Speaking of tanks

Look at this thing. It’s enormous — see the little people on top?

It’s a Russian Lebendenko. Here’s a great description of the tank and its development:


Here’s a website in Russian (I assume) that has a nice diagram of the tank:


The Angel (or angels) of Mons

In the fall of 1914, in the wake of the Battle of Mons, people began to report having seen an angel or many angels on the battlefield, protecting the gallant British from the evil Huns. Well, they didn’t say THEY had seen it (or them). They said they knew someone who said he knew someone who had seen a Heavenly Presence.

The Western Front Association describes it this way:


“The rumour typically claimed that an avenging Angel, clothed all in white, mounted on the classical white horse, and brandishing a flaming sword, had appeared in a parting of the clouds at the worst moments of the night battle. The Angel had rallied the troops and enabled them to crush the enemy and halt their advance. This apparition was soon called ‘The Angel of Mons’ though by whom remains obscure.”

On his website AftermathWWI.com, Mike Roden writes, however:

The legend is often explained as the result of hallucinations by soldiers who had not slept for days. The truth of the matter is that the legend seems to be entirely based on a short story written by Arthur Machen and published in the London Evening Standard at the end of September 1914.

“The story itself which you can read in full here doesn’t amount to much. Machen, who was noted for his occult stories, came up with the idea that one of the beleaguered soldiers summons St.George, who brings the bowmen of Agincourt back to destroy thousands of Germans with their invisible arrows. There’s no mention of angels anywhere in the tale.”

But the angel angle got into the story soon enough and became so firmly entrenched that when Sophy Burnham wrote her best-selling “A Book of Angels” in 1990, she recounted (I don’t know what her source was) that British soldiers told nurses they had seen St. George — in this instance, maybe he counts as an angel — and the French said they had seen the Archangel Michael. Apparently, no one asked the Germans.

More stories of the Angel of Mons here:


Here’s a recording you can’t miss:



A Baylor University study released in September 2008 found that 55% of Americans said they not only believed in angels, but they had been protected by a guardian angel at sometime in their lives.

John Ortberg, senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, spoke to ABC News about the study. “There is a real and huge part of the human condition that we want to know that the spiritual is real, that there is a divine presence in our lives,” he said, “and talking about angels is a very important expression of that hunger.”





“The war is lost!”

On this date in 1916, the Kingdom of Romania declared war on Germany and Austria. Its troops had already been mobilized. They crossed the border and began a headlong advance into Transylvania.

Kaiser Wilhelm panicked: “The war is lost!”

Then the Central Powers counterattacked — any Allied hope failed that the Germans might have been otherwise engaged in the Battle of the Somme while the Austro-Hungarians had their hands full with the Russians with the Brusilov Offensive.

Despite many setbacks, including the fall of Bucharest to the Germans in December, the Romanians fought on. In the spring of 1917, the Romanian Army had grown to 400,000 men, plus its air force.

But its great ally, Russia, became less and less effective as the country deteriorated. When the Revolution began. Romania was left isolated and surrounded. It signed an armistice with the Central Powers on Dec. 7, 1917.

Here’s news footage of the Romanian army versus the Austro-Hungarians.


Feet to Remember

Caroline Copland of London had a dream: She was walking from the  Passchendaele battlefield to Canary Wharf, one of London’s two financial districts — the Wall Street of London, perhaps.

After she woke up, she decided to make the 125-mile journey on foot in reverse: London to Ypres, from the Cenotaph to the Menin Gate.

Her walk is a fund-raiser for Combat Stress. According to its website, “Combat Stress is the leading UK charity specialising in the care of Veterans’ mental health. We are currently supporting just over 5,000 ex-Service men and women.”

The organization began in 1919 as the Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Society to rehabilitate veterans with shell shock.

Caroline expects to be in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, on Thursday in time for the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. She’s blogging — shin splints! — and collecting donations at http://www.justgiving.com/feettoremember

Fun fact: In 1927, the Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Society, to provide work for the men under its care, developed and manufactured one of the first electric blankets to be sold in the UK.

Here’s more about shell shock, which we now know as PTSD:







A tank here and there

George Sipple, blogging as Great War Fiction, has an interesting post about newly re-released films of London, made in 1924, that include views of the World War I tank that was displayed outside the British Museum.


Apparently, it was a tourist attraction — just the size of it would have intrigued me. The only WWI tank I’ve ever seen is Deborah, which is about the size of my Taurus. Deborah, or D51, was hit by German artillery at Flesquieres during the Battle of Cambrai on Nov. 20, 1917. The tank reportedly was dragged into a convenient shell hole and buried. It was found more or less intact in November 1998.

Blogger That Scouse Bastard has an interesting post about his visit to Flesquieres and the Cambrai area. He has great pictures of Deborah and more, including the Tank Corps Memorial at Pozieres.


Here’s Deborah’s official site, with details about the tank, the battle and how Deborah was recovered.



Tanks parade in London after the war. National Library of Scotland.

War dog of the day — updated

WW1HA member John Snow writes, “Just for the record, this attentive pooch is sitting on the barrel of a British 6 inch 26 cwt howitzer, model 1915. This model was mainstay of British medium artillery during the Great War, reportedly firing over 22 million rounds on the Western Front between deployment in late 1915 and the end of the war. Its one downside was its weight. Moving this gun required a large team of horses, a steam traction engine, or a heavy truck. With modifications to the carriage, it remained on active service as the standard British medium howitzer until 1945.”

