Graphic novel announcement

I think graphic novels can have an intensity fiction sometimes lacks. There’s nothing poetic about “To End All Wars.” I would love to hear from anyone who gets the chance to read it.

To End All Wars

titile

There’s just over a month to go until TO END ALL WARS hits your bookshops and letter boxes. After eighteen months of fairly non-stop work we now turn our attention to the promotion of the book. Our most recent feature appears in Nottingham based magazine Left Lion – a free online and print publication focusing on the Nottingham arts and culture scene.

left lion

Our thanks to Robin Lewis for putting the piece together, which you can read at the link below. 

http://www.leftlion.co.uk/articles.cfm/title/leftlion-magazine–59/id/6715

Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking part in various launches, talks and exhibitions, the first of which takes place on the 30th of July at the Five Leaves bookshop in Nottingham. TEAW contributors Brick, Pippa Hennessey, Ian Douglas and Kate Houghton are all local to the city, so contact the shop for more information as it’s sure to be an interesting evening.

http://fiveleavesbookshop.co.uk/

We’ll update the…

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WW1 Book Review: The Great War 100

Add to the nightstand — my nightstand is getting a little wobbly under all the books waiting for me!

WW1 Centenary

The Great War 100: The First World War In Infographics by Scott Addington (History Press 2014, ISBN 9780752486390, hardbound, £25.00)

Scott Addington is a very active Twitter user and has produced a number of good WW1 and WW2 digital books. This new publication takes his work to a whole new level. He presents the conflict that was the Great War in a very fresh but appealing way by using infographics to retell the story. What are infographics? These are akin to slide images with text which using clever illustration they help explain a point, fact or part of the history of the war. This is a novel approach to WW1 history but all part of Addington’s ‘history for the ordinary person’ approach, which is to be applauded.

This is a really handsome and well produced book with facts on subjects like battles, medals, and weapons, as well as the human cost…

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Somewhere In France, 6/9/1918

Here are letters I can read.

Soldiers' Mail

Somewhere in France

June 9, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We have changed our location since I wrote you last. As I told you in my last letter we didn’t expect to stay where we were very long. We were there just a week. We didn’t do anything but loaf around there. When we came there the camp was crowded with the soldiers that came across with the same convoy that we did. After the camp itself was filled they put the new arrivals out in the nearby fields. We were about the last to leave of the men that came over with us. But as we came away there were other ships in the harbor unloading men. Men are coming over as fast as they can be taken care of, and faster than I had any idea of.

It is a little over a week ago that we packed…

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Krigsbreve

I wish I could read them, don’t you?

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Header Krigsbreve

The digital collection Krigsbreve [War Letters] presents some 450 letters written by the Danish soldier Georg Christian Knudsen between 1913 and 1918, mainly addressed to his fiancée Marie Hübschmann. and her mother. The website is maintained by his grandchildren Hanne Winther Knudsen and Werner Knudsen. During the First World War [Danish: Første Verdenskrig]  Danmark belonged to the neutral countries. However, Knudsen served in the Germany. He had been born in 1886 to the south of the Danish border at that time. The website gives transcriptions of each letter; the letters were published in their original sequence. A few photographs illustrate this letter collection.The website and the letters are in Danish.

Krigsbreve

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DNB – 100 Jahre Erster Weltkrieg

Note the links as well!

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Header DNB Erster Weltkrieg

The virtual exhibition DNB – 100 Jahre Erster Weltkrieg [100 years First World War] has been created by the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig, nowadays part of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. In 1914 the Deutsche Bücherei started collecting items for a Weltkriegssamlung. The virtual exhibition has been created for the centenary of the First World War. A selection of items from a wide variety of resources has been catalogued anew and partially digitized.  By clicking on the menu you can choose item concerning a number of themes, such as Krieg sammeln (collecting the war), Krieg Ausstellen (showing the war), Medienwelt (the world of the media, with a wide variety in formats), Kriegsalltag (daily life during the war), propaganda and persons. You can also select some thirty  themes from an alphabetical overview (A-Z). The Zeitstrahl (“time ray”) allows you to search on a time-table for events during a particular…

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Planning the best battle pilgrimage, Part 2

If time is more precious than money, consider hiring a guide. The going rate is generally $400-$600 per day. If that is not in the budget, they can often provide initial guidance and suggestions. In many cases, the experts are Europeans with good command of English and the advantage of living close to the battlefields. A partial list of tour guides and authors includes Markus Klauer of Germany (www.weltkriegsbuch.de/pages/index2.htm); Michael Prisille of Germany (www.verdun14-18.de/en/); Wim Degrande of Belgium (wim.degrande@skynet.be); and Englishwoman Christina Holstein (Christina.holstein@hotmail.com). Americans, too, have developed very specific expertise. For example, Rob Laplander has researched the Lost Battalion extensively, and Steven Skinner has researched the life of aviator Frank Luke.

The benefit of experts is best illustrated in this example: A friend knew that his great-uncle served in the (Imperial German) Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 87, and that he was buried in France. He wanted to retrace his great-uncle’s footsteps; but he had no knowledge of traveling in France. So he turned to the author for assistance.

My first research step was to obtain a copy of the German regimental history — all 400+ pages — from a German friend. This was followed by a search of the German War Graves Association database (www.volksbund.de) that identified the cemetery, burial plot, and the date of death. Cross-referencing this date with the regimental history narrative yielded the front line held in June 1918. A browse through the regimental history and a reading of Alistar Horne’s “The Price of Glory” also revealed that IR87 played a key role in the initial assault on Verdun.

