Third Anniversary Issue

November 2005

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: With this issue of the Trip-Wire we begin our fourth year of publication. Thank you for your support. Over the years, I've been regularly asked how we have been able to provide a fresh stream of new material from issue to issue. The answer is twofold. First, the First World War is simply endlessly interesting. Second, the majority of the material published here either comes from you, the readers, or is pointed out by you. As I mentioned in an earlier issue, I've come to think of some of you as "Agents" who report in to the Trip-Wire command post regularly. . .Speaking of our Agents, they were especially industrious in October. David Beer says that there are hopes of a posthumous pardon for shell-shocked soldier who was executed during the war. (link). . .Barrister Bob Rudolph reports that the original copy of the Zimmerman Telegram has been found (link). . .Len Shurtleff has discovered that personnel records of WWI US Veterans will soon become available to researchers under Freedom of Information guidelines. (link). . .and a whole gaggle of you passed on the scientific news that the emerging bird flu shows similarities to the Spanish Influenza of 1918. (link)

Memorable Event

November 1915

The Battle of Ctesiphon

Click on Image for Description of the Battle

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

The Real Deal

Stormtrooper 1918

This Month's
Special Feature

Parallels of WWI to Our Time

Gone West

The last Australian to fight in World War I, William Evan Allan, from Victoria, has died at the age of 106. The former sailor, also the sole surviving Australian veteran of both world wars, was given a state funeral. Mr Allan, then aged 14, enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy as a boy sailor before the outbreak of World War I. (article)

As Great War veteran George Patton once said, "To be a successful soldier you must know history ..." What WWI books are America's warriors studying? Each of the service chiefs have a list of recommended readings for their troops. This month we feature the Chief of Naval Operations' suggestions that touch on WWI.
  • The Face of Battle. John Keegan
  • American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964. William Manchester
  • The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill. William Manchester
  • All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Rise of American Naval Power, 1776-1918. Harold Hance Sprout
  • The Guns of August. Barbara Tuchman

    GREAT WAR 2005
    WFA-USA East Coast Fall Seminar

    Maryland Military Memorial
    Baltimore, Maryland
    November 5, 2005 (link)
    The Red Cross at War

    Great War Society Event
    Veterans Day
    Sonoma, CaliforniaNovember 12, 2005 (email for info)
    1915 - Innocence Slaughtered?

    In Flanders Fields Museum
    Ypres, Belgium
    November 17-19, 2005 (program)
    Send additions/corrections:
    Email Response

    Media Events

    The Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge is showing several WWI themed movies in November for a series called "In The Trenches". (link)

    2. Member Dave Homsher is preparing to publish the first volume of his series of comprehensive guides to the battlefields of the AEF, The Battle of Chateau Thierry. Click on his cover below to visit his website and learn about Dave's book and his prepublication sales offer.

    3. Member Scott Schoner, proprietor of the Digital Bookshelf, is offering a free one-day Armistice Day subscription to his database of 85,000 World War I American Casualties. Email Scott at and he will send you the url and password to use on November 11th. has shared these philological fun facts: The conflict that erupted in August 1914, and that ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, was known at the time simply as the Great War. In the United States, it was officially designated The World War. On October 7, 1919, War Department General Orders No. 115 directed: "The war against the Central Powers of Europe, in which the United States has taken part, will hereafter be designated in all official communications and publications as 'The World War' ". . .The term "First World War" was used in 1920 by Lt-Col Repington, in his book The First World War 1914-18. The phrase "World War 2" was first noted in use in Manchester Guardian on 18 February 1919. It seems that World Wars I & II were named together for the first time by Time magazine on 11 September 1938.
    Greater forces were needed in 1918 to collect the plunder of Brest-Litovsk than had been needed in 1917 to destroy the Russian armies. . .a million soldiers who might have turned the scale of the war in the west.

    AJP Taylor

  • Marker at Arlington National Cemetery for Ernest Wrentmore, 60th Infantry, 5th Division
    Youngest Member of the AEF Who Enlisted at Age 12
    Page Two

    Before Arabia
    An Episode From T.E. Lawrence's Service in Mesopotamia

    From Anne Steele, GWS Member

    Capt. Lawrence
    [On the morning of April 29, 1916], Captain T. E. Lawrence, accompanying Colonel W. H. Beach (head of the Intelligence Staff of the Indian Expeditionary Forces) and Captain Aubrey Herbert (Chief of Naval Intelligence in Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf) left the trenches outside Kut with a white flag and advanced a couple of hundred yards toward the Turkish lines. They paused amid the unpleasant smell of the battlefield.

