Sixth Isonzo | Boselli | Bissolati | 17 Aug 1916

Romania

Negotiations for bringing Romania into the war have finally concluded, to the alleged satisfaction of all parties. I’m far from convinced. After a little subterfuge, everyone seems to think they’ve got either what they wanted or what they can easily renege on, and the papers have been officially signed. General Joffre’s somewhat exasperated verdict on the negotiations: “a web of Penelope”. In Greek myth she was the wife of Odysseus, and spent twenty years fending off the advances of other men while he was off doing his twenty years’ worth of mythical deeds.

The deeds done now will be, ahem, slightly less than mythical. At one point there was a hope that Romania could be attacking on or around the 1st of August. Now they’re looking at August 28th. General Sarrail at Salonika has been accordingly ordered to delay his pinning attack until the 20th. Gee, I sure do hope that no large-scale Bulgarian movement of troops is going to interfere with this plan! That would be an absolute tragedy, I tell you. Meanwhile, the Romanian government is drawing up a declaration of war, to be delivered to Austria-Hungary right as their army rolls over the border into Transylvania. More soon!

Sixth Isonzo

There had also been hopes that Sixth Isonzo could have been launched to coincide with the Romanian entry into the war, which really would have been a kick in the dick. Alas; after a week’s worth of fruitless uphill attacks across the Vallone Doberdo and east of Gorizia, General Cadorna calls a halt. But he’s in the best mood he’s been in since the start of the war. Two victories in the summer fighting, and he’s successfully deposed an energetic Prime Minister and installed an apparent non-entity instead. Of course he’s ordering a Seventh Isonzo, to begin as soon as possible to capitalise on the Romanian entry into the war.

As it turns out, “as soon as possible” will mean “in mid-September”. Which by lucky hap will also coincide with General Haig’s Flers-Courcelette offensive. I wonder who will have the most success? Or, should I say, the least failure? On which note, there’s just space to mention that the casualties for Sixth Isonzo are about equal; 51,000 Italian and 42,000 Austro-Hungarian.

Anyway. Cadorna’s position is not quite as rock-solid as he’d like to think. The new Prime Minister, Paolo Boselli, has formed a government of national unity. Bypassing the official minister of war, deputy Leonida Bissolati has been given a cabinet post without portfolio and responsibility for “relations with the military”. Bissolati is perhaps the closest thing Italy has to Winston Churchill; he argued to join the war, and then put his money where his mouth was, volunteering at age 58. He’s won two bravery medals, and is now back at his parliamentary duties.

For the last month or so he’s been touring the fronts to see what’s what. This has not gone down at all well with General Cadorna, of course, worried that his glorious victories might in fact be misinterpreted as bloody failures. Cadorna is now trying to get him banned from the front, but Bissolati has had plenty of time to travel around and find out who’s got the dirt. Chief among them is one Colonel Douhet, staff officer and aviation pioneer. Douhet has given him an uncompromising and highly accurate assessment of the commander-in-chief as a blithering idiot…

Central Railway

In German East Africa, General Smuts is trying to advance to Morogoro on the Central Railway, just over 100 miles west of the capital Dar-es-Salaam. It’s the same old story here, though. He greatly outnumbers the enemy, but they all rather rudely are refusing to just stand and fight, preferring instead to run a series of delaying operations as they retreat through the Nguru Mountains. Meanwhile, the Navy has landed a small detachment of men at Bagamoyo, just up the coast from Dar-es-Salaam.

Just pushing the enemy back, or capturing towns, isn’t going to do any good, though. What they need are encirclements and captures of large bodies of Schutztruppe. General van Deventer’s South African Horse is now back on the move, but Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck is now well south of him. Spoilers; van Deventer won’t be able to link up at Morogoro in nearly enough time to trap the enemy forces out to the east. All the attackers appear to have achieved is marching an awfully long way, looting a number of small towns en route, and losing more than half their strength to disease.

Edward Mousley

Speaking of which. Edward Mousley is trying hard to make the best of a bad job.

The mornings continue fine and sunny, but in the afternoons a sharp, shadowy wind springs up, and the evenings are quite cold. We are anxiously awaiting the parcels waylaid in Stamboul. The fever has largely gone, but muscular rheumatism has taken its place. No one hears from or is allowed to write to Yozgat or Kara Hissa.

The Turks here seem to have already settled on their plan of campaign, which is to make us get into debt at huge prices, which already are increasing. I am, however, assuming a sublime indifference to money matters. The financial anxiety of the trek was enough, and I have a long score to pay off against the Turk in this respect, so once in his debt he will have to facilitate our getting our money from home, or else receive cheques.

What a quaint town this is! All water is drawn from springs or wells. There are no lights of any kind, except, possibly, some faint glimmer burning from a police station. There are no trams or much vehicular traffic, donkeys being the chief transit. In the early morning one hears the ancient Biblical solid-wheeled oxen cart groaning on its turning axle beneath the weight of a huge tree trunk brought in for firewood. At night the distant tinkling of bells sometimes reaches one as the goats come back.

And, later still, over the sheets of darkness in deep, pulsing waves, like the voice of a dark and mysteriously moving spirit, floats the muezzin, which is taken up from mosque to mosque until the whole town echoes with the cry.

“Stamboul” is a common pre-1923 rendering of “Istanbul”, for the city which at the time was still officially Constantinople. Sometimes the name was used by English speakers to differentiate the historic walled city from the general metropolis.

Briggs Kilburn Adams

Briggs Kilburn Adams is now finishing up his insane summer job driving ambulances on the Voie Sacree. He’s been rotated off to another unit at Juilly. and I’d like to believe that the casualties he’s been evacuating included men who were shelled by Herbert Sulzbach’s guns. Things are much quieter here than they were at the Battle of Verdun.

The fellows in this squad are all very nice, and but one older than I, being in the thirties. The sergeant is an Englishman exempt from service for some physical trouble. He is a circus in himself. Every minute of the day he is saying or doing some ridiculously funny thing, and he has a very fine bass voice, by which ordinarily he earns his living. One evening we came upon a piano in one of the empty recitation rooms. One of the fellows sat down and began to play, and I happened to find a violin in good condition in the cupboard. The sergeant brought out some songs, and we spent a very enjoyable evening.

