Published on 26 Sep 2016
Philippe Pétain already had a long military career when World War 1 broke out. And even during his peacetime service, his ideas were not always popular because they went against the old doctrines of the French Army. But during World War 1 he proofed his critiques wrong and became the Lion of Verdun who halted the German advance.
September 27, 2016
September 25, 2016
Yesterday I drove out to the wilds of Brampton to attend the Trooping of the Colours for the Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment). Given how hot this summer has been, they had a great day for the event. I’m sporting a bit of a sunburn on the right side of my head, but the temperatures were much more comfortable than they’d have been on pretty much any weekend since June. Elizabeth and I sat in the second row of seats, which meant that a lot of my photos were constrained (or even bookended) by the heads and shoulders of the folks sitting immediately in front of us. It was still a great trip down memory lane.
If you’re on Facebook, you can see a selection of photos from the event here (unless Facebook is making it awkward for non-members to see albums posted as “public”, which is always a consideration). If you can’t see ’em, let me know in the comments and I’ll repost at least a few of them here.
Published on 24 Sep 2016
Sitting in the Chair of Temporary Insanity, Indy talks about Galicia’s big role in war on Location, if Pilots were issued guns, and a story from a viewers great grandpa.
Some of us, in another forum, were discussing why UN peacekeeping seems to go so very wrong, so very often ~ not always, I hasten to add, just usually ~ and I quipped, with just a wee bit of hyperbole, that “Simple human decency says that a country like Canada should have dropped a light brigade into South Sudan and destroyed the South Sudanese Army in a short, brutal campaign of exemplary speed and violence … should have if we could have, but, of course, the Canadian Army is a fat, overstaffed, poorly managed corporal’s guard, that cannot deploy any brigade anywhere because we don’t have any nearly fully staffed brigades and even if we did they don’t have enough logistical “lift,” so they are useless once they have marched more than 15 km out of the camp gate … unless a country with a real army (you know, one with trucks and people a to drive them) decides to support and sustain us.“
Sadly no one, not even officers who have, fairly recently, commanded brigades in the regular army, challenged my assertion that the Canadian Army has been hollowed out until, now, it is a sort of military Potemkin village in which bits and pieces are deployed and redeployed to create the (entirely false) impression that we, Canadians, are getting a real army for the $20 billion or so that we spend, year after year after year, on out national defences.
The process began, in earnest, in about 1970, when, in response to quite draconian cuts imposed by Pierre Trudeau (but not, it has been suggested, as deep as he wished) the Canadian Forces began to try to “make do” with a “pint sized” brigade in Germany ~ when a full sized (6,500± soldiers) one was need by promising (and practising) to augment it with “fly-over” troops from Canada who were trained and equipped and could move, fairly quickly on to “pre-positioned” equipment … if it was properly maintained. It worked well enough, in a peacetime/training situation, except for the fact that we, eventually (early 1980s), understood that we could not sustain a brigade in Germany with “fly overs” when we needed the same troops to “fly over” to Norway to keep another promise, made to try to placate our allies about our deep defence cuts, and by the late 1980s the Norway task (promise) was quietly shelved (broken) about twenty years after it was started, and after a quite disastrous “test” (Exercise BRAVE LION) proved to civilian planners and military commanders alike that the Canadian Army (which was much larger than it is today) simply did not have the where-with-all (especially the logistical “tail”) needed to sustain “fly over” missions to Europe. But the damage was done … in twenty years, almost a generation, the Army, especially, had gotten used to “faking” its combat effectiveness with Potemkin village tactics.
Ted Campbell, “A Canadian Potemkin Village”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2016-09-15.
September 23, 2016
Published on 22 Sep 2016
This week 100 years ago Manfred von Richthofen is credited with his first aerial victory on the Western Front. He shoots down a British airplane with his Albatross D.II. At the same time the Isonzo Front is in full swing again where Luigi Cadorna is leading another offensive.
September 20, 2016
Published on 19 Sep 2016
Cinemas were already pretty popular when World War 1 broke out in 1914. After initial hesitation all warring nations started to embrace the new mass medium for their propaganda. Since it was technically difficult deliver the authentic material the audiences wanted, the films were mostly staged. Film scripts opened the opportunity to transport any message about the war to a mass audience.
