July 2008

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: Back from the Western Front! Our 2008 battlefield tour was so successful Valor Tours has asked me to announce that they are planning two future trips to the Western Front, a focused program this fall and another comprehensive tour in the Spring of 2009. (link for more details.) However, one exciting development was evident in our visit during May, and I would like to share this with you. When I first visited the American WWI battlefields and memorial (1989) I was usually the only person at the site. Imagine being alone in the Romagne cemetery surrounded by 14,000 graves of our countrymen. That was frequently the case when I later began leading these tours. But that has changed dramatically. The U.S. military services, the American Battle Monuments Commission, and the First Division Foundation and Museum have done great work in seeing these important historical sites have been improved, made more accessible and more welcoming to travelers. Below you will see some photos from our recent trip, but in future issues I plan to tell you about some of the people we meet and what they have done to make sure America's role in the War to End All Wars is never forgotten. Also, our Trip-Wire regulars Tony Langley, Tony Noyes and Christina Holstein joined our group and we will be sharing photos of their participation.  MH

This Month's Internet Feature
A Variety of First World War "Impacts"

  • On India

  • On Saskatchewan Farm Families (pdf download)

  • On the State of North Carolina

  • On the United States

  • On Wellington College, New Zealand

  • On Airpower

  • On Britain [By John Terraine]

    The Real Deal

    Early Trench at Shrapnel Corner, Ypres Salient, 1914?

    New at Our Own & Our Friends' Great War Websites

    Click on Title or Icon to Access

    Check Out the Initial 2008 Covers For
    Over the Top

    On-line magazine of the
    First World War

    Our Friends

    • The First Division Foundation and Museum Has a Great New WWI Feature: In Their Words

    At Great War Society Sites At the WFA-USA

    No other corps, [than the British Tank Corps], so far as I am aware, ever experienced the pride of being led into battle by its general, as Major-General Elles led the van of his tanks at the battle of Cambrai.

    J.F.C. Fuller, 1936

    America's Last Surviving WWI Veteran
    Frank Buckles During the War (Story Link Below)
  • Father and Son at War
    Lustige Blätter, #20, 1915


    WFA-USA National Seminar
    Carlisle Barracks, PA

    America's Great War -
    America's Great Warriors

    September 12-14 2008  (information)
    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
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    Memorable Event

    The Second Battle of the Marne Opens

    The Tide of Battle Turns
    July 15, 1918
    Click on Image To Learn More

    Media & Events

    Ninety years ago during U.S. operations in the Château-Thierry area, the pilots of the 1st American Pursuit Group [Squadrons 27, 94,95 and 147] were based in the villages of Touquin, Saints and Mauperthuis. And so, on July 14, 2008, these three French villages-- 45 miles east of Paris--will celebrate the brave American aviators of World War I. Events include: a meeting at the City Hall to view photos; an honor guard and presentation from the United States Air Force; a tour of Château la Malvoisine, where the pilots were housed while flying from Touquin; and a formal toast to the American aviators. The general public and the press are invited. Please direct questions to: info@USAWW1.com and responses to: rsvp@USAWW1.com.

    The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library has a collection of more than 200 WWI posters that were acquired in 1922. The posters have been digitized and may be accessed on their website: (link).

    At the Sgt. York site near Chatel Chehery in the Argonne Forest, Doug Mastriano and his team of researchers are making great progress. In July the bulk of the work will be completed on the Sgt. York Historic Trail. Nine stations, including a monument at key station #8, are already in place so that visitors can easily navigate and understand the battle as they follow his footsteps 90 years later, and an information board has been placed in Chatel Chehery in English, French and German. The next priority is to transform the trail area into a "memorial park," and donations, which are tax deductible, are being sought to support this endeavor. If you would like to donate -- please visit their website at: http://www.sgtyorkdiscovery.com. The project will culminate on 4 October 2008 with the 90th anniversary commemoration of York's actions and the dedication of the new monument and trail at Chatel Chehery.

    There's absolutely nothing so uncanny as to hear a shell approach. It is not comfortable in broad daylight, but at night it is positively bloodcurdling.

