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November 11, 2007

Remembering the Great War, 2007
Posted by Teresa at 03:06 PM *

Making Light, “Ghosts of the Great War,” 2003, 2004, 2005.

This year I was going to post a link to the sequence from Porco Rosso where he tells Gina about the day his whole squadron was killed in a massive dogfight, and what he saw afterward. Unfortunately, that piece of video’s been taken down from YouTube. You can still watch it in Spanish or Catalan. The words aren’t so important. All you need to know is that they go off without him.

(Update: Chuckling found us a clip of that sequence in English.)

The War Art of Otto Dix, who served in the German army. Tolkien wasn’t the only one who felt he’d been one of the orcs.

And speaking of Tolkien, two bits of silent film: the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Sunken Lane at the Somme. The Lancashire Fusiliers again, in a longer compilation of footage from the Somme. The pertinent fact is that they’re all about to die. About twenty minutes after these photographed few moments, they’ll do what everyone does at the Somme: go over the top and advance at a measured pace through machine-gun fire, deep mud, shell holes, and uncut barbed wire. British and Empire troops will take over 58,000 casualties this morning. Only fifty members of this battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers will survive the attack.

2006, remembering a conversation with Mike Ford:

We were talking about the way the military on both sides kept trying mass “over the top” charges into the no man’s land between the trenches, and taking staggering losses. Doing that a few times would have been bad enough, but in WWI, both sides kept it up for years.

I said, usually if a general plans and conducts a major battle that winds up taking a pitifully small amount of ground, and gets hundreds of thousands of his troops killed, he’s relieved of command.

Mike said, after a while, all the generals had fought battles like that. If you went on doing the same thing, at least it was something you knew. You wouldn’t do any worse than any other commander. But if you tried something different and it didn’t work, then heaven help you.

That is: a mistake everyone makes is no one’s fault. But if you try something new and it doesn’t work, then it is your fault.

This post will be accreting further material.

An old Pathe Newsreel of factory girls modeling the helmets they’ve helped to make.

I don’t know why color photography seems so much more real and immediate than black and white, but it does. There are some scraps of colored movie footage from WWI. You can see most of it in this compilation. It has a loud soundtrack, but you can turn that off—it’s all silent film anyway.

Johnny Cash sings When the Man Comes Around over a montage of WWI footage. No one’s posted Chumbawamba’s version of “Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire,” which would go well with it.

At any given moment you can generally find an entire documentary series or six about WWI, cut up into segments and posted to YouTube. I’m not going to link to anything specific, because they always get taken down as copyright violations, and new ones always take their place. The only trick is knowing they’ll be there. If you’re interested, type “WWI” into the YouTube search box and watch for videos marked 4/6, 3/8, et cetera. When you spot one, click on the name of the person who posted it. The other segments should be in his or her list of posted videos. I recommend The Great War in Color.

I’ll admit, I’m particularly vexed by the absence of one set of YouTube videos. A user who went by the name of Chromium2007 had compiled all kinds of archival footage from the war. It’s all been taken down “due to terms of use violation.” I’d like to know who the copyright holder was that requested that.

One notable documentary which has (so far) survived this process: a user named Rainbase put up a four-hour documentary series, The Great War in the Air, in 49 segments. It starts here. If you want to watch it in order, the sequence of the segment numbers is: 101-09, 111-116, 118, 201-204, 206, 208-210, 212-213, 215, 301-302, 304, 308-312, 315-316, 402-405, 408, 410-411, 413-16, and the end credits.

Faces of War is a fascinating and horrifying article in Smithsonian about the 3rd London General Hospital’s Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department, known to wounded Tommies as “the Tin Noses Shop.” The war was long on head injuries—most often, men shot while peering up over the edge of a trench—and the new technologies of war added severe chemical or conventional burns to the menu of military injuries. The facial restoration clinic was an attempt to restore some measure of normal appearance to men who’d suffered catastrophic facial injuries so that they could live as humans in human communities.

The Smithsonian site appears to have trimmed the photos off the article when it was archived, but you can still see one of the before-and-after tin nose prostheses here. The site also has a very substantial film clip of the department at work, with men demonstrating their new prostheses.

The Past Informs the Present: an interview with the author of the story, discussing attitudes at the time, the loss of WWI military records in the Blitz, and current developments in facial reconstruction and prostheses for soldiers in the Iraq war.

Another site that covers the same subject is Project Facade: Faces of Battle. The site’s remained unfinished for a long time now, but the bits that are there are well worth a look: basic information about the clinic, and their collection of individual case studies are compulsive reading.

Note: one WWI veteran whose nose was shot off was mathematician Gaston Julia, inventor of the Julia set fractal.

Comments on Remembering the Great War, 2007:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Color makes them seem more like us, the same way that looking into their faces rather than at the rhythm of their marching does. We forget that their sweethearts wore corsets and bustles and leg of mutton sleeves. They become timeless, become our peers.

I said something like this last year, but I'll write it again now. It is inconceivable to an American (or it was to me) how deep the memory of that loss, and the dread of another such loss, exists in the British consciousness. The memorials are everywhere - every town and every village has its cross. Every business still going since then, banks and insurance companies and department stores. Every school that existed then and exists now. The plaques are lovingly preserved, transferred through rebuildings, displayed in lobbies. And though there are additions, names from the 30's and 40's, it's the long, long lists from the Great War that justify them.

And every year, at the feet of the crosses and the floors below the plaques, the wreathes of red paper poppies spread. Crosses with poppies dot the public greens. People wear them on their lapels, little splashes of color, and pause for a minute's silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the guns stopped.

Moving to the Netherlands, which was neutral in World War I, I'm missing that scarlet thread through early November. Here it's Sint Maarten, and all the children have lanterns and collect sweets, seeming like ghosts from a more innocent world. (Seeming only - the Dutch remember their war dead on May 4, the eve of the anniversary of the liberation from the Germans).

And, like every mother, something in me looks at these pictures and says, Save me from that! To pour your life into sons for eighteen or twenty years, and then have the government take them away and waste them cleaning up after some failure of politics—no thanks.

Reminds me to get my absentee registration changed to my new address.

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:15 PM:

Whenever I hear the seraglio movement from The Nutcracker, I am reminded of Space: Above and Beyond's episode that began with a montage of photos from the Great War with that music playing in the background while one of the series's characters talks about the night they ceased all hostilities, briefly, to celebrate Christmas.

