December 2013        

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Brilliant Wartime Illustrator Fortunio Matania

David Beer on the War's Literature

The German Experience at the Somme

Japan Enters the War

The St. Mihiel Offense: 12-16 September 1918


New York State Military Museum, "Fiery Trial and Sacrifice - New York and the First World War," ongoing exhibit, Saratoga Springs, NY. Virtual Tour.

The National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO, has a current exhibit running on "The Road to War," running through April 2014. Website.

The MacArthur Memorial and Museum in Norfolk, VA, has a current exhibit running on "The 42nd 'Rainbow' Division in World War One," running through September 2014. Website.


The U.S. Air Force National Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, and the League of WWI Aviation Historians (, are collaborating on what will be the first U.S.-based mega-event for the WWI centennial. The League is scheduling its 2014 Seminar to correspond with the WWI Dawn Patrol Fly-In at the Museum in Dayton, OH, 24-28 September 2014. Mark it down on your calendar.

Merry Christmas to All

Our Friends Toni and Valmai Holt Are Making Sure That Bruce Bairnsfather Is Not Forgotten During the Centennial. Check In With Them at Their
Facebook Page

The Christmas Truce of 1914

This is a perennial favorite which we have touched upon many times in past Christmas Seasons. This year, we have tried to search out some newer material on the legendary event.

Overview of the Christmas Truce (Includes preceding events and list of participating units)

Private Frederick Heath's Letter

The Christmas Truce as an Expression of "Live and Let Live"

About the Football Match

Photos of the Truce of the Imperial War Museum

German Soldiers Started It All

Reminiscences by the Participants and One Notable Non-Participant

The Infamous Reprisal Camp

As the Battle of Verdun wound down in December 1916, the German Army demanded that the French withdraw the camps for their German prisoners to a distance of 30 km behind the frontline. If the terms were not met the Germans threatened to place their French prisoners within reach of French fire.

The terms were not met, so a camp was opened at the village of Flabas, very close to the famous Bois des Caures (article below). Almost 500 prisoners were held in an enclosure of 1500 square meters. The prisoners were brutally treated. After several months the French authorities relented and the prisoners moved away from the front. The episode was never forgotten, however, and the monument shown stands in Flabas today recalling the incident.

Rededication at the Verdun Battlefield

On 22 September 2013, 97 years after the bell in the church at Beaumont village was destroyed during the Battle of Verdun, a new bell was baptised by the Bishop of Verdun. It is named Marie Apolline and will be hung in the chapel. Beaumont is one of the destroyed villages on the Verdun battlefield.
(By Correspondent Christina Holstein)

I am obliged to report that, at the present moment, the Russian Empire is run by lunatics. French Ambassador Paleologue, 14 January 1917

French Ambassador Maurice Paleologue, 14 January 1917

U.S. Centennial Organizations & Resources

September was a period of real progress regarding the preparations for America's commemoration of the Great War. The new national commission held their first meeting in Kansas City, elected a chairman, The Honorable Isaac Newton "Ike" Skelton IV, former U.S. Representative for Missouri's 4th Congressional district, and, as vice-chairman, Colonel Robert Dalessandro, Executive Director and Chief of Military History, U.S. Army Center of Military History. Congratulations and best wishes to both of them. As you will see below, the commissioners swung into action immediately, with the coordination of America's centennial effort with the other participating nations an early priority.   MH

News About the WW1 Centennial Commemoration Commission

WASHINGTON, DC (9/19/2013) — The initial meeting of the World War One Centennial Commission took place on Friday, 13 September 2013, at the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, MO. The eleven commissioners present were sworn in, and the commission officially commenced operation.

Doughboy Stained Glass
26th Division Church
Belleau Village
The Commission was established by the World War I Centennial Commission Act, part of Public Law 112-272 passed by the 112th Congress and signed by thePresident on 16 January 2013. The Act mandated that the Commission's first meeting take place at the museum after all commissioners were appointed.

