TRENCH REPORT: A happy holiday season to all our readers! Some old business and some new business: Congratulations to event organizer Bob Denison and the fabulous Mouaux's of Sonoma, California for the highly successful recent Armistice - Remembrance - Veterans Day celebration. . .Thanks to all of you who pointed out that last month's "Stormtrooper" photo was actually a Soviet soldier from the 1930s. I'm still too humbled to say more. . .Now the new business. The WFA-USA has announced their next Biennial WFA Battlefield Tour: Meuse-Argonne, Verdun, St. Mihiel, Mons and the Retreat from Mons for May 20 - June 2, 2007. Contact Pete Guthrie at for more information. (email). . .Also, we launch two new features with this issue. You readers have become so helpful sending news articles related to the Great War that you now have your own column, World War I Headlines. Thanks much and please keep up your good work. Also, welcome to our new columnist, University of Sussex Blogster Esther MacCallum-Stewart, who operates the outstanding Break of Day in the Trenches. Dr. M-S's column in the Trip-Wire will be know as: Base Details - World War I Culture Watch. Write and tell us what you think of these new segments. . .For all of you who like to revisit the immortal Christmas Truce of 1914, visit our special article for lots of material and links to other sites. (link). . .Finally, on behalf of the Great War Society, let me announce that the organization has started to compile a Roll of Honor, a listing of our relatives and others we find meaningful to us today who served in the First World War, so they will never be forgotten. Visit the Roll [we're just starting to build it] and see what it is about. (link) Members and friends of the Great War Society can nominate individuals. Just follow the simple format and send it to me in an email message with any photos as attachments. (email)
Chemin des Dames
WWI Historian &
Basil Liddell Hart
General Stefanik Milan Rastislav,
Aviator, French General, Czech Patriot
1. GWS Member Professor David Woodward has a new book to be released this spring, Hell in the Holy Land: World War I in the Middle East. It's available for pre-sale at the on-line sites.
2. Coming World War I films include: a French treatment of the Christmas Truce, Joyeux Noel, which has been selected as France's 2005 entry in the Academy Award's foreign language category (link); a film on the Lafayette Escadrille, Flyboys, that is in production, as is a yet-untitled Canadian Film on Passchendaele; and a film version of Mozart's The Magic Flute, set during WWI, announced by the industrious Kenneth Branagh.
3. Gregorii Rasputin fans AWAKEN! Agony, the over-the-top bio pic about the demonic Russian monk that was once banned in the Soviet Union, is now available from International Historic Films. (link)
The Great War in the Background
Contemporary novelists seem to find the First World War to be an irresistible setting for exploring other themes. Here are three you might want to try for a change of pace. If a feminist, scientific tale set in an exotic locale that features the doomed Admiral Maximillian von Spee as a romantic interest is your cup of tea, then Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes is just for you. If you groove on the western front and vampires [honest, there are genres of vampire and horror novels as you will see down below.], then Bloodline by Kate Cary is a must read. If the story of a young Dubliner torn between the turmoil at home and his duty as a British soldier sounds interesting to you, then A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is worth a look.
GREAT WAR 2006 EVENT CALENDAR
"Titans of the Admiralty: Fisher & Churchill"|
At the Pacific Union Club, San Francisco
February 4 (email)
WFA-Pacific Branch Spring Seminar|
Bay Street Armoury, Officer's Mess
At Victoria BC
March 10-12 (email)
WFA-USA East Coast Branch Seminar|
April 1 (email)
The First World War and|
Newcastle Inst. for the Arts & Social Sciences
March 31 - Apr. 2 (link)
WFA-USA National Seminar|
May 19-21 (link)
WFA-USA Florida Gulf Chapter Seminar|
Hilton Garden Inn, Tampa North
August 16 (link)
François Faber, former Luxembourgian Tour de France champion volunteered to serve with the French Foreign Legion since he had been born in France. While in a trench on the western front of World War I, Faber received a telegram saying his wife had given birth to a daughter. He cheered, giving away his position, and was immediately shot by a German sniper.
December 16, 1915
Douglas Haig Named
British Field Commander
Click on Image for Details
How the First Day on the Somme looked to a German Machine Gunner:
When the English started advancing we were very concerned; they looked as though they must soon occupy our trenches. We were amazed to see them walking, we had never seen that before. . .The officers were at the front. I noticed one of them was strolling calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. We didn't have to aim, we just fired into them.
