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November 11, 2005

Ghosts of the Great War, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 11:11 AM * 110 comments

(See also, last year’s comment thread on this same post.)

“We’re not making a sacrifice. Jesus, you’ve seen this war.
We are the sacrifice.” Ulster regiment, marching toward the Somme
Eleven eleven has come round again, when we remember what used to optimistically be referred to as the last great imperialist war. Many of my links are repeated (with adjustments for link rot) from 2003 and 2004. What the hell; they’re still relevant. Maybe more so.

World War I was what got me started reading history. I was at home with pneumonia, and somehow picked up a copy of a Penguin illustrated history of World War I. I was horrified: They did what? Then amazed and horrified: And then they did it again? And finally plunged into a profound mystery: And they kept doing it, again and again, for years? In some ways, all my reading of history thereafter has been an attempt to understand the information in that one small book.

In memory of the men who fought, a jolly contemporary folksong: Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire.

Have a look at Tony Novosel’s two pages of spooky, evocative photos of Great War memorials:

Painting: Menin Gate: The Ghosts of Ypres

The actual Menin Gate, on which are carved the names of the 54,000 Missing from the Battle of Ypres.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. There are 73,350 names on its panels.

Kathe Kollwitz’ Grieving Parents, near the site where her son and his comrades are buried.

The Silent Sentinels, Langemarck German cemetery in Belgium.

The Sentinels again.

Watching over the German graves at Langemarck.

Le Mort Homme (The Dead Man), Verdun.

Another view. “ILS N’ONT PAS PASSÉ” means “They did not pass”.

The Guardians of Verdun.

Views of the war: John Singer Sargent does one of each.

Wilfred Owen’s grave.

Not pictures: A pertinent selection of Wilfred Owen’s poems. And a bit of Philip Larkin.

The Lost Poets of the Great War website, with its calculation of total casualties.

One of whom was young Umberto Boccioni, Italian Futurist artist. This is his “States of Mind” series: The Farewells. Those Who Go. Those Who Stay. There aren’t many paintings by Boccioni. This is a piece called Unique form of continuity in space. There is even less sculpture by him.

If there are universes with multiple branching timelines, there are thousands of them very much like ours, except that in them no one’s ever heard of J. R. R. Tolkien. The destruction, the toll of the dead, is as difficult to comprehend as the Black Death.

At one point I looked up the history of Tolkien’s unit, the Lancashire Fusiliers. First they significantly distinguished themselves at Gallipoli. Then they significantly distinguished themselves at the Somme. Here they are, about to be killed. No wonder Tolkien came back from the war saying, “Everyone I know is dead.”

An account of the Newfoundlanders.

Bad place to make a landing, Gallipoli. A few words from the last surviving ANZAC. Other last surviving ANZACs.

There is great generosity in the monument to the dead of both sides at Kabatepe Ariburun Beach, inscribed with the speech Ataturk made in 1934 to the first ANZACs and Brits who came back to visit:
Those heroes that shed their blood And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well
An affecting, low-key page about New Zealand public memorials: Lest We Forget: War Memorials of the First World War.
The New Zealand war memorials of the First World War have become part of the common fabric of our lives, like stop signs or lamp-posts. Virtually every township in the country has one, usually in the main street. Excluding the many honours boards and plaques in schools and churches throughout the country, there are well over five hundred public memorials to the soldiers of the Great War. Despite their numbers, the memorials are not boring or stereotypical. This was because New Zealanders showed much inventiveness in remembering the dead of the Great War. By the time the war ended, over 100,000 young New Zealanders had served overseas and some 18,000 had lost their lives. Sacrifice of this magnitude engendered enormous emotions.
One of my two favorites is the Kaitaia memorial, in Maori and English. The other is the annual ceremony at Piha. Every year there, at low tide on Anzac Day, they process out across the sand to lay their wreaths on Lion Rock ; and then the tide comes in and carries the wreaths away.

Addenda, 2004

The Gardener, a short story by Rudyard Kipling.

Gassed, John Singer Sargent.

Art from the First World War: 100 paintings from international collections, loaned to mark the 80th anniversary of the Armistice.

Aftermath: When the Boys Came Home, dedicated to the aftermath(s) of the war. A blunt, bitter, cocky site that just keeps accreting material.

The Heritage of the Great War, a broad and deep site that, like Aftermath, just keeps accreting great material. Its photo essays are especially good. Some segments:
Five Souls.

Origins and causes of the war.

99 Quotes from the Great War.

The war in color photography.

Bloody picnic: forbidden photos of the war.

German war photos.

Panoramic photos, 1919.

Another calculation of the casualties.

Children who fought in the war.

Shot at Dawn: Executions of deserters.

An Unforeseen Epidemic of Shell Shock.

Belgium’s inadvertent stockpiles of poison gas.

The Americans Are Coming!

Why America Should Have Stayed Out: a 1936 interview with Winston Churchill.

Tolkien: Frodo in the marshes of the Great War.

Hemingway’s natural history of the dead.

Conquering Baghdad: the real problems always come afterward.
Comments on Ghosts of the Great War, 2005:
#1 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 10:57 AM:

I've seen Unique Form of Continuity in Space, at the Tate Modern in London, my home. It remains one of my favourite sculptures.

#2 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:00 AM:

This, I think, is a better account of the Newfoundlanders: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/great_war/articles/somme.html

Lest we forget.

#3 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:08 AM:

The Great War song I remember most readily is The Bells of Hell. I sang it once for my father, a smart veteran of World War II and no enthusiast for war---and he was appalled by the sheer negativity of it.

As far as our current situation, I fear the tendency to greatly value that for which we've paid greatly. I recently heard a radio show which mostly consisted of grieving parents of dead soldiers insisting that it was worth it. For the moment, most of the population apparently now understands that they were sold a lemon, but can this view prevail? Maybe it will, simply because most of us have not paid so dearly for this war, but I still don't think a viable political candidate can get far saying it was a waste all told.

#4 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 12:12 PM:

There is a bit more on Kaethe Kollwitz over at the Bruderhof site, including one of the last entries in her diary:

One day, a new ideal will arise, and there will be an end to all wars. I die convinced of this. It will need much hard work, but it will be achieved… The important thing, until that happens, is to hold one’s banner high and to struggle… Without struggle there is no life.

#5 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 12:48 PM:

Claude: just from the words, it looks more like a "Haha, you're going to hell and I'm not" kind of song.

#6 ::: Lara ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:10 PM:

Thank you so much for posting all of this; I haven't seen much of it before, and am quite interested in World War I. It still stuns me a bit to think so many of my favorite authors lived through it. I wrote a very short story-thing inspired by Wilfred Owen ("Shrewsbury, 1918") last year around this time; I've posted it again in my horrid little livejournal, which anyone can view by clicking on my name, if they like.

#7 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Oh, God.

I'm sitting here at work, crying. Quietly, because (a) I don't want to explain why I'm looking at WWI photos and poetry when I'm supposed to be doing my job, and (b) even if I did explain, my coworkers would think I was a lunatic. Which, yeah, I guess I am.