#3 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Seeing the red poppies around me in Vancouver has aroused disturbing feelings in me. Partly because conservatives use this tragedy to glorify the military, which in itself might not be so bad if politicians were a lot more selective in their choices of when to go to war.
I'm speaking as a Bangladeshi who honors the memory of the freedom-fighters who fought against the Pakistani army in 1971, yet who realizes that perhaps excessive veneration of our tragedy (for we suffered much mass murder of civilians and rape) is probably contributing to our ongoing problems with military control of the government.

#4 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:21 PM:

57,000 casualties on the first day of the Somme; 23,000 dead.

#5 ::: Nikki Jewell ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:22 PM:

abi: absolutely. What always gets me about the war memorials is how many times you see the same surname on one cross, and you realise that some families gave all their sons to the war. It's the same in France, only that feels almost worse, because the villages tend to be smaller than those in Britain.

That memory goes so deep. It is unthinkable that a public figure or a celebrity doesn't wear a red poppy in the two weeks leading up to November 11th. Back in the 1980s Michael Foot, leader of the Labour Party, was vilified for appearing too scruffy (he wore a duffel coat) at the parade in London. A few years ago, some May Day anti-globalisation protesters in London forfeited much sympathy for their cause by placing a turf on Winston Churchill's statue head and defacing the Cenotaph. I've known people wear white or black poppies, symbolising, as they see it, the sadness of war without glorifying it - and some of those people have been spat on and shouted at in the street for being disrespectful.

#6 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:29 PM:

Today I can not listen to Recruiting Sargeant, without leaking all over the place.

#7 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Someone out there has probably written about this already, but how much is the attitude about the Great War influenced by the differing composition of the armies, class-wise, compared to the second Iraq war?
I'm going to Google and see if there's good English translations of Bengali writers on WWI. The national poet of Bangladesh, Kazi Nazrul Islam, served in France, and wrote prose about his experiences there. Syed Mujtaba Ali wrote an interesting anecdote about the demographic effects of the loss of the majority of the male population of Europe.

#8 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Technical note: the 2006 link goes not to a comment on that post, but to the MT login page.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:43 PM:

So many lives fallen in Flemish mud
in places long forgotten by us all,
each of them had answered their country's call.

We think of all the lies, and all the crud
of rainy winters, and of spring and fall;
so many lives fallen in Flemish mud.

The only colour they had was their blood,
those who were silent, and the ones who'd bawl,
the brave ones, and the cowards who'd appall:
so many lives fallen in Flemish mud.

#10 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Colour photos from France in World War 1. These aren't colourized. They were shot using the Autochrome Lumière process.

#12 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 05:57 PM:

The Green Fields of France or No Man's Land

And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
You really believed that this war would end war?
But the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame -
The killing and dying - it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Eric Bogle
Someone seems to be making a movie based on this: The Last Parade. There are other articles and remembrances of World War I on that site as well.

p.s. I moved this here from OT94. I think that TNH stands for TimeLord Nielsen Hayden — her main post wasn't up yet when I posted my comment on OT94 — I checked specifically for it just before submitting this over there. All this jumping around in time may be a contributing factor to her narcolepsy.

#13 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 06:27 PM:

One of my favorite comments on both the futility of the Western Front and remembering it is Richard Shindell's subtly disturbing "The Courier."
authorized clip (requires selecting the particular song)

#14 ::: Jackie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 06:29 PM:

John @ #10--

I always listen to PPM wailing about Willie McBride on Veterans Day.

#15 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 06:32 PM:

"On the morning of November 11, 1918, the real Armistice was signed in a railroad car in France. Although men were killed up to the final hour, the cease-fire came at last and a sudden silence fell over the batteries and trenches and graveyards of Europe. The world was now "safe for democracy." Tyranny had been vanquished forever. The "war to end war" had been won, and there would never be another conflict. Or so we believed in that far-off and innocent time."

-- Sterling North, Rascal, Chapter VII.

I've run across a few too many people who assert that Bogle's song is mocking the soldiers -- they point at lines like "did you really believe that this war would end wars", not understanding that yes, in fact, they did.

#17 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Unfortunately our veterans are repeating some of that history we didn't learn from

#18 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 06:56 PM:

I made this wallpaper of poppies for Remembrance Day/Veteran's Day.

#19 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 07:18 PM:

Beautifully done Pixel.

#20 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 07:29 PM:

When I first moved to Australia, I noticed that the overwhelming majority of war memorials were for WWI, and hadn't realized until then how much a nation's view of itself relates to the war with which it most identifies. In the American South, the war memorials are mostly for the Civil War. In other parts of the U.S. I think that it is WWII, not WWI, that affected the nation's psyche more.

In terms of items of the period, just this morning saw in The Register a story ( about a personal diary kept by a Scots officer during his time on the Somme during WWI that is now available for download ( Excerpt:

"When I am very tired and just getting off to sleep with cold feet, in comes an orderly with a chit asking how many pairs of socks my company had a week ago; I reply 141 and a half. I then go to sleep; back comes a memo: 'please explain at once how you come to be deficient of one sock'. I reply 'man lost his leg'. That's how we make the Huns sit up."

Sounds fascinating.

#21 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 07:31 PM:

The plaques are lovingly preserved, transferred through rebuildings, displayed in lobbies. And though there are additions, names from the 30's and 40's, it's the long, long lists from the Great War that justify them.

Many towns in Australia have an Avenue of Honour, a road with one tree planted in the name of each of the fallen. The one outside Ballarat stretches for miles and miles, and perhaps fittingly, the trees look at their best at this time of year, newly green.

I wonder how long it persisted, the idea that the Great War would be the last one? There would have been some small comfort in that, for a time, for the families of the dead. Until the whole ghastly machine started up again.

#22 ::: Koneko ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 08:06 PM:

A tuppence from me, possibly because I can -

It's a little strange, Remembrance Day. To me at least, mostly because the poppy sellers seem to pop out of the wood work in some silently planned manoeuver. I can also be as unobservant as a pea in a pod, but there you go...

You ask questions about it as a kid, but it just... goes without question. No one really talks about it, outside school and the media, and you have the poppies that seem to magically grow out of the concrete around the memorial in town (which, incidentally, needs a wash - the names are leaking green. Very noticeable on white). It Happens. It Happens with the momentum of something that will Happen for a Very Long Time, ingrained into you as a child because, well, everyone does it...

