Battle of the Mons

mons15-lToday is the 100th anniversary for the Battle of the Mons. While not the first or the largest battle of The Great War, it was the largest so far for the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

The British held a strong position along the Mon-Conde Canal. This was sacrificed with the pull back of Lanrezac’s Fifth Army. Communication between the allies was not what it should have been. By the afternoon the BEF was ordered to retreat. As this was done in the face of von Kluck’s First Army a number of sharp rear guard skirmishes occurred.

As the Germans held the field at the end of the day it should be considered a German victory. Yet for all of their numbers von Kluck’s First Army was unable to destroy the BEF. That in itself makes it a victory for the British. A costly victory.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Rules of the Game

bookAfter a very long slog, I have finally finished The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon. The subtitle “Jutland and British Naval Command” I found to be misleading.

While many parts of the book are good and interesting there is more emphasis placed on the issues of signaling and the culture around it. The reader finds that advancement in the Victorian and Edwardian Navies is based more on status and how well a ship is dressed than actually fighting the ship. Fire control and signals are shown to be not far removed from Nelson and Trafalgar.

This issue of command and signal development is set back after the HMS Camperdown sank the HMS Victoria. While the reason why this happened takes up a quarter of the book, it is enough to say that the development of simplified signals stopped and the officers of the Mediterranean Fleet (the most important in the prewar Royal Navy) were tainted over any new changes. This affects the Battle of Jutland in how orders were received and carried out.

What I ended up taking away from this book is an interest in reading seven books found in Gordon’s bibliography and several pages of notes on early wireless signals. I found a connection here as in the Edwardian navy wireless was part of the torpedo (my old stomping grounds) school and not signals.

A sub plot of this book is watching the rise of the commander of the 5th Battle Squadron, Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas. Sir Thomas had close connections to the royals and their influence is seen on his and other careers. Unfortunately he was also made into a pawn in the Beatty – Jellicoe feud that occurred after the battle and well into the Inter-War period.

I will only add that if you are knowledgeable on the Battle of Jutland this can be an interesting read. If you are a novice please stay away.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Lauren Bacall

Lauren_Bacall14This week we lost one of the greats from both the stage and screen. Lauren Bacall has left us.

As a young man I looked forward to the great film noire that would show on our local television station. And she and Bogart were my favorites. There are the unforgettable “To Have and Have Not” (1944), “The Big Sleep” (1946), “Dark Passage” (1947) and “Key Largo” (1948). Key Largo is a film I can watch over and over again and I am not alone.

I see on Netflix, that this film has an availability of a “Very Long Wait”. Please take the time to revisit these classics. You will not disappointed.

Posted in Film | Leave a comment

The Lamps Are Going Out All Over Europe…

imageToday, a 100 years ago, Americans awoke to read that England and most of Europe was at war. This possible conflict was in all of the US papers but no one thought it was going to go this far. This was Europe of Asquith and Grey. War was unthinkable.

Other than reading about it in the daily papers most Americans were glad we had the Atlantic Ocean and US Navy to protect us. It was Europe’s war not ours.

What were we concerned about in 1914? The Mexican border, Wall Street and Anarchists. Not a lot has changed in a 100 years.

In time Americans would join up against the wishes of our government and in less than three years we would be going over there officially.

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

Cricket and the War

628While I have often seen the special characters that miniature manufactures love to bring out I rarely take a second glance at them. While a prestigious officer or runner may get my attention, the soccer ball kicking or carousing soldiers have little use to me and my gaming. Or so I thought. Yes there were the Foundry figures that looked strangely like the Marx Brothers but I took a pass at them.

Than there is the cricket players found in many World War I packets. Never thought too much about them until this week when a strange juxtaposition of events brought them to mind and my blogs.

I started a new job this week and the person training me has two company trophies in his cubical for playing cricket. Now this is an international company so I saw not surprised to see trophies for this, although at first I thought it was for baseball. Later in the week I received from one of my World War I feeds a link to two cricket players that died in the war. Two of many I am sad to say. It is interesting piece of video from a sports channel. I hope we see more pieces like this.

I hope you will take the time to watch this. Please let me know if you have any local sports legends that were lost in the war. Also I may have to take a second look at those special characters. And thank you Sunil.

Link from Skysports

Posted in Sports | Tagged | Leave a comment

28 July 1914

1914-julyA hundred years ago today, the Austria-Hungry Dual Monarchy declared war on Serbia. Within the week the world was at war and was never to be the same again. Conflicts that are happening today are linked to a declaration of war that most though would be a minor conflict contained to the Balkans.

Was it possible to stop the road to war between the shooting of the Archduke on 28th June and the declaration of war a month latter? While I have always thought so, my listening to the podcast When Diplomacy Fails I find Europe went out of its way by doing nothing.

Please take the time to listen to the unfolding of the ramp up to war on this podcast. We may not agree with it completely but it is fascinating.

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

Buchanan Dog Park – A Historical Mystery

BP001 Today I spent a wonderful morning out at Lancaster Pennsylvania. Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country.  It is a nice drive and we have a few favorite haunts we like to visit.

One of which is the Buchanan Park Dog Park. This park is wonderful all thanks to the assistance of Purina Beneful. We like the walks and Maya loves meeting her canine friends.

Today I took a detour to look at a monument to the Spanish American War. I have seen it a dozen times but today I was going for a closer look. This monument was erected to the sailors of the USS Maine lost in Havana harbor in 1898 by the veterans of this war. The monument was dedicated in 1913.

BP002A couple of interesting things about this monument, the cannons on either side of the solider are smooth bore guns from the American Civil War and not used in the actually fighting in Cuba and the Philippines. They may have been used for training the state militia, but that is only a guess on my part. I may be able to trace their history by their muzzle numbers.