Unlike Teresa, I was fairly well up on other parts of history before I ever paid much attention to WWI; the horrors of WWII are almost impossible to believe, but it's nearly always spun (at least in the histories I had access to as a kid) as, "Well, at least that's over with now." But as soon as you take a look at the first War, you realize what a hideous lie that really is. You hardly even hear about it in public high schools and colleges these days; you're told that an entire generation died and you maybe read "Dulci et Decorum Est" and then you move on to Modernism. The Great War is so, so terrible, so unending and so outside my experience that I can hardly stand to think about in the normal course of things, which little emotional cowardice is only made worse by the fact that so many of my favorite writers (C. S. Lewis, Kipling, Saki, Wodehouse, Graves, Chesterton)were Edwardians or immediately following, who, if they didn't actually die in combat, were horribly emotionally scarred by a sense of responsiblity/what was lost. (I once read something by Orwell where he brightly pointed out that, in all probability, Bertie Wooster would have died in the trenches. I've never quite recovered from that thought. Sorry for sharing.) I can't think of any period I'm more grateful not to have lived through (without even getting into the influenza Pandemic), but recent years, months, weeks, etc. have seemed to be gearing up for the possibility of tragedy on that scale. And while I've hardly been touched personally, and feel unqualified to mourn, I can't help it. I just...I can't. And I'm sorry for just moaning incoherently like this, with no real contribution, but I'm away from all the books I would normally turn to. At least there are people like the commentors here, who have the wisdom and conscience not to forget.

Oh, God.

#8 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:46 PM:

Just like to mention those who did not die in the war(s) but were condemned to survive without lovers, brothers, friends, fathers, cousins. I'm thinking in particular of Vera Brittain and her heartbreaking autobiography 'Testament of Youth' RIP R.A.L and E.H.B

#9 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:52 PM:

Just a note, to let you know that the Heritage of the War link is outdated. It redirects you to the new link, but you may want to update it as well.

My grandfather fought in France in WW1. He wrote letters to his parents describing how he hung outside the ambulance as it carreened through the war sites ferrying the wounded. He was on the outside, b/c it was dark and he had to direct the driver where to go as they didn't dare turn their headlights on, else they would be shelled by the Jerrys.

I found the letters while going through the effects of my great aunt after her death in 81 in Paulding, Ohio. I gave them to my grandmother thinking she would treasure them (after all they were written by her husband). I was horrified to later learn that she had thrown them away.

Note to others: don't make the same mistake if you value these sorts of things. Save them for yourself.

#10 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 02:00 PM:

On a fictional note...

Jacqueline Winspear has written two books which are detective stories (female protagonist) named Maisie Dobbs. (The first book is also called Maisie Dobbs)

Some of the plot is sufficiently coincidental to make one raise eyebrows (though I enjoyed both books quite a bit, and have reread both). But the bit she really gets - especially in the first one - is the incredible destruction of society and what that meant, even years later, and to how many people.

Laurie King's Mary Russell books also touch on this in several places - notably A Monstrous Regiment of Women and Justice Hall.

#11 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 02:26 PM:

I have posted Siegfried Sassoon reading Attack on my blog this year, and Laurence Binyon reading For the Fallen last year, both from the British Library's collection The Spoken Word – Poets.
The thing that struck me was that my boys, born 1995 and 1996 would, had the been born a century earlier, would have been called up.

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 02:58 PM:

Along the same train of thoughts, Kevin... I understand that, when Trevor Nun directed his revival of the musical Oklahoma, he gave a strange piece of advice to his actors: remember that, a few years after the story's events, the characters would be living thru the Dust Bowl. When I watched that production's DVD, I found myself thinking that, a few years from then, Curly might wind up in Europe fighting the Trench War.

By the way, was anybody ever able to watch the adventures of Blackadder that were set during the Great War? I tried. I just couldn't find anything funny about it.

#13 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 03:23 PM:

You hardly even hear about [WWI] in public high schools and colleges these days . . .

As I remember it, there was no clear explanation of how the war started. I've read about some guy - the German Crown Prince? - getting assassinated, but I didn't learn that in school.

The subject was summarized along these lines: "That was the first war we had with the Germans, but it wasn't anywhere near as important as WWII, so we don't have to talk about it." Just a dress rehearsal, as it were.

But yes, the more one learns, the more horrific it is.

#14 ::: Anish ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 03:33 PM:

In the age of terrorism, I've adopted this painting as a memorial of sorts to the "civilian veterans" of that ongoing war.

It was painted before 9/11 by Zdislaw Beksinski, but it seems to sum up the face of civilzation in the post-9/11 era.

#15 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 03:33 PM:

About a month ago, I came across a very well-written and reflective review by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker (published slightly over a year ago), covering several recent books about the First World War.

Part of it is an interesting (and disquieting) discussion of just how popular the idea of having a war was, among intellectuals and writers: "The new histories suggest that the war was welcomed in 1914, and particularly by the literate classes, as a necessary act of hygiene, a chance to restore seriousness of purpose after the two trivial decades of the Edwardian Belle Époque. The bourgeois atomization of society—with its pursuit of private pleasures at the expense of common cause, its celebration of goods at the expense of honor—would be repaired by a unifying new national purpose." (He quotes a particularly disturbing speech by Sherlock Holmes from Conan Doyle's last Holmes story.)

He quotes Rupert Brooke, looking forward to the war:

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping.


Later in the review is Rudyard Kipling, writing after his son's death:

If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

#16 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 03:37 PM:

At the Imperial War Museum in London (the former Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane, aka "Bedlam") in their permamanet WW I galler there's this:

"One of the principal features of the the First World War exhibition is a walk-through re-creation of a front line trench on the Somme in the autumn of 1916. The Trench is bought to life with special lighting, sound and smell effects" linked text

My great uncle went to Canada to join the fight. Somewhere in my late parents house there photos he took, including one of "Black Jack" Pershing addressing troops.

For those interested, the books of Lyn MacDonald, are well worth tracking down. She interviewed, many years ago, the UK vets and put together a narrative of the war as told bythe vets.

And lastly this from CNN: linked text

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 03:58 PM:

How did the Great War start? Not why, but how. I think there was something about the assassination of one Archduke Ferdinand.

#18 ::: Bernita ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 03:59 PM:

In Flanders Fields.
The Vimy Memorial

#19 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 04:16 PM:

"You hardly even hear about [WWI] in public high schools and colleges these days . . ."

As I remember it, there was no clear explanation of how the war started. I've read about some guy -- the German Crown Prince? -- getting assassinated, but I didn't learn that in school.

Hmm... without looking it up, here's what I recall learning: Europe in the early 20th c. was defined by a complex patchwork of treaties and mutual defense agreements that obligated, for example, nation A to come to the defense of nation B when under attack by nation C, but might also obligate nation A to defend nation C if attacked by nation D. The idea was a kind of pre-nuclear mutually assurred destruction, a deterrent to war. Then, the Austro-Hungarian archduke Ferdinand was assassinated by an immigrant/guestworker from XXXXXX (Poland, maybe? Bohemia? Was there a free Poland at the time?). Austria demanded that country XXXXXX turn over certain suspected conspirators. When country XXXXXX refused, Austria sent troops across the border, and that triggered this chain reaction of treaty obligations all suddenly coming due. If France were obligated to defend XXXXXX, and Germany were obligated to defend Austria, that would explain the Western front.

I'm still not sure how the Ottomans got involved.

Is that even close?

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Thanks, HP. As for the Ottomans, didn't they have some such treaty to side with Germany?

#21 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 04:36 PM:

By the way, was anybody ever able to watch the adventures of Blackadder that were set during the Great War? I tried. I just couldn't find anything funny about it.

Well, those of us who are young and foolish, and have not been told any stories of friends or relatives from back then(although my grandfather was a Norwegian officer in WW2), and are blessed(if it can be called that) with an overabundance of black humor, thought it was the best series(or at least, I did). Especially the last episode, which also really broke my heart the first time I saw it.

I think my favorite line from all of Blackadder was in that episode, when George and Baldrick are reminiscing about the christmas-truce of 1915(?), and George says "Do you remember that wonderful soccer-match?" and Blackadder says "Remember it? How could I possibly forget it? I was never offside!"

But yes, I can see that it was a rather irreverent treatment of the war.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 04:54 PM:

Oh, I have plenty of black humor, KristianB. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood when I first saw that series. Well, I'll try again next time it's on.

