September 2004

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TRENCH REPORT: Our far-flung network of correspondents continue to send me fascinating items. Battlefield Guru Christina Holstein reports that at the start of the month, Four British vets marked the start of WWI at the Whitehall Cenotaph (link) Mystery author Jackie Winspear sent a fascinating article on the excavations going on in Ypres (link) [See Donna Cunningham's article about Jackie below]. . . A reader requesting anonymity asked via email if I was the author of "Hanlon's Razor" which reads "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." I responded that I was not the originator of that advice, nor did I know the particular Hanlon who devised it. I do, however, fully endorse its wisdom . . . The U.S. Chapter of the Western Front Association has announced their new slate of officers. TJ Johnson of Virginia Beach succeeds Len Shurtleff as President. Steve Gengrich is the new Vice-President and Joe Liggera stays on as Secretary/Treasurer. Congrats to Len for a highly successful term.


Col. Richard Hentsch
Pour le Meritè


German General Staff
Scapegoat of the Marne

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

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At Great War Society Sites At the WFA-USA

This Month's
Special Feature

The Lafayette Escadrille

French Casualties
At the Marne

For all he is criticized, even mocked, it was Crown Prince Wilhelm who first understood the defeat at the Marne meant Germany could not win the war.

Preparations for the Marne

The World War I Literary Essay

The 90th Anniversary of the War's opening is generating an explosion of essays both reflecting on the war and usually describing some of the recent works and classics the author admires. Here are four.

Kaiser Bill and Me
by John Derbyshire

The Big One
by Adam Gopnik

Saving France
by W. Thomas Smith

Loss of Perspective
by R.E. Tyrrell

Emile Brichard died on July 8th 2004. He was 104 years old. Brichard was the last living Belgian WW I veteran. In an interview with a Dutch newspaper a few days before his death he told how he worked in a field hospital as a nurse. "One big drama it was. All day I was busy with corpses. Shot, lethally wounded, they came in. Very seldom one came out alive." Brichard himself came out healthy. He became a miner. In 1926 he took part in the Tour de France. He was married three times and outlived all his wives. He could still read his newspaper without glasses.

One of Australia's last remaining World War I veterans Marcel Caux has died aged 105. Mr. Caux died peacefully August 22 at a Chatswood nursing home in Sydney. Caux fought in battles on the Western Front in France and was recently honored in Sydney during Bastille Day celebrations last month. We will have more on Mr. Caux interesting career in next month's Trip-Wire.

Also, bodies of 3 Austrian Soldiers of the Great War were found in the Trentino last month. (news story)


An Improbable War? The Outbreak of World War I and the European Political Culture before 1914

Scottish Centre for War Studies (University of Glasgow)
International Conference at Emory University-October 13-16, 2004
(for info.)

WFA-USA NE/NY Chapter Seminar

Marriott Hotel, Springfield MA
October 23, 2004 (link)
WFA-USA East Coast Chapter WWI History Seminar

Maryland War Memorial Building, Baltimore
November 13, 2004 (link)
Send additions/corrections:
Email Response

One of the most moving scenes in the recent "reality" programme THE TRENCH was when veteran Arthur Barraclough explained how he prepared to go "over the top". He was not especially religious, but declined the customary rum ration to steady the nerves. Instead:

    I stood by myself for a minute, saying, "Dear God, I'm going into great danger. Would you please guard me and help me to act like a man. Please bring me back safe". . .I used to go out there without a fear, and here I am. I didn't say it out loud. My pals got to know, and they did all sorts of daft stuff to get drunk. Well, I didn't need it because I trusted, you know, in my prayers.

         Arthur Barraclough, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, passed away August 30, 2004, age 106. Courtesy of Christina Holstein

Page Two

The World at War
By Andrew Melomet

September 2004 is the 65th anniversary of the start of the Second World War in Europe. Of course, there's many who say that the Second World War was just a continuation of The Great War with a mere 20 year lull for the combatants to lick their wounds before starting to fight again. September 1939 is too Eurocentric for me. I prefer September 1931 and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria as an actual start date for WWII. But, that's my opinion. Feel free not to email me with yours. The World At War is the epic documentary series originally produced by Thames Television in the early 1970s. It has never been off American television since it first aired over 30 years ago. The Series Producer, Jeremy Isaacs, had seen the landmark BBC television series, The Great War and realized he could produce a similar series just as powerful on the war he had experienced as a youngster. The World At War is based on a simple documentary premise, that the visual image is the most powerful force a documentary filmmaker can yield. The editing (supervised by Alan Afriat) is very well-done, the haunting opening title sequence by John Stamp and the melancholy score by Carl Davis is instantly recognizable and Sir Laurence Oliver's terse eccentric narration of the sparse script add to the pleasures of this series.

