May 2006

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: Congrats to near-deadheat responders Ken Reibel of Milwaukee and Tom Clegg of Uniondale, Iowa for successfully identifying Raymond Loewy, legendary industrial designer and former Engineering Officer with the French Army as the designer of all those corporate logos. I'm temporarily suspending the trivia contest, though; we had 14 correct responses within an hour of my posting the page. I need to find some tougher questions for our well-informed readers. . .I did a web search this past month to discover which other internet websites are recommending at least one of our family of websites. (list & hyperlinks) Out of the thousands of "hits" here are some our strongest "fans": US Army Historical Foundation, BBC, British National Archives, Family Tree Magazine,, Best of History Web Sites, PBS, Social Studies School Service,,, History Matters,, Rutgers University Web Guide,, Teaching American History. A big THANK-YOU to all these sites for their support. . .I'll be leading a group to the Western Front in May for Valor Tours. Look for some photos and battlefield updates in future issues. Late News Flash! The San Francisco Giants baseball club has just installed a replica of the Memorial Plaque to WWI victim and team veteran, Capt. Eddie Grant. More next month. (Click here if you haven't been following this story.) MH

The Real Deal

German Assault at Verdun

This Month's Internet Feature
Thank Heaven for American Heritage

For decades American Heritage Magazine has regularly featured articles on the Great War. Recently, they seem to have opened their archives. Here is a selection of some of their best material from some renowned writers. You can search for others at their homepage. Best of all, these are available free. [At least for now.]

  • 1918 - John Lukacs
  • American Field Service
  • War and Self Determination
  • Bruce Catton Reviews Cyril Falls, THE GREAT WAR
  • General George Kenney's WWI Diary
  • Laurence Stallings on the 'War to End All Wars'
  • Russian Interventions by E.M. Halliday
  • Thomas Fleming on Two Argonne's

    Huge Crowd at Lone Pine Monument
    Gallipoli, 25 Apr 2006 (Hyperlink below)

    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

    2006 WFA-USA National Seminar
    Aurora, Colorado - May 19-21
    Full Program

    Lt. Philip St. John Basil Rathbone of the Liverpool Scottish Regiment received the Military Cross in 1918 "For conspicuous daring and resource on patrol." He later went to Hollywood and starred in The Dawn Patrol, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood and a series about some London detective.

  • Marne Battlefield at Villeroy
    I'll Be Reporting From Here Next Month


    Verdun and Somme
    90th Commemorative Events

    Comprehensive Double Calendar

    Scheduled Throughout 2006 (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)
    WFA-USA New York/New England Chapter Seminar

    Hartford Connecticut
    Contact Lannie Liggera for details (email)

    November 11th
    Armistice Day and the Great War Society

    An International View of the Great War With our Friends Jean- Pierre & Cecile Mouraux
    Sonoma, California

    Check back for Details
    November 11th
    Send additions/corrections:
    Email Response

    Memorable Event

    Battle of Jutland

    HMS Queen Elizabeth

    May 31, 1916

    Click on Image for More Information

    Media Events

    Trip-Wire Television Alert: Your editor and several of our website contributors--Len Shurtleff, Tom Fleming, BG Bob Doughty--appear as commentators on the History Channel production DECLASSIFIED: WORLD WAR I. The program premieres on May 4th at 10pm Eastern and will be reshown at assorted times afterwards. Check your cable listings.

    There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.

    Admiral David Beatty at Jutland
    May 31, 1916

    Adm. Franz von Hipper
    Beatty's Battle Cruiser Opponent
    At Jutland

    German Chaveaux de Frise Barrier
    Anti-Cavalry and Possibly Intended to be Anti-Tank Obstacle

    Page Two
    USMC - Commandant's Reading List
    First World War Titles

    ·         Lejeune: A Marine's Life, 1867-1942

    by Merrill Bartlett

    ·         General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman

    by Ed Cray

    ·         Patton: A Genius for War

    by Carlo D'Este

    ·         The General

    by C.S. Forester

    ·         Knight's Cross: A Life of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel

    by David Fraser

    ·         Price of Glory: Verdun 1916

    by Alistair Horne

    ·         The Face of Battle

    by John Keegan

    ·         The Price of Admiralty: The Evolution of Naval Warfare

    by John Keegan

    ·         The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. . .

