Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Notes from the Trenches: A Musician's Journey Through World War I
Reviewed by Peter L. Belmonte

Notes from the Trenches: 
A Musician's Journey Through World War I

by Gary H. Foster, Capt., U.S. Navy (Ret.) ed
Outskirts Press, 2018

Gary Foster, a retired U.S. Navy aviator, inherited the footlocker shown above, full of his grandfather's World War I letters and memorabilia. His grandfather, Leo Foster, had been a bugler in the 32nd Division, and Gary thought the letters worthy of preserving and publishing. Accordingly, Gary used a self-publishing company to create this volume.

Leo Foster, 32nd "Red Arrow" Division
Leo Foster enlisted in Company M, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Wisconsin National Guard shortly after the U.S. declared war. After federalization of the National Guard, Leo found himself in Company C, 121st Machine Gun Battalion, 32nd Division. The 32nd was sent to Waco, Texas, for training, and Leo enjoyed himself immensely there.

Leo's letters during his first year of service reflect very little, if any, dissatisfaction with his situation. On the contrary, in many letters he tells of his happiness, especially in Waco, and the fun he's having with soldier and civilian friends. Like most soldiers, Leo was quite concerned with his food situation, and he took every opportunity to eat well; throughout his service he mentions the food he's eaten and the weight he's gained. Leo's quaint Midwestern speech pattern comes through in most letters. For example, in one letter we find: "Oh, sweet dill pickles in vinegar, talk about a gay life," and "Gee I will bet a can opener the sun will shine next". (p. 123)

His initial letters from France reflect naïve bravado common to U.S. soldiers before they had experienced combat. Commenting on his initial stint in the trenches, Leo says

Well I spent 12 days up there and believe me those 12 days were the greatest sport I ever enjoyed in my life. In fact, they ended too short...Now I expected to see some pretty tough times up there. Instead, it was the best time I had since I have been in the Army. Oh yea, plenty of shrapnel whistling around and the closer they would come to you the more sport it would be. (pp. 135–136)

After the war, however, we note a change in attitude evident in some of his letters. In February 1919, writing from his post in Germany in the Army of Occupation, Leo, speaking of himself and his fellow soldiers, writes: "We are not looking for any credit, and I doubt very much the fellows will do much talking when they get back. At least, I don't care to." (p. 236) In April 1919, referring to the Argonne, where he suffered a wound, Leo writes, "God I will never forget that place."
(p. 253) Leo was wounded in action at least twice, and he was hospitalized for the flu. He did not describe his wounding in great detail, no doubt in order to avoid upsetting his family.

Over There with the AEF is replete with excellent simplistic maps of the military campaigns of the 1st Division. Evans was as geographic in his memoirs as was my father, so it was easy to follow the footsteps of Captain Evans. His experiences are backed up with letters home, which are included in the appendices. The Introductory essay by John J. McGrath and footnotes by Lt. Col. Charles E. Roller related Evans's experiences to the documented history of the war. The book needs additional editing.

Almost all of Leo's letters are lighthearted; there is not much mention of the horrors of combat. In fact, Leo writes comparatively little about his actual military duties. While this is a shame (it would have been interesting to learn about his daily duties as a bugler), his letters still provide a valuable insight into the life of a U.S. combat soldier during the war.

The author provides background and clarifying information throughout the book. He also includes photographs of Leo and his friends and family, and ephemera and memorabilia associated with Leo's service. Foster has done a valuable service in preserving and publishing his grandfather's letters; perhaps others will be able to do the same during this centennial year.

Peter L. Belmonte

Monday, May 21, 2018

Did the British Upper Class Get Off Lightly in the Great War?

Cadet Corps at Eton Drilling

No, says the BBC in this 1914 article.

Although the great majority of casualties in WWI were from the working class, the social and political elite were hit disproportionately hard by the war. Their sons provided the junior officers whose job it was to lead the way over the top and expose themselves to the greatest danger as an example to their men.

Some 12 percent of the British Army's ordinary soldiers were killed during the war, compared with 17 percent of its officers. Eton alone lost more than 1,000 former pupils—20 percent of those who served. UK wartime prime minister Herbert Asquith lost his son Raymond, while future prime minister Andrew Bonar Law lost two. Anthony Eden lost two brothers, another brother of his was terribly wounded, and an uncle was captured.

Grave of Lt. Raymond Asquith at the Somme

Sunday, May 20, 2018

R.G. Head's WWI Aviation History Timeline

R.G. Head (1983Photo)
Former fighter pilot and USAF Brigadier General, Richard (R.G.) Head has produced a wonderful resource for anyone interest in the aviation operations during the Great War.  A  graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Head is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours.  