Watching the episodes and extended documentaries and special features on the new DVD Box Set from A&E I'm struck by how often the narration and the interviewees refer to the First World War. For instance, Karl Wolff (Himmler's Adjutant and considered third in command of the SS) was a commissioned officer in 1918 and awarded the Iron Cross First Class. He tells how his WWI experiences encouraged him to join the SS, instead of the SA. Admiral Karl Donitz, the final leader of the Third Reich recounts how he based his U-Boat wolf pack tactics on his WWI submarine experiences in the Mediterranean. According to the narration, Stalin refused to mobilize the Russian troops on the eve of Operation Barbarossa because he felt that Russian troop mobilization had lead to the German attack in the First World War. Hitler's motivations and Germany's post-WWI humiliations are discussed in detail.

The series is not without its flaws. It was produced just a little too early to include the revelation of ULTRA and the breaking of the Enigma Codes. And, it certainly has a strongly British slant on the war. As my Mother stated over 30 years ago, "It sure tells you how the Brits won World War II." Still, this series is one of the "Crown Jewels" of military history documentaries. It is insightful, powerful and unforgettable. I highly recommend this new box set with the original 26 episodes and an additional 12 hours of bonus programming.

From Andy's Kit Bag

Chances are the biggest screen in your home is your television screen and probably the smallest is your computer monitor. Ever wonder how nice it would be to watch what's on your computer on your TV? Fortunately, Actiontec Electronics ( in Sunnyvale, California has developed the Wireless Digital Media Player ($199) allows you to connect your PC to your TV and home stereo. This device is very cool. I can now play all those great WWI PC games like Wings of Glory on the home theater screen in my living room. I can read The St. Mihiel Trip-Wire or surf the internet while seated on the couch. And I don't have a no-man's land tangle of wire all over the place 'cause it's Wireless! (And I don't mean Great War wireless either.) It's relatively easy to install using the step-by-step interactive Web-based instruction guide. I recommend this device but be sure to check out the system requirements before purchasing.

Andrew Melomet, Proprietor of Andy's Nickelodeon will answer your Great War film or video inquiry. Just click HERE.

From Tony Langley's War in a Different Light

Zouaves Marching to the Marne
Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light

The TGV Meets World War I

Christina reports that the construction of the French high speed rail line, TGV-Est, between Paris and Strasbourg may be having a major impact on the battlefields of the Great War. Specifically, sites near the Marne, the St. Mihiel Salient and Lorraine are affected. She has heard and is trying to confirm that a major portion of the Voie Sacree will be expanded to four lanes to service a station just south of Souilly, Petain's, and later Pershing's, headquarters. As time allows, Christina will try to provide updates as construction, now scheduled for a 2007 completion, proceeds. Here is a schematic I discovered on the web [TGV in red hatched]:

Meeting Jackie Winspear
By Donna Cunningham, TGWS Member

Jackie & a Fan

Jacqueline Winspear, my fellow Great War Society Member and author of Maisie Dobbs, appeared at the San Diego bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, on August 7. She spoke about the influence of the Great War on her writing, read from her new novel Birds of a Feather, and signed books for her enthusiastic admirers. Jacqueline was born in Great Britain and raised in the country near London. Her grandfather was severely wounded at the Somme -- both gassed and shot. Until his death at 77, he was still removing shrapnel from 1916 from his leg. As she grew up, she came to realize that he had been wounded emotionally as well.

She heard firsthand stories about both World Wars from her parents and her grandparents. As an adult, she contemplated how these stories illustrate what happens to ordinary people in extraordinary times. The legacy of the Great War made its impression on an entire generation of British women - 60,000 served overseas, and a half million British women went to work to support the war effort. The devastation of the population of young British men meant that many women never married. The independence and spirit of these women served as the inspiration for Maisie Dobbs.

To the delight of the attendees, Jacqueline is working on a third book and contemplates more in the future.

The following are thanked for their contributions to this issue of the Trip Wire: Christina Holstein, Donna Cunningham, Tony Langley, Andy Melomet, Len Shurtleff, . Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.

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