible or else they were untrustworthy. They did nothing. Colonel Driant fumed at the continuing incompetence and had built his own defensive works exactly in accordance with the field manual instructions of 1907 to defend his position in the Bois des Caures. There was little more he could do to improve his situation. In daytime the front was quiet, generally as it had been throughout 1915, when Joffre had ordered the guns to be stripped from the Forts on the surrounding hills for use in Champagne. There was little movement on either side, sniping was at a low key, the artillery was quiet and there was an amount of "live and let live". Not a bad place to be stationed if one had to be living in a hole in the ground, wishing one was at home with the wife and kids.

If you would like to visit these fields of memory for a detailed tour, please email Tony Noyes or Christina Holstein to discuss your requirements without obligation.

Russian Troops on the Western Front
Someone Thought This was a Swell Idea at the Time

Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light

Page Three

'Seeing' the War

By Dr. Esther MacCallum-Stewart
Last month, Channel 4 in the UK aired a new series about the importance of war memorials in Britain; Not Forgotten. Presenter Ian Hislop, editor of the satirical political magazine Private Eye, and a well-known enthusiast for WWI, travelled the British Isles in an attempt to bring to the forefront once again the memorials that dot the landscape in almost every village, town and city, yet which, through their very familiarity, are fading from vision. The programme argued that over the years these 'intolerably nameless names' have faded into the background of British society simply because we do not 'see' them anymore. The programme was part of a series by Channel 4; the Lost Generation series. The accompanying website suffered huge problems at first coping with the bandwidth of so many people trying to access it, after they included a search engine of the UK National Inventory of War Memorials that enabled viewers to search the memorials of Britain for their relatives' names.

Not Forgotten's aim was to explore the background of some of the names on these memorials and bring these stories back to the forefront, emphasising the importance of individual experiences, and the relative importance of some of these men, on personal, national and sometimes universal levels. When the programme focused on these latter two categories, for example the first Black Officer in the BEF, Walter Tull, it was careful to choose names of those who had made an impact at the time, or were considered media celebrities at the time, rather than focusing on more well known voices to a later audience.

Brighton War Memorial.
(Passed by students travelling on all 25 University Bus Routes)

On a local note, my home town Brighton is riddled with memorials, and on the bus journey to university I pass at least four. However, many of my students, who travel on the same bus up to the campus, are unable even to sketch a picture of the main memorial, now on a traffic island at the base of the town before it reaches the sea, although still at the approximate geographical centre of the town. This memorial has a wonderful inscription to the places where soldiers of Brighton fought, including, amongst others, the memorable locations 'HIGH SEAS, HOME SEAS, NORTH SEA, NARROW SEAS'. However the fact that the students are unable even to vaguely describe the memorial makes the programme's point a good one - memorials are so much part of our landscape, but so little in use, that they drift from sight.

Memorial to Indian Soldiers
Also Forgotten
There was a second strata the programme, one which was at direct odds with the BBC's rival series The Last Tommy, a two part documentary chronicling the last years of many of the United Kingdom's remaining veterans. Whilst the BBC brought us these men's final words and emphasised their frailty - one died during the making of the programme, and last month, interviewee Alfred Anderson, the last man to witness the Christmas Truce and Scotland's oldest man, also succumbed to old age, Not Forgotten instead interviewed relatives, often ones with little or no knowledge of their forebears. Not Forgotten emphasised the importance of rediscovery and remembering those who may not have had such a high profile since the war (or at least, since The Great War was broadcast in 1964, during which many of these veterans came forwards for the first time). Documents retained by families, many of whom had relatives who would not talk about the war when they were alive, were given a heightened importance. Overall the programme stressed the idea that evidence into the past remains in the 'present' in the form of written records, photographs, letters, newspapers, recollections and of course the memorials themselves.

Unveiling of the Roll of Honour at Brighton College

The politics of memory can be a contentious field. Some argue that the remaining veterans should not be disturbed, and that over the years their tales have become both selective and tailored to modern perspectives of war. In many ways, the limited few that remain have become as specific a group as the war poets, a group who have also been criticised extensively for their limited approach to war. However, Not Forgotten avoided this debate by suggesting ways forward for the popular reader, demonstrating that popular memory and recollection by relatives, as well as rediscovering the past can be as valid a means of bringing the war back into a popular domain. Increasingly, this is going to become the only way to recover the war, and in highlighting the diversity of approaches available to a modern viewer (including of course, the programme itself and the website that accompanied it), Not Forgotten provided what could perhaps be seen as a new way forward in war studies for a general reader, one which also points to the validity of alternative representations of the war and the ways in which these can be uncovered on a practical, local level. Visit Channel 4's Lost Generation website for more information. (link)

Dr. Esther MacCallum-Stewart is a researcher at the University of Sussex and runs our favorite First World War weblog Break of Day in the Trenches.
Click on the icon below to visit her site.