One of the first fighter pilots in Vietnam, he flew 325 combat missions in the A-1 Skyraider, for which he earned the Silver Star. He was also awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 12 oak leaf clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.  Brigadier General Head served as deputy director for operations of the National Military Command Center, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, DC.

R.G. Head's biography of Germany's first ace in World War One, Oswald Boelcke: Fighter Ace, was published in 2016 by Grub Street Publishing. It was reviewed at ROADS TO THE GREAT WAR on 3 January 2017

Here is a single month of notable aviation events from R.G. Head timeline:

(Reduced Size to Fit)

You can view the entire document here:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Germany's Enemies: Portraits from German Prisoner of War Camps

These men are prisoners of war from various countries, captured in Germany. Nearly all of them glower into the camera, and the portraits are titled Our Enemies. 96 Character Heads from Prisoner of War Camps in Germany. The different headdresses highlight the ethnic diversity of the men. 

These pictures showed German readers the face of the enemy. Those depicted were especially "exotic" and "alien." This intentional portrayal of the prisoners was intended to make clear these were "evil foreigners." That Germany captured these men from across the world gave the message that Germany had the capacity to take on the entire world. 

Source: The British Library Website

Friday, May 18, 2018

Don't Miss: The AEF Battlefield Guide

In ten days, we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first American battle of World War One, the Battle of Cantigny.  More commemorations will follow. This booklet will help you keep all the action straight as the unfolding action is retold in the media. The AEF Battlefields covers the area on which the recent PBS WWI documentary was unaccountably weak.

Since 1991, I have been leading First World War battlefield tours to the Western Front, Gallipoli and Italy, and this will be my last year doing so. By far, the greatest interest for my groups has been in the American battlefields. Also, over the years I have received hundreds of inquiries through the Internet as to how to visit the site where a family member, a Doughboy, airman, Marine, or sailor served and how to gain information on what happened where they fought.  What I decided to do for the subscribers of my publications OVER THE TOPROADS TO THE GREAT WAR, and the ST. MIHIEL TRIP-WIRE was consolidate and organize all the information I have gathered over the years on the battlefields of the American Expeditionary Forces into one document. I hope you will consider purchasing it. It is a distillation of all my research and on-site explorations on the subject, organized in a way that I believe is easy to follow. Here are some details about the work and how to purchase it.

The Battlefields Covered:

  • Cantigny
  • Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Vaux
  • Second Battle of the Marne
  • Flanders: Mt. Kemmel
  • Frapelle
  • St. Mihiel Salient
  • Meuse-Argonne
  • The Hindenburg Line & Beyond
  • Blanc Mont Ridge
  • Flanders-Lys
  • Other Notable Operations

Sample Section


  • 28-page, full color, large 8½ x 11 inch printable PDF document, readable on desktops, laptops, or P.E.D. devices
  • 10 major battles and 5 notable smaller operations covered
  • Each main section includes: quick facts, then and now photos, maps, details about the battle, and key sites to visit with GPS coordinates.
  • Delivered electronically
Price: $14.99

How to Purchase

Include your Email Address for Delivery

Thursday, May 17, 2018

100 Years Ago: U.S. Enacts Sedition Law


The Sedition Act of 1918 (Pub.L. 65–150, 40 Stat. 553, enacted 16 May 1918) was an Act of the United States Congress that extended  the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds. Though the legislation enacted in 1918 is commonly called the Sedition Act, it was actually a set of amendments to the Espionage Act

SECTION 3. Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies, or shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements,...or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct...the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, or...shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States...or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully...urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production...or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.


Eugene Debs
The act, along with other similar federal laws, was used to convict at least 877 people in 1919 and 1920, according to a report by the attorney general. In 1919, the Supreme Court heard several important free speech cases—including Debs v. United States and Abrams v. United States—involving the constitutionality of the law. In both cases, the court upheld the convictions as well as the law.


As part of a sweeping repeal of War Time Laws, Congress repealed the Sedition Act on 13 December 1920. Later, President Warren Harding commuted Eugene Debs’s sentence to time served.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Who Suffered the Most from Gas Warfare?

As the table above shows, it was Russia that suffered the most from gas during the First World War.  Why was this? Other than summary statistics only bits and pieces of the story are known. Despite the focus on the first use on the Western Front at Ypres in April 1915, the Russians were targeted earlier, but ineffectively, with a type of tear gas in January 1915 at Bolimow. Later, on 31 May, they suffered over 6,000 killed by chlorine gas in a series of assaults. For the rest of the war, it was a one-sided affair. The Russians never got the hang of systematic defensive measures against gas, and their own offensive measures were of no operational impact.