    Sgt. John A. Cegner, 141st Infantry, AEF
    Sad News: Upon returning from my recent trip to the Western Front, I was notified of the death of Professor Matthew Bruccoli of the University of South Carolina. Besides being the leading authority on F. Scott Fitzgerald and other Jazz Age authors, he was totally dedicated to commemorating the service of World War I veterans like his father Joseph. We are preparing a tribute to Professor Bruccoli and will be presenting it in our next issue.

    2008 Western Front Tour
    Led by Trip-Wire Editor Mike Hanlon

    Clockwise from top left: Partial Group Photo at Australian Memorial, Polygon Wood, Ypres Salient; Group Representatives Laying a Wreath at Memorial Day Ceremony, Aisne-Marne Cemetery (Belleau Wood in Background); U.S. Army Memorial Day Color Guard, Romagne Cemetery, Argonne Sector with tour member Jackie Moton; New 28th Infantry Doughboy Statue with Mayor Benoit de Weirdt, Cantigny.
    Middle: Tour Director Mike Hanlon with Tonie and Valmai Holt, the authors of Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide Books (L.), and Bob Reynolds (R.), Founder of Valor Tours, with His Wife Betty.

    Want to Visit the Battlefields?
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    Page Two
    Gone West

    Franz Künstler last Austrian veteran of WWI died in May. He served with the 107th K.u.K. artillery in the Great War and came back to serve as a courier in the German army during the Second World War. There are now no known surviving soldiers of the Central Powers who served in the First World War. (link)

    Click Here to See the Worldwide List of Surviving WWI Veterans

    From My Photo Album

    By Christina Holstein

    In future months, Christina will be presenting some of the more interesting images from her collection covering the Western Front battlefields. Here is her first batch.

    Damage at the Verdun Cathedral and Bishop's Palace
    The First Shells of the 1916 Battle Fell Here

    Now & Then Photo of the Tomb of Lt. Col. Emile Driant, First Hero of the Battle of Verdun

    The Unusual Service of Lt. Dana Coates:
    Mexico, Italy, France With the U.S. & Royal Air Forces

    Contributed by Rob Thomspon

    My great Uncle, 1st Lt. Dana Coates, (shown above with one of his aircraft) was from Lodge Pole, Nebraska. He was killed on a mission the last week of the war and is buried at the Meuse-Argonne U.S. Cemetery. We would like to discover more about his service. We have much information from newspaper clippings and correspondence, but some of it seems contradictory or highly unlikely. He did his training at the University of Illinois, and I have a postcard from there. He apparently (at least according to newspapers) was first sent to Italy, then England and, finally, France. I also have a record of his flying clothing issued by the Royal Air Force. Family lore says he flew for the British prior to the U.S. joining the war, but it seems he was sent to Oxford, England after we entered. However, there is also some indication he had seen duty on the Mexican border rather than Italy prior to heading to England. There are no details about his service in Italy, just that he was assigned there for a time. In August 1918, though, he was clearly reassigned to France, newspapers referring to the 7th Aviation Instruction Center near Paris and the 11th Aero Squadron. A Mrs. Gladys MacArthur subsequently communicated to the family regarding 1st Lt. Coates death on his last mission on a bombing raid to Germany on November 4th, 1918.

    Some of the clippings indicate he flew a DH-4 for the 11th Aero Squadron, and his marker at Romagne lists the 11th Aero Squadron as his unit. The photo above, though, is definitely not a DH-4. The ground crewman, though, is British which seems to authenticate that he served with the British air service for a time. On the other hand, his cockpit photos below could be of DH-4s, and they seem to be flying a bomber formation and that gives credance to his service with the 11th Aero Squadron which was a bomber unit. If you can shed any light on my uncle's war service our family would appreciate it. Just email me at: Rob.Thompson@indwes.edu

    Photos From the Coates Family Collection

    Artist Depiction of One of the War's Opening Events
    The Bombardment of Belgrade, July 29, 1914

    Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light

    1918 on The Western Front
    By Tony Noyes


    Preparing to Turn the Tide

    In general terms this is the last month of the German offensive in the west and is therefore the last time that Allied forces will be on the defensive. It is therefore worth considering the overall position in relation to what became known as "the last 100 days" of the war.

