Wedding bells will ring so merrily

Guest column from WW1HA member Randy Gaulke:

A 1919 Experience in 1996

Warning 1 to Readers: The lovely bride wearing the wonderful ensemble and the dashing aviator in uniform did not really serve in the Great War. More details below.

Here is what our bridegroom Randy Gaulke has to say [in 2003] about the 1919 event that took place in 1996. [Warning 2, don’t give up; all will become clear.]

By way of background, Laurie and I were married on 5/25/1919 (1996). The location is the Wisteriahurst Mansion in Holyoke, MA. At the time of our 1919 Returning War Hero’s Wedding, the mansion would have been owned by Belle Skinner, the daughter of a famous MA textile baron. She received the French Legion of Honnor for helping to restore the village of Hattonchatel at the end of the war. A real World War I veteran, Frank Sinkoski, from the Yankee Division was our guest at the wedding. It was the Yankee Division that recaptured the village that Belle paid to restore. Frank passed away in 1999, but he did live long enough to be awarded the Legion of Honor on December 29, 1998. As most of our friends were re-enactors, history buffs, or vintage dancers, we had a live band perform period music as well.

The dress was designed and sewn by historian and vintage dancer Sue Fischer. She has published a translation of Freifrau von Richthofen’s diary. Sue made it as a gift to Laurie, as they had known each other for years. In fact, it was because of Sue and her husband, Steve, that Laurie and I met at a 1919 suffragette ball in 1994.

Sue has made numerous dresses and other vintage clothing for people over the years. (We also hired her to do some poppy stencil work in our dining room.) She really is a talented artist, with a good feel for historic fashion and furnishings.

Laurie says that the dress is Sue’s own design, based on dresses of the era. It is ivory silk chiffon over silk satin with hand beading at the neckline, train and hem. Laurie wanted to be able to wear it as a dance dress, so Sue made it so that the train could be hooked up in the back of the dress.

Note from Susan: Randy Gaulke and Laurie MacDonnell-Gaulke are still happily married.

Air raid on London

June 13 is the anniversary of the first daylight bombing of London in 1917, by German Gothas. Fourteen of the huge planes took off from their base in Belgium and dropped bombs on Britain’s capital city.They killed 162 people and injured 432 others. Among the dead were 16 little children killed by a bomb falling on a primary school. Most of the children were under 5 years old.

It was actually the Gothas’ third attack. A fleet of 22 bombers headed for London in May, got diverted by bad weather and bombed Folkestone, leaving 95 dead and 195 injured. They came back June 7 and bombed the coastal towns of Shoeburyness and Sheerness.

Their successful attack on London had no tactical value that I can see. They didn’t manage to blow up any war materiel, troops or aircraft, though a few British planes did get shot down (so did some of the Gothas). They were a terror weapon. So killing little children was productive from that standpoint.

Here’s a detailed description of the planes and their attacks:

This photo, from the Imperial War Museum’s collection AIR RAID DAMAGE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR, shows damage to a printing business where 38 people were killed.


The ruins of Messrs Odhams Printing Works, 93 Long Acre, London, which was bombed by two giant Gothas in the worst bombing incident of the war.

Farewell, comrade

Tony Noyes, who was a well-known tour guide on the Western Front, passed away today after a battle with cancer. Here’s what the Western Front Association had to say about him when he became a vice president of the organization.

He was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1939 and after leaving grammar school was apprenticed to be a Civil Engineer. He retired in 2005 after completing 50 years in the industry. He joined the WFA in its earliest days and soon joined the committee, serving as Branch Coordinator, Vice-Chairman and, later, Chairman. He believed his first duty as Chairman should be to organize the attendance of the Association and its members at the Cenotaph on November 11th and to restore the two minute silence at 11am. This would be followed by a Service of Remembrance at the Guards’ Chapel. Held for the first time in 1994, this ceremony has struck a national chord and similar ceremonies are now held in many places across the UK.
After several years of leading the Cenotaph ceremony, he took over from Lt Col Graham Parker as Parade Marshall for the Poppy Parade at Ypres on November 11th, a position he held for several years.
He now looks forward to being of further service to the Association as a Vice-President.

Tony led the first tour I went on, in 2003, all around Ypres. I was dazzled just to be in Belgium and hardly knew where we were most of the time. But I have two powerful memories of Tony: at one site of the 1914 Christmas Truce, where he played a recording, “Christmas in the Trenches.” He got down on one knee and covered his face. Sorrow, or theatrics? Either way, it is very affecting to stand where simple soldiers stopped the war for a day.