    by Paul Kennedy

    ·         Reminiscences of a Marine

    by John Lejeune

    ·         Changes in the German Tactical Doctrine During the First World War

    by Timothy Lupfer

    ·         Reminiscences

    by Douglas MacArthur

    ·         The Middle Parts of Fortune: Somme and Ancre, 1916

    by Frederic Manning

    ·         Gallipoli

    by Alan Moorehead

    ·         Once an Eagle

    by Anton Myer

    ·         [Infantry] Attacks

    by Erwin Rommel

    ·         Fall of Eagles

    by C.L. Sulzberg

    ·         Fix Bayonets!

    by John Thomason

    ·         The Killing Ground: The British Army, The Western Front & Modern Warfare

    by Tim Travers

    ·         How the War was Won

    by Tim Travers

    ·         Pershing, General of the Armies

    by Douglas Smythe

    ·         Infantry in Battle

    (U.S.) Infantry School


    May 1916:

    Volunteers and
    Lost Opportunities

    The Somme

    May 1916,

    Moving Up!

    May was the month of the disaster inside the German occupied Fort Douaumont and the subsequent French counterattack; and also the month of the coming of the Lafayette Escadrille.

    Click Here to See a Large
    Battlefield Map of Verdun

    Maurice Ravel
    Drove at Verdun
    America had not yet declared war against the Central Powers and so could not send uniformed men to the front, although many had volunteered for, and were serving in, the Foreign Legion which had been in France almost since the beginning and suffered terrible casualties as a result. But more volunteers were welcome, especially drivers and pilots. Driving was not an especially glamorous occupation. But these men of the American Ambulance Service drove the little ambulance lorries from as near the front as they could get, to the hospitals in the rear. Originally posted elsewhere on the French front they were transferred to the Verdun front. Stories of their adventures and escapes from shelling along dangerous roads were legion, and they did a very good, distinctly unglamorous, job in terrible conditions.

    But American pilots flying in action for France were definitely glamorous to the world of the American newspapers and the Lafayette Escadrille was rapidly transferred from Alsace to Verdun and scored their first victory in late May. It was about this time that the French Air Force began to realise that one photo-reconnaisance plane, suitably escorted by many fighters, could bring back priceless information in a short time and thus was born the beginnings of flying in specific groups to perform a specific task.

    On May 8th Fort Douaumont suffered a internal grievous explosion. (article). This disaster did not pass unnoticed by the French who saw the mushroom cloud rising and they gradually realised that here was their chance to attack and take back the fort. It took them two weeks to prepare for and to launch their attack bringing up new heavy mortars and an increasing selection of artillery. This preparation was, of course, seen by the Germans and they also prepared for a counter artillery duel. On the 22nd the French assaulted this looming monster on the skyline and for a time it almost seemed they might be successful.

    But the Germans won the day, the French were decimated despite appalling German losses, and the attack faded away. There were no reserves to fill the front lines vacated by the attacking French. At this point in time, if the Germans had had infantry in support in sufficient numbers, they could have advanced through the gap in the French lines and attempted to take Verdun. They didn't, and this gives rise to one of the great "what if" questions of the Great War. Could Verdun have been taken on this day?

    By this time both Petain and Crown Prince William on their opposing sides seemed to know that the battle had acquired a life and momentum of its own and it is unlikely that the French artillery would have allowed such an eventuality. But the moment passed and the Germans continued with their plan to take Fort Vaux standing on the next ridge in plain sight of Fort Douaumont. It had been a long standing barrier to their original plans.
    They trooped off the ship usually at Boulogne having been escorted by the ships of the Dover Patrol, and were often greeted with absolute disinterest by the locals who had "seen it all before". Sometimes they were besieged by small children scrounging cap badges or souvenirs, or even offering their sisters? questionable services!

    Click Here to See a Large
    Battlefield Map of the Somme

    They marched up the long cobbled hill to their camp in the fields below the statue of Napoleon contemplating the white cliffs of Dover, and those who knew their history about his proposed invasion of England passed appropriate comments to their inferiors who didn't.