    General Foch had been pronounced as the Generalissimo of all the Allied armies, although General Pershing was still under very clear instructions from the American president to keep the American army as a single unit and not to break it up into component parts. This instruction could not be entirely accepted since, following the French cry for help at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood at the beginning of June, the 2nd and 3rd U.S. divisions had been committed to action. The remaining American divisions were still in need of training and acclimatization, as previously commented, and the remaining half-million Americans had yet to land in France. It was not expected that their efforts could be used properly until 1919.

    The French army was being stretched to its limits by the final efforts of the German army. Foch was aware of the need to handle the men of the French armies with kid gloves (within reason), following the mutinies in the middle of 1917. The men could be expected to do their duties in defence, but even now Foch was not entirely ppositive that they would go strongly over to the offensive.

    The British army was receiving reinforcements due to a final agreement between Lloyd George, the prime minister, and General Haig, entered into with bad faith by both parties. Thus, the British army was now composed of veterans and very young men who had not seen action. It was this unbalanced mixture of two types of soldiers which brought about the final destruction of the German army.

    The German army was in very much the same condition as the British. It had not mutinied but was now drawing up men of 16 and 17 with very little military training. It had heavy casualties in the battles from March to June and would suffer more in the final offensive battles on either side of Rheims in Champagne in July.

    Thus the scene was now being set for a series of battles orchestrated by Foch to deliberately keep the German army off balance in a fluctuating series of attacks in different parts of the active perimeter of the Western Front. Immediately after the Germans' last offensive failed on July 15th, the French and U.S. armies would launch the counteroffensive which came to be known as the Second Battle of the Marne. On August 8th, General Haig's forces initiated an offensive in the Somme sector that Ludendorff would call the "Black Day of the German Army". There would be no more German offensives in World War I.
    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
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    Page Three

    Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918 by Roger Chickering

    Reviewed by Len Shurtleff, Editor of Len's Bookshelf

    First published in 1998, this is an exceptionally broad and deep, yet brief and well crafted study of Imperial Germany during World War One. It examines military aspects of the conflict, as well as the diplomacy, government, politics and industrial mobilization of wartime Germany. Of particular interest are analysis of life on the home front and the corrosive cumulative effects of total war on the civilian administration and population. Chickering finds that federal constitutional arrangements which created overlapping and even conflicting military and civilian jurisdictions to be a major weakness in Germany's semi-democratic political system. He also details debilitating policy conflicts among senior military commanders and between imperial ministers and military commanders, as well as the failures of the command economy and food rationing under the dictatorship by duumvirate of Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

    In sum, this is about the best available analysis of German participation in the Great War and the major reasons for Germany's defeat. Highly recommended. If you are going to read one book on Germany in WWI, this is the one you should read.

    Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918, Roger Chickering, Cambridge, 1998 (paperback 2007), 228+ xvi pages, photos, maps, statistical tables, index, ISBN 978 0 521 54780 2, $25.99 paperback. Professor Chickering teaches at Georgetown University and specializes in modern German history.

    Belgian Schoolchildren Learn
    About America's Sacrifices in an Earlier Time

    Above is a photo of volunteer Luc Inion taking a group of children from the Don Bosco School through Dozinghem Cemetery, Belgium. This is the cemetery that served three nearby British casualty clearing stations at the Third Battle of Ypres-Passchendaele in WWI. Luc is showing a photo of U.S. Army Nurse Helen Fairchild to students and describing Nurse Fairchild's role in America's contribution to Belgium's freedom in WWI. Nurse Fairchild is buried in the Somme American Military Cemetery, Bony, France.