Russian Gas Masks and Respirators

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Over There with the AEF: The World War I Memoirs of Captain Henry C. Evan
Reviewed by Virginia A. Dilkes

Over There with the AEF: The World War I Memoirs of Captain Henry C. Evans, 1st Division

by Captain Henry C. Evans
Combat Studies Institute Press, 2011

Capt. Henry C. Evans
Over There with the AEF is the WWI memoir of Captain Henry C. Evans, who served in the 1st Artillery Regiment in the 1st Division of the AEF. Henry C. Evans volunteered to be part of the Allied war effort in WWI with the same spirit as that of the 1st Division in which he served: "First to the Front—First in battle—First cited for action." He interrupted his college education at Johns Hopkins University in his junior year to join the war effort. He wrote, "The war is, in my opinion, the most important thing for the whole world, and until our side has won, I shall not think of stopping."

When our country formally joined the war, Evans, initially rejected for medical reasons by the U.S. Army, went overseas with the intention of becoming an ambulance driver in the American Field Service serving with the French army. With an overabundance of ambulance drivers, Evans volunteered to join the French Motor Transport Service where he served as a driver for the French Army. He fulfilled his six-month commitment to the Motor Transport Unit and decided to seek a commission in the U.S. Army Field Artillery. In October 1917 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery and was assigned to the 1st Field Artillery Regiment in the 1st Division of the AEF.

Evans fought in the Battle for Cantigny, the Battle for Soissons, the St. Mihiel campaign, the Battle for the Meuse-Argonne Forest, and served in the U.S. Army of Occupation. He desired his own field artillery battery command, and one can sense his drive throughout his memoirs. In addition to his war experiences, he wrote about the detail needed to keep the field artillery unit in which he served ready for action: attention to the men in the unit, the care of the horses, the maintenance of the artillery, and the calculations needed for effective use of the artillery in battle. "We first had to feed the horses and the men, clean the guns, but by noon we could all turn in." He taught himself analytic geometry to calculate the firing data for the rolling barrages. He wrote: "I would stay up all night, figure up all the firing data for the rolling barrages for the [the next day's] attack and direct the night firing."

The Field Artillery on the Move

He enjoyed telling stories of his war experiences. On one occasion he joined in tampering with the governors on the motors in the French Motor Transport Service to joyride at speeds exceeding those stated in the French Army rule book. One of his favorite stories was of an immature soldier who rose to the occasion to deliver much-needed rations.

He wrote about cooties and fleas although his memoirs reflected the seriousness of the responsibility of the field artillery unit at the Front. He learned to use semaphore signals to relay information about enemy positions to pinpoint where the artillery should fire. Evans suffered deafness from the loud noise generated by artillery shelling.

An American Crew Firing a French 75

As an editor of the WWI memoirs of my own father who served in the 1st Engineers, it was refreshing to read the memoirs of Henry C. Evans that offered another perspective on what it was like to serve in the military campaigns of WWI in which the 1st Division fought. Many times the detail in which Evans wrote about his experiences in battle caused me to reflect on my own father's war.

Over There with the AEF is replete with excellent simplistic maps of the military campaigns of the 1st Division. Evans was as geographic in his memoirs as was my father, so it was easy to follow the footsteps of Captain Evans. His experiences are backed up with letters home, which are included in the appendices. The Introductory Essay by John J. McGrath and footnotes by Lt. Col. Charles E. Roller related Evans's experiences to the documented history of the war. The book needs additional editing.

This book is recommended to the reader who likes to learn about the contributions of the specialty units in the U.S. military in WWI and the individuals who made a difference. Captain Evans was such an individual. In Over There with the AEF Captain Evans relates what it is like to be part of and in command of a field artillery unit and the skills he developed in the process. He was able to hone these skills as he continued his military career in WWII and beyond, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

Over There with the AEF: The World War I Memoirs of Captain Henry C. Evans is also available as a free PDF document online HERE. It was edited by the U.S. government, U.S. military, and the Evans family. Contributions by John J. McGrath; footnotes by Lt. Col. Charles E. Roller

Virginia A. Dilkes

Monday, May 14, 2018

American Troops Are Welcomed “Over There” by King George

By Paul Albright

The Doughboys had just disembarked from their troop ships 100 years ago when they were handed a letter from King George V welcoming them to the British Isles and to the Great War that had engulfed Europe. 