    After a while the Turks sent a party out to inquire as to their mission. It was explained that Col. Beach had a letter for Khalil (Khalil Pasha, the Turkish Commander) that had to be personally delivered. The Turks told them to wait while they decided what to do. The wait extended for several hours. Col. Beach finally agreed to turn over the letter if his party was taken to Khalil. The Turks agreed. The British were blindfolded and led through the lines, at one point on horseback. Lawrence had injured his knee and insisted on walking the whole way, which meant that he arrived at the meeting after his colleagues. While Col. Beach was the senior officer present, and thus the one responsible for whatever happened, the talks were held mostly in French, which Beach didn't understand, so Herbert did most of the talking with Lawrence in support.

    General Townshend
    Unbeknownst to the negotiating party, General Townshend had surrendered at 6 a.m. that morning, and had instructed his troops to destroy their weapons. By the time this meeting was conducted the Turks were preparing to enter Kut. Townshend had offered to exchange his sick and wounded troops for an equal number of Turkish troops held by the British. Khalil had accepted this offer "in principle". Knowing that many of his men could not withstand captivity for long, Townshend increased the offer to forty to fifty percent of his troops. Col. Beach attempted to increase the offer to all of the troops.

    The letter restated a former offer to pay 1,000,000 "for the civilians of Kut". Aubrey Herbert added 1,000,000 to this not knowing if he really had such authority (it later turned out that the government would have supported him). Khalil was not interested in the money, as he was the nephew of Enver, head of the Young Turks. What he wanted were river steamers to transport the prisoners to Baghdad. He promised to return them afterward. While Col. Beach knew that force-marching the prisoners would undoubtedly result in many deaths, he had no authority to accept this offer, as the British were short of river craft for their own purposes.

    Capt. Herbert
    The meeting came to an end after Khalil said, "After all gentlemen, our interests as Empire builders are much the same as yours. There is nothing that need stand between us." Lawrence replied, "Only a million dead Armenians". The meeting ended with rounds of insincere complements. Since it was now too late to return to the British lines, Khalil provided "a most excellent dinner in Turkish style" which was very pleasing to Lawrence and Herbert, but was somewhat disconcerting to Col. Beach. Col. Beach asked Herbert to remain as a liaison officer. He also hoped that he and Lawrence would be allowed to come up with the boats sent to fetch the wounded. Herbert dictated and Lawrence transcribed a letter in French to Khalil with this request. Khalil declined. Later the next day, Col Beach actually tried to go back to Kut on one of the boats, but the Turks turned him back.

    Sources and Notes: 1. Lawrence of Arabia (The Authorized Biography of T. E. Lawrence) by Jeremy Wilson, 1989, Atheneum; 2. T. E. Lawrence (Letters to His Biographers Robert Graves & Liddlell Hart) 1963, Cassell.

    Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert, M.P., (1880- September 26, 1923) was a British diplomat, traveller and intelligence officer, associated with Albanian independence.

    Zouave Valley
    Vimy Ridge, Artois
    Then and Now

    From Tom Gudmestad, GWS Member

    Zouave Valley lies at the western foot of Vimy Ridge. The valley runs between the villages of Souchez (to the left) and Neuville St. Vaast. It was named for the stubborn attacks of these French troops who reached this valley during their September, 1915 Artois offensive. Their remains still littered the battlefield when the British took over the sector in early 1916.

    The main German lines ran along the crest of the ridge. On the slopes visible here, the Germans launched a vigorous attack on May 21, 1916 and drove the newly-arrived British back to the valley. Only in this specific sector, did the British still hold forward trenches partially up the slope.

    Zouave Valley - Then

    Fresh from the Somme offensive, the Canadians took over the Vimy front, including Zouave Valley, in late-1916. On April 9, 1917 the Canadian Corps attacked Vimy Ridge and, with the exception of the furthest northern end, the ridge was completely in Canadian hands by day's end. The ridge pictured here was captured by the 11th Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division. The ridge remained in Allied hands for the remainder of the war and today is the site of the famous Canadian WWI memorial.
    In the "Then" view, looking due east, the imposing height of Vimy Ridge is easily appreciated. In the left middle distance are visible the graves of the British Commonwealth "Zouave Valley Cemetery." The cemetery was begun in May 1916 and records 128 British, 93 Canadian, 8 South African, 4 Unknown and 1 German burials as well as 11 special memorials. The latter are for men known, or believed, to have been buried within the cemetery but whose graves could not be located after the war. Directly beyond the cemetery may be seen the pathway and entrance leading to one of the underground "subway" systems constructed by the Canadians prior to the April 9, 1917 attack. These tunnels allowed the safe assembly and movement of attacking troops up to the front lines and there were a number of them leading into the ridge from this valley. The origins of the white chalk mound in the right foreground is unknown but it may have been agricultural because mixing chalk with the topsoil remains a common farming practice in northern France.

