Eighth Anniversary Issue

November 2010

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: Wow, eight years, over 90 issues of World War I news, images, opinion, history, personality profiles, access to the best of the Web and the activities of The Great War Society, WFA-USA, and our sister organizations. I'm both proud and appreciative of my colleagues, Kimball and Tony, our regular contributors like Christina Holstein, Len Shurtleff, Sidney Clark, Andy Melomet, and many others who have joined us for an issue or two. Most of all, a big thank-you to all our readers who have supported us over the years and sent thousands of items and suggestions we have included on our pages. . .Next National Seminar Announced: The 2011 national seminar has been scheduled for 9-10 September at the Citi-Garden Hotel next to the San Francisco International Airport. More details will be forthcoming in the next Trip-Wire. MH

This Month's Internet Feature
Mini-Documentaries of Signature Battles

The Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group recently sent the editors a 148-page summary of recommended Websites. It includes at least six sites associated with us, but I thought, instead, that our readers might enjoy brushing up on some of the war's signature battles. Here are a few of their many video recommendations:

  • Opening Campaign (four parts)

  • Tannenberg

  • Passchendaele

  • Verdun

  • Vimy Ridge (five parts)

  • Cambrai 1917

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    Over the Top

    Online magazine of the
    First World War

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    At Great War Society Sites

    Revisit the war poets: Read our retrospective and selections by James S. Robbins Take pride in your Great War Society membership and interest with our new full color lapel pin, World War I 75th Anniversary Commemorative Medals or back issue of Relevance! Visit our homepage: At the WFA-USA

    Old Fritz does not have all the answers. Note that in the famous photo above of the Allied negotiators on 11 November 1918 Marshal Foch is carrying the signed Armistice instrument. Where is that document today? Old Fritz would like to know. (email)

  • Last November 11th in Antwerp

    A World War I Event Calendar

    We continue to add important events to our WWI Calendar. There is simply more information than we can display here on the Trip-Wire. It is available for all, however, by downloading it from our Website.
    (download calendar as Word document)
    National World War I Museum,
    Armistice/Veterans Day Events
    11 November 2010

    Kansas City, MO
    (Ceremony & Presentation Details)
    WFA-Pacific Coast Branch Annual Seminar
    4-6 March 2011

    Bay Street Armory,
    Victoria, BC
    (flyer and registration form)
    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 for our master schedule:
    Email Response

    Rat Hunters
    One of Our Most Popular Features

    Media & Events

    At the National Constitution Center, Independence Mall, Philadelphia, "Art of the American Soldier," opened recently and continues through 11 Jan. (Read more)

    News from Down Under:
    The Australian film Hill 60 has begun winning film prizes. (link)

    Docudrama on historian Charles Bean is being released on Armistice Day by the History Channel. Not sure of release schedule in the States, however. (link)

    "Chaos and Classicism" at New York's Guggenheim through 9 January explores the impact of the war on art. (article)

    We were under a heavy barrage all day, One shell burst on the parapet and knocked six of us down. We were shaky for some time, otherwise no harm done.

    Pvt. William Vincent, Australian 21st Battalion,
    Passchendaele, October 1917

    Page Two

    The Presence of Mustafa Kemal at Gallipoli

    This past September I led my second tour of the Gallipoli battlefields. One thing that interested this year's group is the extreme concentration of statues, memorials, and informational kiosks dedicated to commemorating the service of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during the battle. Here are some examples of what we saw.

    Jack Kavanagh Discovers One of Dozens of Mustafa Kemal Statues Located around the Battlefield

    57th Turkish Regiment Memorial and Cemetery
    Where Kemal Stopped the Anzac Assault of 25 April 1915

    Two of Five Informational Kiosks Where Kemal Directed the Counterattack Against the Allied Forces Occupying Chunuk Bair, 10 August 1915

    Bust of Mustafa Kemal in Village of Krithia at Helles, Never Reached by Allies in 1915
    Trip-Wire Readers Jack Kavanagh (By Now Known as Mustafa Jack) &
    Rob Swaney Facing Camera

    British Postcard for Children

    Probably Issued No Later Than 1915
    Click Here to Visit the Website of Our Contributing Editor Tony Langley
    War in a Different Light


    By Richard Foot
    From Canada's National Post, 17 March 2000

    S.R.D. Rum Jar
    It was a potent weapon of the First World War, and for Canadian soldiers entrenched on the Western Front it arrived each week in gallon jars marked with the letters S.R.D.-Special Red Demerara, 86-proof Jamaican rum. According to a new study based on the words of troops writing home from the front, there was more than patriotism and professional discipline behind the fighting spirit of Canadian soldiers in Europe. Most importantly, there was rum.

    "Rum was essential for providing some men with liquid courage, while for others, it helped to control nerves or simply to dull them," writes historian Tim Cook in Canadian Military History, an academic journal published by the Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. Wrote one Canadian soldier in a letter home: "Under the spell of this all-powerful stuff, one almost felt that he could eat a German dead or alive, steel helmet and all."