Quoted in Machine Gun by Anthony Smith
We have received announcements of the passing of five World War I veterans:
Mr. Alfred Anderson
- Alfred Anderson, 109
- Member of Scotland's Black Watch and the last surviving participant in the Christmas Truce of 1914.
- Arthur Fiala,106
- Wisconsin's last surviving World War I veteran, 32nd Division of the AEF.
- Clare Laking, 106
- Private with the Canadian Field Artillery, 27th Battery, 4th Brigade.
- Kenneth Myers, 107
- Sailor on USS Oklahoma escorting President Wilson home from France.
- Victor Rudd, 104
- British Cavalryman who has lived in New Zealand for years.
Menin Gate at Ypres
Armistice Day 2005
The Kinmel Park Mutiny of 1919
From Sidney Clark, GWS Member
Village Church and Canadian Cemetery
The mutiny and riots that occurred in 1919 involving Canadian soldiers in the army camp known as Kinmel Park at Bodelwyddan, North Wales, Flintshire has been explained in many books. However, the main reason that led up to those actions taken up by Canadian soldiers barracked there after returning from the dreadful conditions of the First World War was the cancelling of the ships scheduled to take them home. This was the spark that ignited the indiscipline.
During the mutiny there was an instance of one soldier who was shot and killed. Who fired that shot has never been fully explained. The official documents were sealed for 100 years.
In the churchyard of Saint Mary's lie the Canadian soldiers who died at this camp, the majority from the flu epidemic. Included are the graves of four American citizens who served with the Canadian Army and a memorial to a nursing sister, age 26, who served with the Canadian Medical Corps. The memorial in the little cemetery reads:
To the Memory of Canadian Soldiers who died at Kinmel Park Camp during the Great War. This memorial was erected by their comrades.
Their name lives for evermore.
World War I Headlines
This is a new feature for the Trip-Wire. We now have so many agents out there sending us material, it seems only right that we properly recognize them. For economy of space, they will be identified by their initials. Below you can check their full names. Just click on the headline to read the accompanying details.
- WWI Paintings Discovered in New York D.C.
- Meet WWI Vet Robley Rex of Kentucky D.C.
- Zimmermann Telegram Original Found B.R.
WWI Graves Desecrated in France Anon.
Entire Australian Official History of WWI Now On-Line A.S.
The 'Horror' of War
By Dr. Esther MacCallum-Stewart
There must, in every book of this sort, be at least one ghost story with a possible explanation, and one without any explanation, except that it was a ghost. I put in three or four ghosts that I remembered.
(Robert Graves, 1930: 13-14)
Often considered below critical attention, the horror genre portrays a far stronger, more extreme version of the First World War from an early stage. Whilst other texts were slow to use the war, and it was not until 1928 that the writers of The War Books Controversy began to produce their 'anti'-war books, horror writers quickly realised its potential, and these stories are still put to good use by authors today.
'Myths' created during the war such as Arthur Machen's Angels of Mons in 'The Bowmen' (Machen: 1914), the Lost Battalion and the Crucified Canadian provide precursors to this genre, and its potential was recognised by many popular authors, including Machen's own writing in The Great Return (1915) and The Terror (1917), H. P. Lovecraft's Herbert West, Reanimator (1921) and slightly later, Philip Chadwick's The Death Guard (1939). Since then, the war as a site of horror has persisted, from texts such as The Poppy Factory (Fairchild: 1987), and Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (Williams: 1996) to the recent film Deathwatch (Bassett: 2002).
Post 1900, the horror genre experienced a period of growth with several seminal horror writers producing their most prolific work. This was historically linked to a boom in Spiritualism and the occult, partly encouraged by the war itself. Charles Williams, H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen and Conan Doyle all wrote extensively during this period, and major occult landmarks such as the Rider-Waite Tarot (1909), and the subsequent publication of A. E. Waite's The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1911) demonstrate the public interest in arcana.
Horror fiction of the war has two important advantages, both related to location. Often, neither soldiers or civilians could 'see' what lay in front of them. For those involved in trench warfare, vistas were limited to the trenches and the areas behind the lines. The enemy were rarely, seen, sorties occurred at night. Who knew what lay beyond in the darkness of No-Man's Land? This 'invisible' ground meant that ghost stories were plentiful, in particular ones encouraging the idea of men and Battalions living wild (or contentedly) in No Man's Land.