A Surviving Trench and
Bunker Network

By Christina Holstein

Guides to the Western Front, like myself, are often asked if there are surviving trenches that can be visited still. The answer is, yes there are -- if you know where to look. Here is one example:

This is a series of photos taken at the end of October 2005. They were all taken in Parisaux Wood which lies to the east of Verdun, not far from the town of Etain. This is in the area held by the German 50th Reserve Infantry Division throughout the war. The southern edge of Parinsaux Wood was the German front line in the early days of the war. The image below on the left shows a trench which runs all along this southern edge.

Later, however, the wood became a backup position and in 1917 a number of concrete blockhouses were constructed there. Here is a selection of photos from the large number of blockhouses that can be seen. They are all in good condition.

Adventures in Time

By Andrew Melomet

1986 Poster
The air adventures of Captain James "Biggles" Bigglesworth are well known in the United Kingdom and other countries but much less known here in the States. Written by "Captain" W. E. (William Earl) Johns, the Biggles series consists of 96 books published between 1932 and 1970 with an additional 6 omnibus editions published within this period, plus two further books published in the late 1990s. Johns was born in 1893 and served in France first as a machine-gunner and from 1918 as a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps. Shot down over Mannheim, he was captured, escaped, caught again and given a death sentence. Only the sudden end of the war saved his life. Johns remained with the Royal Air Force until 1931 as a flight instructor and later as a recruiting officer. His final rank was Flying Officer. When he became a successful author he promoted himself to Captain. Fans of Monty Python's Flying Circus will recall the parodies "Biggles dictates a letter" and "Cardinal Biggles", complete with flying helmet and goggles, assisting in the interrogations in "The Spanish Inquisition" sketch.

Author W.E. Johns
Released theatrically in 1986, Biggles: Adventures in Time was written by Kent Walwin and John Groves and directed by John Hough. Biggles is played by Neil Dickson and Peter Cushing (in has last film role) played Air Commodore Raymond. Eschewing a plot from any of Johns own World War I stories, the screenwriters came up with a Biggles science-fiction adventure. Jim Ferguson (Alex Hyde-White) a modern day executive who finds himself thrown back in time to the Western Front during World War I. Seems that Biggles and Ferguson are "time-twins" who are interlocked across the decades. Biggles' mission is to find and destroy a German secret super weapon that can change the course of the war. Other regulars from the Biggles canon make their appearances. The stalwart lads, Algy, Bertie, Ginger, are there to lend a hand or grenade when required. The sole love of Biggles' life, Marie, is behind the lines, hiding with the nuns. And there's Von Stalhein, the enemy ace who flies into combat wearing an iron mask. The fantastic story seems more G-8 and His Battle Aces than a true Biggles tale. There's only one dogfight and that's between a Boeing Stearman and a Belgian Stampe SV-4. The airplanes are from the wrong era but at least they have the correct number of wings. Still, the film has its charms and the World War I battle scenes are created with vigor and explosive enthusiasm. Most of the modern age scenes were shot in London, on and about Docklands and the Tower Bridge. My favorite line is in the modern era when Biggles flies a helicopter, exclaiming- "If you can fly a Sopwith Camel, you can fly anything!"

First Biggles Novel
The DVD of Biggles: Adventures in Time has been released in the UK and here in the States. The UK DVD has extra features including Trailer, Making of the Film, TV Spots, Image Gallery, Filmographies, Music Video and excerpts from two 1986 TV shows covering the original theatrical release. The film is rated PG for violence and mild swearing. While not a perfect family film, there is a certain pulpish "Boys Own" charm to Biggles and it grows on you with time. It's definitely worth a rental, at least.

Andrew Melomet, Proprietor of Andy's Nickelodeon will answer your Great War film or video inquiry. He is also soliciting your recommendations for the WWI Filmography he is compiling for our readers. Just click HERE.

The following are thanked for their contributions to this issue of the Trip Wire: Sean McLachlan, David Smith, Donna Cunningham, Christina Holstein,Tony Noyes, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Andy Melomet, Sidney Clark, Len Shurtleff. Saki's poem was found at the WWI Document Archive. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.

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