    Mr. Cook has produced the first scholarly study of rum's importance in the daily lives of Canadian troops. His article "Demon Rum and the Canadian Trench Soldier of the First World War" says rum preserved in soldiers the will to fight and helped produce the victories at Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge that brought pride to Canada.

    People tend to focus on the buddy system, that soldiers fought for their pals in the trenches," said Mr. Cook in an interview. "Well, the thing I found while reading through their diaries and letters is this little three-letter word kept popping up -- rum." Mr. Cook, a First World War author, says the drink was essential for the Canadian army in several ways: It boosted the morale of troops in the appalling trenches; it helped men sleep at night under the constant barrage of explosives; and because rum was issued by senior ranks and sometimes withheld as punishment, it helped enforce the hierarchical structure of the army.

    But rum's primary purpose was as a combat motivator. When drams were ladled out to soldiers minutes before an attack, it suppressed the fear of rational men, terrified of climbing out of their trenches into the teeth of enemy fire. "If we had not had the rum we would have died," wrote Private G. Boyd, who fought for Canada at Passchendaele.

    The great irony is that back home, the temperance movement was in full swing By 1917, all provinces except Quebec had been convinced to enact Prohibition. Prohibitioners then wanted to revoke all alcohol privileges for the army overseas. While some soldiers did refuse their rum rations, most greeted the movement with anger. "Oh you psalm-singers, who raise your hands in horror at the thought of the perdition the boys are bound for, if they should happen to take a nip of rum to keep a little warmth in their poor battered bodies," wrote Harold Baldwin, a Canadian infantryman.

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    Page Three
    A Monumental Work from
    Dr. Gaetano (Guy) Cavallaro

    TGWS and WFA-USA Member Gaetano (Guy) Cavallaro, RPh, MD, has recently completed a 50- year project. For a half-century, he has been researching the Great War on the Italian Front and has now published his findings in a monumental three-volume set, A History of World War I on the Austro- Italian Front. In over 2,000 pages Dr. Cavallaro covers every aspect of the war in Italy: military operations, including air and naval, diplomacy, political and social factors, and an extensive review of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    Each or all of the volumes can be ordered at the publisher's Website: http://www.worldwaronehistory.com/ at $33.00/each postage included. A boxed set is available for $130.

    Here is a moving anecdote from the introduction to Volume 1.

    The Real Deal

    A 240mm French Shell Lands on the German Front Line

    World War I Headlines
    in the
    21st Century

    Possible Link: El Niño and the Spanish Flu

        Hating Woodrow Wilson: A Debate at The New York Times

           Debunking of J.M. Keynes and Woodrow Wilson

              An Old Contemptible's Diary Discovered

                 Capt. Eddie Grant Returns from the Argonne for the World Series (Your Editor Makes the Nation's Sports Pages)

                    Also from the Argonne: Lots of Action at the Sgt. York Discovery Trail, Châtel Chéhéry

    Torchbearers of Democracy: African-American Soldiers in the World War I Era

    Reviewed by Len Shurtleff

    Dr. Chad Williams has put together a far-ranging and detailed analysis of the participation of African-Americans in the Great War. His coverage spans the pre- and postwar years sketching the actions and politics of many who were to become prominent in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and '60s. As the war began, African-Americans had already begun a mass migration northward from the segregationist southern states seeking democratic freedoms and economic progress. Urged on by such leaders as W.E.B. Dubois, they volunteered by the thousands for wartime service in a patriotic impulse driven by hopes of admission at long last into the American democratic melting pot. These hopes were doomed to frustration.

    While a few thousand black Americans fought with distinction as frontline infantry or in artillery units, most of those who served were relegated by a Jim Crow military system to menial labor. While their brothers were hurriedly shipped home in 1919, hundreds remained behind to disinter and rebury American dead in France and Flanders. Throughout the war, the U. S. Army went to great lengths to enforce segregation in the ranks and prevent African-American troops from fraternizing with French civilians, particularly French women. The French, though not themselves free from racism, accepted black Americans if not as social equals, at least as welcome guests. White American troops with their attitudes of cultural superiority were often scorned; the French saw in African-Americans a validation for their own colonial policies of assimilation.

    Returning home, African-American soldiers were often met with suspicion and hostility, even in the north. The fact that blacks had been trained to arms and had associated with white women in France aroused atavistic fears in the Jim Crow south. In the north, mass black migration aroused similar hatreds and even sparked a recrudescence of the Klu Klux Klan. The result was a long postwar season of racial violence in Omaha, Chicago, New York, and many other places. There was no grand opening of black participation in democratic society. Instead, the struggle for racial equality continued and even intensified. African-Americans found new outlets for their creativity in the Harlem Renaissance, in music and in letters. The experiences of black veterans in France and their contacts there with African French colonial soldiers gave them a broader view of their own ethnicity. Though The Great War did not lead directly to colonial emancipation it did spur African-Americans to renewed and finally successful efforts at emancipation at home. As such, World War I was a truly watershed experience.

    Torchbearers of Democracy: African-American Soldiers in the World War I Era, Chad L. Williams, North Carolina, 2010, 472 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index, ISBN 978 0 8087 3394 0, $34.95 cloth. The author teaches at Hamilton College.

    Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until next month, your 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