Lieutenant Francis Wolle, who was assigned to the 356th Infantry, was handed the king’s printed letter as he and other soldiers boarded a transport train before being deployed to France. Wolle used the back of the king’s letter to write a short letter to his parents in New York City: “On the train thru England in a 1st class compartment with 5 other officers. This letter was given me as I boarded the train.” 

In the handwritten message printed on Windsor Castle stationery and dated 18 April, King George welcomed the U.S. soldiers to the British Isles “on your way to take your stand beside the Armies of many Nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle for human freedom.”

“The Allies will gain new heart and spirit in your company,” he continued. “I wish that I could shake the hand of each one of you & bid you God speed on your mission.” 

King George V Decorating an American Doughboy in France

Wolle, who would survive the war and become an English professor at the University of Colorado, was impressed by the English towns and countryside that he saw from the train, but he was scrupulous in not naming specific locations. His letter was postmarked 19 June 1918, in Southampton, which apparently was where these American troops arrived. “Passed thru a number of places noted in history & literature where I looked hard,” Wolle wrote his parents. “Can’t name them tho. At camp I spent most of my time censoring letters of men in the company. It is a tedious job & one gets so he reads knowing nothing in the letter except whether it is allowed or not. Many things are not.”

King George’s expressed wish to shake hands with American soldiers did come to pass. In addition to reviewing American troops outside Buckingham Palace, the king, Queen Mary, and Princess Mary visited a Red Cross hospital for 1,000 wounded American servicemen at Dartford, Kent, England near the end of the war. 

An article sent to American newspapers “by cable “reported that King George “talked with scores of men from all parts of the United States, not confining himself to a mere greeting, but pausing in a great many instances to hold lengthy conversations with them. He congratulated them on ‘the wonderful work Americans are doing over here,’” according to the news report

The Doughboys were enthusiastic about the royal visit, as well. 

“Their hearty greeting affected the visitors deeply, and King George smiled and waived his acknowledgement in the most enthusiastic fashion. The demonstration was renewed when the party entered the hospital, each ward trying to outdo the other in the vociferousness of the welcome.”


  • Francis Wolle Papers (COU 1754), Special Collections & Archives, University of Colorado-Boulder. 
  • The Fort Collins Express (Colorado), 11 November 1918.
  • (video 65675026314).

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Remembering a Veteran: Oskar Kokoschka, Cavalryman, and Artist

The later well known painter, graphic artist, stage designer, and poet Oskar Kokoschka was born at Pöchlarn (Lower Austria) on the 1 March 1886. After successfully graduating from the Kunstgewerbeschule at Vienna he got his first job (1907–1909) at the famous Wiener Werkstätte. At this time he was influenced by the Jugendstil movement, but he soon ventured into the Expressionist movement. His first exhibition was in 1908 at the Kunstschau Wien, and in 1910 he started regularly to contribute to the expressionistic magazine Der Sturm and wrote some theater plays. In April 1912 he meet Alma Mahler for the first time. Oskar Kokoschka was deeply impressed by the widow of Gustav Mahler, seven years his senior, and wrote more than 400 letters to her in the following three years and painted the famous double portrait of them in 1913. The lesson ended painfully for him  in 1915 when she married the architect Walter Gropius. She left Gropius in 1918, married Franz Werfel in 1929 while Kokoschka was in Germany, and he never tried to contact her again.

As with so many artists of his generation his relationship with the military authorities was not a close one, but when the war started Kokoschka immediately volunteered for the army. He performed his one volunteers year for officer candidates with dragoon regiment number 3 and was then transferred as a Fähnrich to the 4th squadron of dragoon regiment number 15. On the 29 August 1915 his squadron was ambushed at a small wood near Sikiryczy in Volhynia. During the ensuing heavy fighting, the unit suffered many causalities. All the officers and aspirant officers were killed or captured by the Russians. Fähnrich Kokoschka who performed heroically during this action was so seriously wounded during his capture that his men later reported him as dead. Three days later some Austrian infantry units were able to free five wounded prisoners near the railway station at Kiwercy from the Russians—and Fähnrich Kokoschka was one on them. For his outstanding bravery he was decorated with the Silver Bravery Medal, 1st class, but his wounds were so serious that his promotion to Leutnant der Reserve on 1 August 1916 still found him in hospital. At the end of 1916 he returned to his regiment and earned the Karl Troop Cross during the following month, but his old wounds still troubled him, and consequently he was sent on 21 January 1918 with five months half-pay to Oberloschwitz near Dresden to recuperate. Kokoschka never returned to active duty, but finally he was promoted to Oberleutnant der Reserve on 1 November 1918.

