The Plugstreet Archaeological Project is carrying out archaeological excavations of the World War I battlefield near Ploegsteert in Belgium. This is their blog.
One of several recently released photographs from the Third Battle of Ypres (or Passchendaele) in 1917 : Hell on Earth: The never before seen colour photographs of the bloody battle of Passchendaele (Victoria Moore, The Daily Mail, July 12). (h/t Mark Thoma)
Moore's story doesn't provide much information on the source of the pictures, or the circumstances of their publication. They appear to come from a book that may be the source: Passchendaele 1917: The Story Of The Fallen, by Frank Bostyn and Jan Van Der Fraeden is published by Pen & Sword at £25. To order a copy for £22.50 (p& p free), call 0870 161 0870.
James Reeve writes (see comments):
Sorry, but those photos are fakes - cut/paste and hand-tinted. The one of the German gunners is a composite of 2 well-known pics. A method of making coloured photos was used in WW1. It was called Autochrome, but was used by the French and in the Middle East by 2 Australians.
Mr. Reeve has also provided a link to one of the photos used to create the composite: Veteran Returns to Flanders & "Colour Photos":
In retrospect, there are a number of things that should have caused me to be more careful with this photo: (a) the arrangement of the elements in the photo is just too well composed to have been taken by someone, in no man's land, wearing a gas mask, and under fire. The shell burst in the background is just too perfectly placed. Not impossible maybe, but unlikely. (b) The machine gunners should be up to their waists, or above, in muddy water but don't look disturbed by that at all. (c) They don't look like they have much ammunition. Or any supporting infrastructure or company of any kind. It's unclear why they aren't in any sort of prepared defensive position, although there might be a reason for this. (d) It was associated with other photos of Allied soldiers who were not immediately under fire. The very different subject matter should have raised questions about why all these photos were recently discovered together.
I appreciate Mr. Reeve's comment, and I apologize for posting this, and not being more skeptical.
This is a powerful photo and I'll look forward to learning more about it from the book. It raises some questions. It looks like an action shot. What possessed the photographer to rise up two or three feet above ground to take the picture? Where did he get the presence of mind - under fire - to compose the photo as well as he did? Especially if he was wearing his gas mask?
Text in red was added on July 29, after receiving the comment from James Reeve.
"Lexington Green," over at Chicago Boyz asks, "So, How Would You Teach a Course on World War I?" (June 1, 2006) and then describes a twelve week program of of topics and related readings. The audience will be "moderately smart" undergraduates, who are "not very knowledgeable about history." This is a wonderful post on this topic.
A number of thoughts spring to mind, especially Lord Acton's timeless dictum, "study problems, not periods". So, World War I should be taught as a tangle of problems within a framework of known facts (names, dates, locations and events, which WILL be on the test)...
... the theme of the class: This is where it all went wrong. ["You cannot understand the modern world without understanding something about WWI." - this quote is out of sequence, but I think it goes to his theme - Ben]
He'll spend one class on the collapse of "globalization I":
In September 1917, my grandfather, a rifleman in the 11th Battalion of the King's Royal Rifles (KRR), went over the top in the Third Battle of Ypres.
On September 20th, the British were attacking German lines east of the Belgian town of Ypres. A history of the KRR describes the attack by the 11th as follows:
Eagle Trench, 20th September. The 10th and 11th Battalions took part in an attack north-east of Langemarck. The first objective was taken and held; fighting was severe and somewhat confused. Casualties were heavy, and though further progress was made in places, at dusk most of the small parties left out withdrew. Losses of the two battalions. - Officers: killed 10, wounded 6; other ranks 351.
I've added parts of this description as section headings for Muse's account.
The Battle of Jutland, between the British and the Germans in June 1916, was punctuated by exploding British battle cruisers. Three of them blew up and disappeared, suddenly. In each case almost the entire crew, in each case over 1,000 men, were lost.
The Indefatigable, last in a line of battle cruisers, was first to blow up. Robert Massie tells what happened:
"In New Zealand just ahead, the navigating officer looked back at Indefatigable.
The British ships blew up because crews had modified safety devices meant to keep fire from hits on turrets from exploding the powder magazines. Devices that might have protected the magazines had been removed to allow ships to fire faster and win gunnery competitions. Massie explains:
"...There is no evidence that Indefatigable, Queen Mary, and Invincible blew up because German 11-inch or 12-inch shells penetrated their armored hulls and burst inside their magazines. Rather, the almost certain cause of these cataclysmic explosions was that the turret systems of British battle cruisers lacked adequate flashtight arrangements and that, in each of these ships, a shell bursting inside the upper turret had ignited powder waiting to be loaded into the guns, sending a bolt of flame flashing unimpeded down the sixty-foot hoist into the powder magazines. Assuming this to be true, blame lay not with the design of British ships but with the deliberate decision by captains and gunnery officers to discard the flashproof scuttles originally built into British dreadnaughts. The Royal Navy made a cult of gunnery. To win peacetime gunnery competitions, gun crews were encouraged to fire as rapidly as possible. Quick loading and firing required a constant supply of ammunition at the breech of the gun, and thus a continuous flow of powder bags moving out of the magazines and up the hoists to the guns. Safety became secondary; gunnery officers began leaving magazine doors and scuttles open to facilitate movement; eventually, in some ships, these cumbersome barriers were removed. But for this weakness none of the three battle cruisers might have been lost."