Juilly is within a couple of miles of the farthest advance by the Germans on Paris in September, 1914, and the place where actual fighting took place is within easy walking distance. We hired a car the other day and went for quite a long ride, to and through the region of the Battle of the Marne, and it was very interesting. Hundreds of graves are lying in every direction according as the men fell, the Germans mixed in among the French, the former being marked only by a black stick, while the latter are marked by a wooden cross and a wreath or two.

You would never believe one of the greatest battles of the world had been fought here; for everywhere rich crops of grain are growing, and nothing is prettier than the golden oats, among which are scattered red poppies and blue bachelor buttons, like kale in our oats at Hilltop Farms.

And this is the last we’ll hear from him for an entire year. He’ll soon be on a boat back to America and Harvard University; but this is far from the last he’ll have to do with the war.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Verdun
Brusilov Offensive
Siege of Medina
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Bitlis
Battle of the Isonzo (Sixth Isonzo)
Battle of Doiran (First Doiran)

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! Revised and expanded versions of 1914 and 1915 are now available!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. (If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide

Gorizia | Sixth Isonzo | 7 Aug 1916

Sixth Isonzo

Yesterday we had a rather odd concept to digest; there’s been a battle on the Isonzo and there is good news for the Italians. Here’s another odd concept; it’s day 2 of Sixth Isonzo, and things are still going well! The defenders of Gorizia don’t have enough of anything; not enough men, not enough artillery shells, not enough barbed wire, and not enough morale. The situation continues deteriorating through the afternoon, and the evening. The local commander, General Zeidler, has been both promoted and ennobled over the last year for his efforts leading the defence.

As the witching hour ticks round, he’s decided that the position is no longer tenable, and it’s time to leave before they’re forced. This will mean letting the Italians cross the upper Isonzo without much opposition; but with little artillery ammunition and not much more for the machine-guns, it’s not worth it. Behind Gorizia is a fresh line of mountains, and they’ve been excavating a second line anchored on three peaks: Monte Santo, San Gabriele, and San Marco. There’s more high ground behind. Holding Gorizia is great for propaganda purposes, but they can hold the mountains almost indefinitely.

Off to the south, the defenders have given up the summit of Mount San Michele, and they’re now trying to sidle off to the rear without being noticed. Now it’s irony time. Just as Zeidler is making his decision, General Cadorna is reminding us how much he’s learned from 1915 by drawing up an order reminding subordinates that they should be careful and their job is to establish bridgeheads over the Isonzo only. For a few hours, there’s going to be a chance to inflict some serious damage on the defenders as they retreat across miles of open ground to their new positions.

And, thanks to the Italian army quite correctly learning from 1915 and not trying to do anything rash, they’re going to entirely miss the opportunity. If you’re not biting massive grooves in your knuckles right now, you’re better than me. Irony!

Battle of the Somme

After another extended round of fruitless counter-attacks on Pozieres, the Germans are giving the hilltop up as a bad job. Try as they might, they just can’t stop themselves being forced backwards, losing position after position after position. The attention of the BEF now switches back to Guillemont, where they’re going to have another push, on almost exactly the same lines as last time, and likely doomed to exactly the same failure. It’s been arranged with at least one eye on the jolly that’s beginning today. King George V is at the front; so too is President Poincare and plenty of other members of both governments.

General Joffre has used this as a chance to drop in on General Haig, and he’s in rather a better mood than he was last month. From Haig’s diary:

Extremely pleased at everything we had done, and full of compliments. He was also greatly delighted at the remarks which I had made about him in my message to the French on the third anniversary of the war. “As long as [you] get on well with [me], there is nothing to be feared from the politicians”, he said. My message appeared in Le Matin of 2 August. [Joffre] brought me a box of 50 Croix de Guerre for me to distribute as I thought right…a sort of “peace offering” after the previous interview between us here! I managed to get together 10 officers who had rendered “good service under fire” and he presented the crosses himself.

The Croix de Guerre is the standard French military decoration for bravery; it looks rather like a Victoria Cross but should not be mistaken for having the same rank. Le Matin was a popular daily newspaper that fell into collaborationism in a later war and quietly disappeared after the liberation of Paris. Haig has also just been told by Wully Robertson that both his and Winston Churchill’s assessments of the battle have been presented to the War Committee, but that nobody’s listening to Churchill.

Edward Mousley

Edward Mousley and his fellow officer-prisoners are settling in, if that’s the right word, to life in captivity at Kastamonu.

Malaria returned. The ague was more severe this time. Quinine we have at last procured in small quantities at the rate of five piastres a cachet, which means that one’s malaria medicine bill will be fifteen shillings daily. A cold snap in the weather has sent several others here down with malaria. Kastamonu is said to have a cold winter, so we hope to get this fever quite out of our system. It is raining steadily, the first rain since arriving here. We have no books as yet, but it is to be hoped the Turks will allow them to come through later on.

I have finished the Bible, a complete reading now since Baghdad. What a vigorous teacher is St. Paul. No mundane considerations seemed to prevent his putting the true value on this transient existence, and from that probably sprang the facility with which he decided always for the Lord.

The men from Kut are now mostly working as labourers, on precious little food, all along the Baghdad to Berlin railway.

Oskar Teichman

Oskar Teichman spends most of the day trying not to think about his broken leg, waiting to be taken away. It seems that the German advisors have been teaching the Ottoman soldiery a thing or two about how to taunt Tommy Atkins.

There was still no sign of our being moved to railhead, and as some of us were suffering considerable pain, our wounds were re-dressed. At midday we were visited by several friends from our regiment who were on their way up to the front line. We heard that cholera had broken out amongst the Turks and that some cases had occurred amongst our troops. It appeared that after a stiff resistance the Turks had evacuated. They had left a note saying that Lieutenant [name removed], of the Australian Light Horse, was safe and a prisoner; that he had dined with the officers of one of their batteries the night before, and that he was a gentleman.

Another note said “How did you like the six ladies from Katia?” This referred to their heavy guns, which they had succeeded in removing.

By evening they’ve been loaded onto a train and despatched to Kantara for further evaluation; most are being sent on to hospital at Cairo and Port Said. Teichman won’t easily forget the train journey, though.