Vacation time and budgets were worked out, and it was determined that three days would be available to retrace the great-uncle’s steps. This meant a very narrowly focused trip. It was decided to visit the cemetery grave and the area of line held at the time of his death in June 1918 on one day, and to follow the regiment’s advance in the Verdun sector for two days. IGN Series Blue (1, 25,000) maps were purchased for both regions.

This was an extremely successful trip, where years of experience, determination and luck all came together. The experience was in the form of understanding and appreciating the information in the German regimental history — especially the detailed maps. The determination was in the form of driving down a narrow, dirt farm lane in a rental car to get to the German front line position and walking through about 30 yards of crops to enter a wooded ravine where there had once been a headquarters. The luck was in the form of finding the wooded area largely undisturbed, complete with shell holes and a few unexploded shells that the farmer had removed from the field. Similarly, the combination of IGN maps for Verdun and the regimental history’s maps made it easy to follow the great-uncle’s advance.

The battlefields of World War I are still there to be explored. The Internet and the information age continue to make it easier; but it takes effort and determination on several levels to make a truly rewarding trip. Bon voyage!

About the author: Randal S. Gaulke is an armchair historian and battlefield tourist. Since 1994 he has been focusing on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive; with an emphasis on the German side of the battle. He enjoys sharing his interest with others, and he can be reached at lavarennes@meuse-argonne.com.

 

Blogger’s note: Speaking of luck … on one trip, bad luck led to the bus coming to a dead end on a dirt track out in the middle of the French nowhere. Good luck led a herd of cattle to misinterpret the arrival of the bus as a food delivery and come charging across a field toward us. The frustration of the dead end is barely recalled, but the charge of the cows will never be forgotten.

Steve cow stampede

 

Planning the best battlefield pilgrimage ever… (hopefully)

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By Randal S. Gaulke

Organizations throughout Europe are busily preparing for the Centennial Commemorations of World War 1. The famous Ossuaire de Douaumont, outside of Verdun, and other memorials are being cleaned; signage and brochures are being refreshed; and reenactments and commemoration ceremonies are being planned. This is a perfect time for Americans considering a visit to the battlefields or a pilgrimage to their ancestor’s war to plan a trip. While it might seem a daunting task initially, the reader might just find that it is the journey, and not the destination, that brings the most pleasure.

Planning a battlefield tour requires several skill sets including knowledge of the sites and events that the reader wants to explore; some knowledge of the language and culture, and some knowledge of the local area. With the help of the Internet and translation tools it has never been easier to piece together the details needed to plan a meaningful trip “Over There.”

Before looking at each skill set, the planner should understand the limiting factors: What is the tolerance of one’s travelling companions? How much time can realistically be planned? What are the priority sites to be visited? Answering these questions can reduce the stress that inevitably arises when it takes longer to find the town, trench line, cemetery, etc. – or when one heads 100 kilometers in the wrong direction.

What is the purpose of the trip? Is it to survey the major battlefields of the war, visit a specific battle in depth, or retrace an ancestor’s wartime experience? There are scores of books and websites available on the war, covering the full range of topics. The trick is finding the resources that are most helpful. The best overall book for visiting American battlefields is “American Armies and Battlefields in Europe,” first published in 1938 and re-published in 1992. Its suggested one- and two-day tours are just as valid today as when they were first published. If more detail is needed, select a book or two on a specific battle, a regimental or divisional history, and a good biography or two.

The Internet can help guide planners; and don’t forget the used book sites www.abebooks.com and www.choosebooks.com. Scanning bibliographies and link pages can also alert the planner to other relevant materials.

It is highly recommended that the planner should gain at least some basic language skills and some understanding of the culture. Taking a French-for-Travelers course or an introductory-level Berlitz course will ease the frustration level of trying to communicate. Understanding foreign culture is equally important. The author takes a quick read through Polly Platt’s (somewhat dated) “Savoir Flair! 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French” before every trip. Rick Steves’ publications and videos also offer solid advice for the independent traveler.

Planning the itinerary comes next, and again the Internet can be a great starting point for finding lodging, exploring sites to visit, etc. Google Maps helps one plan routes and appreciate distances between sites. For driving, the Michelin Orange Series 500 (1, 200,000) maps are recommended. Traveling from Paris to the Meuse-Argonne and Verdun requires map numbers 514 (Ile-de-France), 515 (Champagne-Ardenne) and 516 (Alsace, Lorraine.) The maps can be ordered easily online, or they can be purchased at the many oasis (Aires) on France’s Autoroutes. For battlefield exploring, the IGN Blue Series (1, 25,000) maps the most useful — after one has learned how to read them. They can be ordered on line (www.ign.fr), or they can be purchased at the Maison de la Press in larger French towns.

The most important tip: Bolster the research by taking advantage of the many experts. Who are these experts? They are authors, armchair historians, tour guides, battlefield enthusiasts, etc. Where can they be found? The Internet is the best place to look. Two associations that come to mind are the U.S.-based World War One Historical Association (www.www1ha.org) and the U.K.-based Western Front Association (www.westernfrontassociation.com). Both of these organizations have websites, publications, local branches and knowledgeable members experienced in visiting battlefields. Many French towns and Departments (i.e. states) have tourism websites, too, including the Department of the Meuse (www.meusetourism.com/en). Finally, many individual enthusiasts or associations have knowledge on very specific areas, and they are often glad to share that interest with others.

Tower of the Ossuaire at Verdun by jameswberkThis is the tower of the Ossuaire de Douaumont, where bones found on the battlefield around Verdun were gathered and laid to rest. Nearly 300.000 French and German soldiers went missing during the 10-month battle.