#23 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 04:56 PM:

Thank you, as always.

Every year, when I turn back to it, it's something different, some new view of Hell.

This year it's change. How as a Canadian I know that was when we found our country -- and yet, we lost a world. A flawed world, but a real one, all gone.

I've joined the ranks of the yearly posters on Remembrance Day; like laying flowers or wearing a poppy, it's become part of the duty of recollection for me.

This year I wound up posting Alfred Munnings' Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron.

The last -- or almost the last -- cavalry charge. Against machine gun fire.

And all I can think of is how it must have broken Munnings' heart to paint it, surely the least of the horror.

Also this year I've discovered The Writing of Tipperary, at the same link -- it seems to fit with the Munnings; another portrayal of the world we lost.

I couldn't find a poppy this year; I gather this was a common problem. It distresses me.

#24 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 04:58 PM:

It was Serbia which was linked with the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand.

It wasn't just the treaties, it was also the military planning for mobilisation. Reservists would report to the barracks, be issued with their uniforms and equipment, and be fed into the railway system to be disgorged on the frontier. Detailed, complicated, unchangable, plans, and the first country to start had the advantage.

#25 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Serge - yes, I found Blackadder Goes Forth funny. But it was a bleak, bitter humour in the fourth series, a savage indictment of the idiocies that happened in that war. And as KristianB says, the last episode is heartbreaking.

#26 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 05:50 PM:

Marna - your comments about Canada and WWI have reminded me of "Rilla of Ingleside," the last of L. M. Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" books, and the one I read the least of all that gentle, sometimes sentimental, but seminally Canadian series I loved so much as a little girl. Anne's young sons all go away to the War, and the most gifted, Rupert Brooke-like boy dies a few days after writing a great poem inspired by a vision of the Pied Piper walking along the trenches. As I remember it, there was a strong sense of the War as an essentially honorable endeavor, with the belief that it really would be the last humanity would ever need. (It was written around 1920) But then, a younger Anne had once said (in "Anne of Windy Poplars," I think) something like, "Isn't it a relief to think that all the terrible wars are behind us, now? I'm so glad Humanity has moved beyond that part of history." And my nine-year-old self did a full-body wince.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 06:03 PM:

My I recommend to y'all The Big Parade, with John Gilbert and Renee Adoree, directed by King Vidor?

#28 ::: mangala ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 06:04 PM:

Brooke C. - I remember being chilled by "Rilla of Ingleside", although unlike the rest of the Anne books, I only read it once. But the most chilling part was rereading "Anne of Ingleside" afterwards, and coming across the passage where Anne looks in on the sleeping Walter and describes the shadow of a cross over his bed with an awful sense of foreboding. I don't really remember much else of "Rilla of Ingleside", but that passage has definitely stuck with me.

#29 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 06:20 PM:

Brooke: I sent my poor old copy of Rilla to Australia this year, to a friend who'd never read it. Other of the Anne books, but not Rilla.

I can't count the times I've read it -- and yes, the shadow in Anne of Ingleside and Walter's premonition in Rainbow Valley get me everytime.

I'll have to buy a new copy, soon, but I wanted her to have THAT one.

#30 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 06:24 PM:

Late Montgomery has a fair amount of trauma. Anne almost dies in childbirth with her doomed first child, Joy. And then there's the two "Pat" books, set in the early 1920s, with a definite sense of post-War uncertainty. Pat (one of the author's most likeably human heroines) is devoted almost to the point of obsession to idyllic Silver Bush, her family's home for over a century. Which then burns down in the next to last chapter. I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid: this seemed almost worse than Anne's dead baby to me at that age. In fact, strike that "almost." Trauma! (Darn metaphors.)

#31 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 06:35 PM:

Serbia indeed: the Hungarian crown prince Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip of the Black Hand Gang (Serbian nationalists under the Austro-Hungarian empire) in Sarajevo. Not a fortunate city; although I suppose there is more to it than that.

(The story is fantastic, in a horrifying way: the actual assassination attempt had failed because the route of the Archduke's journey changed at the last minute - Princip's gang gave up, but the Archduke's carriage happened to stop next to him at an intersection, so he took his opportunity.)

Teresa: was the Penguin illustrated history the one by AJP Taylor? Because I think that is still the best account of the war, and Taylor certainly does his best to show exactly how absurd the whole thing was. Meanwhile, fans of Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' might be interested in the Wilfred Owen multimedia digital archive here. Note that you can read the Craiglockhart hospital magazine, with the original poems by Owen and Sassoon (and others).

I was teaching WW1 to my students this semester. 'Regeneration' is a great way to get them into it. Are people aware of the movie made from the book, released in the US as "Behind the Lines"?

(Apologies if any of this was posted last year: I looked and didn't see it there.)

#32 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 06:58 PM:

How did the Great War start? Not why, but how. I think there was something about the assassination of one Archduke Ferdinand.

There's a pretty good summary here:
The causes of World War One

Insanely brief summary:
Archduke Ferdinand (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) is assassinated by a Serbian terrorist in Sarajevo (then still part of Austria-Hungary).

Austria-Hungary blames the government of Serbia and demands full powers of police investigation in Serbia (amounting to a partial re-occupation of Serbia); Germany agrees to back up A-H in case this triggers Russian intervention. After wavering, Serbia agrees, but too late, and A-H declares war (Austria-Hungary might well have found some excuse even if Serbia had agreed immediately).

Russia mobilzes for war with A-H, citing its treaty with Serbia (and traditional support of Slavs outside of Russia).

Germany declares war on Russia, citing its treaty with A-H.

France declares war on Germany, citing its treaty with Russia.

Britain dithers briefly, then comes in on the side of France, based on a loose treaty with France and an old treaty concerning Belgium, which Germany is preparing to invade en route to France.

As for the Ottomans, didn't they have some such treaty to side with Germany?

I don't think the Ottomans were obligated to join the war, though their strong ties with Germany made their eventual entry pretty likely. (There was probably also some calculation about being able to recover land lost to Serbia and other Balkan states in the recent Balkan Wars, with the Ottomans believing that the Germans would support them more in this than the British would.)

The British, worried that they didn't have enough capital ships for a comfortable margin against the German fleet, confiscated several battleships being built for foreign governments in Britain[*]. Since this included two recently completed Ottoman battleships, the Ottomans were even less happy with Britain....

#33 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:02 PM:

Anyone who can sit through all of season 4 of Blackadder and not be affected by the criminal absurdity of it is missing something. Making the villainy and stupidity of that war accessible to the public is probably one of the better 'good deeds' of the entertainment industry of the last century, IMO.

#34 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:37 PM:

Blackadder Goes Forth


[At staff HQ. Darling is at his desk writing; Blackadder enters.]

Blackadder: What do you want, Darling?

Darling: It's Captain Darling to you. General Melchett wants to see
you about a highly important secret mission.

Melchett: [enters] What's going on, Darling?

Darling: Captain Blackadder to see you, sir.

Melchett: Ah, excellent. Just a short back and sides today I think,
please.

Darling: Er, that's Corporal Black, sir. Captain Blackadder is here
about the other matter, sir, the [lowers his voice] secret
matter.

Melchett: Ah, yes, the special mission. At ease, Blackadder. Now,
what I'm about to tell you is absolutely tip-top-secret,
is that clear?

Blackadder: It is, sir.

Melchett: Now, I've compiled a list of those with security
clearance, have you got it Darling?

Darling: Yes sir.

Melchett: Read it please.

Darling: It's top security, sir, I think that's all the Captain
needs to know.

Melchett: Nonsense! Let's hear the list in full!