As its first order of business, the commission elected Commissioner Ike Skelton as Chairman, and Commissioner Rob Dalessandro as Vice Chairman. Chairman Skelton appointed the Designated Federal Official (DFO). Under the Federal Advisory Commitee Act, the DFO performs a variety of functions for the commission. Three members of the public addressed the commission. The initial meeting ended with a general discussion of the commemoration of the Great War.

Subsequent to the meeting several commissioners met in Washington, DC, at the Navy Memorial with the attachés of other nations organizing centennial commemorations, including those of the UK, France, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. In October, Vice-Chairman Robert Dalessandro will fly to Paris to represent the U.S. at a meeting of the centennial commissions of all the participants.

The commission's website is still in start-up mode, but already has some excellent features. Highly recommended is their article on The Star Spangled Banner and World War I.

The Magazine of the World War I Centennial: Coming in January 2014

Starting with our January Issue we are recasting our subscription magazine, Over the Top, as THE Magazine of the World War I Centennial. With the first issue of our Volume 8, we will parallel month-by-month the Great War  initially covering the run up to the war and, then, with our June issue on the Black Hand and the Assassination of the Archduke, presenting cutting-edge articles on the critical earth-shaking events of that same month 100 years ago. Our 2014 Centennial editorial progam is presented below with the link to download our flyer for ordering information. If you mention that you are subscribing through the Trip-Wire, you will also receive our Decmeber 2013 issue for free upon subscription or purchasing any of our past annual CD compilations.

Click to Download PDF Flyer

Click on Image to Expand

Our December 2013 Issue and Our First As the Magazine of the World War I Centennial

1914 January 2014
The 99-Year Road to the Great War

1914 July 2014
The July Crisis Leads to War

1914 February 2014
Arrival of Wilhelm II & the Departure
of Bismarck; and Whither Russia, 
Whence France

1914 August 2014
Three Early Actions: the Ardennes,
Mons, Tannenberg

1914 March 2014
The Prewar Game of Thrones
The European Alliance System

1914 September 2014
The Battle of the Marne: the War's
Most Fateful Clash

1914 April 2014
America's Improbable Route to 
the Battlefields of Europe

1914 October 2014
Turkey Enters the War; and the
Western Front in Full

1914 May 2014
Revolutionaries, Anarchists &

1914 November 2014
Austria-Hungary Fails in Serbia; 
and the Naval Blockade Begins

1914 June 2014
The Black Hand & Sarajevo

1914 December 2014
Battle of the Falklands; and the
Christmas Truce

October 1913
Albania Becomes a Testing Ground for National Wills

Australian Newspaper Headline, 26 September 1913

Out of the settlement of the Balkan Wars of 1912 & 1913 evolved a decision by the Great Powers that a buffer state—Albania—would be created along the Adriatic Sea. Albanian had proclaimed its independence in November 1912, and the new nation was recognized by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913. Albania's political function was to allow Serbia—–the big winner of the recent wars—–to have some commercial access to the ocean, while preventing it from developing naval facilities in the Adriatic that would threaten the sole Austro-Hungarian water access.

Serbia, however, was never happy with the arrangement and kept troops and guerillas active in Albania, while negotiating with friendly Balkan neighbors to divide Albania among themselves. The Albanians, who were not happy about the settlement imposed on them either, were determined to reseist the Serbian incursions. Matters came to a head in October 1913 after the hawks in Vienna, led by Chief of Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, convinced Foreign Minister Count Leopold Berchtold that a firm stand against Serbia over Albania was needed.

In September Berchtold's representative in Belgrade confronted the Serbians, who simply lied and said they were totally withdrawing their troops from Albania. They only shifted them around a bit. Soon, the deception was discovered and the Austrians decided to up the ante. Chronologically, this is what ensued in October 1913:

Ethnic Nationalism in
the Balkans & Europe
3 October: The government of Austria-Hungary passed a bill increasing the size of its army to 600,000 men, and authorizing an army of 2,000,000 men in the event of war. This followed the army expansions of the other powers discussed in the August issue of the Trip Wire. The timing of the expansion, however, also served the purpose of sending a clear military signal to the Serbians.