A Village with Trench Running Through on the Isonzo  Front, 1916
Kokoschka Was Wounded for the Second Time in This Sector

After the war Kokoschka stayed in Germany as a teacher at the Kunstakademie in Dresden until 1924 followed by extensive travels through Europe, North Africa, and the Orient. In 1926 Ernst Krenek made an opera out of his play Orpheus und Eurydike. In 1933 he settled down in Vienna but moved to Prague a year later, where he painted his self portrait Selbstbildnis eines entarteten Künstlers in 1937. Between 1938 and 1953 he lived in Great Britain and moved then to Villneuve Lake Geneva. In the same year he founded his summer academy "Schule des Sehen" at the castle of Hohensalzburg, which he managed as a director until 1962. During these years he often designed costumes and stage sets for theaters like the outfit for the Zauberflöte at the Salzburger Festspiele in 1955. On the occasion of the large exhibition of his work at the Künstlerhaus in Vienna in 1958 he said: "Ich habe nie einer Schule angehört, nie eine Mode nachgeahmt. Ahmt man eine Mode nach, ist man immer 50 Jahre zu spät dran. Ich war immer allein," which exactly expressed the unique status of his multi-layered opus. Oskar Kokoschka died on 22 February 1980 at Montreux (Switzerland).

Source: Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848–1918,  by Glenn Jewison & Jörg C. Steiner

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Roads Classic: The Lasting Wisdom of Captain Liddell Hart

Basil H. Liddell Hart (1895–1970) was an English soldier, news correspondent, author, historian, and military strategist. Wounded and gassed in the Great War, he afterward became a prolific commentator on all things military, building on his own experience and observation. An early advocate of mechanized warfare and air power, he ironically was probably more influential in Germany during the interwar years. Something of an eccentric in his private life, much of his work still holds up, such as his one-volume history of 1914–1918, The Real War.

Below are ten quotes from his body of work that seem to me to have as much relevance today as they might have had in 1918 or 1939.

Liddell Hart During His Military Service
1.  It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles' heel of the opposing government’s power to make war. 

2.  The aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that if it does not of itself produce the decision, its continuation by a battle is sure to achieve this. In other words, dislocation is the aim of strategy.

3.  In the history of war [moral issues] form the more constant factors, changing only in degree, whereas the physical factors are different in almost every war and every military situation.

4.  It is folly to imagine that the aggressive types, whether individuals or nations, can be bought off… since the payment of danegeld stimulates a demand for more danegeld. But they can be curbed. Their very belief in force makes them more susceptible to the deterrent effect of a formidable opposing force.

5.  The most consistently successful commanders, when faced by an enemy in a position that was strong naturally or materially, have hardly ever tackled it in a direct way. And when, under pressure of circumstances, they have risked a direct attack, the result has commonly been to blot their record with a failure

6.  For whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.

7.  It is thus more potent, as well as more economical, to disarm the enemy than to attempt his destruction by hard fighting…A strategist should think in terms of paralyzing, not of killing.

8.  As has happened so often in history, victory had bred a complacency and fostered an orthodoxy which led to defeat in the next war.
(Strategy, 1954; discussing the French Army between the World Wars)

9.  Adaptability is the law which governs survival in war as in life…To be practical, any plan must take account of the enemy’s power to frustrate it; the best chance of overcoming such obstruction is to have a plan that can be easily varied to fit the circumstances met.

10. The downfall of civilized states tends to come not from the direct assaults of foes, but from internal decay combined with the consequences of exhaustion in war.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Advent of Sound-Ranging Technology

Artillery Was the Greatest Killer of the War

By James Patton

By early 1915 the war of movement in the west was over, the German armies had settled into well-chosen defensive positions, and the Western Front was born. This was the ideal domain of the artillerymen, and both sides quickly realized that they needed counter-battery tactics.

Early on, everyone tried flash detection to get the direction of incoming fire, and they attempted to measure distance by calculating the time lapse between the flash and the audible sound, but this proved unsuccessful because the audible sound wave was a rumble rather than a sharp report, which led to unacceptable inaccuracy, as the battery could only be sited in a fairly large area.  A better method was urgently needed.

The Germans pursued an engineering solution using linked listening posts, called the early warning, the main and two or more secondaries. Alerted by the early warning post, stop watches were switched on when the sound reached the main and then the secondaries. The difference in times was converted to a distance and circles plotted, another circle was then derived that touched these two circles and the main, the center of this circle was the source of the sound. Corrections were attempted for conditions affecting the speed of sound. The biggest drawback was reliance on human hearing, so they added "objective devices," including directional galvanometers, oscillographs, and modified seismographs, with results recorded onto paper or photographic film.