I don't know how it is in America - or indeed, anywhere else - but from my point of view here in Blighty, we don't use it to push whatever military endeavours are currently going on. It's a solemn, quiet, give thanks and clap a lot, sort of day. And then you dump the poppies in the bin, put the pin somewhere (because a pin is a pin) and get on with it all.

#23 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 08:06 PM:

More Richard Shindell for the times: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.

And the Eric Bogle tearjerker, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

#24 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Everyone Sang

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on—on—and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 08:54 PM:

The graveyard scene for "The Best Yeras of Our lives"... God. That movie makes me want to cry every time I see it.

#27 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 09:06 PM:

Joel Polowin @15: Thanks for the Sterling North quote. I recall that the author said he had done some animal trapping up until that point, but chose the occasion to declare a truce with the animal kingdom, and hung up his traps for good. And even though humans backslide into their martial habits, he never went back on his declaration.

#29 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 09:22 PM:

There's a wonderful site which has some good clips, including one of Nicholas and Alexandria which shows the tsarevich being carried behind them. I'll have to look around and see if I can come up with it again.

My high school has a war memorial, half of which can be seen here. (Look carefully at the lowest picture on the right.) The photo of the father of a fellow a year ahead of me appears on the opposite wall; he was killed in Vietnam. This was a place that started out embodying the gestalt of the British public boarding school, a sentiment which has faded under the pressures of the current private school market.

#30 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 09:25 PM:

Everyone should go out and see The Big Parade with John Gilbert, directed by King Vidor.

It was the first film to show American soldiers scared in combat. (The Belleau Wood sequence is realistic -- the Vidor's cinematographer had been there.)

See also: film description and summary (spoilers).

#31 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 09:30 PM:

My husband took me to DC for Memorial Day on one of our first vacations after our daughter was born. It was the first time I'd been. I was really disappointed that I couldn't see the Dome from Union Station the way Mr. Smith did (but as he pointed out to me, the trees have grown since then, and a tender-hearted cab driver took me around the highlights on our way to the hotel).

We went to the Vietnam and Korean memorials. The Korean Memorial is stunning, but the Vietnam memorial broke me up. There were pictures that people had left at at the base of kids who were the peers of the (angry, middle-aged) Rolling Thunder guys who were crowding the mall.

I have nieces and nephews older than they were when they died.

To my mind, they were babies, but they made braver choices than I ever have.

I'm terribly sorry they're gone. I'm sure the families on the other side feel the same.

I can't figure out a way to reconcile all of this, but I wish to God it wasn't still happening.

#32 ::: Kristi Wachter ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 10:17 PM:

There are a few things up at the Internet Archive - I just did a quick search on WWI; the list includes a number of WWII entries, but also has footage of the San Francisco celebration of VE Day and an interview with the maker of a documentary about the WWI vets who marched on Washington.

#33 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 10:24 PM:

Time's contribution to this is here.

Some interesting pictures there.

Also, just want to say thanks to my little brother, who is a two time Iraqi war vet. I might not support the war, but he is a great person and a shining example of a marine. Kudos to him.

#34 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Oh, right, duh. I forgot to say: If this war could have been won militarily, I know that people like my brother would have won it by now. We have a wonderful military, but the state department is in sad shape.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 10:43 PM:

And let's not forget that Dawno's son recently shipped out to Iraq. My best wishes to your family, Dawno.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 11:12 PM:

Spherical 33-34: I agree completely (I don't know your brother; I mean your general point). Honor and respect to your brother.

I'd just also like to say thanks, and honor and respect, to Jim and Terry and the rest of the fluorospherian veterans (I'm sorry, I can't remember which ones you are).

#37 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 11:16 PM:

I'm wearing a poppy, in memory of two grandfathers (actually one, a great grandfather) who fought on different sides.

But I'd like to stick up for people who choose not to. Doesn't necessarily mean they're not remembering, any more than wearing one means you're a pro-war conservative.

Saying this, because I was noticing every TV news person was wearing one. This bothered me, because one or two of them might prefer not to (this is Quebec, a little different than other parts of Canada), but they were doing so simply to please an audience, the way political candidates pretend to be religious.

Another vaguely interesting story while I'm here. A friend of mine had an ancestor in a group that refused to go "over the top." They decided that was a crazy idea, they'd all be killed, and so they didn't go. No "Paths of Glory" court martials or trouble afterwards, according to her. I wonder if it's a true story?

#38 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 11:46 PM:

All the sacrifices...

#39 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 01:09 AM:

I just finished my phone calls for the day. For the last 10 years (or so), I call up my friends who have been in or are in the service, and thank them.

#40 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 01:29 AM:

Terry Karney
Jim Macdonald
Paula Lieberman
Old Jarhead
Jim Wright
Janiece Murphy
Steve Buchheit

Thank you.

#41 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 02:11 AM:

What Tania said. I didn't know we had so many veterans here (I did know about Terry because he posts about it often).

The colour photos really do make WWI seem real....

Wearing virtual poppy, and using PixelFish's desktop, because I didn't have a real poppy to wear this year.

Solemn thanks.

#42 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 02:34 AM:

These are are the words from which I first learned about war; I remember them whenever I think about it.

"He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come."
- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front

#43 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 03:33 AM:


don't forget bruce cohen (SpeakerToManagers)*

& probably more lurking veterans & veterans who haven't chosen to so identify themselves.

*or as i can't help calling him in my head, SpeakerToMatojuice.

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 03:36 AM:

Tania @40:

What you said, plus CRV.

#45 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 03:52 AM:

Zane Grey's first book, Rogue River Feud (1921), is not a Western but the story of a serviceman returning to his home town (Grants Pass, OR - also my husband's home town, which is why I know about the book) after WWI. He has a damaged eye and jaw and ends up undergoing some early reconstructive surgery. It's fascinating as a contemporary view of attitudes toward the war and toward repatriation of soldiers. The hero of the book has no easy time settling into peacetime life. It's a very different view of the war from the worth-the-price view portrayed in, say, Rilla of Ingleside.

#46 ::: ema nymtonsti ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 04:10 AM:

vian @ #21

Don't forget the Remembrance Driveway between Sydney and Canberra. I don't know why trees are so wonderful for these kinds of purposes, but they always are. I think every small town in Australia has a war memorial: I have even been to places where there's no town left, but the monument is still there, still showing the names of those who died. I've been reading over at It's all so horribly sad. Unimaginable bravery and loss.

