Anzac Day 2013

As I write this, Anzac Day is over in Australia and New Zealand, but here in the U.S. the commemoration continues — where World War I is remembered at all.

The amnesia of the American people is a subject for another day.

Here are links from Anzac Day remembrance all over the world.

And — hankies at the ready:

Book news from the New York Times

New Novels on the Way From ‘Schindler’s List’ Author


Thomas Keneally, the best-selling author of “Schindler’s List,” will be releasing a new book with a new publisher this summer, Atria Books announced Tuesday.

Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, said it had acquired United States rights to two new novels from Mr. Keneally, who has already published 25. The first, “The Daughter of Mars,” is drawn from actual diaries and is about two sisters from Australia, both nurses, whose lives are transformed by World War I. It is scheduled to come out this August.

The second book will be a novel involving the stories of prisoners of war during World War II, the publisher said.

Over there, over there

The WW1HA is going to the battlefields again in May.

Come with me.

The tour will begin May 25 in Brussels and go to the fortress city of Liege, where brave little Belgium’s army held up the German advance for 12 days at the beginning of the war.

The group will move on to the Vosges Mountains in Alsace, to visit the Le Linge battlefield and museum, full of artifacts. More than 2 miles of trenches and fortifications are still in place. On to Hartmannswillerkopf and its incredible views — at nearly 1,000 meters above sea level — and memorials. The American Ambulance Services worked here.

Then to Verdun, the St. Mihiel Salient, Belleau Wood, Le Hamel — where American troops fought alongside Australians on July 4, 1918 — and a full day of exploring around Ypres, concluding with the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

To walk where they walked, to stand on the ground they fought so hard for is incredibly humbling.

To raise a glass to them while chomping frites — the best fries/chips you will ever eat — with the possibility of chocolate croissants for breakfast is incredibly fun.

Come on. I’ll meet you in Brussels and buy you a beer.


An Aussie family remembers — 2nd try

I’ve tried twice to put up this post about an Australian family’s blog about the father/grandfather who served in Europe and the Middle East. I give up — here’s the link:
Don’ t miss this, especially those of you interested in the Battle of Fromelles.

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.







A real-life Joey and Albert duo

The Brisbane Times has an interesting story today — I think it’s now yesterday in Australia — about a man and his horse who went to Gallipoli together. Only one came home:

“Shot by snipers at Gallipoli in May 1915, Major-General Sir William Bridges was bleeding to death in a hospital ship when he reportedly asked that his beloved horse Sandy be sent back to Australia.”

Sandy was returned to Australia in 1918 — the only one to come home of the 6,100 horses sent to Gallipoli.


When Hell froze over

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

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:


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.


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

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?


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.”

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:

You’ll get a bang out of this news!

Fellow blogger Buried Words and Bushwa passes along a report of an unexploded WWI bomb being found in an Australian museum. The article doesn’t say how big the bomb was, but did identify it as German.