February 2009

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: All quiet on this front. Thanks to all of you who inquired about my auto accident. Health and the new car seem fine.     MH

This Month's Internet Feature
Not Just the Archduke
Other Notable Assassinations of WWI

  • Jean Jaures

  • Gregorii Rasputin

  • Austrian Prime Minister Count Karl von Stürgkh

  • Count István Tisza, Former Prime Minister of Hungary

  • Tsar Nicholas II and His Family

  • Sidónio Pais, President of Portugal

  • Wilhelm von Mirbach, German Ambassador to Russia

    The Real Deal

    Exhausted Doughboys of the 314th Infantry on the Drive to Montfaucon, Argonne Sector

    New at Our Own & Our Friends' Great War Websites

    Click on Title or Icon to Access

    At Great War Society Sites Take a look at the progress being made on the Society's new website currently being upgraded by master web designer Nic Solberg. There you can join or renew membership on-line and access all of our content. You can also download the latest issue of the quarterly journal Relevance that was produced by your Trip-Wire team. MH
    At the WFA-USA

    Field Marshal Baron Franz Conrad von Hotzendorff

    A key, but somewhat forgotten figure of the Great War, Chief of the Austrian General Staff von Hotzendorff was both a true "war hawk" in 1914 and later a disastrous war lord. One might say he suffered from "Serbophobia", with constant pleas to "crush the Serb skull" (preventative strikes against Serbia). He had a major falling out with Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1912 over this policy - a falling out that was never mended. They had once been close friends, with the Archduke saving the hot-tempered commander's career on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, von Hotzendorff and Count von Berchtold were determined to use the assassination as a pretense for the long awaited invasion of Serbia. They actively steered the empire to catastrophe.

    Aside from his hawkish tendencies, he was generally regarded as strong military leader and strategist. One of his military shortcomings, however, was overestimating the abilities of the army he commanded. The feeble Austrian army of 1914 was not capable of executing von Hotzendorff's improvised plan for dealing with both Russia and Serbia. A 1916 offensive in the Trentino on the Italian Front--initially successful, proved to be overly ambitious given battlefield realities. He was dismissed in 1917 in part due to his opposition to Emperor Karl I's peace initiatives.

    Four British prime ministers served in the trenches in World War I. Name them (answers at the bottom).

    The SS Ohioan Had an Interesting WWI Service Record and a More Interesting Demise (link)

    The War was good, by drawing over our depths that hot surface wish to do or win something.

    T.E. Lawrence
    Quoted in Voices from the Great War, Vansittart.

  • A "Fragment from France" by Bairnsfather

    The Lady: "And to think its same dear old moon that's looking down on him!"
    The Gentleman: "This blinking moon will be the death of us."


    Western Front Association-U.S.A. &
    The Great War Society
    Combined 2009 Annual Seminar,
    September 11 - 13, 2009
    National World War I Museum
    Kansas City, Missouri

    The wide-ranging and compelling theme for the seminar combines the original seminar ideas for both organizations: "Technology, Treaties and the War: From 'Tin Hats' to Tanks and 'Top Hats' to Territories." Registration forms, fees and further information will be forthcoming. Check back here or at the organizations' websites for details. (link)
    Western Front Association
    U.S. Branch Chapter Meetings

    Check for Your Region
    Regularly Updated
    Great War Society Monthly Chapter Meetings

    Berkeley, San Francisco and Palo Alto, CA
    Regularly Updated
    Send additions/corrections:
    Email Response

    Memorable Event

    Red Forces Capture
    Kiev in the Ukraine

    February 3, 1919

    Russian Civil War Reaches
    Critical Stage

    Click on Image to Learn More

    Media & Events

    Illinois Genealogy
    TGWS Member and genealogical researcher Alice Horner has been busy researching the service in Siberia of local Doughboys from her home county. Paul Fogel from Stephenson County made it to Russia (link) and so did three of his neighbors from Freeport. (link)

    WinningWriters.com holds an annual War Poetry contest and have just announced their 2008 results. Visit their site to read the winning entry and how you can enter your own work in the contest. (link)

    Last Voices of WWI The History Channel will begin broadcasting brand new series "Last Voices of World War I" soon. Some selections can be viewed on-line. (Interviews)

    In next month's OVER THE TOP magazine, USAF Intelligence Officer Terry Finnegan recounts the story of military intelligence at the front in the Great War and how it shaped the art/craft/science of intelligence for the rest of the 20th century.

    Learn More About
    Over the Top

    On-line magazine of the
    First World War

    The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery

    The Oise-Aisne Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the U.S. servicemen who died in the Second Battle of the Marne. Superintendent Jeffrey Aarnio provided this photo of the dignified memorial overlooking the 6,012 American graves at the site. The memorial also lists the names of 241 fallen whose remains were never located.