My own grandpa fought in WW1, in the German army. He volunteered to go to the Western Front twice that I know of. He had powder burns on his face for the rest of his life, and never spoke very much about it, except to say that after the war, he didn't believe in God anymore.

#47 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 05:12 AM:

JaniceG, vian & ema nymtonsti (#20, #21, #46) mentioned their experience in Australia; herewith a few more links to possibly pertinent places: a private war memorial record site; from the Australian War Memorial site: war memorial listings; a guide to the WG Fortman War Memorials Postcard Collection, held at the Australian War Memorial; photos of more recent conflicts – exhibition and book – Photography and War 1945–2006

#48 ::: lalouve ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 06:18 AM:

I was at Stansted airport on year on 11 November; I will never forget the silence that spread, like rings on water, throughout the terminals. It was eerie and sad and strangely unifying, even for me - and I come from a country that hasn't been to war in 200 years.
Every year I read this poem to my students ( as being the best description I know of the suffering of war.

#49 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 06:32 AM:

What amazes me is that the comments on the video are filled with dickering over which side was cooler.

The way the US abuses their military right now also makes me incredibly angry. War is not a game of Risk, Eddie Izzard aside. Some days I want to whistle and stare past humanity in the I-don't-know-this-person sort of way.

At least Teresa knows her Chumbawamba. And is a Time Lord.

Can we have a Making Light colony ship?

#50 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:33 AM:

34: For what it's worth, the present administration and the previous (Rumsfeld) civilian leadership at the Pentagon did everything in their power to keep State out of the planning (such as it was) for Iraq. This White House and its closest political appointees also sidelined America's diplomats in running Iraq immediately after the collapse of Saddam's government.

The blame for this enormous fiasco belongs with the elected leadership and their political appointees. Blaming the people in the front line at State is not right.

#51 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:39 AM:

Someone out there has probably written about this already, but how much is the attitude about the Great War influenced by the differing composition of the armies, class-wise, compared to the second Iraq war?

To be honest, I'm not sure there's any meaningful comparison to be made. So far, in more than four years, the Iraq was has cost 4,164 coalition dead. In 1914-18, that was a better than average day for the Allies.

#52 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:43 AM:

These posts always catch me by surprise. After Halloween, my brain switches to turkey family turkey family family turkey dog and then... then this. And then the rest of the world, the part that pays attention and remembers, stands still for a bit.
Thank you for always reminding me.

#53 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 11:08 AM:

In 2000 the Folio Society published: "Anthem for Doomed Youth: Poets Of The Great War" edited by Lyn Macdonald. There are some copies on Amazon and more at And I suspect others.

It's a beautifully designed book, full of lost promise.

#54 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 11:25 AM:

I came in here to post "And The Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda'", but I see I've been beaten to it. Good.

Agreed with those above who've commented on European war memorials. I've spent a lot of time in France. It's only when you see a ton of them--every village, no matter how small or isolated, has one--that the whole appalling scale of the war sinks in.
There's a small town named Luchon, in the Pyrennees, that has a small graveyard. One of the gravestones was put up by the Red Cross and reads, roughly (from memory), "Here lie several soldiers; French and German and other nationalities, all buried together."

#55 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Speaking of Blackadder: The Special Mission. Aside from the laughtrack, it's pretty accurate.

#56 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 01:24 PM:

miriam @ #43: "& probably more lurking veterans & veterans who haven't chosen to so identify themselves"

Since it has never seemed relevant.

My father was a Navy Captain when he retired after 33 years in, including a stint building a (now-closed) nuclear reactor at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica and a year in Da Nang in 1971-72. He was also present as an observer at Bikini Atoll. I followed him into the Navy and served a couple of years in Japan 1972-1974.

#57 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 01:32 PM:

A.J. 49: Can we have a Making Light colony ship?

Only if we entertain the Festival.

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 01:37 PM:

Xopher @ 57

That shouldn't be too difficult. Won't we be the founders of it, eventually?

#59 ::: coffeedryad ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 02:29 PM:

My personal favorite version of "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is this one by the Pogues - something about the banjo and pipes - I think uillean pipes - just nails the mood for me. Here in Michigan I don't think I've ever seen poppies worn or sold.

#60 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 02:38 PM:

P J 58: If we found it, we can't get off Earth by entertaining it, because that would be a causality violation, and the Eschaton would swat us.

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 02:40 PM:

Xopher - if we're lucky, the Eschaton will let us do it because otherwise it will violate causality. Of course, we won't have existed here when it's done with us ....

#62 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Last night ITV showed My Boy Jack, a two hour film about Rudyard Kipling and the son he helped to join up in the Great War, under 18 and with bad eyesight, and who was killed in his first battle.

David Haig (A for Andromeda, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Two Weeks Notice) plays Kipling; Kim Cattrall (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Sex and the City) plays his wife Carrie; Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter films) plays their son Jack; and Carey Mulligan (Dr Who "Blink") plays his sister "Bird".

ITV have made the whole thing available as a download for the next four weeks or so, if the web site can be convinced your computer is good enough for it.

#63 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 04:16 PM:

Thank you so much for these posts. I won't explain here how much it means to me (all twenty-one years of me), but it does, and I thank you.

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 04:32 PM:

It's good when it matters to the younger generation. Please do explain; it may mean a lot to us as well.

#65 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 04:42 PM:

miriam beetle @ 43

You say ToMato, I say ToManagers.

#66 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 05:00 PM:

TW and Nenya: Thank you. I'm glad you like it. :)

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Xopher @ 57

Oh, good, sporks!

#69 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 05:10 PM:

re #10: I've always found Autochromes terribly compelling.

#70 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Xopher (64), I am not sure I can explain. I am young; both of my grandfathers, while veterans, fought in WWII; I don't seem to have any direct connections with anyone from WWI; yet I find that the Great War has the ability to move me more than virtually any other event - certainly any other war - in history. (And I'm majoring in past events.)