Source: Robert K. Massie. Castles of Steel. Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea. Random House. 2003. The destruction of Indefatigable is described on page 593. The importance of gunnery competition and the modifications made to the turret structures is described on page 667.
We were altering course to port at the time and it seemed as if her steering was damaged as she did not follow around in our wake but held on until she was about five hundred yards on our starboard quarter. While we were still looking at her, she was hit again by two shells, one on the forecastle and one on the fore turret. Both shells appeared to explode on impact. There was an interval of about thirty seconds and then the ship completely blew up. The main explosion started with sheets of flame, followed immediately by a dense dark smoke cloud which obscured the ship from view. All sorts of stuff was blown into the air, a fifty foot packet boat being blown up about two hundred feet, apparently intact though upside down.
Stricken, with smoke pouring from her shattered hull, Indefatigable rolled slowly onto her side, all the while driving through the water. Then the huge vessel turned completely over and plunged, taking with her 1,017 officers and men. Only two seamen survived..."
Carlos Lozada summarizes a research paper by Hugh Rockoff: "The Economics of World War I". (Lozada is a journalist contributing to an National Bureau of Economic Research digest of its sponsored research - Lozada's summary has a link to the original paper).
Lozada summarizes Rockoff's analysis of the macroeconomic and financial impacts of the war. I'll just quote two paragraphs on the impact of the war on post-war ideas about economic planning.
The actual planning effort during the war was relatively limited:
"As part of the war effort, the U.S. government also attempted to guide economic activity via centralized price and production controls administered by the War Industries Board, the Food Administration, and the Fuel Administration. Rockoff judges that the overall impact of these programs on reallocating resources was "rather small." Timing played a role, since some of the agencies were only established once the United States entered the war, and they took time to begin fulfilling their roles. Also, management problems emerged. For example, the War Industries Board attempted to create a "priorities system" for determining the order in which producers would fill government contracts for industrial goods. Unfortunately, all policymakers gave their order the highest rating ("A"). Leaders then created several higher priority ratings (such as "A1"), with much the same result. "Replacing price signals with priorities is not as simple as it sounds," surmises Rockoff."
But many post-war thinkers looked to this effort as a model for future responses to crisis:
"In matters of economic ideology, Rockoff argues that, although the U.S. government took on such an active role in economic affairs during the war, this evolution did not ratchet up the government role in peacetime. Subsequent increases in federal spending resulted mainly from war-related matters (such as veterans' benefits), and the most of the wartime regulatory agencies soon disappeared due to the efforts of conservative politicians. Nevertheless, the successful wartime experience "increased the confidence on the left that central planning was the best way to meet a national crisis, certainly in wartime, and possibly in peacetime as well." This view became increasingly important after the Democrats reached power during the Great Depression. "Almost every government program undertaken in the 1930s reflected a World War I precedent," explains Rockoff, "and?many of the people brought in to manage New Deal agencies had learned their craft in World War I." The author concludes that the scope and speed of government expansion in the 1930s were likely greater because of the impact of the war on the world view of new economic and political leaders, who in turn inspired future generations of reformers. "For America, to sum up," writes Rockoff, "the most important long-run impact of the war may have been in the realm of ideas." "
On April 20 I posted excerpts from the diary of John Christian (Jack) Barber , a young Englishman ("When Good Vacations Go Bad").
In March and April 1914, Barber was traveling in Mexico. He spent March visiting his uncle, William Gleadell, and Gleadell's family, in Merida in the Yucatan. In April he traveled with them to their home in Jalapa, Vera Cruz.
Ninety years ago, on April 21, 1914, the Navy and Marines seized the Mexican port of Veracruz on President Wilson's orders.
John Christian Barber, a young (my guess is his early 20s) Englishman, was traveling through Mexico in the Spring of 1914, and was present in Veracruz during the attack.
Here is his first hand account from his unpublished diary (I've put this here as a pdf file since, at nine pages, it's long for a post).
This is not the subject of a course in the UAS Public Administration curriculum.
Joel at Far Outliers reviews a book on the German colonies in the South Pacific, and the impact of WWI, here: "The German Pacific 'Gutpela Taim Bipo' ". (The post is about The Neglected War: The German South Pacific and the Influence of World War I, by Hermann Joseph Hiery, U. Hawaii Press, 1995).
My understanding had always been that German colonial administration in Africa had been pretty cruel. But German administrators in the South Pacific tended to be drawn from a different social class, and had a different approach. Joel:
"...While Germany's African colonies were governed by aristocrats, often with the aid of sizable contingents of Schutztruppe (colonial troops), the farflung Pacific colonies were governed by administrators drawn from the middle class, with the aid of tiny police forces.
In New Guinea they replaced the "Perpetuum Bellum Melanesicum" with a Pax Germanica, which attracted more and more unpacified Melanesians. But they also generally let Melanesian villagers settle their own disputes in traditional ways, often by compensation for damages rather than by the trial and conviction of offenders before German courts..."
Revised May 7, 2005