The dominos begin to fall

This is the date in 1914 when Europe got the big shove that eventually costs millions of lives: Serbian activist Gavril Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and killed his wife, Sophie.

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Archduke Franz Ferdinand and family. LOC

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Gavril Princip is arrested.

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Serbian civilians at an American Red Cross station in 1917. U.S. National Archives.

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Week 16: “The Horse’s Mouth: Staging Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse'”

“The Horse’s Mouth,” by Mervyn Millar, recounts the development of “War Horse” for the stage. It might be too technical for the general reader, but it would be interesting for any fan of the book who’s curious about how it got turned into a play. Among other parts of the process, the director, playwright et al. visited farm horses in Devon, where Joey’s story begins, and the London home of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, where training still has much in common with its WWI practices.

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King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery parade, London. Photo at Flickr from kenjonbro.

The book also is notable for what the various members of the theatrical team had to say about the war. Most admitted they didn’t know much about it when they began, beyond what they learned at school (which in the U.S. would be nothing).

And here’s Michael Morpurgo on what played into his inspiration to write the book in the first place:

“Most of us grow up with the First World War poets. Well, the fact is this: grand and wonderful as some of these poems are, most of them were written by officers, who came to the war with a certain class, a certain idea, a certain notion. The people I was talking to in (the Devon town of ) Iddesleigh were, if you like, the fighting men. People who came to the war straight, without verses, and thinking, and philosophy and literature to either help or hinder them: they came to it straight. And I had always wondered, with my listening to them, and my reading of history, how it was that these men did go over the top, because people told them to do it.”
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And here’s Joey in the trailer for the Mirvish Productions’ “War Horse” in Toronto:

News from Texas

The 100-year-old battleship USS Texas, the last of the dreadnoughts that fought in World War I, has been closed indefinitely to repair several holes allowing 500 to 2,000 gallons of water a minute to enter the vessel.  Repairs are underway.
The museum is docked permanently off the Houston ship channel near the San Jacinto monument.  Fund- raising is underway to finance a major overhaul.  Museum staff found several holes in the hull that appear to be the result of popped rivets.
The Texas was launched in 1912 and commissioned in 1914.  Serving with the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet in 1917 and 1918, the Texas was present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.  Modestly modernized and converted to oil firing, the Texas — armed with 14-inch naval rifles — served as a shore bombardment vessel in both the Atlantic and Pacific in WWII before becoming a museum ship in 1948.
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USS Texas, date unknown. San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.
As it happens, it actually was the second USS Texas. The first one — America’s first battleship — was built in the 1890s and blockaded the coast of Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. It was thought to be unlucky, because it flooded several times, including a sinking in New York in which several of the crew were drowned and running aground on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, in September 1917. It was renamed the San Marcos in 1911 to allow its name to be used by the new battleship.

The war animals’ friend, CORRECTED

Ghosts of 1914 points out that I made a couple of mistakes when I wrote about her post “Dr. Dolittle Goes to War”:

http://ghostsof1914.blogspot.com/2012/06/dr-dolittle-goes-to-war.html

The photo of the man in the pith helmet with all his animals is NOT Hugh Lofting, author of the Dr. Dolittle series. Lofting was a combat engineer with the Irish Guards, NOT a veterinarian.

I did wonder how a civil engineer got himself from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to a kennel on the Western Front, but I didn’t wonder enough. War is absurd; anything can happen.

Thanks for correcting me, Fiona.

The Irish Guards had a terrible war, from the first days near Mons to the Armistice, when they were also near Mons. Nearly half the officers and more than a quarter of the men were killed. Lofting served on the Front in 1917-18, when he was badly wounded.

Here are details about the Irish Guards in WWI:

http://www.irishguards.org.uk/pages/history/ww1.html

Another literary family contributed a son to the Irish Guards: John Kipling, son of Rudyard Kipling. The younger Kipling was declared missing, presumed killed at Loos in 1915. He was 18. Daniel Radclifffe (Harry Potter) played him in the made-for-TV movie “My Boy Jack.”

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem after the war that ended with the famous line

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

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When Hell froze over

You can get a good look at the Battle of Gallipoli from photos at the website

http://www.keepmilitarymuseum.org/gallipoli/index.php?&page=2

Here’s the gallery’s mission statement, from the website:

“The gallery commemorates the part played in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 by four West Country regiments and a Royal Naval Infantry Battalion, with strong county connections. In order of arrival on the Peninsular they were, the Collingwood Battalion of the Royal Naval Division, 5th (Service) Battalion the Dorset Regiment, the Queens Own Dorset Yeomanry and the two Devon Yeomanry Regiments. The majority were in action for the first time and in common with the other units of rapidly expanding British Army learned hard lessons of warfare at a terrible cost, fighting in an environment where they sweltered in the desiccating summer sun and froze in an ice storm from the heart of Asia.”