I took a class my freshman year of high school called Art and War. I thought it was all pretty cool - the Egyptians, the Romans, David, even Goya - until we got to World War I. I will never forget sitting on the round artclass stool, staring at slides of Otto Dix's work, and feeling something shift inside me. Without going all wishy-washy on you, I connected with Dix, and the other war artists, and with the stories my teacher told, so much that I found myself looking up Dix on the internet and showing his sketches to my parents, and I searched the library (in vain, mostly), for books on World War I. My teacher recommended All Quiet on the Western Front. I rather hope you've read it, because I do not think I can describe that book without spluttering "It's just incredible!" or other unhelpful things. In any case, I read it in about a week, and walked around in a daze afterward. I took another class my senior year called War Writings (my high school was/is really cool, by the way), in which we read stories produced around the time of war, and/or as a product of war. We read All Quiet... as a class, and I loved it again.

It feels pedantic to say that I am fascinated by World War I, and it feels weird to say I love learning about it. I am, and I do, but not in the mostly-academic way I like learning about, say, the Crusades or the writings of Thomas Aquinas. It goes a lot deeper than that.

What I most appreciate about these annual posts here on Making Light is that they tell the stories of the war, by people who were there. I do not find that very often, at least in this country. (I do find textbooky works by people who interviewed other people who got their information from other people, and oh here's a time line and some photos, but that's another story.)

I let this get quite long, and I'm not even sure I explained myself, but the bottom line is still Thank You.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 05:48 PM:

cap, I think you've explained yourself quite well. I think you have an intellectual passion for the period. This is no bad thing.

#72 ::: A.J.Hall ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 05:52 PM:

A.J. Luxton #49

The thing I found so upsetting about those comments were those from the Australians who were claiming that *no* British people died on first day of the Somme because they sent the ANZACS out to do it for them. Which is just such palpable nonsense, and hurtful with it.

The Lancashire Fusiliers are my county regiment, the same regiment that won "6 V.C.s before breakfast" at Gallipoli (those same Australians probably assert that "there were no Poms" at Gallipoli).

The doomed men pictured in the Sunken Road should have been my Great-Uncles; I am very short of cousins and second cousins despite my great-grandparents having twelve children. Those children - being the WWI generation - produced a total of three offspring between them. And yet my family got off incredibly lightly in terms of war casualties. There were hundreds who suffered more. After all, I'm here and typing this.

#73 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 06:17 PM:

cap @70: If you have not already done so, you should try reading the war poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. It had a rather similar impact on me when I read it in high school.

#74 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 06:19 PM:

abi@1 - my junior school had one of those plaques you mention. It's true; there are memorials everywhere, although in many of the smaller villages the public memorials are falling victim to neglect and vandalism.

This year the BBC News did a short interview with each of the five surving British World War One veterans. The youngest is 106, the eldest 111 - the last British survivor of the Battle of Jutland.

Paul Duncanson@28 - I remember seeing that when it first went out on the BBC and being struck speechless by it. I thought it was one of the most poignant things I'd ever seen on television. I recently bought the DVD box-set and watched it again, and I still find it incredibly moving.

#75 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 07:11 PM:

We have a photo of my grandfather standing next to the WWI memorial in Madera, California. It wasn't dedicated until 1972. There are only four names on it, one of them my great uncle (his older brother). Such a difference from the French/English/Australian/etc. memorials.

My other grandfather was in the German army in WWI, on the Russian front. He and his four older brothers all survived, although one was badly injured.

#76 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 07:17 PM:

Julia Jones @ 73: Oh yes. Wilfred Owen especially. In fact I was just looking up the book Michael Walsh at #53 mentioned. Abebooks does have it, and I am thinking that maybe that would be a good Christmas present for myself.

(Some people ask for iPods for Christmas. I want a WWI poetry anthology.)

Xopher @ 71: Thank you. My next step is to inspire this passion in others. (I am young! Nothing can stop me!!)

#77 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 07:39 PM:

As the grandson of World War One veterans - one on the Western Front and the other in the Navy - and the son of an RAF NCO in World War Two, I'd like to thank Teresa for doing this. I've found it very touching. For various reasons I haven't thought about them for some time, and it's brought a lot of memories back.

#78 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Julia 73: I quoted a Sassoon poem here. Wilfred Owen is my favorite poet, bar none.

cap 76: (I am young! Nothing can stop me!!) many a young man thought as he went over the top. Careful.

#79 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:23 PM:

Xopher: Indeed. I choose my words (and my exclamation points) knowing this.

#80 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:42 PM:

On "Prairie Home Companion", Garrison Keillor occasionally sings an Americanized Bogle variation whose chorus begins "And the band played 'The Star-Spangled Banner'".

This afternoon on the radio, BBC's "World Service" played some excerpts from the WWI diary of British soldier Alexander Steward, as read out by his grandson-- an astonishing blend of horrific events and dry, grim humor.

#81 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:43 PM:

I'm the grandson of two Great War vets (OK, they were German, but still...), and I was a career officer myself (Carter years through very early Clinton, and a few years reserve packed around there too). My father served at the tail end of Korea. My sons won't go the military route, but that's for medical reasons.

I went into law to do something less confrontational.

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Then, C.E., you too deserve our thanks and respect.

#83 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 10:06 PM:

Elegy in a Country Churchyard

G.K. Chesterton

The men that worked for England
They have their graves at home:
And birds and bees of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a falling star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar.

And they that rule in England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England
They have no graves as yet.

#84 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 02:05 AM:

The Longest Engagement is my touchstone to the Great War. When I was hiking in the Languedoc region of France back in 2002, I saw the monuments in the little villages to their war dead. My grandfather came to France from rural NW Ohio in 1918 and spent his time riding shotgun on the outside of ambulances, telling the drivers how to drive in the dead of night, as they could not turn on their headlights. He came home to a new child, bringing fancy embroided silk aprons for his wife and his mother (the one to his mother I have framed behind glass) Thank you for your annual memorial as it enables me to reflect upon my family's history.

#85 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 04:22 AM:

A.J. Hall @ 72: Oh, damn.

Then I'm twice as outraged -- and a good bit indignant. My family hasn't many military veterans or deaths in its history, but I damn well respect those who've given their lives or offered them -- for good reason or none.

War is not a video game.
War is not a board game.
Though there are many games about war, war is not a game. Ever.

I think this needs saying again and again. Those who glorify war and are willing to have one for no reason must think of it in their hearts as a kind of gladiatorial entertainment. In America there aren't hillsides with miles of graves, and I wonder if this mentality will stop until there are. Perhaps some Australians suffer the same lack of cognizance.