An Aussie and his memoir

Capt. R. Hugh Knyvett an intelligence officer with the 15th Australian infantry, wrote a memoir, or so  it was called, published in 1918 that is stunning for its good humor and sunny outlook.  He takes the strangest positive view of Gallipoli, that successful diversion for the navy (who dropped the ball) that was only ended by the weather and established the Aussie as a force to be reckoned with. He was writing to encourage the Americans coming into combat. Most Americans knew nothing of Gallipoli then — and most of them don’t know much about it now, except that Mel Gibson was in the movie.

Knyvett had a sharp eye for detail, especially whimsical detail. His accounts of his experiences in a London hospital are so entertaining, it’s hard to remember that he was badly wounded.

He greatly disliked his service in Egypt. If you’re sensitive to racist language, you will find these chapters hard going. Then he writes something like this:

“There were gorgeous sunsets—poetry there, but more poetry still in the wonderful mirages. Why, here, hung above the earth, were scenes from every age: Cleopatra’s galleys, Alexander’s legions, the pomp of the Mamelukes, Ptolemy and Pompey, Napoleon and Gordon—their times and deeds were all pictured here. Perhaps the spirit world has its ‘movies,’ and only here in the desert mirage is the ‘screen’ of stuff that can be seen with mortal eyes.”

Here he is at Gallipoli,

“Never did men live under worse conditions than in those eight months of hell, yet never was an army so cheerful. ‘Bill-Jim,’ which is Australia’s name for her soldier-boy, always makes the best of things, and soon made himself at home on that inhospitable shore.

“The first thing he decided needed alteration was his uniform. Breeches and puttees were not only too hot but they closed in the leg and afforded cover to the lively little fellow who lives indiscriminately on the soldiers of both sides. As each soldier began to trim his uniform to his own idea of comfort, it was soon, in very reality, a ‘ragtime’ army. Some felt that puttees were a nuisance—everybody realized that the breeches were too long, but differed on the point as to how much too long. Some would clip off six inches from the end, others a foot, and others would have been as well covered without the article at all. Almost everybody decided that a tunic was useless, but some extremists threw away shirt and singlet as well. A Turkish army order was captured which stated that the Australians were running short of supplies, as they made one pair of trousers do for three men.

“Evidently Johnny Turk could not understand the Australian disregard for conventionality and his taking to nakedness when it meant comfort and there were no women within hundreds of miles to make him conscious of indecency. Clothes that couldn’t be washed wouldn’t keep one’s body clean and became the home of an army that had no interest in the fight for democracy. The Australian showed his practical common sense in discarding as much as possible—but, say, those boys would have caused some amusement if drawn up for review!”

Actually, I have read elsewhere about an abandoned house in France that was looted because Australian soldiers had discarded their lousy, unwashable underwear and marched away in lacy, but clean ladies’ drawers.

Here’s the link to a free copy of Knyvett’s book, “‘Over There’ with the Australians:


And here’s a review of of the book by blogger Lisa Hill of ANZ LitLovers LitBlog, who has read more of it than I have:


You’ll want to know that he also writes about Nipper, the shepherd’s dog who went to war. He doesn’t say what kind of dog Nipper was, so I am arbitrarily assigning him a breed. Thus, here you are, from the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian kelpie.







The crushin’ Prussians

Royal Prussian Infantry Regiment Nr 81 Re-enactement Group, our Facebook friends,  have a post describing the little Duchy of  Württemberg, which they say outdid Prussia in its Germanness. Interesting reading.

Here’s the post:


It reminds me of the classic WWI song:

(Carey Morgan / Charles McCarron,   1918)

I dreamed of a scene in an old soldier's home, 
The year was nineteen fifty three. 
With medals galore that he'd won in this war, 
He sat smoking peacefully. 
Tell me of the war of nineteen seventeen, 
Said his grandson who stood by his side. 
How did they fix up that terrible mix up?
And proudly the old man replied:

My dream quickly changed to a schoolroom that day, 
The lesson was geography. 
A child raised her hand, said, "I don't understand, 
This map looks all wrong to me. 
What is this strange place that is marked Germany?" 
And the teacher replied with a roar. 
"Why, that's an old map, dear since we had that scrap, dear, 
There ain't no such place anymore.

The Russsians were rushin' the Prussians, 
The Prussians were crushin' the Russians. 
The Balkins were balkin' and Turkey was squawkin' 
Rasputin disputtin' and Italy scootin'
The Boches all bulled Bolshevikis 
The British were skittish at sea. 
But the good Lord I'm thankin' 
The Yanks started yankin', 
And yanked Kaiser Bill up a tree.

The Russsians were rushin' the Prussians, 
The Prussians were crushin' the Russians. 
The good old Italians were hurling batallions 
Canadians raidin' and Frenchmen invadin'
The Bulgars were bulgin' the Belgians 
But Yanks started yankin' you see. 
And when Peace was conceded, 
Some new maps were needed, 
They ruined the geography.

Click here to have it sung to you