A trooper in a New Zealand regiment who lay next to me, and had been shot through the spine, kept up a pitiful wail until he was finally exhausted. He was just alive when eventually taken out, but could not have survived long. After we had been going for a time the noise of the train overcame the groans of the sufferers. On reaching Pelusium our engine broke down and the train waited for a considerable time; then the shrieks and groans of the wounded broke the stillness of the quiet night. But worse was to come: we had to be shunted in order to let a supply train pass through.

It seemed a cruel thing to shunt a train full of wounded in open trucks, but it had to be done. Every bump in our springless truck was extremely painful.

Yeah, that hurts just thinking about it.

Max Plowman

From physical to mental pain now with Max Plowman, who’s been summoned along with all the officers by the battalion’s commanding officer. He’s a new replacement; I’m trying to work out whether the former lieutenant-colonel was wounded or killed on the 1st of July.

Officers, many of whom I have not seen before, crowd into a small room, each one saluting as he comes before a grey-headed, red-faced man, wearing a Scottish uniform, who sits writing at a table. Standing by his side is another Scotsman, tall, raw-boned and of very sour expression. He is our medical officer. The faces of the two men offer a contrast in red and grey; but they both look unpleasant. Without preamble the colonel begins:

“The discipline in this battalion is damnable. Some of you officers don’t know your job at all. You think the men will respect you just because you wear a belt. They won’t, and I don’t blame them. You’ve got to command these men before they’ll respect you, and the sooner you make up your minds to it the better. I see officers talking to men as their equals. I won’t have that. If there isn’t an alteration at once I intend to make it devilish hot for you. I don’t know what you’ve learnt at home. I don’t know who sent you out here. Some of you fellows have only just come out.

Well, you may as well understand, this isn’t a picnic. If you don’t know your job and show a very different idea of discipline, I’ll have you sent back and reduced to the ranks. You think you’ve come to France to loaf about. You’ll find your mistake. There’s got to be a drastic alteration, or back you go. I’ll not allow the men to be under the command of inefficient officers. Just understand that. You can go.” We salute and file out.

This seems a strange introduction. What does he know about our efficiency? The majority of us have only been with the battalion a matter of days. Why should we be cursed by a man who has never set eyes on us? We are volunteers; most of us joined in ’14, and our prospects of dying for our grateful country are the brightest in the world. Is this the way the modern commander spurs his men on to victory? I am stung with resentment. Captain Rowley sees this and smiles indulgently. He declares it is all “eyewash,” prompted by the doctor who regards every man who was not in France before July as a skunk.

Yes, Colonel. Because it was officers having civil conversations with their men that caused the disasters of the 1st of July, Colonel. Please feel free to have a shell drop on your head at any moment, Colonel.

Oswald Boelcke

Oswald Boelcke has continued meeting with the great and the good in Bulgaria. He’s managed to inveigle himself worryingly close to the front for someone who’s supposed to be off flying duty.

I was with General von Mackensen, and sat next to him at the [meal] table. Mackensen talked with me for quite a while. He is serious-looking, but not nearly as stern as his pictures lead one to believe. Later, I went by train to Hudova, and reached aviation headquarters, where I was given a fine welcome in the barracks. The aviators all live in wooden shacks, in a dreary neighborhood. This is not an enviable place to be, especially since they have had nothing to do for months. I flew up and down the Greek front. Then I went back to Uskub, where I spent the night.

Let’s now continue exploring the Dicta Boelcke, his rules of air combat for German pilots. Rule number 2:

Always carry through an attack when you have started it.

It’s very important that Boelcke has noticed what’s happened when other people start an attack, then attempt to break it off. Our man’s seen plenty of comrades shot down this way; and a flyer who’s been shot down often can’t tell the story of why he got shot down. Breaking off after starting to attack is a terrible idea, since first you alert the enemy to your presence, and then you obligingly turn round and make yourself vulnerable to him as you run away. Much better to just keep attacking and hope to force your opponent (who, after all, is being attacked) to make a mistake.

Maximilian Mugge

Recently, Maximilian Mugge was complaining that every time he’d applied to the War Office to become an interpreter or translator, they’d responded by transferring him. Except this latest time, which until now has not drawn a response. But no longer.

If amongst those mates of mine who were sitting outside our tent last Saturday even a bomb had dropped, nobody could have been more surprised than we were. A sergeant came just before the First Post was sounded and gave me orders to report the next morning at the Orderly Room in order to proceed to England. Of course we were convinced that the Fairy-Godmother-Department at the War Office had yielded to my 2001st application.

Whilst the boys munched up the contents of my two large parcels which had only arrived that evening, I had to listen to congratulations without end. “Fifty pounds I’d give milad!” said one of my mates,”if I were in your shoes.”

Fifty pounds in 1916 would be more or less a year’s wages for a private soldier.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Verdun
Brusilov Offensive (Battle of Kowel)
Siege of Medina
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Bitlis
Battle of Romani
Battle of the Isonzo (Sixth Isonzo)

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! Revised and expanded versions of 1914 and 1915 are now available!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. (If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide

Sixth Isonzo | Bir el Abd | 6 Aug 1916

Battle of the Somme

It’s just about job done at Pozieres. All they need to do now is dig in. This morning the ANZACs finally rotated the 2nd Australian Division out, in favour of the 4th Australian Division. Lucky them. There’s no trenches as such up on the Windmill Hill, in the lee of the still-not-totally-dead windmill, just a line of conveniently-sited shell holes. Corporal Charles Smith is heading into the wasteland.

Ghastly sights were witnessed on that journey through the sap. Scores of bodies had been partially buried in the soft earth, and bloody hands and feet protruded at frequent intervals. Boxes of rations and ammunition were scattered about, telling plainer than words that the fatigue parties had come under violent artillery fire and had been annihilated. … Dead were scattered everywhere. Broken trenches, twisted barbed wire, mutilated rations and military equipment, stretchers with their once human contents, and bearers now cold and stiff, all gave mute evidence of the recent carnage.

And they thought ANZAC Cove was bad. There’s slightly less dysentery around here, that’s true, but it’s not much of a consolation.