    New Tommies
    Marching to the Front
    As a unit they now passed through the system and in due course were transported across the countryside of France or sometimes Flanders, in the infamous cattle trucks known as 40 (men) and 8?s (Horses), towards the rumbling guns beyond the horizon, passing the ruins of villages, and the vast complex of men and machines that formed the rear areas. The adventure was becoming worrying.

    And the train stopped eventually and they got out and fell in in ranks and waited for orders. They marched in files of four, being jostled by wheeled transport moving in both directions on the pave roads and which claimed absolute right of way. They moved into their last ramshackle camp before the trenches.

    If lucky, they were sent to a quiet part of the line and went "up the line" in small groups to become acclimatized to the darkness, the smell, the primitive latrines, the bad food, and the unending work of keeping their trench in good order. If unlucky, parading in the late evening, they went straight into the line after dark, taking over from the outgoing unit who departed quickly with comments not likely to calm the nerves of the newcomers.

    German Sniper
    No lights were allowed and in the darkness they posted sentries and waited for their first dawn. As dawn arose with the light generally behind the German lines, they took stock of their surroundings. A squalid ditch some six foot deep with a fire step upon which to stand and fire if necessary. Generally it was lined with wood with a timber floor, below which the ground water ran to a sump. Accommodation could be a dug out built into the forward side of the trench or if unlucky, just a squat at the side of the trench where it might be possible to snatch a very few hours of exhausted sleep. The other side of the wire, across No Mans Land, were the Germans. More than one young man felt it necessary to "see Jerry". Often his reward was an immediate snipers bullet through his head. He had been at the front less than half a day. The adventure was now decidedly frightening.

    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.

    HMS Warspite Received More "Hits" Than Any Ship at Jutland
    Survived to Serve on D-Day at Normandy, 28 Years Later

    Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light

    André Maginot, Verdun and
    The Maginot Line

    By Christina Holstein

    The Battle of Verdun was characterized by an intense ten-month bombardment that turned the battlefield into a sea of mud. Trenches, shelters, batteries and communications were annihilated, yet Fort Douaumont survived. After the war was over, it was calculated that the fort had been battered by a minimum of 120,000 shells, of which at least 2000 were of a calibre greater than 270mm. Only the French 400mm and German 420mm shells succeeding in piercing the concrete carapace. After the war, French military engineers studied the strengths and weaknesses of Fort Douaumont and used their findings in the design of a new chain of concrete-covered underground forts that was specifically designed to prevent the Germans from ever again invading France from the east. This was the Maginot Line. [Named for the Minister who most helped secure the approvals and financing for the fortifications.]

    In August 1914, André Maginot, after whom the new fortress line would be named, was [already] a Member of Parliament for Bar-le-Duc. Immediately volunteering for service -- despite parliamentary immunity -- Maginot took the train to Verdun to join his regiment, the 44th Territorial Infantry, part of which formed the garrison of Fort Douaumont. A few days later the newly mobilized Territorials made camp in a clearing close to the country road from Douaumont village to Bezonvaux, little dreaming that in February 1916 the same road would be crossed by German soldiers on their way to the fort. The Territorials were a cheerful group and Maginot’s memoir of patrols and ambushes among the villages below the fort is high-spirited and carefree. [Maginot was wounded and eventually demobilized in late 1914.]

    Between Maginot and his comrades, going blithely to war in the blue jackets and red trousers of the French army of 1914, and the filthy and exhausted men on both sides who fought so tenaciously for Fort Douaumont throughout 1916 there are two years of a type of warfare that no one could have imagined. For his service at Verdun and his industrious effort in support of French Veterans and to improve the defenses of the nation, a monument to André Maginot was dedicated on the Verdun battlefield near the German high-water mark at Fort Souville in 1966.

    Text by Permission from Christina's book Fort Douaumont hereby recommended. (order)

    World War I Headlines
    in the
    21st Century

    Three Men Fallen at Ypres Found

          Exact Locale of Sgt. York's Feat Identified:

               Anzac Day Remembered Across the Globe

                     Great War Mental Casualties Were Hidden

    Visit and Bookmark a New Site Dedicated to WWI in the News (link)

    Page Three

    Children's Books from the World War, II

    From Tony Langley
    Fighting in Enemy Territory
    Last month's contribution on Children's Books from Bob Ford must have touched a chord. Several readers have offered selections from their own collections. They will appear in future issues of the Trip-Wire.