    Luc Inion grew up on his grandfather Kamiel Inion's farm, the site of these casualty clearing stations, Nos. 4, 47 and 61. It was here where a few U.S. nurses were called upon to assist the British, and where American Nurse Helen Grace McClelland earned the Distinguished Service Cross on August 17, 1917, for her actions in caring for her wounded tent mate, Nurse Beatrice M. McDonald, who lost her eye. Nurse Fairchild, at CCS No. 4, was under the same bombardment on that date. Helen was later be exposed to gas and suffered gastrointestinal problems, likely intensified by the gassing. She died after unsuccessful surgery. (Learn more about Helen Fairchild.)

    Few people know that any Americans were serving in this part of Belgium at that battle. We are grateful to Luc Inion and others "over there" for keeping our history alive.

    World War I Headlines
    in the
    21st Century

    Harry Patch of Somerset, 110-Year Old Survivor of Passchendaele Celebrates His Birthday

       Christopher Hitchens on World War Revisionism

          "Why Didn't We Listen To Their War Stories?" Historian Ed Lengel on America's WWI Generation

              George Will Reflects on Frank Buckles and All the Other Doughboys

    The U.S. Air Force Honors the Lafayette Escadrille

    Forever England

    By Andrew Melomet

    Cecil Scott Forester was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1899 and spent a good part of his early childhood traveling with his family in Corsica, Spain and France. He went to lower school and college at Dulwich College (1910-1917). Other noted attendees of Dulwich include the writers Raymond Chandler, P.G. Wodehouse, A.E.W. Mason and filmmaker Michael Powell. The Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was perhaps the most famous Dulwich graduate of all.

    C.S. Forester studied medicine in London but turned his attention to writing. He found success with the publication of his first novel, Payment Deferred (1926). Payment Deferred is the story of a bank clerk with a nagging wife, who desperate for money, murders his nephew for financial gain.

    C.S. Forester
    In 1926 Forester married Katherine Belcher, with whom he had two sons. The Foresters spent their honeymoon sailing in a dinghy called the Annie Marble, named after a character in Payment Deferred. They toured England, France and Germany and afterwards published two travel books.

    Brown on Resolution, the basis for Forever England (1935), was published in 1929. Brown on Resolution was loosely based on the pursuit and destruction of the German cruiser Emden in 1914 by a flotilla of British cruisers.

    Forester wrote The Gun (1933) about the Napoleonic era Peninsular Wars. The Pride and the Passion starring Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra was based on The Gun and was released in 1957. In 1934 Forester co-wrote a play Nurse Cavell, with mystery writer C. E. Bechhofer Roberts, and in 1935 The African Queen was published. The General (1936) was a satiric novel about a war-loving officer of the First World War. As a newspaper correspondent Forester covered the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1937 and was in Prague during the Nazi takeover in 1938.

    In the 1930s Forester was working in Hollywood on a script for a pirate move. However, Captain Blood (1935) directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn turned out to be based on the same historical events that Forester was working on. Frustrated by the experience and not especially interested in another Tinseltown project (and faced with a paternity suit) Forester left Hollywood. He took a freighter to England and along the way he wrote the initial draft of the first Horatio Hornblower novels, Beat to Quarters (UK title: The Happy Return).

    At the start of World War II, Forester traveled to the United States and produced propaganda for the British Government. Forester disliked living in Hollywood but found Berkeley, California more to his liking. In 1944 he and his wife were divorced and three years later he married Dorothy Foster. He suffered from a serious attack of arteriosclerosis, which left him a semi-invalid until his death in 1966.

    DVD Cover
    Directed by Walter Forde with second unit work by Anthony Asquith, Forever England stars John Mills as Able Seaman Albert Brown. Mills had done other films, but he shines with great appeal as the young hero. He would continue working as an actor for more than 60 years. Noted English actress Betty Balfour plays his mother, and Barry MacKay is the father he never knew. Alfred Junge was the production designer responsible for creating the realistic, yet slightly expressionistic interiors.