Sixth Battle of the Isonzo

Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh. Yes, we’ve had a spring and most of a summer’s holiday from the slaughters on the Isonzo. But all good things must come to an end, I suppose. And at least General Cadorna has learned his lesson, after having had it taught to him five times. This is a strictly limited attack. New artillery doctrine has been laid down. Italian industry has been manufacturing vast quantities of guns; more have been bought in from France, and plenty of trench mortars to go with them. On the other side of the hill, what little new artillery has been manufactured is mostly going to the Eastern Front, and then being lost again.

The length of the preliminary bombardments have also been significantly curtailed. Most of the attacks are going ahead after only 12 hours of bombardment. In 1915 this would surely have been a death sentence. But the Italian gunners have learned a thing or two about clearing barbed wire after a year and a bit of war. And so, believe it or not, what we’ve got here on the first day of Sixth Isonzo is a considerable success. The critical northern stronghold at Mount Sabotino, north of Gorizia, falls in just 38 minutes.

A few isolated platoons and companies try to hold out inside deep dugouts. The Italians have no time for this bullshit, so they pour petrol down the stairs and then set the caverns on fire. As they do so, the entire Austro-Hungarian line is finally wobbling. By nightfall, the whole of the Podgora hill just to the west of Gorizia is under Italian control. Away to the south, there are men poised to push up and over the whole of Mount San Michele, and more occupying San Martino village to the south.

After nightfall there are counter-attacks, but not only is there hardly any general reserve left, it’s stationed four days’ march behind the front. Local reserve formations are barely worth mentioning. The Isonzo front has been heavily milked over the last few months, first for men for the Battle of Asiago, and then for men to oppose the Brusilov Offensive. In some positions they’ve even run out of artillery shells. Put all this together, and there might just be a chance for the Italians to make something big happen here. More tomorrow.

Battle of Romani

The Ottomans have completed a successful withdrawal to Bir el Abd, although they’ve taken plenty of casualties and their morale is now suffering badly. General Chauvel, commanding the Australian/New Zealand mounted division, is proposing a frankly hair-raising scheme to send his mounted troops on long rides to attack the Ottomans from three sides at once. We’ve seen schemes like this badly backfire on more than one occasion, and it’s going to be an all-or-nothing gamble. It’s either going to break the enemy for good, or else give them fresh heart to carry on.

Meanwhile, Oskar Teichman and his broken leg are waiting patiently to be taken to the rear, but he’s not going to die of it any time soon.

We were well looked after, our wounds were dressed, and we were supplied with excellent rations. On asking when we should be removed to the railhead, we were told that the line was so congested with Turkish prisoners that it would be impossible to evacuate us at once.

During the morning a Major from the Canterbury Regiment was brought into our tent, and he told us that the mounted troops and infantry had cleared Katia, and that the Turks were putting up another rear-guard action at Oghratina. He had met some of our infantry in a fearful state through lack of water, with blackened lips and swollen tongues. After all, we mounted troops did not know what it was to march through heavy sand. In the afternoon there appeared to be still no chance of moving the wounded, and the various Field Ambulances became very full.

I have to say, even the most optimistic of soldiers usually get a bit miserable after they get shot. This is by far the stiffest upper lip I’ve seen. Even the Sunny Subaltern got a bit unhappy about being unable to liberate the Ypres salient on account of his wounds.

Robert Pelissier

Sergeant Robert Pelissier is still at rest, close enough behind the Somme front to hear the guns firing on Pozieres. However, he’s got enough free time to write to an American friend and offer some in-depth thoughts on the USA’s foreign policy, leavened with some casual racism.

Your war with Mexico has ended agreeably. It is a good thing. You can gain no glory fighting Greasers… . In spite of the Lusitania, Wilson may loom big yet in the history of the world. I absolutely refuse to put a small dingy political motive back of his foreign policy. It seems to me that he acted logically as representing a Nation made up largely of convinced pacifists. It is not time to talk peace now in France, but after the war it will be a shame if all the fine, and generous movements for general peace which were at the bottom of most political discussions are not taken up again and with more vigor.

After two years of this fighting business I can’t agree with those who say that there will always be war, and any man who has the generosity to fight for peace [against all odds] seems to me most respectable. It’s very easy for a Roosevelt to be popular. All one needs to do is to appeal to the cowardice of those who are afraid and to the passions of those who are, above all, proud or vain or greedy.

Romain Rolland is getting damned up and down because he keeps airing his belief that in spite of all things done, there may yet be a few good Germans in the world. He is very much more creditable to his nation than that ass of Saint-Saens, who since the Belgian and Northern atrocities, has discovered that Wagner had no musical sense at all.

Romain Rolland is a French writer and academic who has indeed stuck by his pacifist beliefs. Camille Saint-Saens is an ageing composer of classical music who is now 81. When he isn’t railing with equal ferocity against French modernists such as Claude Debussy and German Germans such as Wagner, he’s constantly touring France giving piano performances to raise money for war charities.

Woodrow Wilson, meanwhile, is now starting his campaign for re-election as President, in what will turn out to be a damned close run-thing. His chief slogan is to be “He kept us out of war” (cough, cough). Meanwhile, perations in Mexico against Pancho Villa are now more-or-less over, with Villa still at large. For a while it looked as though things might escalate into all-out war with Mexican government forces, but Wilson’s pulled back from the prospect.

Oswin Creighton

British Army padre Oswin Creighton is about to move from Romsey to Witley Common near Aldershot, to join a new battalion, the 5th Lancashire Fusiliers. On his way out of the door, he has a few thoughts about the officers he’s been trying to socialise with at Romsey.

I do hope they will find someone who will be able to come here and really get on with these officers. I cannot tell you how much I blame myself. I have never really mixed at any time of my life with men of this type, and I am afraid I simply don’t understand them. I have never hunted nor been to a race-meeting. There are good fellows, I know, among them. I would give anything to know what they really think about things to be able to get near them. But after nearly five months I simply feel I am leaving a lot of strangers behind me. I feel entirely outside them. They have been preparing for weeks for a gymkhana to-morrow, and have talked of little else.