16 October: The Albanians stirred the diplomatic pot themselves, when one faction decided to declare its own "Republic of Central Albania." This, of course, alarmed the Austrians further. (This new state was disbanded three months later after pressure from the big powers determined to calm down the Balkans.)

18 October: Acting solely on its own, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia demanding that Serbian troops be withdrawn within eight days from the territory set aside for Albania by the Great Powers. Not even Germany was consulted before the ultimatum. Arthur Zimmerman, then deputy foreign minister of Germany told the British smbassador to Berlin that the Germans had been surprised by Austria's ultimatum as a policy that "might lead to serious consequences," but added that "restraining advice to Vienna on the part of Germany was out of the question."

25 October: One day before the expiration of the eight-day ultimatum given by Austria-Hungary on 18 October, Serbian troops withdrew from Albania. The crisis seems to have passed, but—as we know—not really.

In hindsight, what are the lessons here? First, by October 1913 the Great Powers were not unified. Not even Germany and Austria-Hungary were being candid with one another. Second, Russia was once again embarrassed by a Slavic client (as the Russians perceived things), while appearing to be ineffectual in dealing with a crisis in its sphere of influence. Lastly, Serbia and Austria-Hungary, indeed, had irreconcilable differences and were willing to fight over them regardless of the consequences.

Sources:;; Wikipedia

Flyers and application form for 2014 "Opening Moves" and
"Miracle of the Marne" Trips Now Available
(download pdf file here)

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Click on Title to Access Story
Michigan's WW1 Centennial Project Presents The "Hello Girls", a YouTube Video

World War I Christmas Cards

"Diary of the Damned," Harry Drinkwater's Brutal War Record

Double Gallery of the U.K. at War, Cartoons and Photographs

The Story of the Cenotaph

Not Just War Horses: Other Animals Aiding the War Effort

The Never-Ending "Iron Harvest" (Outstanding Photos)

New Interpretive Center at "Plugstreet"

Let Us Help Announce Your Local WWI Events & Discoveries!
(Email the Editor)

Ray Kroc
Hamburger Entrepeneur

Ray Kroc, Would-Be
Ambulance Driver

Ray Kroc's best know achievements are nicely summarized at Britannica Online. [He was a] restaurateur and a pioneer of the fast-food industry. He was working as a blender salesman when he discovered a restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif., owned by Maurice and Richard McDonald, who used an assembly-line format to prepare and sell a large volume of hamburgers, french fries, and milk shakes. Beginning in 1955 Kroc opened his first McDonald's drive-in restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill., paying the brothers a percentage of the receipts. He soon began selling franchises for new restaurants, and he instituted a training program for owner-managers that emphasized automation and standardization. At the time of his death there were some 7,500 McDonald's restaurants worldwide; with more than 25,000 restaurants in the early 21st century, McDonald's was the world's largest food-service retailer.

He did have his World War I moment, however, like fellow residents of Oak Park, Illinois, Ernest Hemingway and Walt Disney, Kroc volunteered for Red Cross Service as an ambulance driver. The adventuresome young man lied about his age joining up at 15. He was still in training stateside, however, when the Armistice came, so he never quite made it "Over There."

Lillie Langtry
Beauty, Entertainer

Lillie Lantry from the Isle of Jersey was a late-19th Century celebrity, who became notable at first in London Society for her great beauty and her liaison with Edward VII. The comedy, Lady Windermere's Fan, was written for her by Oscar Wilde. She later demonstrated addtional Lillie succeed as an actress on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as theatre management, winery operations in California, and raising race horses. She married a younger man, Hugo de Bathe, in 1899 and withdrew from the stage for a time to attend to her other interests.