The heat and the flies are part of the enduring images of Gallipoli. It’s the last place I would ever have expected a blizzard to hit, but a massive storm struck Nov. 26/27, 1915, beginning with torrential rain with thunder and lightning, followed by flash flooding in which many were drowned, followed by a blizzard during which many men froze to death.

Here’s a description taken from the history of the 6th Bn, South Lancs:

At Suvla alone in the three-day blizzard, there were more than 5000 cases of frostbite and over 200 soldiers were drowned or frozen to death; no words can depict the horror of the situation with no shelter for the sick, overworked doctors, no winter clothing, and the absence of any means of evacuating the stricken, as no boat could approach the Gallipoli beaches until the fury of the storm had abated.”

Here’s more about the storm from various war diaries with much discussion of the number of casualties:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=166263

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A group of men recovering from hypothermia following the great ice storm, in a hut made of biscuit crates. Photo from the Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset.

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Memorial in London to the Royal Fusiliers, photo by ell brown. The 2nd Bn suffered nearly 90 percent casualties related to the storm.

“Over There” by Byron Farwell

I”m temporarily abandoning a book for a while. I never ever do that — with one notable exception — I usually just ditch them. Life is too short to read bad books.

But Farwell’s “Over There: The United States in the Great War, 1917-18” is really good. It’s just that I’ve gotten to the part when the 28th and 30th Divisions are about to attack on the Chemin de Dames, and I’ve realized what short shrift Farwell gives to Belleau Wood. We win that battle next Tuesday.

So now I’m all hot to read “Miracle at Belleau Wood” and any other account in my library.

Reviews to come!

Peronne, after and way after

Fellow blogger Sommecourt has a very nice photo of post-war Peronne, a village on the Somme that was nearly destroyed as it changed hands during the war.

Here’s what it looks like today.

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Peronne Historial museum and church. Photo by Marcus3, Wikimedia Commons

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Front of the Historial, taken by Bodoklecksel, posted at Wiki Commons.

 

The war animals’ friend

Aside

Here’s an awesome post from fellow blogger Ghosts of 1914, about Dr. Doolittle and the trenches where he was invented, by Hugh Lofting, who served with the Irish Guards as a veterinary officer.

http://ghostsof1914.blogspot.com/2012/06/dr-dolittle-goes-to-war.html

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Hugh Lofting with his jackdaws (crows), goose, dog, and wolf cub.

The Irish Guards had a terrible war, from the first days near Mons to the Armistice, when they were also near Mons. Nearly half the officers and more than a quarter of the men were killed.

Here are details about the Irish Guards in WWI:

http://www.irishguards.org.uk/pages/history/ww1.html

Another literary family contributed a son to the Irish Guards: John Kipling, son of Rudyard Kipling. The younger Kipling was declared missing, presumed killed at Loos in 1915. He was 18. Daniel Radclifffe (Harry Potter) played him in the made-for-TV movie “My Boy Jack.”

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Rudyard Kipling and his son, 2nd Lt. John Kipling.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem after the war that ended with the famous line

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

Under the sea

The Telegraph reports that submarine HMS E14 has been found on the ocean floor in the Dardanelles. The sub was sunk by the Turkish in 1918.

The newspaper cheerfully reports that it probably contains the remains of the crew, which at least means the families will know where they are, surely a rare situation for sailors. Where are their names recorded? Where is the Menin Gate, so to speak, for those lost at sea?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/turkey/9336020/Found-after-94-years-the-submarine-which-won-two-VCs.html

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1915 photo. Australian War Memorial caption : “Group portrait of the crew of the British Royal Navy submarine E14 as she came out from the Dardanelles straits. Identified, left to right, Lieutenant (Lt) Edward Courtney Boyle VC RN (centre), Lt Stanley (right) and Lt Lawrence (left), standing high on the conning tower.”

Belleau Wood re-enacted

In 2009, real Marines staged and filmed a re-enactment of the iconic battle as part of an exhibit at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek:

http://vimeo.com/31482477

Here’s a link to the museum: http://www.usmcmuseum.com/index.asp

You can visit the museum when you attend the ww1ha’s National Seminar, “From Devil Dogs to Stosstruppen,” at Quantica, Va., in September. Here’s a link for more info:

http://ww1ha.org/2012seminar/

“First to Fight.” A group of U.S. Marines. US Marine Corps Recruiting Publicity Bureau., 1918. From the U.S. National Archives.