Creighton is no proletarian; he went to public school and then to Keble College, Oxford. And these chaps are too toffy even for him. “Gymkhana” is a word from the Empire; in this sense, it’s a multi-disciplinary horse-riding competition. He continues with some thoughts on the apparent lack of religious feeling among the blokes.

Two men came to the Holy Communion. This is the Sunday we are keeping as the anniversary of the war and the memorial of the fallen. The Church Parades were cancelled, as we are going to have this big voluntary service to-night. I cannot dismiss all these men and feel they have no religion. I know they have finer feelings. As far as I know only two are even coming to the service to-night. What is the National Mission going to say about a situation like this?

I must say I simply feel bewildered. It cannot be all my fault. They don’t even go to the Abbey. They do their Work splendidly and untiringly. It is difficult to see how they could do it better. The general tone is high. But they simply have no apparent feeling for religion as I have learnt it. Have I learnt it wrong, or is the way I have learnt it one and theirs another?

I don’t have the heart to poke fun at him. He sounds so very depressed, poor man.

Max Plowman

Thoroughly scandalised, 2nd Lt Max Plowman goes on parade for the first time with his new battalion.

One figure stands out. It is Company Sergeant-Major Steel. He is a tall, thin, dark man of about five-and-twenty, with a long hooked nose and a slight stoop. He wears the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but his manner is casual, and there is nothing of the parade sergeant-major about him. Indeed, I wonder at first how a man of such weedy appearance can have attained his rank. But when Captain Rowley introduces us, I see a couple of keen, intelligent eyes looking abnormally bright, like eyes that have seen too much.

As we step aside, Rowley describes him to me as the bravest man in the regiment, who obtained his distinction by bringing in fourteen prisoners, single-handed, on July 1st. In days to come I am to see much of this man. Many a dreary hour in the trenches we shall wile away together, talking of his home in the West of England where he used to be a confectioner, and where his young wife and child wait for him. There’s strange galvanism in this man, for he can pull the whole company together with a word, and yet his natural habit of mind is soft and reflective.

Already he is utterly sick of the war and many a time he is to tell me, in response to some chaff about his ribbon, how gladly he would exchange it for a week’s leave.

I am trying to work out whether or not Plowman is using the standard convention of false names; it doesn’t say so in the introduction.

Evelyn Southwell

Evelyn Southwell has an afternoon to himself, which he spends by a railway line, watching the trains.

In one [train], there were men stretched gloriously asleep on the floor, while over them and nearly on them, stood their animals tethered and patient. Repose, certainly, in the GS wagons, which packed on the trucks, carried a gunner or two on the front seat, serene in air with cigarette and magazine. Repose too, I devoutly hope, for the animals; but eight horses to a [train truck] is a tight fit, and made no less so by the spurious label [“Sheep”] which stands on their carriage wall.

We are not at all perturbed by the delay; at least, I think not: I know one officer who (after his manner) is loving it. The rest of two Battalions are stretched before me, about four deep among the rails, and I do not think they are in undue hurry. A Royal Flying Corps car dashes up beyond the rails, and a cyclist whizzes down the road behind my head. Aeroplanes, of course, come (with their kind of coquettish curtsying, peculiar to their kind when infantry are about), to see the trains and their loads. A Red Cross car flits in and out of the station. Frenchmen wander down the line in shirt-sleeves and white trousers.

But nowhere is there much of a hurry, thank God. It is true the guns are pelting away somewhere or other, but nobody cares. The sun shines over our shoulders, and it is the infantryman’s day out. Every moment sees him, indeed, a thought more comfortable; and, as I write, he is already beginning to get his tea.

Incredibly good concert in the orchard last night. One Baynes (late Cambridge University Boating Club; he rowed against me) is now our Medical Officer, and very remarkable he is: he is one of those men who sing like birds, and swim, and dive (WITH somersaults), and do a lot of shouting, and are very good, in fine. You should have heard him take 300 men clean off their feet with “Songs of Araby” last night; an old, old friend, of course, but I never saw it so effective. Nor any one so priceless as the modern Royal Flying Corps man: he is perfectly immaculate, salutes all officers, and drills like a Guardsman.

For the moment, his time in the rear continues. “I’ll sing thee songs of Araby” is by WG Wills and Frederic Clay.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Verdun
Brusilov Offensive (Battle of Kowel)
Siege of Medina
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Bitlis
Battle of Romani
Battle of the Isonzo (Sixth Isonzo)

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! Revised and expanded versions of 1914 and 1915 are now available!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. (If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide

Pozieres Windmill | Battle of Romani | 4 Aug 1916

Pozieres

The objectives on the Somme just keep getting closer and closer. First they shot for Bapaume. Then they shot for the Second Line so they could attack Bapaume. Then they shot for Longueval and Pozieres so they could hold the Second Line. Now they’re reduced to shooting for a little windmill (still at least 40% intact, somehow) just outside Pozieres. The defenders are much less strong than they had been when the ANZACs first arrived at Pozieres; again there’s no wire left in front of their trenches. The OG Lines fall to Australian bayonets, and by nightfall they’re clinging to a series of shell-holes all round the windmill.

And then comes the receipt, which doesn’t just come in artillery. The men who attacked yesterday into Fourth Avenue are trying to hold it and to then move into Ration Trench today. On the German side of the hill, the order is “At any price, Pozieres ridge must be recovered”. Sergeant Charles Quinnell of the 8th Royal Fusiliers is well placed to appreciate exactly what this means.

Over this barricade on our right flank came a German with a canister of liquid fire on his back. Squirting liquid fire out of a hose, he burnt twenty-three of our chaps to death. I plonked one into his chest, but he must have had an armoured plated waistcoat on, it didn’t stop him. Someone threw a Mills bomb at him and it burst behind—he wasn’t armoured plated behind, he went down. But at any rate he’d done a lot of damage.

The bombers bombed the Germans back from the barricade. Plenty of chaps were wounded with this liquid fire as well as those that were killed; it practically wiped out Tubby Turnbull’s platoon. Then we got an order from the Captain. I hope I never hear it repeated again. We must shorten our front—so he gave us an order to make a barricade of the dead, the German dead and our dead. We made a barricade of them and retreated about 40 yards back towards my platoon.