Secondly, the trenches were already a site of 'horror', encouraging the classic authorial trick of disconfirmatiom. The unwitting victim, lured aside by a noise, only to find it something entirely mundane like a cat, can be presented with something far more unpleasant - an arm, a rat or even an exploding shell. The danger lurking around the corner can be balanced between the horror of (real) war, and (supernatural) arcane. Finally, horror writing using the war suggests an altogether more frightening dénouement. Reality is as terrible, if not worse, than the supernatural:
What he wanted was. . .an abundant supply of freshly killed men in every stage of dismemberment.
Herbert West needed fresh bodies because his life-work was the reanimation of the dead.
(Lovecraft, 1921: 71)
Herbert West works on behalf of the Canadian Medical Corps and the Miskatonic University Medical School, Arkham (the University was one of Lovecraft's perennial settings in his 'Chthulu' stories), somewhere on the Western Front in an abandoned hospital. The authorities remain unaware of his practices however, allowing them to pass undetected and unregulated despite suspicious evidence to the contrary. It remains up to the anonymous narrator to discover his secrets:
At times he actually did perform marvels of surgery for the soldiers, but his chief delights were of a less public and philanthropic kind, requiring many sounds which seemed peculiar even amidst that babel of the damned. Among these sounds were frequent revolver shots - surely not uncommon on a battlefield, but distinctly uncommon in a hospital.
(Lovecraft, 1921: 73)
The implication that the authorities permit 'hidden' acts of which the general populace remain unaware is used as a default suggestion in many wartime horror texts (especially later ones), allowing a series of mistakes, enemies or institutions to exist unbeknownst to all, somewhere in the wartime landscape. Surprisingly, although criticism of military prowess is very rare in early fiction, the suggestion that covert operations or hidden people, institutions and soldiers are running amok in No Man's Land with foul intent plays upon fundamental fears of conspiracy and trust.
Finally, the greatest horror of all is human nature. In Arthur Machen's The Terror (1917), the creatures of the British Isles rise up against the people, infected by the rage and ill-war towards humanity that the war has caused. The story inspired a host of imitations, including Daphne du Maurier's The Birds (1963). Eighty-five years later, the film Deathwatch (2002) uses the same theme, as a ghostly German officer awaits his victims in a deserted trench, all of whom are condemned by their own fears, brutality and violence. Playing upon both the 'horror' of war, and the horror of the supernatural, the fiction uses a classic inversion to show that the real fear is within ourselves, and the war is merely a happy backdrop.
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.
Images of the Great War Society Annual November 11th Event
From Diane Rooney, GWS Member
(Actually November 12th This Year)
Upcoming 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Verdun
By Christina Holstein
With the 90th anniversary of the great battle's start fast approaching, much news is emerging regarding the commemorations at Verdun.
Before June 2006, a memorial will be built at Verdun to commemorate the Muslims who died for France during the Great War. A small memorial already exists close to the Ossuary, together with a marble plaque in the name of the Muslim Institute of Paris. The new memorial will cover approximately 100 sq. meters and will include a peristyle and a dome. President Jaques Chirac of France will be present for the inauguration in June 2006.
A Commemorative programme of events for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Verdun has been published and includes:
21 February 2006
- Concert by Barbara Hendricks at Verdun Cathedral
- Illumination of the Douaumont Ossuary: sound and light show of the Battle of Verdun
- International conference at the World Peace Centre. Title: Verdun in the eyes of the world; Exhibition: 90 years of commemoration
- Performance of a play entitled "Cris" by Laurent Gaudé at the Verdun theatre
- Exhibition entitled "La Grande Guerre en relief", based on stereoscopic pictures
22 - 25 June
- Concert by the Ensemble Musique Oblique at the Verdun synagogue in memory of the Jewish soldiers of Verdun.
- Peace Day, involving 1916 young people from France and the various countries that were involved in the conflict.
- Concert by the Paris Choir and Orchester.
- Performance of "Le Feu" by Henri Barbusse. This will be a one-man show performed in various parts of the Department of the Meuse
- There will be a theatrical homage to the colonial troops but I have no details.
- Plantation of cornflowers on the Voie Sacrée. This flower is the symbol of the "poilu".
- "The river of light" - 700,000 candles will be floated on the River Meuse to symbolize the casualties of the battle.
Voie Sacrée 1916
- Wreaths laid by the President of France and the German chancellor.
- Verdun Cathedral: Brahms' German requiem.