#86 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 08:57 AM:

Abi at #1 wrote:

I said something like this last year, but I'll write it again now. It is inconceivable to an American (or it was to me) how deep the memory of that loss, and the dread of another such loss, exists in the British consciousness. The memorials are everywhere - every town and every village has its cross. Every business still going since then, banks and insurance companies and department stores. Every school that existed then and exists now. The plaques are lovingly preserved, transferred through rebuildings, displayed in lobbies. And though there are additions, names from the 30's and 40's, it's the long, long lists from the Great War that justify them.

Some of it, I think, is that the US celebrates Veterans Day, not Remembrance day. So it gets applied to the most recent veterans, rather than looking back to a specific conflict. The same thing with Memorial Day - who now thinks of it as specific for US Civil War Union soldiers?

It's a shame, I think, because by focusing on the soldier rather than the war, it becomes a be-nice-to-soldiers/veterans day, rather than a reflection on the horrors of war and a reminder of the horrors of war and the goal of "never again." And it creates a curiously unreal sense of what war is - focusing only on soldiers, when it hits civilians as hard or harder.

Memorials like Teresa's one here help, but the US is sadly lacking in occasions to remember war, rather than to celebrate soldiers.

#87 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 10:18 AM:

As Abi said in #1, in the Netherlands the First World War is largely ignored, untaught in history, unremembered because we managed to stay out of it for the most part. World War II instead is the break with the old world that WW1 was for other countries, the time when all the old securities were swept aside. For myself it has only been in the past five-six years or so that I've realised at how big the impact of the Great War was; before then I sort of considered it as nothing more than a dress rehearsal for the real war, WW2.

So yeah, on Sunday we first listened to Radio 4 to the remembrance in London and watched BBC One for the parade, only to have the neighbourhood children coming round making merry, singing songs and demanding candy in the evening. Somewhat of a contrast there.

#88 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 10:52 AM:

#20: In New England, at least the part I live in, there is always a Civil War memorial, although most towns also have ones for later wars.

Yesterday's NYT had an article (login may be required) about the last surviving American WW1 veteran, Frank Buckles, age 106:

It’s hard for anyone, I imagine, to say for certain what it is that we will lose when Frank Buckles dies. It’s not that World War I will then become history; it’s been history for a long time now. But it will become a different kind of history, the kind we can’t quite touch anymore, the kind that will, from that point on, always be just beyond our grasp somehow. We can’t stop that from happening. But we should, at least, take notice of it.

My grandfather served in the Army Air Corps in France. He destroyed the pages of his diary that described the things he saw as a member of the ground-crew at an aerodrome near the front. He talked about them rarely: crashes, dying pilots landing burning planes, and other horrors.

#89 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:05 AM:

When I think of war monuments in general, and Civil War monuments in particular, I always find myself digging up this poem. I don't know if I've managed the link right, but it seemed appropriate to try . . .

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:20 AM:

My great-grandmother's scrapbook has a letter home from one of her nephews, printed in a newspaper, and another story about another nephew who was on the wrong end of a burst of machine gun fire. They both survived the war.

#91 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 11:54 AM:

cap @#70--
In addition, if you haven't already read at least one of them, look into the series by Lyn Macdonald, based on letters, interviews, and diaries of the people who fought the war. They include 1914; 1915: The Death of Innocence; The Somme; and To the Last Man: Spring 1918, and there are others, as well, I believe. If the library doesn't have them, try search by her name, and don't be surprised when you run across some cookbooks, because she's written a few of those as well.

Ms. Macdonald does not try to tell the story; she gives a little background information on the people whose testimony she is using, and then gets out of their way.

If there is anyone looking for a manageable one-volume history of the war, both John Keegan and Hew Strachan have produced good books; Strachan's was the basis for an excellent documentary on the war which shows up on US cable television (try the Military Channel, if you get that one) at various times; this gives a good overview of the war, and has astonishing pictures, both still and moving. I think both have been mentioned in the comments threads on Teresa's Remembering the Great War posts in previous years, but it's always worth repeating the information, in case someone else is looking and didn't see the earlier mentions.

In addition, for a different sort of war memoir, Vera Brittain's Testment of Youth is worth looking at--she worked as a VAD nurse, and lost her brother, her fiancé, and most of the male family friends of her generation. It's available in a Penguin Modern Classic edition, as is Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel, which is also worth reading, although not for those inclined to nightmares. he does not attempt to analyze, explain, or rationalize his four years' service--he just tells what it was like. There's also Robert Graves's Good-bye to All That, which covers not only the war, but his efforts to cope with what we now call PTSD afterwards.

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:26 PM:

#62: After having convinced ITV that my computer is good enough (must be MSIE, must have Windows Media Player 9+, a couple of active-X controls, etc), I got a notice that reads: "Sorry, videos can only be viewed if you are in the UK. Video not available."


#93 ::: JamesE ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:42 PM:

cap@70 (and anyone else for that matter): I'd strongly recommend reading The War the Infantry Knew. It's a collection of officers' accounts of WWI - but the kind of officers who led their men over the top blowing a whistle and waving a revolver, not the kind who sat in a villa three miles behind the lines making 1:1 scale models of that day's territorial gains.

It captures the chaos and confusion of a war fought before widespread motorised transport or reliable long-distance communications (marching three miles one way then right back the way you've just come; mislaying the baggage train and field kitchens; narrowly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory because the message for the reserves to advance never got through) as well as the terror and quiet heroism of it all.

#94 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Also, for those living in or near Kansas City, or who may visit there, the World War I Museum there, although not large, is decent, and one of the few in the US that makes much of an effort to cover that war.

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:56 PM:

JamesE 93: making 1:1 scale models

Either the bolded part is a typo or I don't understand. Wouldn't a 1:1 scale model be the same size as the actual terrain?

#96 ::: JamesE ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Xopher@95: no typo. If you can track down some more of Blackadder Goes Forth as mentioned upthread, all will be explained.

#97 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 01:05 PM:

95: it's a Blackadder reference. After Captain Blackadder is shot down over the Western Front and captured, the idiot General Melchett (and his staff officer, Captain Darling) attempt to console the almost equally idiotic Lieutenant George:

Melchett: Now let's talk about something more jolly, shall we? Look, this is the amount of land we've recaptured since yesterday.
[indicates a tabletop model]

George: Oh, excellent.

Melchett: What is the actual scale of this map, Darling?

Darling: Erm, one-to-one, sir.