Quinnell holds the barricade all day and all night as well, with the aid of a Stokes mortar and rifle grenades firing little chip shots over the barricade and back to where the Germans are being forced to assemble for their counter-attacks. And as all this is going on, General Gough is complaining that it should have been done days ago. (General Haig, meanwhile, is slightly preoccupied with an imminent visit from the King, who is of course trying to get as far forward as possible, in the manner of idiotic leaders everywhere.)

Battle of Romani

The long-awaited Ottoman attack on the Suez Canal is now underway. Our correspondent Oskar Teichman has been expecting action for quite some time, and he’s not the only one. So too has General Murray, in command of the defences, and he’s had more than enough time to develop a strategy. It’s simple enough. The enemy could attack in a number of different directions, but the defenders have plenty of mounted troops available. Murray is betting that he can hold his horsemen in reserve long enough for the Ottomans to commit themselves, at which point he can redeploy and meet them in strength.

It’s a good guess. Here’s what it means for Teichman and his pals.

Casualties now began to occur, and it was necessary to make excursions into various parts of the valley. It was sad work bringing the serious cases up the steep declivity, tied on to their horses; but this had to be done at once, as they could not be left at the bottom. I was forced to abandon my dressing station in the Hod, as in the event of retirement we should never have been able to get the wounded up the hill quick enough.

At the dressing station cases were dressed and placed under shelters formed out of horse-blankets and swords. It was now getting very hot, and the wounded suffered greatly from thirst. Meanwhile the sand-cart problem was getting acute, as none had turned up and many wounded were waiting to be evacuated. However, our Signalling Officer managed to get heliograph connection with Canterbury Post, which communicated with the New Zealand Field Ambulance, and an hour later, much to our relief, the first sand-cart arrived.

During this time we had been heavily engaged, and it was a great relief to everyone to hear that the New Zealand Mounted Brigade, which had left Hill 70 after we had started, was just coming into action on our extreme left. The Somersetshire [Royal Arse Hortillery], attached to the New Zealanders, had already been in action for some hours, and had been putting in some good shooting; this battery, the Leicester RHA and the Ayrshire RHA were wonderfully mobile over the heavy sand with their enormous sand-tyres. As soon as the New Zealanders joined in, the pressure on our left flank was considerably relieved.

“Declivity” is a wanky word, and it’s not even been used properly; it’s a downward slope. By definition you can’t go up a declivity, you have to go up an “acclivity”. (Or, you know, an “upward slope”.) Here also we see the value of arse hortillery when you’re not stuck in horrible trench warfare and having to lay down indirect fire from miles away. “Cavalry was obsolete in the First World War” is such a gross over-simplification that it’s really hard to know where to start.

Teichman has a lot more to say, giving a blow-by-blow account of the day’s fighting. For us, suffice to say that it’s gone extremely well and entirely according to plan. We’ll rejoin him as night begins to fall.

It was a picturesque sight when the fires litup the camp and the motley collection of Turkish prisoners, many of whom were supplied with tea from our dixies. Infantry wearing the enverene hats, brown fezzes or skullcaps, dressed in dark-brown khaki and corduroy breeches (most unsuitable for this climate), gunners in astrakhan caps and blue uniforms, Arab irregulars in flowing garments, transport drivers with red facings to their uniforms and yellow sashes, and German machine gunners in khaki drill and wearing yachting caps.

I had charge of a Turkish medical officer. After he had had some food and tea I told him (in French) that he would be taken over to one of the Field Ambulances, where he would spend the night.He told me that his name was Jahat. On arrival at the Field Ambulance we found a very large number of Turkish wounded, some waiting and others being dressed in a large tent. Three [army doctors]were hard at work, assisted by Red Crescent orderlies. I brought Jahat in and announced that he was going to help them.

After explaining this to him he was very disgusted, but we compelled him to take off his coat and get to work amongst his own wounded. It was evident that he had previously concluded that his work was over after surrendering. Another Turkish medical officer told us that he had been in charge of the Field Hospital in Anafarta Village, which reminded us of our days at Suvla Bay.

Eleven months earlier, this doctor would have been treating the wounds that the Worcester Yeomanry were inflicting. It’s a small war after all. I wonder what other cheery thoughts today has in store for us?

Sixth Isonzo

Really? Really? Is it time again already? Why yes, it surely is. And, through no effort of their own, it turns out that this is in fact the best time since the start of the war to launch a major offensive. Between the ill-advised Battle of Asiago, the Brusilov Offensive, and the occupation of Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian army is having severe manpower difficulties. The defences on the Carso are weaker than they’ve ever been. The garrisons on the Isonzo have spent months preparing to attack again. The gunners have been stockpiling ammunition. And General Cadorna has finally, it seems, learned a thing or two about reasonable expectations.

He no longer dreams of vast leaps that can easily take Trieste. He’s no longer even hoping to capture Gorizia. All he wants to do is cross the Isonzo and improve their positions on the Podgora hill and Mount Sabotino. Gorizia itself won’t be assaulted until September. On the other hand, the Duke of Aosta, commanding the Italian 3rd Army, has with difficulty convinced his boss to allow yet another slaughter on Mount San Michele. It’s going off on the 6th, in two days time. Blood for the blood god!

Clifford Wells

Last we heard, idiot son of a Montreal millionaire Clifford Wells was still in England, waiting for orders. A couple of days ago, they finally arrived, and he’s now resting quietly at the Canadian base camp in Le Havre, from where he writes to his family.

I did not cable to you when I left England, because I was so busy at the last that I really could not find time to go to a telegraph office, and also because a cable would have given the impression that I was going straight to the trenches, whereas I knew I should be detained here for some time. Beyond the fact that I have left England, there is very little that I can report. I am pleased to be “on my way” at last.

I am having plenty of practice in speaking French, and find it much easier to understand the people here than the Canadian French in Montreal.

Cue outraged spluttering and alleged swearing from any Quebecois readers.

Herbert Sulzbach

Life is still relatively quiet for German gunner Herbert Sulzbach, and he has plenty of time to think and observe.

The second anniversary of the outbreak of war has passed, but you don’t really think any more about our entering the third year of war, and still less about whether and when there is going to be peace again. It would seem that the fighting on the Somme is attempting to decide the outcome of the war. Gallwitz has given his Army Group an order that not a single metre of ground may be lost. I assume that we too will soon be involved in the greatest battle in the history of the world, and that it will be worse than the Champagne fighting eighteen months ago. [Sulzbach talks at length about how outnumbered they appear to be.]