    Opening in July 1893 during the Naval Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, with sophisticated extended moving camera sequence, Elizabeth Brown (Betty Balfour) and Lt. Somerville (Barry MacKay) met "cute" when their cabs collide on a London street. They have a brief five-day love affair that results in an illegitimate child who Somerville never knows exists. Their son Albert Brown is raised by his mother to love the sea, and he joins the navy rising to the rank of Able Seaman. Serving on the antiquated cruiser Rutland in Pacific waters when the Great War breaks out, Brown and his friend Ginger (Jimmy Hanley) are the only survivors picked up when their ship is sunk by the more powerful modern German cruiser Zeithen. To repair her battle damage, the Zeithen moors in a harbor on Resolution Island in the Galapagos. Brown escapes with a stolen rifle and proceeds to shoot at the repair crews in an effort to delay the departure of the German cruiser and to allow time for the English warship Leopard commanded by Somerville to arrive and attack. Brown succeeds in his mission but at the cost of his own life. Somerville learns that Brown was his son when a watch (an heirloom given to an ancestor by Lord Nelson) is found with Brown's effects.

    Forever England was made with the full assistance of the Admiralty and was advertised as "a sea drama to stir the blood of everyone of British stock." However, the film demonstrates a high degree of mutual respect between the British and German sailors. Before the start of the war the crews of the Rutland and Zeithen are shown socializing and partying together in the eternal comradeship of sailors of any nation. Kapitän von Lutz (Percy Walsh) of the Zeithen loses his own son when his ship is sunk by the Leopard. His loss is acknowledged by the officers of the Leopard, and it is von Lutz who tells Somerville of the seaman who enabled the latter's victory.

    Director Walter Forde acknowledged that "a film unit aboard ship is better calculated to get in the way of normal ship routine than anything I can think of." Still, the Admiralty provided the production with four fully crewed warships, HMS Broke, a flotilla leader, the cruisers HMS Neptune and HMS Curacoa and an old battleship, HMS Iron Duke. Filming took place at Invergordon and Rosyth, Plymouth and Portsmouth. Gull Rock on the Cornish coast stood in for Resolution Island. Training schools at Gosport and Whale Island were utilized for location footage.

    The film was a critical success when released in 1935. The Daily Express called it "a simple stirring tale of English patriotism." The Daily Mirror said it was "a simple story of a British sailor's heroism against odds." According to The Times it displayed "a fine sense of naval drama."

    The fictional Zeithen was portrayed by the British C-class light cruiser HMS Curacoa. On October 2, 1942 during convoy escort duties she was struck by the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary and cut in two. Only 99 survivors were rescued, with 338 casualties going down with the Curacoa.

    Reprint of Brown on Resolution
    In 1953 a new film version of Brown on Resolution was released. Directed by Ray Boulting and starring Jeffrey Hunter, Michael Rennie and Wendy Hiller, Sailor of the King (UK title: Singlehanded) was updated to action during World War II, with the initial romantic prologue now taking place during the Great War. Producer Frank McCarthy was able to obtain the full cooperation of the Mediterranean Fleet during production. The commander, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten knew McCarthy from the Second World War and happened to be a C.S. Forester fan. Malta stood in for the Galapagos during the shoot, and two endings were produced. The happy ending had Seaman Brown surviving his ordeal to be decorated, and the other ending was more faithful to the book.

    C. S. Forester also published a counter-factual "Hitler wins" novella, "If Hitler had Invaded England" (1960) which is included in his posthumous collection "Gold From Crete" (1971).

    When it was first released in 1935, Forever England was titled Brown on Resolution. It was re-titled Forever England when released in 1941. It's also known as Born to Glory and was re-released in the United States by Monogram Pictures in 1940 as Torpedo Raider. It's available on DVD in the UK as part of John Mills-The Centenary Collection, Volume II. I picked up a copy from (http://www.vicpine.co.uk). Sailor of the King is readily available on DVD in the U.S. The Fox Video release features both endings.

    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: Len Shurtleff, Tom Jones, Brian Cleary, Luc Inion, Rob Thompson, Christina Holstein, Tony Noyes, Andrew Melomet, Kimball Worcester and Fred Castier of the First Divison Foundation and Museum. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
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    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