The other thing is the powder tank mentioned on the back of the monument. What is it and were is it? My initial thought is it was used in a metal drive in the latter Great War or World War II. But that is just my initial take on it. I see a couple of inquiries going out to a couple of my favorite naval museums. If anyone is reading this and know what and were the powder take is please give me a shout.

Thank you.

Posted in Spanish American War | Tagged | 3 Comments

Medium Mark A Whippet – Review

OSPV207I have always been drawn to the more esoteric tanks when it comes to AFV. While most tread heads and rivet counters prefer Tigers, Panthers and Shermans, I on the other hand is more interested in Italian CV33, French FT17 and the Israeli M51 (Isherman).

For The Great War I find every tank interesting. There is the early FT17 with a young officer at the wheel by the name of Patton for one. The use of British Mark V used not only in The Great War but by both sides in the Russian Civil War is also worth studying. The Germans also made an appearance on the battlefield with their A7V, a true land cruiser with a crew of 18 moving across the battlefield at a stately 4 mph.

Yet the most interesting for me is a tank that in many ways a dead end, the Medium Mark A Whippet. With a crew of three and moving along at 8+mph (twice as fast as most other contemporary tanks) this was the tank that would exploit the breakout brought about by the artillery and British Heavy Tanks, or that was the plan for the 1919 Offensive.

This book, Medium Mark A Whippet, by David Fletcher from Osprey Publishing covers the history of this interesting and unique vehicle. The book covers design and use of this tank in great detail as these tanks were used in very few operations. We also see in this book the follow on Medium B, Medium C, Medium D and the experimental American Studebaker tank.

In this story we also see how the Medium Tank was designed to be used, along side cavalry. We also see the difficulties in having horse soldiers working along side mechanized units.

The information for the Studebaker tank is also a nice start for anyone interested in this possible and little known Medium Tank.

The only fault that I can report is the lack of a bibliography.  This is a book worth adding to your library if you are interested in The Great War, tanks or new technology. As it is also available as an eBook it is easy to add to your library.

Posted in Books and Media, Review | Leave a comment

Poland’s Overlooked Enigma Code-Breakers

_76055092_007886536_624alamyThis is the un-taught story of World War II. We know of the great generals that won battles and of Bletchley Park and the Enigma, but try to tell somebody of the success of Poland in WWII and they look at you fun. I grew up at a time were Archie Bunker would verbally abuse Meathead. Polish jokes were the norm and pied in your nationality was in the future.

Yet this is a story that I knew of but others would discount. At least the BBC has reported on it.

Posted in Media | Leave a comment

Nationalism in The Great War

Often we hear how the shot that killed the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the cause of The Great War, but I am not certain that it was the cause. More likely it was the final part of a long process. More gifted academics than myself have argued this point since the opening shots of the war in books and thesis. These arguments have been ever changing. The textbooks that I used in the 1980s are way out of date pertaining to this discussion.

What I find stranger still is the similarities to two early participents in the conflict and how they helped bring about this World War. You see, it can be argued that the war could have been contained to the region of the Balkans or even Eastern Europe if one of these two countries had remained neutral.

The countries, or more accurate, governments were of the Kingdom of Serbia and the Ottoman Empire. While Serbia was unable to escape the war, they were very much part of the tensions in the region. Fighting in two Balkan Wars and covert operations in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Bosnia, the Serbian operations read like a bad spy novel set in the more modern Cold War. They were looking to expand into a greater Serbia taking over were ever the ethnic Serbs lived. The Kingdom and government were both counting on nationalism to aid them as well as support from Russia.

1913_Balkans_map-smallWhile a protector of all Slavs, Russia could have easily sided more with Bulgaria than Serbia. Bulgaria having a border with the Ottomans is an easier ally to use against the Ottomans. The straits are within striking distance of the Bulgarian forces and access to the straits was what Russia was after.

The Ottomans also were looking to expand the empire, which is strange to modern day westerns as we are taught this was “the sick man of Europe”. But the Young Turk Revolution was to bring to power those that were willing to use nationalism and support for the Muslim religion to expand as far afield as western India, Afghanistan and back into North Africa.

Was this possible, probably not, Britain was not going to allow for an expansion into Egypt or Afghanistan. The two colonial adversaries of Russia and Britain were united in keeping the Turks out of Persia. Persian is another fascinating chapter in The Great War.

Yet by getting involved in the July Crises the Ottomans and the Committee of Union and Progress were to help expand the war. Germany and the Ottoman representatives were in negotiations during the lead up to the war. While the seizer of the battleships by Britain makes good press, they were white elephants unusable by the contemporary Ottoman Navy.  Without crews or support, they would have remained in port. While Germany would have preferred to obtain them, it is hard to see how the Royal Navy would stand aside as the two ships would have headed to the Baltic instead of the Mediterranean.

The Ottoman did try to expand the war and paid for it with their empire. They added a new part to the conflict that was not planed for by either the British government or the government in India. Participation by all sides was done quickly and without the correct forces and forethought needed.

So what brings these two nations to mind as important to the conflict. The Serbs are needed no matter what. The Ottomans hurt British prestige in the Middle East by capturing the largest army until the fall of Singapore in 1942. This was to effect nationalistic movements into the 1950s. Forces needed on the Western Front were tied down fighting the Ottomans. Troops were needed in Egypt, the Dardanelles and Mesopotamia.

So it is nationalism, both were trying to create “greater” versions of themselves that brought defeat to one and the formation of a mini empire with subject races that had little in common. And the people paying for it were the soldiers and citizens trying to live up to these grandiose boosts.

Posted in Balkans, Ottoman Empire | Leave a comment