William Bragg
The British sought instead to find a scientific solution. Their artillery command center for the Ypres Salient was located atop Mont Kemmel, a hill about 400 feet above sea level and a mile east of the German positions on Messines Ridge. In mid-1915 a Territorial Force 2nd Lieut. named William Lawrence Bragg (1890–1971) was attached for general duties there, as his Royal Horse Artillery battery had been laid up. No ordinary officer, he was a theoretical physicist with a Nobel Prize. 

Bragg was born in Australia. In 1909 his physicist father, Lawrence, became the Cavendish Chair in Physics at the University of Leeds. William, already a graduate from the University of Adelaide, moved with the family and took another First from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1911. He was elected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1914, while he was working under Sir Joseph J. Thomson (Nobel Laureate in Physics for 1906) at the famed Cavendish Laboratory, which Bragg himself would subsequently head (1938–1953).

Bragg’s most famous discovery was his law regarding the diffraction of X-rays by crystals, by which the positions of the atoms within a crystal can be calculated from the way in which an X-ray beam is diffracted by the crystal lattice. He made this discovery in 1912 and discussed his findings with his father, who then developed the X-ray spectrometer at Leeds, which enabled the analysis of many different types of crystals.

For this work, father and son shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1915. At age 25, William is the youngest person ever to receive the physics prize.

At Mont Kemmel, Bragg went to work on the sound ranging problem. He postulated that there were two distinct disturbances resulting from the firing of a heavy artillery gun: the "shell wave" and the "gun wave." Furthermore, the shell wave would be audible, but the gun wave would be sub-sonic. Almost unbelievably, Bragg is said to have gotten the breakthrough by observing the WC (toilet) at his billet (how many had such a thing on the Western Front?), he detected the pressure differences of shell waves and gun waves.

William Tucker
Bragg found an invaluable assistant, L. Cpl. William S. Tucker (1877–1955), a Territorial with the London Electrical Engineers (a searchlight unit), who was assigned to Mont Kemmel for general duty. Tucker, an engineer and a lecturer at Imperial College (London), specialized in acoustics.

Both the Germans and the French had worked to adapt galvanometers coupled to microphones as a way to improve the accuracy of the sound recording process. The French, led by chrono-photographer Lucien Bull (1876–1972) and astronomer Charles Nordmann (1881–1940), recorded these micro-electric signals on photographic film. This enabled accuracy to hundredths of seconds, but the device could not run continuously because of the wastage of film, which meant that the recording couldn’t start until it was certain that every post was measuring the sound from the same flash, and they were still measuring the shell wave.

This problem was solved in mid-1916 when the new 2nd Lieut. Tucker invented a low-frequency microphone that enabled the isolation of the gun wave from the shell wave and eliminated error caused by the sonic boom as well.

Tucker’s device was highly sensitive; it used an ultra-thin heated platinum wire that was cooled by the gun wave. He had noticed that whenever a gun wave arrived there was a draft of cold air that came through mouse holes near his bed, so he devised a microphone consisting of a thin, electrically heated wire, stretched over a small hole in a container (he used rum jars). The decrease in the electrical resistance of the wire caused by the air pressure of the gun wave was recorded by a galvanometer. This microphone worked well, as the rapid oscillations of the shell wave had almost no effect on the wire, while the gun wave produced well-defined "breaks" on cine film.

By September 1916 all British sound ranging sections in Belgium and France had these devices.  Tucker returned to London to perfect techniques for correcting the sound data to compensate for meteorological conditions and to determine the optimum layout of the "sound ranging base"—an array of Tucker’s microphones. It was found that a shallow curve and relatively short  base was best. Over time, the attacking gun site could be located to within 25 to 50 meters under normal circumstances. Later refinements could even estimate the size of the gun and find the direction of fire, eliminating the need for theodolite flash bearings.

By war’s end Tucker was a major, outranking Bragg. Both men received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1918 Honours List. Additionally, Bragg was Mentioned in Despatches three times (1916, 1917, and 1919) and awarded the Military Cross, unusual for an officer not actually serving in combat.

Sound Ranging Equipment

After the war both Bragg and Tucker returned to their old lives. Bragg succeeded Sir Ernest Rutherford at Manchester when the latter became the head of the Cavendish Lab. Bragg founded the Unit for the Study of the Molecular Structure of Biological Systems, from which came the groundbreaking work on the structures of proteins and then DNA. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1921, knighted in the 1941 Honours List, and shortly before his death became a Companion of Honour (CH), of which there can only be 64 living members.