Lillie Langry

She later returned to the stage and was touring in the U.S. when war was declared. Lillie, who had taken American citizenship, spent three wartime seasons in America. She returned to Great Britain in the summer, taking part in benefits for wounded. In 1917 she travelled home via Spain and France on a Spanish liner in hopes of avoiding the submarine threat and, after an adventuresome trip, ended up in London. At one point when asked what her husband was doing for the war effort, she famously replied, "My husband is a general's chauffeur somewhere in France."

Lillie played at the Coliseum for a while and was on stage there when a bomb exploded near the theatre. Her calm demeanor reassured the audience and she was credited for averting a panic. Soon after, she retired for the time, escaping to Regal Lodge, her country house at Kentford in horse racing country. Lillie spent the last year of the war cultivating vegetables with the help of the village girls to support the war effort. After the Armistice she retired back to Monaco and succeeded in "Breaking the Bank at Monte Carlo" and writing a best-selling novel before passing away in 1929.

Sources: Wikipedia, Musical101

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The Editor's Favorite Great War Classics

Armistice — Remembrance — Veterans Day
November 2013

Images of how the Great War is still remembered.

(Right Click "View Image" or "Open Image in New Tab" to View Full Size)

From the top: Wreathes Adorn the King Albert Memorial in Antwerp; In London, Queen Elizabeth Lays a Wreath at the Cenotaph; Attendees at the U.S. Flanders Fields Cemetery Includes a Motorcycle Club, Boy Scouts and Reenactors.

What Happened at Bois des Caures

When much of the German Army retreated north after the 1914 Battle of the Marne, Crown Prince Wilhelms Fifth Army dug-in in a perimeter around Verdun. Facing them 17 km northeast of Verdun were French soldiers in a wood named Bois Caures. Both sides fortified their positions for the better part of a year when the Battle of Verdun would begin in their very sector.

Depiction of Austrian Troops Defending Against an Italian Attack on 24 August 1917

By early 1916 French defensive preparation for the most part are behind schedule around Verdun. However, at Bois des Caures the two Battlions of Chaseur Alpins manning the defenses are commanded by a dynamic and industrious officer. Sixty-year old Lt. Col. Émile Augustin Cyprien Driant was a French nationalist and futurist writer, a politician, and army officer. He was a parlimentary deputy and held his seat during the war. Responsible for a section that stretched over a 2000 meters of frontage and 800 feet deep, he understood a threat was imminent, having detected enormous activity in the German rear area. He improved the advance trench which was discontinous here, backed it with five small redoubts built with logs and sand bags, and constructed a reinforced concrete command post.

From August 1915 Driant had used his parliamentary powers to pass on warning of an impending German attack. This, of course, raised the ire of the Army staff. On 10 February 1916, he wrote his wife, telling her of a prisoner of war had reported that the Kaiser was planning to be strolling on the Verdun esplanade shortly. The attack opened with a ten-hour barrage on 21 February followed by an infantry assault on Bois Caures.

Driant's 1200 Chasseurs fought valiantly there in the face of overwhelming odds until, during the afternoon of the 22nd, outflanked on both sides, Col. Driant ordered his few remaining men to withdraw in the direction of Beaumont. It was during that withdrawal that Driant himself was killed at the southern edge of the wood. Since the men with him had been taken prisoner by the Germans, firm news of his death did not reach Paris until 3 April. Some time after that Mme. Driant received a letter from Germany informing her that her husband had been honourably buried and that his grave would be carefully tended until peace returned.

In holding their positions and fighting to the end Col. Emile Driant and his Chasseurs, outflanked and overwhelmed, sacrificed their lives in order to slow the progress of the enemy. He is proudly remembered by the people of Verdun who still commemorate the fighting in the Bois des Caures with a ceremony held on 21st February every year. .

Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until November, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
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Design by Shannon Niel
Content © Michael E. Hanlon