September 18, 2016
Published on 17 Sep 2016
Sitting in the Chair of Temporary Insanity, Indy talks about officers tricking their own men, the relationships between them and how criminals were treated in the first world war.
September 17, 2016
At Samizdata, Patrick Crozier gets all contrarian about the tank in a post he titles “Haig’s greatest mistake”:
On 15 September 1916 tanks made their debut at Flers-Courcelette, one of the many engagements which took place during the Battle of the Somme.
The battle marked the beginning of a sorry chapter in British military history because the truth – a truth that to this day few seem prepared to acknowledge – is that the First World War tank was useless.
The list of its failings is lengthy. It was slow, it was unreliable, it had no suspension and it was horrible to operate. The temperature inside was typically over 100°F and as exhaust gases built up so crew effectiveness collapsed. It was also highly vulnerable. Field artillery could take it out easily. Even rifle ammunition could be effective against it. While normal bullets might not be able to penetrate the armour they could knock off small pieces of metal from the inside – known as spall – which then whizzed round the interior wounding all and sundry.
That the tank was the brainchild of Winston Churchill from his days as head of the Admiralty should have alerted senior commanders to the possibility that it was yet another of his crackpot schemes. But they persisted. For his part, Haig being a technophile put a huge amount of faith in the new invention. His diary is littered with references to the tank and he seems to have made great efforts to secure ever more of them. In consequence, huge amounts of effort went into a technological dead end when it would have been far better spent on guns, shells and fuzes.
Not that such efforts were ever likely to satisfy the snake-oil salesmen who made up the ranks of the tank enthusiasts. In the face of tank failure after tank failure they simply claimed that their beloved weapon just wasn’t being used properly.
September 16, 2016
Published on 15 Sep 2016
For years the British had developed the idea of the “landship” or tank and now it was finally ready for the first deployment during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. And even though technical problems plagued the new invention, the British leadership was confident that this new weapon would break the stalemate at the Western Front for good. In the meantime Germany was focusing all offensive efforts on the Romanian front to mercilessly crush the new enemy.
September 13, 2016
Published on 12 Sep 2016
The idea for an armoured vehicle that could withstand fire and travel across battlefields was already developed in 1914 after the Race to the Sea. The British “Landship Committee” developed the tank weapon in secrecy. The French were also trying out different designs at the same time. Learn all about the development and the invention of the tank in our special episode.
Most leaders let their people do their thing, watch them, critique them, and then train them some more so when the time comes, you feel confident in knowing you can do your job. The second lieutenant you’re following might get your whole fucking platoon killed, but you know your job, and because of that you’ll know what to do when the L-T walks out of the tent to take a piss and ends up in a minefield.*
* I actually had a lieutenant get lost at night walking out of the tent to go piss and walked in to a simulated minefield at JRTC (big Army playground, essentially) once during a field exercise. Never leave lieutenants unsupervised, kids. Ever.
Because lieutenants, man.
Ted Glover, “Your Moment Of Zim Tzu: Startless In Seattle”, Daily Norseman, 2016-08-19.
September 11, 2016
Published on 10 Sep 2016
It’s time for the chair of wisdom again and of course Indy answering your questions about World War 1.
September 9, 2016
Published on 8 Sep 2016
German Zeppelins brought terror and destruction to the British homeland since the beginning of the war. But a new invention helped to bring the first one down this week 100 years ago: the incendiary bullet. The public is overjoyed as the first behemoth strikes the ground as a flaming ball of fire. At the same time an unusual calm descends on the battlefields around Verdun: Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff visited the battlefield for the first time and are appalled by what they see.
September 7, 2016
Published on 6 Sep 2016
The next Rock Island premium auction happens this weekend: http://www.rockislandauction.com/
The era before and during World War 1 saw rapid development in firearms. Some of them were only prototypes or only saw very limited production. In collaboration with Rock Island Auction we present 10 rare and obscure firearms of the WW1 era.
September 6, 2016
Published on 5 Sep 2016
Visit the Fortress Museum in Przemyśl: https://goo.gl/maps/8vdZ8AbqapG2
Romania’s history before World War 1 was heavily influenced by the great powers surrounding them. Not only was a considerable minority of Romanians living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Romanian royal family had ties to Germany, Britain and Russia. After fighting in the Balkan Wars, Romania remained neutral during the first two years of World War 1 but decided to join when the moment seemed right.