    The next set comes from our regular photo contributor Tony Langley. Here are some representative samples from his German titles.

    Tony says the use of 'Feindesland' in the top left example is quite significant. It means enemy territory, but it's also some sort of mythical place outside the Fatherland where the only thing a true German can do is fight the enemy with all his might. It was probably meant to sound very inspiring to the Germans of those times. The title would therefore be referring to the never-ending battles Germans have waged throughout history to preserve their Nation. The 1914 War just being the last in a long line of wars ever since the Romans first tried to conquer Germania.
    Prisoner of the

    The World War - Zeppelin

    Under Russian

    A Chicken in France

    By Dr. Esther MacCallum-Stewart

    A while back I was sent the above image by a researcher trying to trace the story behind what appears to be a small pin badge. The researcher included the lyrics to a song which he thought might be relevant, the snappily titled 'Would You Rather Be A Colonel With An Eagle On Your Shoulder Or A Private With A Chicken On Your Knee?', and wondered if I knew what this badge was for. Despite putting an entry on the weblog, I received one reply to my request or help, but sadly that only listed the availability of a recording of the tune, and if the show was broadcast and an answer found, I did not hear it. I had some ideas, of course - the slang term for a young lady, production drives to encourage people to support the rebuilding of France, a term for a type of soldier. But the researcher seemed to think that the badge was from a 1918 collection, so perhaps had no connection with the war at all. I would still love to find out if anyone knows if this badge is connected with the war in any way.

    Sometimes, when we remember, it is not the big things. I think that WWI suffers too much sometimes from a remembrance of the big, and it forgets the details. This badge is one of those details. How many were produced, who wore them, what was it for? Most importantly, what did it mean as a cultural artefact? On the bus this morning I saw a schoolgirl with a similar badge pinned to her bag. It said 'El Presidente' in red letters on a black background. I wondered if, in eighty years, people would be asking the same question of her badge as it lay, out of context in a collection or a drawer somewhere. Did people then wear badges in the same way - specifically one that seems to refer to something specific as the 'Chicken' badge does. What did it mean - socially, politically, culturally? Small things like this remind me, at least, of the diversity of the world in the 1910s. The fact that the badge may have nothing to do with the war at all reminds me that there was indeed a thriving life away from it. Too often we look at the Western Front, the soldier at war and those left behind as all part of a homogenous body of 'at war' persona, and we don't consider that all of those people had lives as well that intersected with, or ran parallel with, or simply ignored the war. Although scholarship has tried to address this across the century by looking at different roles and different peoples, as well as their varied responses to the conflict, sometimes I think we pay too little attention to being 'just ordinary'.
    Would You Rather Be A Colonel With An Eagle On Your Shoulder Or A Private With A Chicken On Your Knee?

    First Verse:

    Once I heard a father ask his soldier son,
    Why can't you advance like the other boys have done?
    You've been a private mighty long,
    Won't you tell me what is wrong?"
    And then the soldier lad
    Said, "Listen to me, Dad:

    First Chorus:

    I'd rather be a private than a colonel in the Army,
    A private has more fun,
    When his day's work is done;
    And when he goes on hikes,
    In ev'ry town he strikes
    Girls discover him
    And just smother him
    With things he likes.
    But girlies act so shy
    When colonel passes by,
    He holds his head so high with dignity;
    So would you rather be a colonel with an eagle on your shoulder
    Or a private with a chicken on your knee?

    Second Verse:

    Ev'ry night you find some private in the park,
    Spooning on a bench where it is nice and dark:
    He's just as happy as can be
    With his girlie on his knee,
    But colonel never dares
    To mix in such affairs:

    Second Chorus:

    I'd rather be a private than a colonel in the Army,
    A colonel out in France
    Can never take a chance,
    For though his job is great,
    He dare not make a date;
    All that he can do Is just parley-voo
    Then hesitate;
    But privates meet the ma,
    And then they treat the pa,
    And then they 'oo-la-la' with 'wee Marie';
    So would you rather be a colonel with an eagle on your shoulder
    Or a private with a chicken on your knee?

    Click here to listen to this classic song.

    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.