    New Year's Day 2009

    There was, as I reported in last month's Trip-Wire, a planned convergence of the half-dozen, or so, readers and editors attending the Rose Bowl. Well, we never got together, so we don't have the group photo I was hoping for. Since the game was a disappointment for my team, what is pictured above--the B-2 flyover--was the highlight of the game for me. (The parade--witnessed in person--was a neat experience, too.)

    Page Two
    Gone West

    Bill Stone, 108, one of three remaining British veterans of the First World War passed away on January 12th at a nursing home. Mr Stone, who joined the Royal Navy in Plymouth as a stoker at 18 aboard the battlecruiser HMS Tiger, later served on HMS Hood. In WWII he helped evacuate Dunkirk, making five trips across the Channel. He was the last known veteran of both World Wars. (link)

    Uniforms of the War

    This Month's Contribution by
    Major General Tom Jones

    Our earlier displays of WWI uniforms seems to have struck a chord amongst Trip-Wire readers. We will be making this a semi-regular feature in the next year or so.

    A Doughboy Treat

    Reader John Shetler (grandson of a Doughboy cook) reported his family LOVED the Slum (Slumgullion) his wife Bonnie prepared from last month's recipe for, so here is another virtuous victual from the Great War, Fried Mush. If you cook it and want to report the experience, please send photos of the dish as it comes out of the oven and of the delighted diners.

    HMAS Sydney (rear) Attacking SMS Emden (foreground),
    9 November 1914

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    Page Three

    2009 World War I Tours Led by
    Trip-Wire Editor Mike Hanlon

    Click on image to request a brochure from greatwar@earthlink.net

    Two From the Early
    1917 Campaign

    The Morning of Vimy

    Someone long ago sent me this account by what is apparently a British observer of the Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge, April 9, 1917. Since he didn't accompany the assault, the narrative focuses on the prelude up to the morning of the attack.

    For eight days now our cannon have been firing without rest, and for the last three days, above all, the bombardment has attained an unbearable violence. The earth shakes, the sky seems to vibrate, the entire horizon is outlined in flames and the crest in front of us is covered with a net of shell bursts. The air is filled with the sound of some giant railway train rumbling on invisible wheels, and great columns of earth and smoke leap ceaselessly from the vast terrain, apparently deserted, in which the enemy is hidden.

    For how long we have waited for this great attack! For several weeks we have felt it earning. At last, all of a sudden, the last preparations, and today one feels that it is about to break. At last the confirmation tomorrow! We do not know the hour. All the evening, by moonlight, great truck loads of munitions have been arriving.

    The artillery is still energetically at work. It has concentrated its fire on several mills on the flank of the ridge which were found to be peculiarly hard to destroy. Now we have found out-they were cement built Observation posts. They are crumbling to dust.

    Before nightfall the brigade commander warned the battalion commanders that the attack would begin at half-past five in the morning. It makes one think! One ponders on the friends that are going out and who will never come back. Penned up in the shelters of the commander's post naturally one sleeps little. But it is still another thing across the way! A German taken yesterday says that for four days and nights they have been unable to sleep, and, having consumed all their rations in two days, they have gone hungry since.

    Three o'clock

    We stretch ourselves. Some are reading an old magazine brought here to while away the weary hours of waiting. Everyone is nervous, more or less.

    A slight noise outside! Eyes raised, inquiringly. Is it raining? No, it is hailing. The hailstones rebound with a hurried sound. Our spirits drop. To understand one would have to actually see those faces drawn, by the wait, by excitement and by sleeplessness. Their hopes are dashed. What will happen? Will the attack go on through this? One feels ready to burst into tears, and everyone experiences the same feeling of discouragement, that undefinable feeling that will pass away when half-past five comes round, the time for which we are waiting, with eager glances at our watches, carefully synchronized.


    The solemn hour approaches in a grey and frozen half-light. The bombardment has slightly abated. The Canadian infantry, veterans of Ypres, Courcelette and Contalmaison, are aligned in front of our positions, bayonets fixed, and are awaiting the word to vault over the trenches. 5.38, 6.29.-"Cr-a-a-ash!" A great naval gun gives the signal. The raging fire of the field guns swells in intensity, the German " 77s trying to pierce the curtain of our shells and limiting the horizon. The barrage files have started! Up over the terrain, protected by our curtain of fire, like demigods surrounded by fire, the Canadians go! From Givenchy to the South of Faribus the masses of their army sweep slowly over the shell craters, indistinct in the fog, and submerge the German trenches.

    The Mines of Messines

    Remaining Mine Crater Near the Southern Limit of the Messines Operation
    (Possibly the Ontario Farm Crater)

    The Battle of Messines, June 7-14, 1917, was a successful British assault on the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge, a strongly held strategic position on the southern edge of the Ypres Salient, which had been held by the Germans since late 1914. The offensive operation was the product of long preparation, detailed planning and sound training carried out by General Plumer's Second Army. The initial assault was preceded by the detonation of 19 mines under the German font line which caused an estimated 10,000 German casualties. British, Australian and New Zealand infantry advanced behind a carefully coordinated artillery bombardment and took all their objectives within the first hours of the battle. German counterattacks the following day failed, and although German resistance continued until June 14, British, Australian and New Zealand forces retained possession of the captured areas. The battle is often cited as a model for a well planned limited objective attack. Messines represented a preliminary to the major British offensive in Flanders in 1917, the Third Battle of Ypres, which was launched without Plumer in command and soon became a legendary fiasco. Hubert Plumer was called back later, however, to help salvage things.
    Principal Source: Australian War Memorial

    A note from the Editor: I've visited the Messines battlefield about eleven times since 1989, and I have always been struck as to how different it looks and feels from what I expected from my readings about the operation. Mount Kemmel, behind the British line, is more like a low ridge by American standards and Messines Ridge seems just a gentle rise. Nevertheless, when you are atop that rise, the German position seems to command the countryside.

    While 19 mines sounds like an impressive number, given that they were exploded along a ten mile front, the individual mines--or in some cases, clusters of mines--seem widely spaced. There could not have been a continuous sheet of fire along the front. Clearly, German strong points or particularly advantageous positions were selected. In some cases such as the Caterpillar and Spanbroekmolen sites, the importance of the positions in 1917 are evident. In other cases, however, particularly in the southern portion of the salient, around trench 122 for instance, it is not so clear. Extensive research would be needed in the archives to determine why some of the positions were selected.   MH

    Two from e e cummings

    my sweet old etcetera and Buffalo Bill's/defunct

    Cumming's best know literary connection with the Great War's literature is his novel, The Enormous Room. He was also a noted poet, of course, and we present two of his works here. The first is clearly a "war poem" and is included in several anthologies of war poetry:

    my sweet old etcetera
    aunt lucy during the recent

    war could and what
    is more did tell you just
    what everybody was fighting

    my sister

    isabel created hundreds
    hundreds) of socks not to
    mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

    etcetera wristers etcetera, my
    mother hoped that

    i would die etcetera
    bravely of course my father used
    to become hoarse talking about how it was
    a privilege and if only he
    could meanwhile my

    self etcetera lay quietly
    in the deep mud et

    et    cetera, of
    Your smile
    eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

    The second poem, seems never to be associated with the war. Its subject, the showman Buffalo Bill, died during the war in January 1917, the author served in the war, the poem was published in 1920 and it seems to about something intimately connected with the Great War - death. You judge whether this, too, is a "war poem".

    Buffalo Bill's
               who used to
               ride a watersmooth-silver
    and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlike that

    he was a handsome man
                                        and what i want to know is
    how do you like your blueeyed boy
    Mister Death

    World War I Headlines
    in the
    21st Century

    Gifts Pouring In to National WWI Museum

        Aussie Badges on Wiltshire Down

           Max Boot's Review of The Monstrous Anger of the Guns

              New Book Out on Britain's Lost Generation

                 British Cabbie Honors the Fallen of the Great War

    The Magic Flute

    Reviewed by Andrew Melomet

    First performed in 1791, Mozart's The Magic Flute has long been one of the most popular operas in any company's repertoire. Today's audiences are still enthralled with the epic quest and love story of Tamino, the prince and Pamina, the kidnapped daughter of the Queen of the Night. Sir Peter Moores wanted to make a new cinematic version that would "take opera out of the opera house" and reach new audiences. Kenneth Branagh was approached to perform this task based on his success in with his productions of Shakespeare's Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet.

    DVD Cover
    Instead of a medieval setting, Branagh places his cast on a vast World War One battlescape of trenches, shell holes, ruins and mud. Extensive use of computer generated imagery (CGI), imaginative camerawork and superb cinematic technique create a work that may not be wholly successful but is richly rewarding and moving.

    Specific references to the Great War and to a number of classic movies abound throughout the entire production. The usual Masonic symbolism of the magic flute is replaced by images of the First World War and the inherent antiwar message. The overture takes us from Tamino's hand quietly reaching for a wildflower from his trench (echoing All Quiet On The Western Front) to an all-out assault on the enemy in a single stunning shot. Instead of being menaced by a dragon in the opera's first scene, now Tamino (Joseph Kaiser) faces death from a poison-gas grenade before he is rescued by the Three Ladies clothed as nuns who serve the Queen of the Night. After regaining consciousness, he finds himself in a trench where he sees Papageno (Benjamin Jay Davis). Not the usual wild bird catcher, this Papageno maintains the gas-detecting canaries used by the miners and the pigeons for messages. Tamino falls in love with Pamina, (Amy Carson), the daughter of the Queen of the Night when the Three Ladies show him her photograph. Tamino imagines himself in a B&W movie musical, dancing with and singing to Pamina.

    The Queen of the Night (Lyubov Petrova) makes her first appearance astride a tank and demands that Tamino free her daughter from the powerful Sarastro. During a snowy Christmas Truce, Tamino and Papageno receive the gifts of the magic flute and magic musical chimes. These scenes are especially evocative, both the high notes of Petrova soaring like the war cry of a Valkyrie over the battlefield and the moving reenactment of the 1914 Christmas Truce.

    Ladies of the Queen

    Guided by Three Boys dressed as camp mascots, Tamino reaches the gates of Sarastro's fortress. On the traditional Gates of Wisdom and Reason are carved the words, "Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria." The shell-shocked soldiers inside sing "Go back!" and Tamino finds entrance through another Gate.

    Instead of the grove of palms that usually opens Act 2, Branagh places Sarastro (Rene Pape) and his people at a large cenotaph and a seemingly endless cemetery field of graves (Oh! What a Lovely War) that overlooks a smoldering battlefield.

    The Baroque choral prelude of the two armored men prior to the ordeal of fire and water is sung by a wall of sandbags! The ordeal of fire and water is now the firing of the Queen's troops on Tamino and Pamina and the gushing waters of a flooded trench.

    Tamino in a Flooded Trench

    At the finale, the magic flute is tossed into the air like the scenes of the bone being thrown in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    The singing of noted opera stars, Lyubov Petrova and Rene Pape is superb and easily overshadows the efforts of Kaiser, Carson and Davis. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, conducted by James Conlon sounds excellent in the 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound found on the PAL DVD from Revolver Entertainment.

    Kenneth Branagh was born December 10, 1960 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The family moved to England to escape "the troubles." When he was 16 years old, Branagh acted in a school production of Oh, What A Lovely War and his drama teacher encouraged him to make acting his life's work. He was educated at Queen's University, Belfast, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

    As a son of Belfast, Branagh is keenly aware of the political dichotomy surrounding the involvement of the Protestant and Catholic men of Belfast in the Great War, a controversy that continues to this day. Thousands of Belfast Protestants died on the Somme battlefield, and the Unionists have claimed these honored dead as part of their heritage. Thousands of Belfast Catholics also died in the Great War, but Republicans have traditionally considered the British Army an army of occupation, making it difficult for them to honor the Belfast Catholic dead of the First World War. There is a sense of this irrational struggle in his production of The Magic Flute where the opposing armies are distinguished from each other only by the color of their uniforms.

    Hospital Scene

    World War 1 in Colour is narrated by Kenneth Branagh and is currently available on DVD in the U.S. and the UK.

    Stephen Fry wrote the English libretto and dialogue for The Magic Flute and co-wrote the screenplay with Branagh. Fry also stared as General Melchett in the Black Adder Goes Forth, set on the Western Front in 1917. Black Adder Goes Forth is available on DVD in the U.S. and the U.K.

    Not all of Branagh's images are successful--a pair of huge floating lips that Papageno dives into look like something from Woody Allen's Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex. . . And those singing sandbags are at the very least startling. Opera purists might be upset by some of Branagh's cinematic techniques and first-comers to The Magic Flute might be better served with Ingmar Bergman's 1975 film version. But I was totally involved in Branagh's vision and enjoyed it tremendously. I watched it twice, two nights in a row, and many of the images and music stayed with me for several days afterwards.

    The Magic Flute played at the Venice Film Festival in September 2006. It has been released on DVD in the U.K. and France but has not been released on DVD in the U.S.

    Click here to download a Five-Year Index for the Nickelodeon
    with Updates on Availability of Films and Videos in the US

    Answer to quiz: Clement Attlee, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan and, of course, Winston Churchill.

    Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until next month, your most appreciative editor, Mike Hanlon.
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    (Or send us a comment on the TRIP-WIRE)

    For further information on the events of 1914-1918 and membership information visit the Directory Pages of:

  •      The Great War Society

  •      The Western Front Association, U.S. Branch

  •      Over the Front -- League of WWI Aviation Historians