In 1938 Tucker became Director of Acoustical Research for the RAF. His group constructed a number of large concrete parabolic sound wave mirrors along England’s south coast, which were designed to pick up the sound of aircraft engines from a long distance. This project was superseded by improvements to the Chain Home System.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thoughts on the Economics of World War I

By Stephen Broadberry and Mark Harrison

After 1939 it became impossible not to see World War I as a dress rehearsal for World War II. From this viewpoint the first war was rather like the second war, only not as bad. In its own time it was seen as the nadir of civilization, but this was only because those involved did not realize how much worse it could get. This is immediately obvious from any statistical comparison of the two wars...The lesson is clear—World War II was just World War I with more countries, more soldiers, more time, more money, more guns, more death, and more destruction.

In reality, World War I had some distinct features. One is that economics decided the outcome of the first war in a direct and straightforward sense, even more so than in the second. The military decision of World War I was expected on the Western Front, where the richest countries engaged most of their forces. Yet the military decision never came. It is true that there were victories and defeats and that the front became considerably less stable during 1918, but the fact remains that the military struggle ended in ceasefire, not surrender, with the German Army still standing on foreign soil. If Germany’s war effort had become unsustainable it was because of the failure of its economy, not its army. In Austria-Hungary, too, it was the economic collapse of Austria-Hungary that ended the military ambitions of the Habsburgs just as urban famine and industrial collapse in Russia signed the death warrant of the Romanovs. 

In this limited sense, World War II was different; it ended in the crushing military defeat of the Axis Powers. What remained the same is that the Allied victory of 1945, like that of 1918, was enabled by an overwhelming predominance of resources.

We conclude by noting the special features of warfare in the first half of the 20th century. While there is much debate about the precise definition of “total war” (Chickering and Förster, 2000), the period between 1914 and 1945 is distinctive from an economic viewpoint. In both world wars the main combatants were able to devote more than half of their national income to the war effort. This did not happen before 1914, or after 1945, and it seems unlikely that it will ever happen again. Before 1914 it was impossible and after 1945 it was no longer necessary. Before the 20th century, per capita incomes were too low and government services too inefficient for society to devote such a large share of economic activity to warfare; too many people were required to labor in the fields and workshops simply to feed and clothe the population, and government officials were not up to the task of counting and controlling them. After 1945, the destructive power of nuclear weapons meant that any rich or large country could acquire devastating military force for a few billion dollars. Hence the marshaling of economic resources played a much more vital role in the outcome of the two world wars than in any period before or since. This is why we maintain that the history of the world wars cannot be written without the economics. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Rose of Picardy

The Rose of Picardy

On 25 June 2004,  “the Rose of Picardy” was christened at the Valloires Gardens in Argoules, France. The pink red rose with yellow stamens was created by David Austin, a renowned rose specialist from Great Britain. 

The story of this rose starts in 1916 when a British soldier, who was resting behind the lines, met an inhabitant of the village of Warloy-Baillon in the Somme (near Albert). Struck by the contrast of the scenes of terrible fighting at the front and the peaceful picture of a lady tending her roses, the soldier decided to write a poem. 

A hymn of peace and of love, carrying a message of hope and romanticism, the text was put to music two years later by Haydn Wood, an English composer. The song has been translated into French and has known various interpretations, such as those by Sidney Bechet, Yves Montand, and Tino Rossi, etc.

The story, the song, and the emotional power of the memories of the fighting in Picardy, around the River Somme, inspired Mr. Austin to create his rose.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

America and the Great War
Reviewed by David F. Beer

America and the Great War: 
A Library of Congress Illustrated History

by Margaret E. Wagner
Bloomsbury Press, 2017

I was initially put off a bit by this volume, thinking it was "just another coffee table book." Then I opened it, started reading, and soon found how wrong I was. True, glossy books this size (9" x 11") and larger, with plenty of photographs and illustrations, do tend to come across as belonging on a coffee table or sofa to be seen by guests we want to impress, to inspire conversation, or to alleviate boredom when conversation flags.

Author Margaret Wagner
But America and the Great War deserves no such disparagement. It's a 371-page attractive, thoughtful, and informative publication, with clear narrative and numerous rarely seen graphics. With a prologue, four substantial chapters, and an epilogue, Margaret Wagner effectively covers American politics, society, and military efforts from 1912 to 1918. This is backed up by detailed notes and a bibliography that reveals how thoroughly the author has made use of the almost limitless resources of the Library of Congress, where she is a senior writer and editor. Included in the book is an appendix detailing the World War I collections at the Library of Congress. I was amazed at the depth and extent of these ten separate collections, much of which is accessible online.