We hear that Hindenburg has taken over the Supreme Command of the entire Eastern Front, including Austrian troops.

There will be quite a bit more to come on the subject German command arrangements this month. What Sulzbach hears is not entirely accurate, mind. In response to the Brusilov Offensive, first General von Linsingen was given command of a number of Austro-Hungarian troops. Now the sector of German control has been greatly increased, from Riga to Lvov, and put under von Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Conrad von Hotzendorf has also agreed not to attack anything without German approval first. However, it’s not quite the supreme command that Sulzbach suggests.

However, that might soon be a distinction without a difference. Just as General Joffre has been struggling to maintain political support in Paris, so too is General von Falkenhayn struggling in Berlin. He assured the government that the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive had neutered the Russians; it didn’t. He was full of beans about the prospects for the Battle of Verdun, which has now gone extremely pear-shaped. Now they’re being pushed slowly and surely back at the Battle of the Somme by the damned English. More soon.

Neil Tennant

Having given us a very gloomy view of Basra, Lt-Col Neil Tennant of the Royal Flying Corps is now heading up the Shatt-al-Arab toward the sharp end in Mesopotamia, such as it is.

In the evening we passed Ezra’s tomb: a blue-domed building and haunt of pilgrims in time of peace. Records as far back as the tenth century AD speak of this place as renowned through the country as a spot where prayers were answered. We anchored for the night in mid-stream, for in those days it was unsafe to tie up to ‘the bank. Jackals howled one to sleep.

The following afternoon we crawled into Amarah against a Shamal gale that burnt the eyes in their sockets. Lieut. Kelly, in charge of the RFC advanced store depot, met us here, and we groped ashore to have a look at the place and inspect the mule transport fitting out for the front. The wheels of the carts had all shrunk away from their tyres.

Ezra is a Biblical figure who has at least three separate claimed burial places, although the one near Basra is the best known. A “shamal” is a particularly evil north-westerly wind found around the Persian Gulf. It’s quite capable of making transit over the Shatt-al-Arab and the River Tigris all but impossible for weedy launches like the one Tennant finds himself in.

E.S. Thompson

There is an important little detail in today’s diary entry from E.S. Thompson, easily missed.

Parade as usual, after which made a wrist strap for my watch. Steak for lunch, after which our transport arrived so I suppose we will start tomorrow. Received letters from Doris and Mother mentioning Papa’s accident. Wrote to Mother and Doris in the afternoon and took the letters up to be censored. Stew very nice as it was flavoured with leeks and meat very tender, also pumpkin fritters. Made a raid on Pintlebury’s tent during which we got orders that we are moving tomorrow at 8am. Rations and a full tot of rum issued.

Pintlebury, of course, was the man who raided Thompson’s tent last night. The important point is the excellent stew. This means that the supply lines back to the rear are improving, which in turn means that the railway battalions are making good time as they build that railhead forward from Moshi towards Kondoa Irangi. Without them, General van Deventer at Dodoma would certainly be starving to death. As it is, he and his horsemen are surviving, just about, on half rations.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Verdun
Brusilov Offensive (Battle of Kowel)
Siege of Medina
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Bitlis
Battle of Romani

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! Revised and expanded versions of 1914 and 1915 are now available!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. (If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide

Arab Revolt | Salandra’s fall | 10 Jun 1916

Italy and Asiago

High drama in the recalled Italian parliament today. There’s been a series of fiery debates over whether the government or the army is to blame for the Battle of Asiago going so badly. Turns out that General Cadorna, while he may be a murdering bastard and a terrible general, is apparently a rather good politician. Deputy after deputy lines up to stand behind the army. Soon enough there will be a vote of no confidence in the government, and in eight days Salandra will be yesterday’s man, chewed up and spat out by the war he started. His replacement will be the elderly non-entity Paolo Boselli, which will of course suit Cadorna down to the ground and free him from political interference for the forseeable future.

The Battle of Asiago continues slowly congealing. Though to Emilio Lussu and his comrades the situation must look desperate, it’s quite clear on the other side of the hill that the advances can’t go much further without reinforcements. And in fact the reverse is happening; men are being sent away to oppose the Brusilov Offensive.

Arab Revolt

Time for the British Empire to strike an official proxy blow against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, just about the only kind of blow they’re capable of striking right now. Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, has stayed true to his word. Over the last few days, with the assistance of British weapons, and both British and French military missions, the revolt has been chugging into action in ungainly fashion.

The opening stages of the revolt were to have had two components. While Hussein himself was to overthrow the Ottoman Army garrison in Mecca, his sons Emir Ali and Emir Faisal were to do the same thing in Medina. This would be not only a pair of important strategic victories, but Mecca and Medina are both holy cities in Islam. With Hussein’s public justification for the uprising resting strongly on religious grounds, controlling the two cities would be a vital propaganda coup.

It hasn’t started well. The attempt to take control of Medina has been summarily repelled. Short of weapons, Ali and Faisal have led their men out of the city and are now attempting to cut it off from the rest of the Ottoman Empire. This will soon develop into a proper siege, the Siege of Medina. In Mecca, the garrison commander might be outnumbered five to one, but he has plenty of weapons and ammunition. The day quickly devolves into running street battles as the army fends the rebels off from various key points in the city. More to come.

Salonika

The situation in Salonika is now being resolved, for a certain value of “resolved”. For the last four days there’s been a French fleet sitting outside Athens. The King, of course, has given in and agreed to all the Entente’s demands. Greece is now effectively in the war, even though they’re not going to declare and won’t actually have an army for much longer. To celebrate, the French have occupied an island opposite Kavala, one of the eastern seaports that the Bulgarians seem interested in pinching. Meanwhile, General Sarrail himself is busy putting down a series of worrying disturbances in Salonika.

By the end of the month the Greek Army will have been de-mobilised, and there’ll be a new government under former prime minister Zaimis which is prepared to roll over for France while keeping Eleftherios Venizelos out of power. The situation, for the moment, is about to be resolved for the next little while as the world’s attention turns away. For the soldiers already here? There’s the malaria. And the summer heat.