Melchett: Come again?

Darling: The map is actually life-size, sir. But it's superbly detailed. Look, there's a little worm.

Melchett: Oh, yes. So the actual amount of land retaken is?

[Darling whips out a tape measure amd measures the table.]

Darling: Seventeen square feet, sir.

Melchett: Excellent. So you see, young Blackadder didn't die horribly in vain after all.

#98 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Either the bolded part is a typo or I don't understand. Wouldn't a 1:1 scale model be the same size as the actual terrain?

I think that's the point. The methods ordered by generals behind the lines led to little or no gained terrain - so their model could be 1:1, or proved to be 1:1 when the actual terrain didn't match that expected by the model.

#99 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 01:17 PM:

Oh, OK. I just didn't get the joke (if that's the right term).

#100 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 01:34 PM:

I've always found it striking how thoroughly the Great War is embedded in between-the-wars UK literature--not just the familiar poems and memoirs (I second the Good-Bye to All That recommendation) but, say, mysteries. Peter Whimsey is a product of the War, and chunks of Agatha Christie, and all those village spinster ladies (thanks to the destruction of a whole generation of eligible men). Even now, there's Reginald Hill's excellent The Wood Beyond. Not long before I read that book, and well into middle age myself, I was told the story of my maternal grandfather's WWI experiences, which distorted his already unpleasant personality (spoiled, selfish, and impulsive) even more. The kicker was this: the day WWII was declared, my mother came home to find this mean, thoroughly self-centered man sitting next to the radio where he had heard the news, weeping. It forever complicated my picture of who he was and how he got that way.

#101 ::: coffeedryad ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 01:56 PM:

cap - I don't know if it'd fit your musical tastes at all, but have you ever heard Benjamin Britten's War Requiem? It's the the text of the Latin requiem mass interleaved with poems of Wilfred Owen and all set to stunning, chilling, music.

#102 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Henri Barbusse is regaining some of his reputation. His 1916 Prix Goncourt book, Under Fire The Story of a Squad, originally La Feu (available online in Fitzwater Wray's translation), was well known at the time. It has been republished recently in a new translation. He published other war-related works (see PDF review of Light at NY Times archives), but L'Enfer (aka Hell or Inferno) is on quite a different subject.

#103 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 02:08 PM:

coffeedryad 101: I love the War Requiem! But pretty much all of Britten's music is stunning and chilling. We're singing his Ceremony of Carols (an SATB arrangement) for Advent, and while I usually detest Christianity-as-Warfare songs, I've been walking around singing

This little babe, so few days old
Is come to rifle Satan's fold!
All Hell will at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak, unarméd wise,
The gates of Hell he will surprise!

#104 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Henri Barbusse is regaining some of his reputation. His 1916 Prix Goncourt book, Under Fire: The Story of a Squad, originally La Feu (available online in Fitzwater Wray's translation), was well known at the time. It has been republished recently in a new translation. He published other war-related works, but L'Enfer (aka Hell or Inferno) is on quite a different subject.

#105 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 03:17 PM:

This little babe, so few days old
Is come to rifle Satan's fold!
All Hell will at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak, unarméd wise,
The gates of Hell he will surprise!

Ack. Now that will be in my head all day! In competing and conflicting SSA and SATB arrangements.

And no local choir to sing with. (Yes, I am a choir snob... The Gregory Kunde Chorale ruined the typical community chorus for me.)

If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy.

#106 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 04:09 PM:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

#107 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Fidelio, JamesE and coffeedryad, thank you so much. I've written those down and will look them up.

I've actually compiled a playlist based on the songs several of you mentioned here, as well as some I know (Richard Thompson's "Dad's gonna kill me", for example). Napster has Britten, but not the War Requiem. I'll keep an eye out for it elsewhere.

Thank you!

#108 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 04:19 PM:

BBC Radio 3 went back to the 1920s, last Sunday, for
John Foulds's 'A World Requiem' which had not been performed since the 1920s.

#109 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 04:59 PM:

A.J.Luxton @85:

In America there aren't hillsides with miles of graves, and I wonder if this mentality will stop until there are. Perhaps some Australians suffer the same lack of cognizance.

I take it you've never been to Arlington National Cemetary or any of the graveyards near Gettysburg, Vicksburg or any number of Southern towns? There are hillsides with miles of graves, but they aren't for WWI...

#110 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 06:40 PM:

Perhaps this is a good place to mention again Kipling's story, "The Gardener".

#111 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 02:41 AM:

Maybe civil wars are different; do the English remember theirs with the kind of sorrow with which they remember the Great War? In the American Civil War, some towns lost every single one of their combat-eligible men, from 15 to 50 or so. This was almost guaranteed to happen because regiments were raised by the states, usually each from a particular area, with many men from the same towns in them. Many of those towns ceased to exist, because their economies couldn't survive. And, as Lori Coulson said, if you drive through southern Pennsylvania where I grew up, or Maryland, or Virginia, you can't miss the battlefields that became graveyards for tens of thousands.

Some historians hold that the American Civil War was the first "modern" war, the rehearsal for the "total war" of the 20th century.

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 03:49 AM:

cap: You might like "Generals Die in Bed" which is the Canadian equivalent of "All Quiet on the Western Front"

For commentary, Attaturk (who was the commander of the Turks at Gallipoli) takes the cake.

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 now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway 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.

That was in 1934.

The Turks have managed to live up to the sentiment. In 1985 they named the chunk of Suvla Bay where they landed, "ANZAC Cove" and declared it a national park.

For a sense of scale, if it happened today, and it were Americans, it would be more than 500,000 dead.

There are some good reasons for the bitterness the Australians have toward Britain as a result of the war. One of the things which was most notable was that the British wanted to have complete control of the Australians, and Australia wouldn't allow it. Which is why the Australians had no one shot for desertion, which cannot (to the best of my knowledge) be said about any of the other Commonwealth troops.

#113 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:46 AM:

re 108: The creation of Arlington Cemetery was a remarkable act of spite.

I think there were a number of factors which made the Civil War less of blow to the psyche than WW I. First, there was a definite set of principles to be fought for, not just "the great game". Second, the leadership was just better. The south started with the good generals, and Lincoln for the North ran through generals until he came up with those who accomplished something. (There we stupid tactics, to be sure -- see "Battle of the Crater"-- but the "if we repeat a failure enough, it will become success" mentality didn't set in.) Third-- and I thnk this is perhaps the largest factor-- the country had something else to do besides brood over the affair: continuing to populate the west. That's not to say that the South didn't brood over it; to a degree, they still are.

#114 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 11:08 AM:

re 88: non-login version of the NY Times article on the last living American WW I vet

#115 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Maybe civil wars are different; do the English remember theirs with the kind of sorrow with which they remember the Great War? In the American Civil War, some towns lost every single one of their combat-eligible men, from 15 to 50 or so. This was almost guaranteed to happen because regiments were raised by the states, usually each from a particular area, with many men from the same towns in them.

Similar things happened in Britain (not just England; normally I'd pass over that, but not in this case) in the Great War. Look up the Pals' Battalions.

"...16th (2nd Edinburgh) (Service) Bn Lothian Regiment Royal Scots... containing the entire first and reserve team players, several boardroom and staff members and a sizeable contingent of supporters of Scottish professional [football] club Heart of Midlothian FC... One of the most notable was the 11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington) East Lancashire Regiment, better known as the Accrington Pals. The Accrington Pals were ordered to attack Serre, the most northerly part of the main assault, on the opening day of the battle [of the Somme]. Of an estimated 700 Accrington Pals who took part in the attack, 235 were killed and 350 wounded within the space of twenty minutes."

They drew replacements from the same recruiting ground, too, so the casualties would have been made up with more Accrington men.

No, I don't think the Civil War has the same resonance for the British - it's just too long ago. Also, it didn't have such obvious effects; the monarchy was restored, after all.

#116 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 01:04 PM:

A.J. @ 85 (and Lori at 108): Wounded Knee comes to mind, for me. Granted, only 300 people were killed (yeah, only 300), but that event is still very present in the minds of the Lakota and other Native peoples today. (Cf. Ghost Dance by Bill Miller.)

Terry @ 111: I have only just begun to learn about Attaturk (yay, college), but he strikes me as an incredibly perceptive man.

#117 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:50 PM:

A quick recommendation:

The one truly, truly, truly astonishing piece of First World War writing I've discovered in the last year or so is A.P. Herbert's The Secret Battle (sadly not yet online) - Herbert was best known as a humourist, but this is his first novel and arguably his best, written in the immediate aftermath and published in 1919. Exceptionally well-written, and compellingly bleak; the protagonist is a good man who is relentlessly put upon by circumstances, until one day, he breaks a little more than usual and turns back in the face of shellfire. And the System then breaks him, grinds him into the ground, completely and without feeling; we get perhaps the first appearance of the "shot at dawn" scene in fiction. I can't read it and not want to scream a bit, and it ought to be much better known. (WRT the comments above about the British at Gallipoli, it also has a rather interesting couple of chapters on Gallipoli, where APH served)

The other interesting discovery was C.S. Forester's The General, where the protagonist was one of the "donkeys" who kept throwing men into the meatgrinder in the belief that he was doing it right. It's not an apology, but it's an interesting attempt to explain the mindset that got us there.

James@93: The War the Infantry Knew is mainly by one man, Dunn, with filler from some others in the same unit after he left - one of those being, interestingly, Siegfried Sassoon. (One of the aspects of that book is that it doubles as a regimental diary; each day you get the "minor skirmish, two wounded" sort of thing. It's interesting to note the way it's always phrased as "Lieutenant Johnson and five other ranks killed"...)

#118 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 05:12 PM:

C. Wingate @112 -- as a Virginian by birth I'm quite aware that Arlington was the result of an act of spite -- something Robert E. Lee and Martha Custis Lee did not deserve.

And still, America has its hills with miles of graves.

(If you want a sight that will give you chills, some Civil War battlefields (now parks) are decorated with candles during the holiday season. Each candle marks the spot where a soldier died.)

It wasn't until WWII that the US had the kind of losses that Great Britain experienced in WWI. The example I'm thinking of is the young men of Bedford, Virginia -- most of that town's soldiers died on the beaches of Normandy -- in a single day...

#119 ::: Errol ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 08:49 PM:

The Turks have managed to live up to the sentiment. In 1985 they named the chunk of Suvla Bay where they landed, "ANZAC Cove" and declared it a national park.

It's a great sentiment, but things aren't quite that simple. In "exchange", locations in Australia and NZ were renamed. Ataturk point (with a memorial) is south of Wellington Airport, overlooking Cook Strait.
The area is also important for the Turk's, due to Ataturk's involvement - it was busy the day I was there, as it was Ataturk's birthday.

#120 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:41 PM:

When the shuttle leaves the Mpls airport, there's a military cemetary with acres of headstones. It doesn't seem very hilly, but there's sure a lot of them.

#121 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:21 AM:

Marilee @119,

That's Fort Snelling. It's an active cemetary, in that it is still accepting burials. There are something like 175,000 people buried there now.

It's very busy. If someone entitled to be buried there dies, you call, and they tell you when the burial will be. It's usually about a week, and you get a time, say, 7:15am. You are there at 7:15am. If you are late, you sit there and wait until someone else is late, even if that means waiting hours.

Burials are scheduled every 15 minutes from several stations. Burials of veterans (as opposed to spouses of veterans) are accompanied by a salute - guns fired in the air. This doesn't go over well with TSA, but the cemetary is winning this argument (so far).

By far most of the burials are WWII veterans and spouses, but there are always a scattering of younger ones.

It's a lovely site, right on the bluffs above the river. At water level right along there is a federal wildlife sanctuary, and there is an amazing array of birdlife living there. Back when it was possible to leave the airport without having to go through security hell to get back, I used to meet relatives and friends with layovers of more than an hour and take them out for a picnic. (At the Fort, not the cemetary. I have some sense of decorum.) Alas, those days are gone forever.

#122 ::: Emily Cartier ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:51 AM:

My great-uncle is buried at Ft. Snelling. World War II vet.

There were likely World War I veterans in my family, but they would have died before I was ever thought of. If I were taking bets, I'd guess the Austrian side of the family. My father is not a veteran. They wouldn't take him for Vietnam. Several uncles are Vietnam vets, a cousin is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, and my brother is an Iraq vet.

I don't ever want another family member to go off to war.

#123 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 12:38 AM:

I live near Arlington National, so I'm pretty familiar with the schedules. Do you guys still have a bugler?

We get not only those who live close, but those who prefer to be buried at Arlington.

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