Darling: Very well sir. "List of personnel cleared for mission
Gainsborough, as dictated by General C. H. Melchett: You
and me, Darling, obviously. Field Marshal Haig, Field
Marshal Haig's wife, all Field Marshal Haig's wife's
friends, their families, their families' servants, their
families' servants' tennis partners, and some chap I
bumped into the mess the other day called Bernard."

Melchett: So, it's maximum security, is that clear?

Blackadder: Quite so, sir, only myself and the rest of the English
speaking world is to know.

Melchett: Good man. Now, Field Marshal Haig has formulated a
brilliant new tactical plan to ensure final victory in the
field. [they gather around a model of the battlefield]

Blackadder: Now, would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of
our trenches and walking slowly towards the enemy, sir?

Darling: How can you possibly know that Blackadder? It's classified
information.

Blackadder: It's the same plan that we used last time, and the
seventeen times before that.

Melchett: E-E-Exactly! And that is what so brilliant about it! We
will catch the watchful Hun totally off guard! Doing
precisely what we have done eighteen times before is
exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time!
There is, however, one small problem.

Blackadder: That everyone always gets slaughtered the first ten
seconds.

Melchett: That's right! And Field Marshal Haig is worried that this
may be depressing the men a tadge. So, he's looking to
find a way to cheer them up.

Blackadder: Well, his resignation and suicide would seem the obvious
solution.

Melchett: Interesting thought. Make a note of it, Darling!

#35 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:41 PM:

Perhaps Blackadder can update and give us their version of the runup to the Iraq war in 20 years. I'm reading, in a desultory fashion, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Dame Rebecca West about her travels through Yugoslavia right before World War 2. About a quarter of the way through this 1150 page book she has a very detailed description of the assassination of Ferdinand, who she and most of his contemporaries, didn't care for much to begin with. But his death offered a pretext to Austria-Hungary. And with that the die was cast sending us into hell the first time, which set up our second descent in the next generation.

Rather like how Vietnam led to Iraq. Unfortunately.

#36 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:41 PM:

All right, 'irreverent' was a stupid choice of words. Word. It's been a while since I saw the whole thing, and now the more I think about it the more horrible it suddenly seems. Hm.

#37 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:42 PM:

A description of Flowerdew's Squadron's charge.

It's reminiscent of Pickett fifty-odd years earlier.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:43 PM:

Thanks for the excerpt, James. I'll have to see if there's someone I can beg to lend me their DVD set of "Blackadder Goes Forth". Say, were Fry and Laurie in it too?

#39 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:53 PM:

Say, were Fry and Laurie in it too?

Yep. Lieutenant George and General Melchett.

#40 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:57 PM:

Stephen Fry plays Melchett.

Hugh Laurie plays Lt. the Honorable George Colhurst St. Barleigh.

#41 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 08:13 PM:

How did it start? Here's a quick summary:

Australia
Entered war together with Britain on 4 August 1914

Austria-Hungary
Declared war with Serbia on 28 July 1914
Declared war with Russia on 6 August 1914
Declared war with Belgium on 28 August 1914
Declared war with Portugal on 15 March 1916

Belgium
Invaded by Germany on 3 August 1914

Bolivia
Severed relations with Germany on 13 April 1917

Brazil
Severed relations with Germany on 11 April 1917
Declared war with Germany on 26 October 1917

Bulgaria
Declared war with Serbia on 14 October 1915
Declared war with Romania on 1 September 1916

Canada
Entered war together with Britain on 4 August 1914

China
Severed relations with Germany on 14 March 1917
Declared war with Germany on 14 August 1917
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 14 August 1917

Costa Rica
Severed relations with Germany on 21 September 1917
Declared war with Germany on 23 May 1918

Cuba
Declared war with Germany on 7 April 1917

Ecuador
Severed relations with Germany on 8 December 1917

France
Invaded by Germany on 2 August 1914
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 12 August 1914
Declared war with Turkey on 5 November 1914
Declared war with Bulgaria on 16 October 1915

Germany
Declared war with Russia on 1 August 1914
Declared war with France on 3 August 1914
Declared war with Belgium on 4 August 1914
Declared war with Portugal on 9 March 1916

Greece
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 27 June 1917
Declared war with Bulgaria on 27 June 1917
Declared war with Germany on 27 June 1917
Declared war with Turkey on 27 June 1917

Guatemala
Declared war with Germany on 23 April 1918

Haiti
Declared war with Germany on 12 July 1918

Honduras
Declared war with Germany on 19 July 1918

Italy
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915
Declared war with Turkey on 21 August 1915
Declared war with Germany on 28 August 1915
Declared war with Bulgaria on 19 October 1915

Japan
Declared war with Germany on 23 August 1914
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 25 August 1914

Liberia
Declared war with Germany on 4 August 1914

Montenegro
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 5 August 1914
Declared war with Germany on 8 August 1914
Declared war with Bulgaria on 15 October 1915

New Zealand
Entered war together with Britain on 4 August 1914

Nicaragua
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 8 May 1918
Declared war with Germany on 8 May 1918

Panama
Declared war with Germany on 7 April 1917
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 10 December 1917

Peru
Severed relations with Germany on 6 October 1917

Portugal
Entered war against Germany on 9 March 1916
Entered war against Austria-Hungary on 15 March 1916

Romania
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 27 August 1916
Exited war with Treaty of Bucharest on 7 May 1918
Re-entered the war on 10 November 1918

Russia
Declared war with Turkey on 2 November 1914
Declared war with Bulgaria on 19 October 1915

San Marino
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 3 June 1915

Serbia
Declared war with Germany on 6 August 1914
Declared war with Turkey on 2 November 1914

Siam
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 22 July 1917
Declared war with Germany on 22 July 1917

Turkey
Declared war with Romania on 30 August 1916
Severed relations with United States on 23 April 1917

United Kingdom
Declared war with Germany on 4 August 1914
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 12 August 1914
Declared war with Turkey on 5 November 1914
Declared war with Bulgaria on 15 October 1915

United States of America
Declared war with Germany on 6 April 1917
Declared war with Austria-Hungary on 7 December 1917

Uruguay
Severed relations with Germany on 7 October 1917

#42 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 08:31 PM:

I read a book a few years ago about monster movies, which among other things argued that the rash of deformed/disfigured characters in 20s and 30s films -- taking Chaney Sr's Phantom of the Opera as the benchmark -- was a sublimation of the fact that there were suddenly war cripples everywhere.

#43 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 08:38 PM:

To commemorate Veterans' Day I plan to go to a bookstore and buy a book written by a woman veteran of the Iraq war, with the marvelous, evocative title, "Love My Rifle More Than You."

In high school I was required to memorize two poems. The first was "In Flanders Fields". "In Flanders Fields the poppies grow/ between the crosses, row on row/ To mark our place, while in the sky the lark/ still bravely singing, flies/ half-hidden by the guns below./ We are the dead. Short days ago...") I could go on to the end. I have never forgotten it.

The second, not forgotten either, ends "Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori." Wilfred Owen, I think.

My father fought in the South Pacific in WWII. He would never speak of it.

One of the things I loathe in the current administration is their obvious delight in using American military power, and their disdain for what that means -- dead and broken American men and women. (Yes, and dead Iraqi men, women, and children. I know.)

They say all the right things as they stand at the graves of the war dead. But I don't believe them. I DON"T BELIEVE THEM.

#44 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Tolkien spoke even truer than he knew:

"...a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days."

The Great War planted such a seed. We turn on the TV news and see the fruit hanging there, ripe and rotten and dark.


#45 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 09:30 PM:

"Love My Rifle More Than You."

That's a line from a Jodie:

Cindy, Cindy, Cindy Sue,
I love my rifle more than you.
Once you were my village queen,
Now I love my M-16.

#46 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 09:33 PM:

But Lizzy, Bush & Co. don't stand by the graves of the war dead. They sneak our dead in at night, forbidding even photos of their coffins, denying them the public acknowledgement and remembrance that have been given to our dead in every other war.

They claim it's to spare the feelings of the families. I don't believe them. In the past, it's been far more upsetting to families to not have their dead accorded public honors; and there's no reason to believe that's changed. In truth, the Bushies bundle them away in obscurity because they don't want people thinking about the cost of the war.

(They used the same excuse when they tried to put a lid on photos of the hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi, saying that people shouldn't have to learn their uncle was dead by seeing his corpse in a news photo. My immediate reaction was that if they were that concerned, you'd think they'd have made more of an effort to identify the dead and notify their next of kin. Yog's reaction was more direct: "They don't have to worry; after a week under water at those temperatures, they're not going to be recognizable anyway.") (But I digress.)

Does anyone know whether Bush has yet bestirred himself to visit the wounded? The D.C. area hospitals have no shortage of them, but last I heard, he hadn't managed to go. It's one more detail he delegates to the little people.

#47 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 09:47 PM:

Yes, Bush did visit the wounded, a year ago this week.

#48 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 10:10 PM:

Part of it is an interesting (and disquieting) discussion of just how popular the idea of having a war was, among intellectuals and writers: "The new histories suggest that the war was welcomed in 1914, and particularly by the literate classes, as a necessary act of hygiene, a chance to restore seriousness of purpose after the two trivial decades of the Edwardian Belle Époque.

This is what I've always found so startling about Boccioni. He, and the other Futurists, explicitly stated in their manifesto that they adored the massive might of war (9. We will glorify war - the only true hygiene of the world - militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of [the] anarchist, the beautiful Ideas which kill, and the scorn of women. 10. We will destroy museums, libraries, and fight against moralism, feminism, and all utilitarian cowardice.)

His paintings and sculptures are fascinating in their bright, breathing movement, but he flung himself into the maw not just willingly, but eagerly, I think.

#49 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 10:12 PM:

And today Bush apparently said in his Memorial Day address that we shouldn't rewrite the causes of the Iraq war. Which is possibly the first thing he said I agree with -- I just disagree with who's doing the rewriting.

#50 ::: James J Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 10:30 PM:

For what it's worth, here's a link to the website of the Liberty Memorial and Museum, which is the only such dedicated solely to WWI. Robert A. Heinlein was one of the soldiers in attendance at the dedication, and when he was GoH at the '76 Worldcon in Kansas City, he went there with the chair, Ken Keller, and pointed out the spot where he (RAH) had stood then.

http://www.libertymemorialmuseum.org/

#51 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:33 PM:

I'm wrong to be slightly nonplussed at so excellent a knowledge and heartfelt a commemoration from an American site, particularly from this site. The Great War was a long time ago, after all, and its impact on the USA was not on the same scale as it was in Europe, even though it signalled the emergence of the US as a great power. I think I might have been subconsciously misled by the sheer scale and diversity of the USA.

In Australia, WWI is with us everywhere we go, even now. Weathered and aging they may be, but the town and village memorials to our dead are everywhere. We lost only sixty thousand, a small number compared to others; but there were in 1918 only six million Australians. As a proportion of our all, the toll was grievous indeed, and we blamed, and still blame, the British for much of it. It was a radical shift in our national consciousness, and its reverberations still echo.

#52 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:42 PM:

Teresa, and Patrick
Thank you for this blog.

I learned the causes of the Great War as an acronym- MANIAC.
Militarism, Alliances, Nationalism, Imperialism (I think), Assassination, Crisis

(I am well out of high school. Ms. Fogarty, you were a really good teacher!)
Militarism- The European states built up their militaries, so the militaries were there, waiting to be used. Why spend the money if you're afraid to use them?
Alliances- A complex network of alliances, and who would fight on whose side, was supposed to maintain the peace. Once the spark was lit, the network dragged everyone else in.
Nationalism- My nation is better than yours! We'll prove it on the battlefield!
Imperialism- (I might have this wrong.) Some countries wanted other's land/resources, perhaps relating to the partitioning of Africa and who gets what there?
Assassination- Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary dies in Sarajevo.
Crisis- Everything comes to a head and explodes.

So much death and destruction, and we didn't cover it in the depth we covered WWII. But we did cover it, at least, in my Catholic high school in Brooklyn, in 1995.

I do remember also, this war laid the seeds for WWII. And some of its seeds were laid by the Franco-Prussian War.

#53 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:56 PM:

But Lizzy, Bush & Co. don't stand by the graves of the war dead. They sneak our dead in at night, forbidding even photos of their coffins, denying them the public acknowledgement and remembrance that have been given to our dead in every other war.

In this way they expose their disdain. They have no honor who cannot honor the dead -- and I believe it will ultimately cost them, as the soldiers come back from the war (as they have begun to do) and reveal how poor their equipment was, how inadequate the planning, how frustrating and futile the mission, to occupy a land that doesn't want you, that never wanted you, whose religion you don't understand and whose language you don't speak.

Remember "Bring it on"? It will come back to bite him in the end.

#54 ::: Heather Melville ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 12:31 AM:

I grew up hearing about World War I. "The Green Fields of France" was on the most played album in our house from the time I was nine. Sometimes I think that song is the best way to understand things that catastrophic. I know that my perception of war was shaped by that song. That, and "Christmas in the Trenches." I can never not cry when I hear "whose family have I got within my sights?"

#55 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 06:47 AM:

It wasn't too late, Peter. Austria gave Serbia an immediate deadline to agree to an absurd list of demands to satisfy their "vengeance" - after having sent the disgraced heir to the throne (he had married a commoner, among other things) into an insurgency-wracked province with minimal security.

Whether this was just stupidity or whether it was conspiracy is something to be argued about, but there's more evidence that it was LIHOP than I had realized from the very old stories circulating that Germany was actually funding and/or arming groups like the Black Hand to keep the Balkans in a perpetual state of unrest to facilitate the completion of the combined aims of their neighbors to complete the gobbling-up of the 1870s. (This has to be understood as partly a land-grab, and partly the latest in the power-struggle with the Ottoman Empire.)

War was wanted, by a significant faction of the Austrian government, particularly that dominated by the military (altho' not, significantly, by the Emperor himself, who was old, sick, and largely powerless at this point.) They thought they could safely get away with it - after all, they had before in the Balkans, and the international community had gone along with it happily then.

Why Serbia, when it was Bosnia that the assassination took place? Because Serbia was the target all along. Read the original documents , and you find that they sound very familiar to the talk made today by certain UN members, regarding insurgents, loose borders, self-defense, and who needed to submit utterly to outside rule and investigation, in order to avert an invasion that could no more be stopped than when Jack Straw and Tony Blair alleged in 2002 that all diplomatic solutions were being pursued.

There was literally nothing Iraq^h^h^h^h Serbia could have done to satisfy A-H and Prussia. (See also Thud, pg 244.)

As for why the Allies got into it on the west - well, Germany had been planning to finish the job of 1871 and complete the set of Alsace-Lorraine, and France had been planning to avenge 1871 and recover Alsace-Lorraine, whenever an opportunity should arise, and Britain and Germany had been in an arms race for decades as imperial ambitions grew increasingly and conflicted, and in a switch not entirely unfamiliar to students of the late 20th century and the transformation of old foes China and Russia to Allies, although in the 1800s it had been Austria, Prussia and Russia that had combined against both Turkey and the Serbs, in the first fights for Serbian independence (for some strange reason the Serbs wanted to be independent from everybody not just Turkey) this time around Russia had aligned with England and Turkey with Germany.

Some of this (but only some of it) was due to House connections, and the fact that most of the ruling families of Europe were Queen Victoria's grandchildren/great-grandchildren, and so there were personal friendships and resentments involved as well as objective fiscal considerations; much of it was due to a macho psychology, elan and Force and Social Darwinianism, sometimes disguised with pious mouthings of benevolence and restraint, sometimes not - and ordinary people on all sides suckered into it by any or all appeals of Altruistic Liberation, Kicking Johnny Foreigner's Backside, We Want (& Deserve) Their Stuff, and You're Not A Real Man Unless You've Been To War/White Feather psyche-outs.

A little dynastic feud, a little old border strife, a little old fashioned land grab, a little
ideological essentially-secular holy wars, a little itching to try out our military toys, a lot of hubris, on all sides. That it spiraled out of control very quickly is yes, due in no small part to the improved technology and political alliances - but talk of it being unprecedented, save in scale, is unwarranted. The model to look at is the Napoleonic Wars, their escalation, and in fact they went global in a way that the Great War never did.

And then people who never went to war thereafter like GKC (along with some who did) bitched and moaned about the next decades' contempt for political rhetoric and the Manly Arts of slaughter and shameful preference for peace by people who never wanted to have to think about a Flammenwerfer again. But von Bernhardi's day came again, as it always dawns anew: there's a reason it's called seduction to the Dark Side.

And yesterday the figurehead of the Torture Party once again threatened Syria with punishment if they didn't comply with our demands over the mysterious assassination of one ex-minister al-Hariri...

All that is old, is new again.

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 07:49 AM:

"...Germany had been planning to finish the job of 1871 and complete the set of Alsace-Lorraine, and France had been planning to avenge 1871 and recover Alsace-Lorraine..."

Those two countries sure had a long-running grudge, didn't they? I mean, remember the scene in Casablanca where a bunch of Germans are singing, which prompts everybody else to start singing La Marseillaise. I once had a co-worker of recent German ancestry (grandpapa, a sailor for the Kaiser, had been captured in the Jutland Battle then shipped off to the Southwest) so I asked him if he knew what it was that Veidt had been singing. If I remember correctly, some of the lyrics are about defending the Rhine and how its banks would never be French.

Meanwhile... At the end of Paths of Glory there is a scene where a young German woman has been captured and is forced to sing to the French soldiers. As she begins, you get the usual catcalls, then the soldiers fall silent and by the end, some are in tears. What WAS that song?

#57 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 09:27 AM:

The German song in Casablanca is Die Wacht am Rhein

As for Paths of Glory, according to Roger Ebert the song the German girl sings is "The Faithful Hussar".


#58 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 09:59 AM:


"...Germany had been planning to finish the job of 1871 and complete the set of Alsace-Lorraine, and France had been planning to avenge 1871 and recover Alsace-Lorraine..."

Those two countries sure had a long-running grudge, didn't they? I mean, remember the scene in Casablanca where a bunch of Germans are singing, which prompts everybody else to start singing La Marseillaise. I once had a co-worker of recent German ancestry (grandpapa, a sailor for the Kaiser, had been captured in the Jutland Battle then shipped off to the Southwest) so I asked him if he knew what it was that Veidt had been singing. If I remember correctly, some of the lyrics are about defending the Rhine and how its banks would never be French.

I would imagine some of that sentiment goes back to the Napoleonic era, and some of it to the 17th Century, when Louis XIV was invading and burning various bits of (what's now) western Germany.

#59 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 10:08 AM:

Terrific book: The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell.

Hm, tried providing the Amazon link and got binged for questionable content...

#60 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 10:10 AM:

by the way, the "g" in "binged" is hard, as in the sound effect "bing!", not soft as in "ate a whole lot of ice cream." Although that might be a more entertaining way to be notified about questionable content.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:04 AM:

"The Faithful Hussar", Dave? Thanks.

#62 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:14 AM:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195133323/

#63 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Fixed.

One of the spammers who had been blacklisted was "on.com," and apparently fragments, as in amazon.com get nailed that way too.

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:48 AM:

One funny thing about that scene in Casablanca is that Die Wacht am Rhein' and , played against each other, don't make for such discordant results. More like variations on the same source material.

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:50 AM:

Why is it that, in W2 movies, the Italians are never as threatening as the Nazis? Heck, didn't Mussolini take power before Hitler?

#66 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:54 AM:

Somewhere I think I have the words for "Der treue Hussar". (Met it in HS German. We sang a lot.)

#67 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 03:05 PM:

It has often seemed to me that the Black Breath, the horrible mental malady that afflicted those who came to close to the Nazgûl, was a expression through literary fantasy of what Tolkien saw of shell shock in the trenches of the Great War:

The Nazgûl came again, and as their Dark Lord now grew and put forth his strength, their voices, which uttered only his will and his malice, were filled with evil and horror. Ever they circled above the City, like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men's flesh. Out of sight and shot they flew, and yet were ever present, and their deadly voices rent the air. More unbearable they became, not less, at each new cry. At length even the stout-hearted would fling themselves to the ground as the hidden menace passed over them, or they would stand, letting their weapons fall from nerveless hands while into their minds a blackness came, and they thought no more of war, but only of hiding and of crawling, and of death. (The Return of the King)
#68 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 03:49 PM:

Teresa, Bush laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, which is at least symbolic of the dead. I don't think he's ever actually gone to a funeral, but high-ranking officers frequently do.

Bush has visited the wounded about every three months, it seems. The visits aren't announced to the public and we hear about them later in stories about the wounded. He frequently gives the soldiers their medals when he visits.

#69 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 04:35 PM:

I found this text and translation of the Faithful Hussar:

Es war einmal ein treuer Husar
der liebt sein Mädchen ein ganzes Jahr
ein ganzes Jahr und noch viel mehr
die Liebe nahm kein Ende mehr

Und als man ihm die Botschaft bracht
dass sein Herzliebchen am Sterben lag
da liess er all sein Hab und Gut
und eilte seinem Herzliebchen zu

Translation

Once there was a faithful hussarr
Who loved his maiden for a whole yearr
A whole year and even morer
His love won't ever ceaser

And when he received the message
That his sweetheart dear was dying
All his goods and chattels he left behind
And hastened to his sweetheart dear

#70 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Why is it that, in W2 movies, the Italians are never as threatening as the Nazis? Heck, didn't Mussolini take power before Hitler?

Probably because they never were anywhere near as threatening. Aside from a handful of isolated successes (frogmen planting bombs on British battleships in Alexandria's harbor), Italian military exploits in WW2 were ignominious failures. Even though Mussolini delayed his invasion of southern France until after the collapse of French resistance to the Germans in the north, the Italians were pretty much stopped cold by the French. (One presumes that the French troops facing Italy were hardly the best they had, either.)

#71 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 06:08 PM:

SeanH said:
I've seen Unique Form of Continuity in Space, at the Tate Modern in London, my home. It remains one of my favourite sculptures.

It's one of my favorite sculptures, too. And it's on the Italian 20-cent coin! (Of all the euro coins, the Italian ones are definitely the most stylish.)

#72 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 09:34 PM:

Isaac Asimov, in one of his history books, described Italy as World War II's comic relief.

#73 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 10:55 PM:

"World War II's comic relief."

Frederick Pohl wrote something similar in his autobiography. As I recall, he suggested, using a picture of some troops relaxing as a jumping off point, Italian guys as being far too easy going to take fascism and the whole soldiering thing very seriously.

#74 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:05 PM:

Eric Bogle sang here last night. In addition to the obvious songs for the day, he added one item of command idiocy I hadn't heard of. I suppose it made sense not to return any of the ANZACs' 53,000 horses, on the grounds that they might transmit something they'd picked up; but where the horses in France and Belgium were given away, the ones in Palestine were killed -- in the belief that somehow the locals would be too harsh for horses that had survived three years of war. As you'd expect, he had a song about it. I've sung a Veterans' Day concert built around Vaughan Williams's Dona Nobis Pacem, but hearing Bogle walk out and start "Singing the Spirit Home" without a word of introduction had at least as much impact.

Serge et al: Italy also managed to overthrow its dictator itself, was abused by the retreating Germans, and committed its worst violence out of site of Westerners (e.g., in Ethiopia).

Teresa: the summary still doesn't clear up the question others raised: how did Turkey get into this? I'd expect \somebody/ declared \something/ before Gallipoli -- after all, it wouldn't be sporting to put even colonials through that hell unofficially. Any info?

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:42 PM:

The Ottomans cooperated with Germany in allowing German battleships to shell the Russian ports of Odessa and Nikolayev on 30 October 1914.

Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 2 November 1914. France and Britain declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 5 November 1914.

Britain annexed Cyprus and Egypt at that time.

#76 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 12:09 AM:

Turkey -- or, to be more exact, the Ottoman Empire in its much-declined 1914 form -- had a treaty with Germany. The Kaiser had visited Damascus late in the previous century, and found other people who liked to wear military uniforms and talk big of Empire after his own fashion. While I said that sarcastically, it's true; he was actually called "Haji" Wilhelm, though it was at best an honorary title.

Before everything went boom, Turkey was more worried about the stability of its own empire than a possible global war, and in fact shopped its alliance all over Europe, including with Russia and France; they didn't go to Britain because they'd been turned down three times in the previous decade. These failed because every possible alliance annoyed someone else. At the end, Germany, which didn't have a position to launch an imperial land grab against Turkey, got an offer -- in July 1914 -- and accepted it in early August, though Turkey was still formally neutral.

This was fine with the Allied powers, but the British made a series of bad policy choices. The Turkish navy had ordered two dreadnoughts from British yards, paid for by public subscription, but when the war started the British seized them -- which they were contractually entitled to do, but, well, you can guess. Then, after a naval skirmish against German ships in Turkish waters (Cape Matapan) that had made the British Navy (and First Sea Lord Churchill) look rather bad, it was decided to blockade Turkey, a country very dependent on its coast. There was also an attempt to form a Balkan alliance, which could only reasonably have been aimed at Turkey. Finally, in October, the Turkish ruling triumvirate got enough backing to order their fleet to attack the Russian Black Sea fleet.

The Germans had agents in the Ottoman Empire and India, and decided to use them to open new fronts against Britain. In November, the Sheikh-ul-Islam declared -- wait for it -- jihad against the Allied Powers.

It goes on and gets worse, of course, but this is the Great War; that's the central obbligato.

#77 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 03:22 AM:

Mussolini was quite rude about the Nazi's until relatively late in the Thirties, but his own military adventurism lost him other possible alliances. And the records show Italian fascism to be short on the outright racial hatred of the Nazis.

But the record also shows the Italian military to be very variable. Sometimes small groups, such as the Navy's frogmen, and sometimes larger units, showed great courage and military discipline. And don't dismiss the Air Force.

I think that at the end of the day, kicking Mussolini out, and the ensuing partisan war against the Germans, made a huge difference to how Italy was treated.

And you get an idea of the difference in the Don Camillo stories, which are, I gather, legally downloadable from some website somewhere.

#78 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 04:49 AM:

And the records show Italian fascism to be short on the outright racial hatred of the Nazis.

True; Mussolini didn't introduce anti-Jewish legislation until the late 1930s, and then only under German pressure. (This had the effect, among others, of driving Enrico Fermi -- whose wife was Jewish -- and several of his best students to the US, where they became essential to the Manhattan Project.)

I've also read of Italian military personnel in Italian-occupied Yugoslavia deliberately frustrating Nazi demands to round up Jews, mostly through various forms of bureaucratic passive resistance and circular buck-passing ("I'm sorry, signore, but I don't have the authority to do that; you must ask the regional commander." "Dummkopf, I just asked him, and he told me I had to ask the local commanders!" "I'm sorry, signore, but...")

(But it's also worth remembering that Mussolini installed the murderous Ustashi [Croatian fascists] as a puppet regime in Yugoslavia. Just so we don't start feeling too warm and fuzzy about him.)

#79 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 05:07 AM:

Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 2 November 1914. France and Britain declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 5 November 1914.

Britain annexed Cyprus and Egypt at that time.

Though these were purely symbolic moves, since the British had been in control of both places since the 1870s or 1880s.

#80 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 05:12 AM:

I know I am straining the topic and the laws of Fair Use, but this sudden turn of the thread has caused my bedside Viking Portable Dorothy Parker* to leap unbidden into mine grasp and open itself:

"The Cardinal's Mistress was written when Mussolini was a cunning little shaver of twenty-six, at which time he was secretary to the Socialist Chamber of Labor. There will be little kidding out of me on the subject of the Mussolini masterpiece, for I am absolutely unable to read my way through it. I couldn't make head, tail, nor good red herring out of the business."

*Between the Waterman fountain pen and the flask of bootleg hooch, if you must know. What, do I look like Charlie MacArthur?

#81 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 07:00 AM:


This was fine with the Allied powers, but the British made a series of bad policy choices. The Turkish navy had ordered two dreadnoughts from British yards, paid for by public subscription, but when the war started the British seized them -- which they were contractually entitled to do, but, well, you can guess.

Yes, indeed. I believe the Turkish crew meant to take charge of one of the ships had already arrived in Britain. Had the war started a few weeks later, the ship would probably have been on its way to Istanbul.

The British also seized [*] two dreadnoughts being built for Chile (part of a South American naval arms race).

Around the same time, a pair of German ships (a battlecruiser and a cruiser) in the Mediterranean escaped the British ships hunting them and steamed into the Dardanelles. They were formally transferred to Ottoman control, though the German crews remained and the German commander became head of the Ottoman fleet. Not surprisingly, this helped nudge the Ottomans closer to openly joining the Germans.

[*] To be precise, the "seizures" were more like forced sales.

#82 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 09:59 AM:

It's fascinating to see that Turkey could be allied w/ Austro-Hungary, especially as it was at the walls of Vienna that the westward march of Ottoman hordes was finally stopped 300+ years earlier, a mere blink of the eye for Moslem history.

#83 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 10:18 AM:

It's fascinating to see that Turkey could be allied w/ Austro-Hungary, especially as it was at the walls of Vienna that the westward march of Ottoman hordes was finally stopped 300+ years earlier, a mere blink of the eye for Moslem history.

I think it came down to the Ottomans being more worried about Russia, which was directly encroaching on two fronts and clearly eyeing Istanbul. And A-H was now fighting Serbia, which had captured lots of land from the Ottoman Empire only two years before.

(Though I'm not sure I'd call 300 years "a mere blink of the eye" when Muslim history was then barely 1300 years old.)

#84 ::: Vardibidian ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 10:25 AM:

While talking about bad British policy decisions, let's not forget their reliance on independent civilian contractors. There's a certain school of thought (particularly, if I remember correctly, in Fromkin's The Peace to End All Peace) that says that Churchill and the Navy might have succeeded in Gallipolli if it were not for the civilian contractors they relied on for mine-sweeping.

Good thing we all learn from history.

Thanks,
-V.

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 10:28 AM:

Was Mussolini as much a strutting buffoon as he appears to be in that oft-seen footage from the Thirties? And how did he pass away?

#86 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 10:53 AM:

Mussolini was hanged in public - actually, lynched - by a mob, in um, I think it was Milan, shortly before the end of the war. He would certainly have been tried as a war criminal if he had survived the war.