    Kinmell Park 1919, Part II

    From Sidney Clark, GWS Member

    Our editor has forwarded to me the comments of Trip-Wire reader Bill Jenkins on my article in the December 2005 issue titled: "The Kinmel Park Mutiny of 1919." (link) Mr. Jenkins was concerned that we may have left the impression that some or all of the men who perished in the incident were shot for mutiny.

    The facts as far as I understand them are that five Canadian soldiers did die during the incident from gun shot and bayonet wounds. My understanding is that these five men were never judged or found guilty of any crime. Their deaths did occur when what is commonly referred to as the "The Mutiny at Kinmell Park" was taking place. There was, however, never any question of the loyalty or patriotism of any of the men stationed at the camp. They just wanted to go home and the continued delays built up a frustration that manifested itself in a riot.

    Over the years a myth has arisen that many of the Canadians buried in this churchyard were mutineers, when the facts are that all but these five died from natural causes and rampant influenza. Of course it is more sensational to repeat the myth than find out the truth. Our use of "Mutiny" in the original article probably compounded matters. Although there is probably no intent to mislead, the official records were sealed for 100 years leaving the story open to interpretation. Below is the grave marker for one of the men who perished during the incident

    Aces High

    By Andrew Melomet

    A trio of World War I films about the air war on the Western Front appeared between 1966 and 1976, The Blue Max (1966), Von Richthofen and Brown (The Red Baron, UK title) (1971) and Aces High (1976).

    Howard Barker's screenplay for Aces High was based on R.C. Sheriff's play Journey's End and Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Lewis. The director was Jack Gold who is most famous for his direction of The Naked Civil Servant starring John Hurt. The producer was S. Benjamin Fisz who had also produced The Battle of Britain (1969). Fisz had flown Spitfires in 303 Squadron in 1940 and later flew Mustangs and Meteors.

    After a brief prologue in October 1916 at a public school (with a nice cameo by John Gielgud as Headmaster), Aces High covers a week in October 1917 with 76 Squadron RFC. 2nd Lieutenant Croft (Peter Firth) arrives as a replacement pilot to the dismay of Major Gresham (Malcolm McDowell). Croft has 15 hours of training with 4 of them on SE5s. He's wrangled his assignment to Gresham's squadron because Gresham is his idol and former public school house captain. Gresham is also involved with Croft's sister. But Gresham is no longer the beaming war hero who spoke at school about "caning" the Germans. He's now a commander who's lost too many friends and comrades and needs a belly full of liquor to fly in combat.

    Other flyers encountered by Croft include 'Uncle' Sinclair (Christopher Plummer) the squadron's reconnaissance pilot and Crawford (Simon Ward) a pilot at the end of his tether who will no longer fly combat, claiming neuralgia. Sinclair takes the young pilot under his wing, providing the avuncular companionship of an older and wiser man. Crawford is strained to the breaking point and cannot accept Croft. Eventually he confides to Croft his desire to desert.

    Still from the Film
    Croft finds adulthood crammed within the space of 7 days. He learns to fly combat, drink and womanize. He finds himself accepted by his comrades. After shooting down his first enemy airplane, on a six plane attack mission against German spotter balloons, he dies in a midair collision. Later that day, sole survivor Gresham greets three more new replacement pilots with even less flying hours than the late Croft.

    The mainly male cast gives strong performances. Besides McDowell, Plummer, Ward, Firth and Gielgud, there are also appearances by Tim Piggott-Smith (The Jewel in the Crown) and cameos by Trevor Howard, Ray Milland and Richard Johnson as upper staff officers. The aerial cinematography is excellent with the World War I aircraft represented by both replicas and actual period aircraft. As a cost savings some footage from both The Blue Max and Von Richthofen and Brown is used in several scenes. Barker's script combines the original tension in Sheriff's play of men facing fierce odds and losing comrades with actual wartime occurrences from Lewis's writings to create a vivid aviation story.

    Aces High is not available on DVD here in the States. I purchased my UK copy on-line. It's a bare-bones release without a trailer or production notes. The print appears a little faded in part and there is some noticeable print damage visible in one scene. But it is in a 19 X 9 wide-screen format and chances are it will not be going through a restoration anytime soon.

    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:Ed Warner, Sidney Clark, Christina Holstein, Bob Denison, Bob Ford, Tony Noyes, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Andy Melomet, Len Shurtleff. [Sorry I lost the full list for this issue.] Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.

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