By the end of 1915, there was no truce possible. After a year of bloody slaughter, no one was disposed to sing with the guys who murdered his pals.

My other memory of Tony is when we drove past a little housing development under construction, and he remarked, “I wonder if they realize they are building on an abbatoir.”

Au revoir, Tony. I’m sure the Old Contemptibles are as glad to greet you as we are sorry to see you go.

“A Farewell to Arms”

Are you reading along with the War Through the Generations’ Hemingway read-along?

The readers are up to Chapter 10, but you can jump right into the discussion:

I reread it a couple of summers ago. I rarely read anything a second time, but I appreciated it much more than the first time I read it. But my introduction to Hemingway was “The Old Man and the Sea,” which caused me to loathe him, and finding out that I liked his work at all was a pleasant revelation.

How about you? You’ve read it? You’re reading it? You wouldn’t read it if the alternative were fighting the Battle of Caporetto?

Caporetto, which began in late October 1917, was a stunning defeat for the Italians. The faltering Austro-Hungarians were under the command of the Germans, who attacked in greater force than expected and caught the Italians off-guard. For most of the battle the Italian infantry had no artillery support. Some Italian units held their positions, but eventually the entire army had to retreat. They lost more than 300,000 men, 90 percent of them prisoners. (What did the Austro-Hungarians do with that many prisoners all at once?)

Hemingway’s description of the retreat makes for the clearest, vividest scenes in the novel.

Here’s a link that presents the battle in detail:


Austrian troops preparing to attack.


Italian troops in their trenches.

Belleau Wood now and then

Lovely photos from the site of the battle on Michael St. Maur Shiel’s website, Western Front Photography:

Also, here’s a post at blog History & Lore of the old World War about an unexpected memoir: “At Belleau Wood with Rifle and Sketchpad” by Louis Linn, a Marine who fought in that iconic battle and at Soissons and St. Mihiel, where he was gravely wounded.


Ruins in Belleau, France.

Excitement in Berlin


When the war broke out, most of the population of the belligerent countries was enthusiastic. It was probably a “We’ll show them!” mentality, and most people thought the war would be over in a few months. What would they have done differently if they had known what a bloody horror it would be? Someone would have had to blink, but it’s hard now to imagine who that someone might have been.

Here’s a report from blogger Military Berlin on the outbreak of the war in Germany:


German soldiers crossing swords just for the picture.

Warships of the desert, updated

The always intriguing blog Ghosts of War reports on the history of the Imperial Camel Corps brigade.


From the State Library of Queensland, Australia

Also, for you war animal fans, Ghosts of 1914 has a funny little bit about cats.

From a Facebook friend:

Musical interlude!

In a discussion about Private Clancy of the CEF, who was briefly boosted from private to lance corporal, blogger Medic wrote:

Sometime soldiers were sent on course or permission for a few days or a few weeks, so they needed to be replaced if they were in charge of a group. Also it was not everyone who wanted or liked the promotion. The sergeant had to run from one shell hole to the other, much exposing themselves to enemy fire, many soldiers preferred to stay with the rank of private.

It made me think of this song:

“Retreat, hell! We just got here”

The Battle of Belleau Wood began on this day in 1918. It’s the battle a lot of Americans know to be “the one with the wheat field.”

There was a wheat field, but more important, there was a wood full of German machine gunners.

The advancing Germans, in the last push of their third offensive, were about 50 miles east of Paris when they met American Marines at Belleau Wood. The terrible fighting went on till June 26, when the Marines officially held the woods.

From an account by Col. Frederick May Wise, commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marines at Belleau Wood.

 “At the battle’s end … I lined the men up and looked them over. It was enough to break your heart. I had left Courcelles May 31st with nine hundred and sixty-five men and twenty six officers — the best battalion I ever saw anywhere. I had taken them, raw recruits for the most. Ten months I had trained them. I had seen them grow into Marines. Now before me stood three hundred and fifty men and six officers. Six hundred and fifteen men and nineteen officers were gone.”

The famous quote, by the way, comes from Capt. Lloyd Williams, who was killed in the fighting.

Here’s a link to a description of the battle, which was a confused mess:

(The Great War Society is now part of the WW1HA.)

Remembering all the fallen

James Daly, blogging at Daly History Blog, has completed his research into the people of Portsmouth who died during the WWI era. He details his research, which will particularly interest those of you who are tracking down Great-Grandpa.


Is this Great-Grandpa? (Photo has been altered from the original.)