- Exhibition relating to stained glass windows in the Department of the Meuse dealing with patriotic themes.
- Information panels and silhouettes of soldiers and trucks will be placed along the Voie Sacrée. The local newspaper at Verdun, "l'Est Republicain", also reports that access to the main sites on the battlefield will be free and even that hotels will offer a third night free to their clients (I've no further details on this).
- Finally, in 2007, visitors to Verdun will be able to take the high speed train (TGV East) from Paris, which will get them to the new station at Issoncourt, south of Verdun, in one hour. From there, a shuttle service will run to Verdun. I've no information about the shuttle service and Issoncourt station isn't completed yet.
|From Tony Langley's War in a Different Light|
Ruins of Fort Troyon on River Meuse Heights
Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light
Held Out During First Battle of the Marne
A Bear Named Winnie
By Andrew Melomet
Directed by John Kent Harrison and originally produced for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, A Bear Named Winnie tells the story of the World War I Canadian regimental mascot (2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade) that inspired the A.A. Milne character Winnie the Pooh. The story begins in 1914 with a young veterinarian, Lt, Harry Colebourn (Michael Fassbender) of The Fort Garry Horse leaving Winnipeg in route to the army camp in Quebec. At a rest stop in White River, Ontario he buys an orphaned bear cub for $20 (the equivalent of about $350.00 in today's Canadian currency) and names her Winnie after his home base of Winnipeg. After training in Valcartier, Quebec, the Canadian Expeditionary Force sails for England. Unwilling to part with Winnie, Harry smuggles her aboard ship and into the camp at Salisbury Plain. When the regiment is ordered to France, Harry realizes he must part with Winnie and arranges for her to be temporarily housed in the London Zoo. He plans to take Winnie back to Canada after the war. But, while she's been at the zoo she's become a star attraction due to her gentle friendliness. When Harry returns, he's faced with either bringing Winnie back to Canada or letting her stay at the zoo. Once he realizes what a hit she is with the children he donates her to the London Zoo permanently. Harry Colebourn would return to Winnipeg alone.
Winnie was extremely tame. Parents could even place their children on her back for rides. A favorite activity was to give Winnie a drink of condensed milk mixed with corn syrup. Winnie lived at the zoo until 1934. In the last two years of her life she had cataracts and arthritis and suffered a stroke that partly paralyzed her. She was euthanized on May 12, 1934.
Early Photo of the Friends
A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin were frequent visitors to the London Zoo. Christopher Robin loved Winnie and renamed Edward Bear, his stuffed teddy bear, Winnie the Pooh. (Pooh also happened to be the name for the family swan.) The first story with Winnie appeared in the London Evening News in December 1925 and over the years, A.A. Milne wrote a series of stories based on the adventures of his son's stuffed animals. In 1966, Walt Disney released the first animated short starring Winnie, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.
This is a delightful family film with only a brief battlefield sequence. It's well-acted, both by the humans and the bears. You feel there's a true warmth and friendship between Winnie (played by two cubs and a full-grown bear) and Harry. Gil Bellows plays Col. John Barret, the stern Chief Veterinary Officer who is won over by Winnie's warmth. David Suchet is General Hallholland, the often drunk commanding officer of the Canadian expeditionary force. Stephen Fry plays Mr. Protheroe, the cranky keeper at the London Zoo who likes animals more than children and reluctantly accepts the young Winnie as a temporary guest.
Currently, in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park there are two tributes to Winnie: a bronze statue of Captain Colebourn and Winnie, and an original oil portrait of Winnie-the-Pooh by the illustrator Ernest H. Shepard.
Friendship Remembered: Captain Colebourn and Winnie
If you're looking for a heartwarming Great War themed gift this holiday season, you can't miss with A Bear Named Winnie. I purchased my Canadian DVD on EBay but A Bear Named Winnie was recently released on DVD here in the US by Monarch Video. The Canadian release includes both English and French language versions, brief Behind-the-Scenes segments on the bears used in the movie and the training methods, plus interviews. Of particular note is the 1987 CBC interview with Harry Colebourn's son.
Statue at Assiniboine Park and 1996 Canadian Stamp
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: Jim Folger, Anatole Sykley, Dianne Rooney, Lynna Kay Shuffield, Donna Cunningham, Bob Rudolph, Anne Steele, Christina Holstein, Matt Church, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Andy Melomet, Sidney Clark, Len Shurtleff. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.