Many background themes emerge and expand in this book. We may be familiar with a lot of them, but Margaret Wagner provides surprisingly unfamiliar details and photos mined from her deep resources. Topics range from America's unreadiness for war—even on the Mexican border—to submarine warfare and the dilemmas of isolation and attempted neutrality. We follow the eruption of "war hysteria" and censorship with the invidious Espionage Act, mobilization, the rounding up of draft dodgers and "slackers," and, finally, victory. We meet men and women (several with now-unfamiliar names) involved one way or the other, for better or for worse, in the war movement. Cutthroat political maneuvering and revenge, huge war loans and profiteering, and cruel discrimination against "Negroes" and German-Americans are not spared. On the other hand, we also read of monumental efforts to help the needy in Belgium and occupied France.

Cartoon Included in America and the Great War
Few of us are aware of the intense labor unrest and numerous strikes that took place during the war years, even if we're familiar with the Wobblies. Many additional organizations also took up the struggle, such as the International Brotherhood of Blacksmiths, the American Federation of Labor, and the National Civil Liberties Bureau. The latter, which broke from the American Union Against Militarism, was to eventually become the American Civil Liberties Union. Industrial magnates and politicians did not take kindly to any of these. The government itself experienced a frenzy of bureaucratic reorganizing and subdividing to cover every need that arose from the new order of things, and the military was not far behind with its more than 150 different procurement groups.

Our shortcomings in supplying our soldiers with uniforms, equipment, and skilled training when we entered the war were almost appalling, as Wagner illustrates. Congressmen angrily investigated the ongoing paucity of war supplies both at home and in France:

Where were the rifles needed for training draftees, many of whom were drilling with wooden sticks? Where was the artillery? Where were the planes?...Soldiers in overcrowded and unfinished training cantonments fell victim to flu, pneumonia, meningitis, measles, and mumps-often because they were inadequately protected…thousands of men went without overcoats in the dead of winter.[Meanwhile] in France the AEF's horses and mules were starving, there weren't enough blankets, gloves, or coats for the men, and some soldiers could not find boots that fit...on a forty-seven-mile Christmas Day march through a blizzard, badly shod men of the Rainbow Division left bloody tracks in the snow (p. 211).

Politicians also questioned the lack of shipping construction—after ten months and millions of dollars the Emergency Fleet Corporation hadn't produced one ship. And why weren't we supplying our troops with sufficient American-made artillery, aircraft, machine guns, and other vital war matériel? (p. 217) By the end of July 1918, the AEF had 1.2 million officers and men in France, yet most had never experienced combat and were still in great need of training. (p. 259)

General Pershing was aware of the situation of course, and the story of how events developed and changed to where America had a significant part in the outcome of the war is detailed and illustrated. Each of the AEF's combat actions is described and analyzed. President Wilson's Fourteen Points, the League of Nations, Versailles, and all the Byzantine politics, bargaining, reactions, and decisions that preoccupied many people at that time come in for discussion. The book concludes by looking at our brief involvement in Russia and the myriad changes that America had undergone by the time she emerged from the Great War.

America and the Great War: A Library of Congress Illustrated History is not only a splendid read but also a fascinating visual experience. As I stated above, the bibliography and details of the Library's holdings are additionally useful and impressive. Don't be put off by the price; it's not hard to find discounted editions. Even if I had a coffee table, I wouldn't put this book on it—this belongs on my shelves with the other significant publications on the Great War.

David F. Beer

Monday, May 7, 2018

Inside the Sarajevo "Assassination Museum"

Located in the building before which assassin Gavrilo Princip murdered Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the establishment many call the "Assassination Museum" is formally known as the Sarajevo Museum 1878–1918. Its displays cover the period from the Congress of Berlin through the end of the Great War. They examine the Ottoman influence, the administration and annexation by Austria-Hungary, local architecture and culture during the period, and, of course, the assassination and event of the First World War.

Here are some images to give readers a feel for what's on display within.

The Building at the Time of the Assassination

The Archduke Approaches, 28 June 1914

The Museum Today from the Latin Bridge

Museum Gallery

Detail from the Gallery Above

Sarajevo During the Ottoman Period

Fan with Cultural and Historical Themes

Austro-Hungarian Military Maneuvers Conducted Nearby

Another Gallery

Marker at the Location of the Assassination

Images from the website of the Sarajevo Museum 1878–1918