April 2007

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: April will see the rededication of the Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial, so next month we will providing a special report on the festivities in our next issue. However, in the following month I'll be visiting the memorial with my 2007 Western Front Tour, and I'll be following up with an eyewitness report on the improvements at the Memorial Park. While we are in Europe, I'll be meeting some of the contributors you've read here at the Trip-Wire: Christina Holstein and Tony Noyes will be meeting us at Verdun; Jeffrey Aarnio will be showing us the Oise-Aisne U.S. Cemetery where he is now superintendent; Doug Mastriano's team will be guiding us around the Sgt. York trail at Châtel-Chéhéry; Fred Castier will be meeting us at Cantigny, where he is developing a visitors' center, and Tony Langley will be joining us for our tour of the Liège Forts and Mons. I can hardly wait and, of course, you will be seeing photos of all our friends and the tour members here on the Trip-Wire. MH

This Month's Internet Focus:
Science & Technology
at War
The Real Deal

German Aviator Max Immelmann in an
Early Fokker E-1 Monoplane

New at Our Own & Our Friends' Great War Websites

Click on Title to Access
New from Members & Sister Organizations

Our friend and fellow WFA & GWS member Werner Gruhl has written a remarkable book about Japan in the Second World War. I found some of the information it contained about the scope of the war in the Pacific surprising and sometimes shocking. Click on the banner to visit his website to learn about the book and get a view of the eye-opening statistical tables Werner compiled to back his conclusions.

At Great War Society Sites
At the WFA-USA

Alain-Fournier [Henri Alban-Fournier], author of the French romantic classic Le Grand Meaules, disappeared with twenty other men from R.I. 288 near Éparges Spur in the St. Mihiel Salient on September 22, 1914. Their bodies were discovered in 1991 after research in German archives. The forest glade where two other officers and fifteen enlisted men were discovered is now the site of two monuments: a glass pyramid commemorating the group and a stylized sculpture of a flame inspired by Alain-Fournier's literary works.

Funeral of Doughboy Monk Eastman,
27th NY Division, December 30, 1920
(Returning to His Gangster's Life After Serving Honorably with the AEF, Monk Sadly Met a Gangster's Fate) (article)
          Old Bill Helping the Veterans' Cause
By Bruce Bairnsfather, Postwar


Double Ace Seminar
League of World War I
Aviation Historians

May 11-12, 2007
Holiday Inn Rosslyn in Arlington, VA (link)
90th Anniversary
Palestine Campaign
International Conference

September 3-6, 2007
Tel-Hai Academic College in Upper Galilee, Israel (email for details)
What We Fought
Each Other For

18th National Seminar

September 7-9, 2007
Naval War College Newport, RI  (Full Program)
T. E. Lawrence: A Symposium

The Huntington Library,
October 5-6, 2007
San Marino, CA (email for info.)
International Society for First World War Studies
International Conference

October 18-20, 2007
Georgetown University, Wash., D.C. (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

America Declares War

April 6, 1917

Click on Image for More Information

Media and Events

WFA and the Imperial War Museum Collaborate on Mapping the Front

The Western Front Association (UK) and the Imperial War Museum have announced the imminent availability of a series of DVD maps and aerial photographs from their archives. The project, called Mapping the Front, is aimed not only at those with an interest in military history but also to family historians, social and political historians and cartographers. Locations will include the Somme, Arras, Ypres, and Gallipoli in addition to lesser known battlefields such as Loos. Other themes will include cemeteries, cartography, transport, tanks and artillery. For details refer to the WFA Bulletin and the WFA-UK website (link).

A tunic, cap, letters and a box of ammo from the Spad XIII flown by No.1 U.S. air ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker is due to be auctioned by James D. Julia of Portsmouth, NH at their next sale, on October 6-8. (link)

The Flanders Field Museum in Ypres has announced a 90th Anniversary program for the Battle of Passchendaele, November 15-17, 2007. We will have more details in future issues.

Great Britain can never violate German territory even after a defeat of that Power at sea, her army not being organized or strong enough for such an undertaking. Germany with her large army could, however, if she chose, invade and conquer Great Britain after a successful naval campaign in the North Sea. . .A decisive battle lost at sea by Germany would still leave her the greatest power in Europe. A decisive battle lost at sea by Great Britain would forever ruin the United Kingdom, would shatter the British Empire to its foundations, and change profoundly the destiny of its component parts.

Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, summing up the British perspective in a secret memorandum to Canada's prime minister in August 1912.

Die Wacht am Rhein: 1914
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Page Two

Gone West

The "Yeomanettes" Bless Their Memory
Late arriving news, America's last female veteran, Charlotte Winters, 109, died on March 27th. Charlotte was one of 11,000 women who served stateside as a "Yeomanette" in the World War I U.S. Naval Reserve.(link)

Two French veterans passed away recently. Jean Grelaud, 108, died Feb. 25 in Paris. He was mobilized in 1917, serving in the 31st and the 131st infantry regiment. During the Second Battle of the Marne, he was captured and interned in Belgium before being freed Nov. 21, 1918. Another World War I veteran from France, Rene Riffaud, died Jan. 16. Like Grelaud, he was 108.(link)

Last month, we reported the death of Howard V. Ramsey, of Oregon. It has subsequently been written that he was the last surviving American to have seen combat in the Great War. (link)

Winter at Verdun II

By Christina Holstein

[In an earlier Trip-Wire, Christina presented some lovely photos of the
Verdun area in winter. Here is her 2007 set. MH]

At the end of this 2006-07 "winter of discontent" for snow-lovers, here is a series of pictures of Verdun taken on a rare snowy day.

1. The monument to André Maginot, after whom the famous fortress line in eastern France was named, stands close to Fort Souville. It recalls the occasion in November 1914, when Maginot, who had been severely wounded, was saved by two of his men. In this picture, the snowy bank on which it stands is being prepared by two youngsters for snowboarding.

2. The cemetery is the Faubourg Pavé military cemetery, and the trees around the central cross guard the graves of the men who were not chosen to be the French Unknown Warrior. Brought from various sectors of the Western Front, these bodies were placed in the Citadel, and a young soldier was asked to choose one of them to lie in state in Paris. The chosen coffin was taken by train from Verdun to Paris, and the others were buried in this cemetery, close to the road along which the soldiers marched to the battlefield.

3. Two positions around Fort Tavannes. 3a. This strange-looking object is a machine gun bunker close to the fort. Designed by Pamart and installed after the battle, it features two apertures and a long dividing 'snout', which normally makes it look like a prehistoric animal. Buried under snow, it looks more like a heavily iced cake with currant 'eyes'. 3b. This small arms position from 1917 stands close to Fort Tavannes. It is part of a series of defences built after the battle and is the only one of its kind. It allows for fire in all directions.

4. The Verdun waterfront on a cold day with the fountains playing - too cold for a glass of wine at a table by the river.

5. The Victory monument on the main street. Built on the site of the old Madeleine Church, the brooding warrior looks towards the battlefield, his hands resting in the hilt of his sword. The meaning of the stance is 'Thus far and no farther'.

Madame Belmont-Gobert
French Housewife, British Heroine

During the August 1914 Battle of Le Cateau, Trooper Patrick Fowler of the 11th Hussars, Prince Albert's Own, was cut off from his regiment behind German lines. After hiding in the woods for months, the hungry, exhausted cavalryman was found by Louis Basquin and taken to the home of his mother-in-law, Madame Belmont-Gobert, in the village of Bertry. For the next four years, she successfully hid him, usually in her cupboard, despite being compelled to billet German troops. At times German soldiers sat, ate, talked and smoked just a few feet from where Fowler was hiding. Once Madame had a premonition that the cupboard would be searched, so she hid the hussar under a mattress. Indeed, the German inspectors that day--for the only time--opened the cupboard. Trooper Fowler was rescued by advancing British forces in October 1918, although he needed his former commander's testimony to avoid desertion charges. Madame was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her courage. The cupboard is now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Delivering the Wine Ration Was a High Priority Task for the Poilus
Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light

1917 on The Western Front


The Great Offensive Is Launched

On Easter Monday April 9th on Vimy Ridge and in a bitingly cold dawn the troops attacked and took the majority of the ridge within 24 hours and the remainder within 48. This removed the German's view and control of the Douai plain and its many coalfields and opened the way for the Battle of Arras to start the next week.

Again, the Arras planning was exemplary, and the two British armies, under Sir Henry Horne and Sir Edmund Allenby, still ably assisted by the Canadians and, later, the Australians, were initially very successful. An attempt was made at Bullecourt to break the Hindenburg line but was unsuccessful and cost the Australians many losses.

The ground taken in the Arras battle stretched from Lens in the north to the north of Bullecourt, more than thirty miles, to a maximum depth of some four miles. The casualties in April amounted to some 103,000, a rate higher than that of the Somme the previous year.

However, the Nivelle Offensive, begun April 16th, was ending in failure. Nivelle's security and secrecy was basically nil, and the Germans were well prepared for the initial artillery onslaught of some 5,360 guns, drawing back to their second lines and thus avoiding decimation in the opening hours. In blinding snow storms the French advanced to the German wire, finding the frontline trenches generally unoccupied. They were then hit by intense artillery and small arms fire while trying to move through the barbed wire. The battle plans called for the assaulting waves to continue moving forward, and thus a bottleneck concertina effect came into being with many waves of infantry crushing into a small space. This provided even better targets for the defenders, and the losses rose tremendously.

The men, under intense fire, took what shelter they could find, and still the casualties rose, possibly to over 100,000 the first day. Rumour among the troops converted this figure into 100,000 dead. Nivelle had promised the politicians that he would stop the attack if it was not successful within 48 hours.

French Artillery in Action
He didn't succeed in 48 hours, but he found he couldn't stop. On the 20th of April, however, he was forced to halt.

Staff officer's mismanagement (in my opinion) of instructions to units on the battlefield resulted in some being pulled out immediately and some being left out under fire for days. Some were even pulled out to rest and immediately sent back into the furnace.

Nivelle had promised his men that this would be the last great effort that was necessary to begin to end the war. It wasn't, the men knew it, and they said, "Why should we keep on sustaining these terrible losses when the staff don't care and we just go on hanging on the (barbed) wire."

Some units out of the line in Soissons either refused to go back up the line or only agreed to do so if they held the line but were not required to assault the seemingly impregnable German defences. Their officers had little control over these large bodies of men and the "acts of collective indiscipline" spread rapidly from the end of April into May.

The Battle of Arras was initially successful but then had to be extended by Haig after his realisation that there was something radically wrong with the Nivelle offensive and that German resistance had significantly strengthened.

America entered the war but was very far from ready in any sense. On the Western Front stalemate had returned.

A century earlier, the Chemin des Dames was the site of one of Bonaparte's last victories before his exile to Elba. In March 1814, he defeated the rear guard of Blücher's combined force at the Battle of Craonne.

If you are travelling to Europe and would like to visit these fields of memory for a detailed tour, please contact experienced guides Tony Noyes or Christina Holstein at Verdun Tours


A Reflection from David Homsher
Author of Enter the Yanks: the Battle of Château-Thierry

With the news [above] that America's last combat veteran of the Great War, Howard Ramsey, has left us, I thought it was fitting to present this reflection on the passing of a generation. MH.

At the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I in Europe, there were almost five million men under arms in the American military, and two million of them were in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France and Belgium. Before the last of the old veterans leaves us forever, it behooves us to take a nostalgic look backward at our inimitable Doughboys of 1917-1919.

Welcome to France
Sadly, for the few remaining soldiers, sailors and marines of 1917 1918 "It's almost the twelfth hour." We are very close to the final tolling of the clock for them. Their average age is now 107 years. It will not be very long before we read a headline announcing that the "Last American World War One Veteran Is Dead." When the last of that grand generation of men has "gone west" to join his comrades it will be like a beacon going out. However, the light will remain shining through our remembrance of these brave men.

Today, among most Americans, the Doughboy's war is only vaguely recalled, a misty promontory obscured by a war that preceded it and the one that followed it, the Civil War and World War II. It seems to have something to do with poppies, ghostly figures in gas masks, and a rousing tune, "Over There". In family albums are sometimes seen sepia-toned images of an unbelievably young grandfather or great-grandfather wearing the Doughboy's tin helmet or high-crowned felt hat, spiral puttees , and a wool tunic with a high collar that appears to have been choking him.

Such young American soldiers, though, poured into the ports of France during 1917 and 1918. The American Expeditionary Force arrived radiating confidence in themselves, with a determination to show the world that they were better than any soldiers that Europe had ever produced, and this definitely included the Germans. They were also poorly trained, ill equipped, and had to rely upon the French and the English for all of their artillery, tanks, horses, and for a large part of their food, but even these handicaps did little to stifle their spirit and their enthusiasm.

They made themselves at home in France and established a reputation with and among the French people as having been kindly, happy, very ingenious, and very helpful to everyone. They somehow hurdled the language barriers and made friends with the peasant family with whom they were billeted and with every child that was within reaching distance.

When asked if they could capture Cantigny, the Americans said they could, and they did. The same applied to Belleau Wood, Blanc Mont ridge, the St. Mihiel salient, and the Argonne Forest. The deeds of the old AEF on the field of battle are of such brilliant stature that they will ever be remembered by our sister country, La Belle France, and wondered at by every generation that has succeeded that of those who went to France to "make the world safe for democracy".

As We Will Always Remember Them
The American Expeditionary Forces of World War I will soon all be gathered together in the Valhalla of Heroes. The last survivor of a magnificent generation will have left us forever in body but never in spirit. The memory of the AEF of 1917-1918 who went to France will remain with us. They will know that we care and that their service and sacrifice is remembered by those for whom they fought.

Page Three

By Timothy M. Morrisroe

Part II: Interview of the Author Conducted by Donna Cunningham

Last month we presented a review of An Ace Minus One; in this issue of the Trip-Wire we share reviewer Donna Cunningham's interview with the author.

DC: What inspired you to write about World War I?

TMM: Several things, actually. The Great War seems to be a forgotten war, in some respects, since it preceded "The Big Show." There have been countless books and movies about World War II, and enough living veterans to keep the memories fresh. Not so with World War I.

Several years ago I did a bicycle tour in Provence, France. I remember pedaling though several small villages. Each village seemed to have a monument, usually an obelisk, with the inscriptions of those who died during the Great War. I was amazed that these small villages with a population of a few hundred would often have more than a dozen names carved on the monument. I could only imagine the devastation to the families in the village and to thousands of similar towns across France.

Another thing that intrigued me about World War I was the near absolute faith that soldiers of both sides had in their cause as they marched into the carnage. I contrast that trust in "King and Country" during even the blackest days of the Somme or Verdun compared to the public's reaction to our relatively small war in Iraq. For example, there was a young British scientist named Henry Moseley. If you remember your high school chemistry he was the one who figured out how to arrange all of the elements into the periodic table. Yet this man, who probably would have won the Nobel Prize had he lived, volunteered for the trenches. He was killed at Gallipoli. There were some instances of mutinies, one with the French Army that I depict in my novel, but relatively little public opposition. I know there are differences between today's media coverage, etc., but I still find the comparison thought provoking.

DC: How did you get the inspiration for your protagonist Jack Elliot?

TMM: Jack is a composite of many people that I incorporated both consciously and subconsciously. I borrowed reminiscences of multiple people, such as ambulance drivers, pilot in North Africa, etc. The early scenes of him in Eveleth, Minnesota I actually borrowed from my grandfather. My grandfather, who would have been the same age as Jack, often told us about going to dances at the Finnish Hall and driving lumberjacks to the town brothel in his Model-T. I wanted to show Jack as somewhat naive in the beginning but one who catches on quick.

DC: The scope of the novel is huge. How did you do your research on World War I?

TMM: I am a voracious reader myself, so I read much about World War I. Now there is a huge amount of information on the internet, such as sites like theaerodrome.com. I also visited insightful museums such as the Imperial War Museum in London and multiple museums and battlefields in France, including L'Invalides.

DC: How did your experience as a pilot influence you?

TMM: I have over 2000 hours as a military pilot, primarily as an instructor. Many of the experiences and close calls I had were benign compared to what I could imagine in a rickety open-cockpit biplane. For example: flying on the wing during a descent though heavy clouds. I remember that I didn't dare take my eyes off my leader, not even to glance at my instruments, because I could barely see his plane even though his wing tip was less than three feet from my own. In that situation one can become disorientated very quickly and think one is in a high speed corkscrew. I put a similar scene in An Ace Minus One. I didn't have to worry about freezing in the cockpit, nor did I have to worry about the plane suddenly falling apart on me. But I have vivid memories of trying to pick out ground references through clouds or finding a speck of another airplane through the glare of the sun, which I tried to impart into the novel for realism.

Read Donna's review of An Ace Minus One in the March 2007 Trip-Wire. (link)

Musical Footnotes to a World War
  • Elgar wrote his last masterpiece, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor, Op.85, in 1919 to lament the terrible deaths in the Great War.

  • The premiere of Gustav Holst's The Planets Suite, with that standard of war film and documentary scores "Mars - The Bringer of War", was held on Sunday, September 29, 1918, in London's Royal Albert Hall.

  • One of Maurice Ravel's [shown in uniform at Verdun on the right] last major works was the Piano Concerto in D for the Left Hand, written for the Viennese pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961), who had lost his right arm in the war.

World War I Headlines
in the
21st Century

Chlorine Gas Returns to War

    Boys' Escape WWI Grenade Explosion

      Ice Remains of First World War Soldier Identified

         Did Iran Violate Freedom of the Seas?

Crisis at Sea: The United States Navy in European Waters in World War I

by William N. Still, Jr

Reviewed by Leonard Shurtleff
Editor of Len's Bookshelf

This is the first overview and assessment in many years of America's WWI-era navy and its involvement in the Great War. Most readers of this review know much about the politics of American intervention in the 1914-1918 conflict, as well as many details of the formation and operations of the two-million strong American Expeditionary Forces commanded by General John J. Pershing. Much less is understood about the contributions of the U.S. Navy under Admiral William S. Sims, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.

The U.S. Navy entered World War I much better armed and prepared than the U.S. Army. It had years of experience in deploying and operating far from home bases. In 1917 it was the third or fourth most powerful naval force on earth and on the brink of becoming a first-class naval power. The navy boasted 17 dreadnought and 23 pre-dreadnought battleships. The naval construction program of 1916 provided for construction of 156 new ships, including ten battleships, six battle cruisers and numerous light cruisers to be laid down by mid 1919. Naval war planning was also well advanced. Unfortunately this planning was for a war in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean, an area largely out of range of European navies already fully engaged in European waters.

The declaration of war overturned all this planning and sent the scurrying navy in new directions. Dreadnought and cruiser construction was delayed in favor of urgently needed destroyers and other light craft to combat the mounting German U-boat menace that threatened to cut the indispensable supply line to North America. Within a month of the Congressional declaration of war, Destroyer Flotilla Eight crossed the Atlantic to join the Royal Navy anti-submarine patrol force in Queensland (now Cobh), Ireland. In May, the Cruiser and Transport Force was formed to convoy American troops to France - a task it performed without loss of life for nearly a million Doughboys. Obsolescent battleships and cruisers were usefully employed in protecting trans-Atlantic supply and troop convoys. In June, the first naval aviation units reached France. By November 1918, the Navy had expanded from 80,000 men and 12 thousand reservists to 560 thousand men and officers. Eventually, some 16,000 sailors and 500 naval aircraft operated from bases in England, Ireland, France, Gibraltar, Corfu and Italy. In December 1917, five American dreadnoughts joined the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. A second battleship division followed and was based at Bantry Bay in Ireland. By May 1918, the first of 121 American wooden 110-foot subchasers were operating in European waters. Two months later, the U.S. Navy began laying the first of 56,610 mines in the North Sea anti-submarine barrage.

The USN experimented with many new weapons and concepts during WWI. Unfortunately, most new gadgets for detecting submerged submarines proved ineffective. The fleet train supply and maintenance concept developed by the navy prior to the war was implemented in part with the purchase and construction of several very capable tenders equipped with machine shops and foundries and able to make major repairs on combat vessels far from home bases. American dreadnoughts, unlike Royal Navy battleships, were also equipped with machine shops and foundries, making them remarkably self-sufficient in overseas waters.

Destroyer USS Bulmer (DD-222) at Queenstown, Ireland

In addition to detailing U.S. naval operations, logistics, training, policy and personnel welfare, the author also provides insightful biographic information on the principal naval leaders and on command relationships within the U.S. Navy and among the US, British, French, and Italian navies. Unlike Pershing (who was instructed to build an independent US fighting force), Admiral Sims as a matter of U.S. policy put his men, ships and aircraft under command of the senior Entente officer in their operating areas. By drawing on British experience, the U.S. Navy was able to make an early and effective contribution, particularly in promoting and supporting effective convoy operations, which eventually broke the back of the German submarine offensive. Other American contributions to the air and sea wars are less clear cut and more controversial, particularly with regards to the massive 34,000 square-mile North Sea mine barrage. Nonetheless, U.S. Navy command relationships with European navies, the British in particular, were cordial and productive despite policy disagreements revolving around British resistance to American calls for aggressive attacks on German home bases.

Crisis at Sea: The United States Navy in European Waters in World War I, by William N. Still, Jr., Florida University Press, 2007, 741 + xix pages, photos, maps, index, ISBN 978 0 8130 2987 0, $100 cloth. Middle monograph in a series of three covering the U.S. Navy in European waters from 1865 though 1941. (order from publisher)

Visit Len's Bookshelf for the Web's Largest List of WWI Books, Classics and New (link)

Above and Beyond

By Andrew Melomet

MTI Home Video and Timeless Media Group have recently released Above And Beyond ($24.95), a 2006 Canadian TV mini-series (179 minutes) about the beginnings of the Atlantic Ferry Command of World War II fame. When the Second World War started, the Northern Atlantic crossing was still dangerous for aircraft and crews. But Britain was desperate for the aircraft being manufactured in the United States and Canada. A highly visible contributor to the victory in World War I returned to once again play a more substantial and more critical role in the Allied cause.

Lord Beaverbrook
William Maxwell Aitkin (1879-1964), Lord Beaverbrook, the noted newspaper tycoon, politician and financier created Ferry Command. His plan was for aircraft manufactured in North America to be flown directly from Newfoundland to Britain. This would eliminate the aircraft being dismantled and shipped by freighters across the Atlantic and facing potential sinking by Germany's U-boats.

Max Aitken was born in Ontario, Canada on May 25, 1879. His family moved to New Brunswick, and it was in New Brunswick that he published his first newspaper at the age of 13. He had a successful career in Canada as a financier and moved to England where he took a seat in the House of Commons in 1910. During the First World War Aitken was in charge of the Canadian War Records Office in London and in 1916 was also the Canadian government's official representative in France. Aitken held the honorary rank of Colonel in the Canadian Army and often visited the front. His three-volume Canada in Flanders was published in 1916. By 1917 Aitken's British newspaper empire included the London Evening Standard and the Daily Express. He was a strong advocate of keeping the British Empire intact and was a powerful figure in British politics. In 1917 he was ennobled as Baron Beaverbrook and in February 1918 he became Minister of Information, where he was responsible for the British propaganda efforts in Britain, the nations of the Allies and the neutral countries. Among the writers he worked with were John Buchan, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, and Sir Henry Newbolt. Aitken resigned in October 1918 in a dispute with the Foreign Office.

Aitken joined Churchill's cabinet in 1940, serving as Minister for Aircraft Production (1940-1941), Minister of Supply (1941-1942), Minister of War Production (1942) and Lord Privy Seal (1943-1945). Churchill felt that Aitken was "at his best when things were at their worst." In regard to the increased aircraft production so vital to Britain's survival, Churchill stated, "His personal force and genius combined with so much persuasion and contrivance, swept aside many obstacles. Everything in the supply line was drawn forward to the battle. . ." A difficult personality but an essential man, Aitken was one of only three men to serve in the Cabinet in both world wars. Aitken's combination of ruthless efficiency and inspirational leadership got the desired results, and Kenneth Welsh gives a nuanced portrayal of the man with both his virtues and flaws.

When creating Ferry Command, Aitken selected Donald Bennett (1910-1986), one of the greatest of the between-the-wars aviators, to be responsible for planning and training. Bennett was a specialist in long distance flights and precision navigation, two strengths that were of the utmost importance in training pilots and navigators for the new Atlantic Ferry Command. Richard E. Grant does a fine job as Bennett, offering up an aloof and demanding expert with the task of training a motley crew of barnstormers, bush pilots, crop dusters and stunt pilots. Once Ferry Command was taken over by the United States, Bennett was recommissioned and was to become the youngest Air Vice-Marshal in the history of the RAF. He led the elite "Pathfinder Force" (No. 8 Group RAF) that located and identified enemy targets for Bomber Command. Chief Air-Vice Marshal Arthur Harris wrote that Bennett "could not suffer fools gladly, and by his own high standards there were many fools."

Above And Beyond vividly recreates the initial ferry flight of seven Lockheed Hudson bombers from Gander Airport in Newfoundland on November 10, 1940. Each crewmember is presented with a red poppy for the next day, Remembrance Day, before taking off. This simple act is both moving and haunting. All seven bombers successfully made the crossing.

Strategically located, Gander was actually the world's largest airport in 1940. The Second World War interrupted the anticipated transatlantic air passenger travel. (Its size allows it to be an alternative landing site for NASA's Space Shuttle.) Until the advent of longer-range aircraft it remained a vital link in transatlantic air travel. On September 11, 2001, it was Gander's Air Traffic Control Center that redirected 400 transatlantic flights after airspace was closed over the United States. Forty of those aircraft actually landed at Gander, where the passengers and crews were met with the generosity and warmth for which the airport is famous.

Ferry Command suffered an early setback in February 1941 when a Lockheed Hudson carrying famed Canadian scientist Sir Frederick Banting crashed after taking off from Gander. Banting served in France during World War One and was wounded in 1918 at Cambrai. In 1919 he was awarded the Military Cross for heroism under fire. With J.R.R. MacLeod, he shared a 1923 Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin. Jason Priestley plays Banting as an avuncular country doctor, your favorite family physician, fitting in with the Newfoundland locals and aircrews.

Above And Beyond was directed by Sturla Gunnarson. The romantic leads are Liane Balaban, Jonathan Scarfe and Allan Hawco. Joss Ackland has several scenes as Churchill but at 79 appears too old for the role. I thought the costumes, music and acting were very good. Some of the CGI used to recreate the Hudsons in flight looks too much like CGI, but overall it is successful. One glaring inaccuracy is the substitution of an Avro Lancaster in British roundels for an American B-24 in one tense scene. Same number of engines and twin tail but very different aircraft!

If you're looking for a historical drama covering an overlooked and previously untold story, you'll enjoy Above and Beyond. Use the link www.cbc.ca/aboveandbeyond for comprehensive background information on Ferry Command.

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: Jerry Beach, Donna Cunningham, Tony Langley, Christina Holstein, Tony Noyes, Andy Melomet, Kimball Worcester, and Len Shurtleff. The table of US wars is from USA-Today. Also, thanks to the gentleman who sent me the Monk Eastman photos, sorry, but I lost your name. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
(Or send it to a friend.)
(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