    Zouave Valley Now

    The "Now" photo, taken in July 2004 captures the same view with the Zouave Valley Cemetery prominent in the middle distance. Obscured by the trees on the summit are the white, twin pylons of the Canadian Vimy Ridge memorial, which is sited on Hill 145. Mercifully hidden from view here is the modern A26 motorway, which cuts across this view, from right to left, just below the trees on the skyline.

    Page Three

    Elmer W. Sherwood

    Contributed by Major General Thomas Jones

    Elmer W. Sherwood (1896-1979) was one of the finest diarists in the American Expeditionary Force. Enlisting while still a student at the University of Indiana, he served with Battery B, 150th Field Artillery of the 42nd Rainbow Division. He published his diary originally in 1929 as the Diary of a Rainbow Veteran and it was reissued in 2004 with editing by historian Robert Ferrell as A Soldier in World War I: The Diary of Elmer W. Sherwood by the Indiana Historical Society Press.

    After the war he returned to University and was elected while still a student to the State Legislature. During the House of Representatives session of 1921-1922 he sponsored bills creating the Indiana World War Memorial plaza and the American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis. He spent time in his career as a teacher, public relations consultant and editor. He returned to service in World War II and was director of public relations at Fort Benjamin Harrison, retiring from the Army Reserve as a Brigadier General. Alas, his otherwise distinguished career was marred by a three-month visit to the Indiana Penitentiary in 1961 for his involvement in a scandal over rights-of-way acquisitions for state roads. He died in 1979.

    From Tony Langley's War in a Different Light

    Western Front - 1914

    Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light

    BBC's The Lost Prince

    By Andrew Melomet

    The Lost Prince, written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff tells the story of Prince John; son of Queen Mary and King George V. John was epileptic and possibly autistic and was eventually hidden away from the public by the royal family. His short life (1905-1919) spanned the monumental period of the Great War and the destruction of the major European monarchies. From his research, Poliakoff was able to reconstruct his life from historical biographies, diaries, letters and articles.

    We follow John from the last days of the Edwardian Era, through the end of the World War. The newsreel footage of Edward's funeral procession in documentaries and the famed photograph of the "Nine Kings" are familiar to us. But, here we seen them occurring through the eyes of a child. Many historic events are re-created: the suffragette throwing herself at the feet of Queen Mary inside Buckingham Palace, the disastrous Irish Home Rule Conference, the Royal Family's name change to Windsor and the abandonment of the Tsar and his family to their deaths by the Bolsheviks.

    Michael Gambon as
    Edward VII
    This production is very well cast and all the performances are strong and unforgettable. Matthew Thomas has the challenging role of Prince John from ages nine to fourteen. Gina McKee is Lalla Bill, John's devoted nurse. Michael Gambon's Edward VII, John's loving grandfather. Miranda Richardson plays Queen Mary sympathetically, as a woman bound by duty and loyalty to her husband and her country. Tom Hollander is George V and certainly gives the impression that the King was better suited to a middle-class suburban existence than as ruler of the British Empire. Bill Nighy is Stamfordham. George V's private secretary and he handles his expository position well. Bibi Andersson is Queen Alexandra, John's loving grandmother. Frank Finlay is Prime Minister Asquith.

    Miranda Richardson
    as Queen Mary
    The Lost Prince originally aired on PBS in October 2004 and won the 2005 Emmy Award for Best Miniseries. It is scheduled to be rebroadcast on PBS in December 2005. The Lost Prince is currently available on DVD from BBC Video. It features audio commentaries by the writer/director, composer, and production designer; biographies of the cast and crew; The Making of The Lost Prince featurette; an interview with Stephen Poliakoff; and a photo gallery. This is a superb production with warm and moving performances and a script with moments of profound insight. I highly recommend it.

    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: Anatole Sykley, Donna Cunningham, Larry Butler, Bob Rudolph, Anne Steele, Tony Langley, Matt Church, Andy Melomet, Sidney Clark, Len Shurtleff. The stout gentlemen of the shipyard guard detail were found at the National Archives. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.

    For Great War Society
    Membership Information

    Click on Icon
    (Or Send it to a friend.)
    (Or send us a comment on the TRIP-WIRE)

    For further information on the events of 1914-1918 visit the Directory Page of

    The Great War Society