#87 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 10:54 AM:

Mussolini was dismissed as prime minister, arrested, and imprisoned by order of the King of Italy in July, 1943, as a condition for signing the armistice. He was freed in a German commando operation and lived in northern Italy, then under German control. He was captured and executed by Italian resistance forces on 28 April 1945. His body, the body of his mistress, and the bodies of various of his cronies were hung by their feet in public in Milan on 29 April 1945.

Thus passed il Duce.

#88 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 11:03 AM:

(Though I'm not sure I'd call 300 years "a mere blink of the eye" when Muslim history was then barely 1300 years old.)

Keep in mind that for many modern day Moslems, the injustices perpetrated during the Crusades are fresh wounds. OBL, in one of his speeches, cited those grievances in that fashion, and those who are learned in the the weltanschaung of the Arab culture, such as Juan Cole, were quick to inform us that this is a trait of that culture and that what OBL was doing was a well accepted rhetorical device in Moslem society.

#89 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 11:10 AM:

The Royal Navy had been unable to force passage of the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915, due to sea mines and shore-based artillery.

The Cape Helles and ANZAC Cove landings, 25 April 1915, were designed to cut off and capture the Gallipoli peninsula, which forms the north side of the Dardanelles, in an attempt to open the straits.

It didn't work.

#90 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 12:06 PM:

No, it didn't. Indeed the British lost a battleship trying.

I wonder what it is about defeats. We had Gallipoli and Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade. You had the Alamo and Pickett's Charge and Billy the Kid. It's no good talking about their real truth. The truth is what they have become. History, as Sellars and Yeatman said, is what you can remember.

#91 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 03:08 PM:

"I wonder what it is about defeats."

Don't forget this one: "in 1389, in the famous Battle of Kosovo Polje, the Serbs and their allies were defeated by the Ottoman Turks and shortly Kosovo became part of the Ottoman Empire.

[snip]

"On June 28, 1989 a huge political rally was held at Kosovo Polje to commemorate the Serbian defeat at the hands of the hated Turks in 1389. Thousands of photos and posters of Milosevic were displayed."

From what the author calls A Short History of Kosovo.

#92 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 12:48 AM:

My favortite Wilfred Owen poem is Apolpgia pro Poemate Meo

One of the most painful aspects of his story is that he need not have returned to the Front. That poem explains why he did.

The other truly painful thing is that his parent were told of his death on 11 Nov, 1918. It's reported the bells of jubilation were ringing.

I, too, saw God through mud, -
The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.

Merry it was to laugh there -
Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.

I, too, have dropped off Fear -
Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,
And sailed my spirit surging light and clear
Past the entanglement where hopes lay strewn;

And witnessed exultation -
Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour; though they were foul.

I have made fellowships -
Untold of happy lovers in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long,

By Joy, whose ribbon slips, -
But wound with war's hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the webbing of the rifle-thong.

I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.

Nevertheless, except you share
With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but the trembling of a flare
And heaven but as the highway for a shell,

You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears. You are not worth their merriment.


For some reason (perhaps the vicious discounting of the worth of those at home) it is rarely mentioned among his better works.

For me, it sums up the experience of the front.


#93 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 07:41 AM:

I wanted to note Michael Flanders' blistering "The War of 14-18", perhaps one of the best songs about the war. http://www.nyanko.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/fas/misc_war.html

#94 ::: HP sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 01:20 PM:

"SeekXL," that is. I thought it rather odd that the poster above copied and pasted Serge's response to my post quite a ways upthread. It must be a smart bot, because it copied the post but removed my name from it.

The URL in the user name goes to some sponsored German search engine thingy.

(Okay, my web jargon is inadequate, but I've seen those fakey search engines, and I know they're ... um ... a bad thing.)

#96 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 02:36 PM:

TNH, upthread:
Liberia
Declared war with Germany on 4 August 1914

Okay, now I'm intrigued. Why Liberia? It was a pretty quick declaration, yet Liberia was essentially a US satellite at the time, and they didn't share a border with any combatants (so no chance of grabbing colonial territory). I really can't see why they declared war; anyone know?

#97 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 04:32 PM:

I think that the site Teresa got the dates from has a typo there. I see other sites that have August 4, 1917, and a PBS site that has this:


July 10, 1914: Liberia declares neutrality at the outset of World War I.

At the time that war breaks out in Europe, Germany is Liberia's strongest trading partner, and Liberia is reluctant to declare war against a nation to which its economy is so closely tied.

May 8, 1917: Pressured by Great Britain and the U.S., Liberia withdraws neutrality and declares war on Germany.

Within the year, Germany will retaliate against Liberia's declaration of war by shelling the capital, Monrovia. The Liberian economy is subsequently crippled when the country loses its great economic ally.


(May 8 1917 is of course not the same as August 4 1917, but it's close.)

#98 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 05:22 PM:


May 8, 1917: Pressured by Great Britain and the U.S., Liberia withdraws neutrality and declares war on Germany.

Within the year, Germany will retaliate against Liberia's declaration of war by shelling the capital, Monrovia. The Liberian economy is subsequently crippled when the country loses its great economic ally.

That's odd -- I would have thought that Germany lacked the ability to shell any African capital by 1917. Weren't all the German ships outside the North or Baltic Seas gone (sunk, captured, interned) by 1916? And hadn't they largely lost all their African colonies by 1917?

Anyone know more about this?

#99 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 05:45 PM:

I found a Liberian history site that says a submarine did the shelling. On the other hand, it also says that this action caused Liberia to declare war on Germany, not the other way around, so there's a bit of disagreement here.

Germany did have subs operating outside northern waters in 1917, I believe (they may not have had surface ships). As far as I know they hadn't lost all their African colonies, since they were actually doing quite well in that theatre (due to the abilities of Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck). Of course those colonies were in East Africa, a long way from Liberia.

#100 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 05:47 PM:

Monrovia was shelled by a German submarine on 10 April, 1918.

#101 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 08:49 PM:

Oddly enough, there was at least one successful cavalry charge in WWI.

#102 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 06:45 AM:

Re shelling of Monrovia, Liberia:
Thanks to Dan and James for the explanation. I should have remembered submarines, especially since some naval historians argue that WWI submarines are better understood as "temporarily submersible ships" rather than true submersibles.

#103 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 08:25 AM:

And cavalry still in use, mostly as mounted infantry, in WW2. And a few effective cavalry charges, where the cavalry surprised infantry and other non-motorised units on the march.

The Polish apparently caught some German artillery in 1939, also horse-drawn, but that's not really the same personal firepower as an infantry unit.

#104 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2005, 05:12 PM:

The World War I Document Archive: http://www.gwpda.org/

#105 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2005, 01:07 AM:

Last survivor of 1914 'Christmas Truce' dies

LONDON, England (AP) -- Alfred Anderson, the last surviving soldier to have heard the guns fall silent along the Western Front during the spontaneous "Christmas Truce" of World War I, died Monday at age 109.

More than 80 years after the war, Anderson recalled the "eerie sound of silence" as shooting stopped and soldiers clambered from trenches to greet one another December 25, 1914.

His parish priest, the Rev. Neil Gardner, said Anderson died in his sleep early Monday at a nursing home in Newtyle, Scotland. His death leaves fewer than 10 veterans of World War I alive in Britain.

#107 ::: FaultyMemory sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 04:42 AM:

Russian spam, at that.

#108 ::: Brent ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2015, 07:48 PM:

It's hard to find well-informed people in this
particular topic, however, you seem like you know what you're talking about!
Thanks

#109 ::: Benjamin Wolfe sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2015, 07:53 PM:

Spam. Generic spam.

#110 ::: P J Evans sees something spam-like ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2015, 07:54 PM:

It looks like spam, and the URL doesn't match the name.

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