Goetzen

A footnote now from Africa. Commandant de Bueger, in command of four Belgian-piloted British seaplanes at Lake Tanganyika, has not only succeeded in getting the planes afloat, but one of them has managed to fly over to Kigoma, where the German steamer Goetzen still maintains an ever-more-tenuous hold over the lake. Not only that, but the observer has even dropped two large rifle grenades. I can’t find an account that specifies how accurate they were (so a fair guess would be “not very”), but it’s still a welcome development for the man whose name I’m still pronouncing “de Bugger”.

Amusingly, all this is even more pointless than you might think after a cursory glance. Turns out that Captain Zimmer has long since removed Goetzen’s large Konigsberg gun and sent it east to Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck at Kondoa Irangi. He’s prudently had it replaced with an extremely convincing wooden model, but the practical effect of this is that Zimmer no longer intends to fight if challenged, since he’s not got any guns left worth the name.

Henri Desagneaux

Only a short note from Henri Desagneaux, but this one’s important.

At one in the morning, orders for departure at 4am. We are to march in the direction of Verdun. That gives us an extra day of life! We are billeted at Rosieres near Bar.

Yeah, now is really not a good time to be one of my correspondents and marching towards a major battle.

Oskar Teichman

The men on the Suez Canal continue preparing to be attacked; medical officer Oskar Teichman is trying hard to keep himself occupied.

Our Brigade moved into the trenches which would be occupied by us in the event of an attack; these consisted of a series of barbed wire entanglements and an intricate system of trenches with occasional strong posts. The artificial inundations from the Canal completed the defences north and south. The idea in those days was that we should hold out until all other troops and materiel had been removed across the Canal.

Some of us rode out to a post known as Hill 40, where the Australian Light Horse and some Scottish regiments were stationed. The flamingos on the edge of the inundation were most picturesque.

Can’t you just imagine those flamingos looking curiously at all these extremely silly people who have just turned up to make the place untidy?

Malcolm White

Malcolm White is still on working-parties almost every night, but trying to keep his mind off what the working parties mean by day.

I am reviving my interest again in the European problem. I believe that, if we win, the best solution will be almost the status quo, because it would only be the status quo materially, not spiritually. For the Germans would not be humiliated, and the large better element among them (I don’t believe it doesn’t exist) would probably ‘rapproche’ with the good elements among the Allies, and that would be the basis for a European understanding and a determination on all our parts to behave better in future, seeing how little the War would have brought to all of us.

The greatest victory that could be won in this War would be, not the particular gain of one or a few nations, but the tragic realisation by all nations that nobody has gained anything; statement! As for ‘The War after the War’, and Mr Hughes, and all that disastrous sort of idea, what are we to do about it?

You could start with not dying, my friend. Still, no shell has landed on him yet. Both “the war after the war” and “Mr Hughes” are common enough to defeat Google, although it could possibly be Billy Hughes, who has recently replaced Andrew Fisher as Prime Minister of Australia.

Alan Bott

Yes, we’ve just successfully got rid of two correspondents, so it must be time to start another. And it’s another officer, too. The rule now for new correspondents, let’s remember, is “must give us a perspective that we wouldn’t get otherwise”. So this guy’s gimmick is that he started the war in the artillery, but has now transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Better than that, while he harbours dreams of being a pilot, for now he’s only qualified as an observation officer. He’s currently back in England, but as we join him, there is Important News.

All units of the army have known it, the serio-comedy of waiting for embarkation orders. After months of training the battalion, battery, or squadron is almost ready for a plunge into active service. Then comes, from a source which cannot be trailed, a mysterious Date. The orderly-room whispers “June the fifteenth”; the senior officers’ quarters murmur “France on June the fifteenth”; the mess echoes to the tidings spread by the subaltern-who-knows “We’re for it on June the fifteenth, me lad”; through the men’s hutments the word is spread “It’s good-bye to this blinking hole on June the fifteenth”; the Home receives a letter and confides to other homes “Reginald’s lot are going to the war on June the fifteenth “.

Finally, if we are to believe Mr William le Queux, the Military Intelligence Department of the German Empire dockets a report: “[Cod German to the effect of ‘the 70th Squadron is leaving for France on the 15th of June’.]” Except for the mobilisation stores everything is complete by June 10.

At last, a publisher who lets his books use the Oxford comma! I might just get along with this. Bott, by the way, wrote under the pseudonym “Contact” and is referring to the “Umptyieth” and “Twelveteenth” squadrons. We can probably assume that all names have been changed also, which we’ll sort out as they come up. Oh, and he also spent a little time as a journalist before and immediately after the outbreak of war, which just makes the cheap shot at Le Queux all the more delightful.

(Le Quex is a waste of oxygen, an enthusiastic purveyor of sensational stories in which the Germans invade Britain and force everyone to wear lederhosen and eat sauerkraut until the Army rallies to save the day. He’s done plenty to create a public appetite for war with Germany in the first place.)

Maximilian Mugge

Maximilian Mugge is giving vent to some idle thoughts.

Often before the War, when on several occasions I stayed in France, when I lived in Holland, when I wandered through Italy, has the thought occurred to me. Gradually it has become a conviction: Language has nothing to do with one’s individuality. It does not matter an itinerant whitesmith’s malediction in what language one expresses oneself. Language may be a garment, a vessel, a route but it is not of the Essence of the Spirit. Not until this tribal conceit about the “language of one’s fathers” has disappeared will a [wanky Latin coming roughly to “better/utopian future”] be possible.

At present men are still prepared to die for the exclusive possession of this glorious national inheritance, the language of their “Immortal Poets.” Whilst the poet lived they let him starve! Underneath all these grandiloquent phrases lies, of course, the accursed inertia of our species, that almost monopolizes laziness. And the tribal tin-gods know how to trade on this tribal vanity!

For a man who fancies himself a linguist, this is an interesting line of thinking.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Verdun
Battle of Asiago
Battle of Mont Sorrel
Brusilov Offensive
Battle of Mecca
Siege of Medina

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! Revised and expanded versions of 1914 and 1915 are now available!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. (If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide