Published on 3 Oct 2016
The Russian Army of World War 1 fielded a great variety of troops and equipment. This was especially true for the different uniforms. In our special episode, we will talk about some of the most common items, tunics and gear the soldiers would wear into battle.
October 4, 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.
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 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 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.
August 1, 2016
Chris Banks posted a link to this article in the Lorne Scots Facebook group:
The Canadian Army (CA) will advance into the future under a new flag that nods to its proud past.
The flag was unveiled July 14, 2016, during a ceremony on Parliament Hill in which CA members welcomed their new Commander, Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk.
The new design features the Canadian flag and a white, stylized maple leaf against a red background. Superimposed on the white maple leaf is the badge that members used during the Second World War and the Korean conflict, consisting of three maple leaves over a pair of crossed swords. Sitting atop the centre leaf is an image of St. Edward’s Crown, a symbol that has been used in coronation ceremonies for over 300 years.
The maple leaf was worn on the collars of Canadian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War, and was included on the new flag to honour the 100th anniversary of the battle, which will be marked in 2017. The same maple leaf flew on the Headquarters flags of the fighting Divisions during the Second World War and still flies across Canada at the CA’s various Division Headquarters.
July 26, 2016
Published on 25 Jul 2016
Matthew Moss helped us with this episode, check out his website: http://www.historicalfirearms.info
The British Army was probably the best equipped at the beginning of the war. They already transitioned to the more practical khaki colour, faded out the differences between infantry and other branches and developed uniforms for different climates. But of course World War 1 brought its own number of problems for the British Army.
One of the most dangerous errors of our time is the belief that human beings are uniquely violent animals, barely restrained from committing atrocities on each other by the constraints of ethics, religion, and the state.
It may seem odd to some to dispute this, given the apparently ceaseless flow of atrocity reports from Bosnia, Somalia, Lebanon and Los Angeles that we suffer every day. But, in fact, a very little study of animal ethology (and some application of ethological methods to human behavior) suffices to show the unbiased mind that human beings are not especially violent animals.
Desmond Morris, in his fascinating book Manwatching, for example, shows that the instinctive fighting style of human beings seems to be rather carefully optimized to keep us from injuring one another. Films of street scuffles show that “instinctive” fighting consists largely of shoving and overhand blows to the head/shoulders/ribcage area.
It is remarkably difficult to seriously injure a human being this way; the preferred target areas are mostly bone, and the instinctive striking style delivers rather little force for given effort. It is enlightening to compare this fumbling behavior to the focussed soft-tissue strike of a martial artist, who (having learned to override instinct) can easily kill with one blow.
It is also a fact, well-known to military planners, that somewhere around 70% of troops in their first combat-fire situation find themselves frozen, unable to trigger lethal weapons at a live enemy. It takes training and intense re-socialization to make soldiers out of raw recruits. And it is a notable point, to which we shall return later, that said socialization has to concentrate on getting a trainee to obey orders and identify with the group. (Major David Pierson of the U.S. Army wrote an illuminating essay on this topic in the June 1999 Military Review).
Criminal violence is strongly correlated with overcrowding and stress, conditions that any biologist knows can make even a laboratory mouse crazy. To see the contrast clearly, compare an urban riot with post-hurricane or -flood responses in rural areas. Faced with common disaster, it is more typical of humans to pull together than pull apart.
Individual human beings, outside of a tiny minority of sociopaths and psychopaths, are simply not natural killers. Why, then, is the belief in innate human viciousness so pervasive in our culture? And what is this belief costing us?
Eric S. Raymond, “The Myth of Man the Killer”, Armed and Dangerous, 2003-07-15.
July 25, 2016
Published on 24 Jul 2016
Indy sits on the Chair of Wisdom and reads out some of the best comments we get every month. This week, we deal with the evolution of German Infantry Tactics.
July 19, 2016
Published on 18 Jul 2016
Francis Pegahmagabow was not only the most successful sniper of World War 1, but he is also among the most decorated aboriginal soldiers in history. He joined the Canadian Army in 1914 and quickly made a name for himself as a sniper during reconnaissance missions.
July 18, 2016
If there’s anyone more qualified than Luttwak (author of Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook (1968)) to discuss the recent coup attempt against President Erdoğan and his government, they must have been participants:
Rule No. 2 in planning a successful military coup is that any mobile forces that are not part of the plot — and that certainly includes any fighter jet squadrons — must be immobilized or too remote to intervene. (Which is why Saudi army units, for example, are based far from the capital.) But the Turkish coup plotters failed to ensure these loyal tanks, helicopters, and jets were rendered inert, so instead of being reinforced as events unfolded, the putschists were increasingly opposed. But perhaps that scarcely mattered because they had already violated Rule No. 1, which is to seize the head of the government before doing anything else, or at least to kill him.
The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was left free to call out his followers to resist the attempted military coup, first by iPhone and then in something resembling a televised press conference at Istanbul’s airport. It was richly ironic that he was speaking under the official portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey’s modern secular state, because Erdoğan’s overriding aim since entering politics has been to replace it with an Islamic republic by measures across the board: from closing secular high schools so as to drive pupils into Islamic schools to creeping alcohol prohibitions to a frenzied program of mosque-building everywhere — including major ex-church museums and university campuses, where, until recently, headscarves were prohibited.
Televised scenes of the crowds that came out to oppose the coup were extremely revealing: There were only men with mustaches (secular Turks rigorously avoid them) with not one woman in sight. Moreover, their slogans were not patriotic, but Islamic — they kept shouting “Allahu ekber” (the local pronunciation of “akbar”) and breaking out into the Shahada, the declaration of faith.
Richly ironic, too, was the prompt and total support of U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the European Union’s hapless would-be foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, in the name of “democracy.” Erdogan has been doing everything possible to dismantle Turkey’s fragile democracy: from ordering the arrest of journalists who criticized him, including the outright seizure and closure of the country’s largest newspaper, Zaman, to the very exercise of presidential power, since Turkey is not a presidential republic like the United States or France, but rather a parliamentary republic like Germany or Italy, with a mostly ceremonial president and the real power left to the prime minister. Unable to change the constitution because his Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not have enough votes in parliament, Erdogan instead installed the slavishly obedient (and mustachioed) Binali Yildirim as prime minister — his predecessor, Ahmet Davutoglu, had been very loyal, but not quite a slave — and further subverted the constitutional order by convening cabinet meetings under his own chairmanship in his new 1,000-room palace: a multibillion-dollar, 3.2 million-square-foot monstrosity (the White House is approximately 55,000 square feet), which was built without authorized funding or legal permits in a nature reserve.
July 16, 2016
Michael van der Galien on the coup attempt against Turkish president Erdoğan:
It’s a done deal: the military coup has failed. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AK Parti remain in power and vow to take revenge against those behind the coup.
Or, perhaps better said: against those they say are behind it.
Now that the coup has clearly failed, we can conclude that this must have been the most incompetent attempted takeover in Turkey’s troubled history. When part of the military launched their offensive last night (Turkish time), I immediately checked news channels supporting President Erdoğan. Surprisingly, none of them were taken over. The only broadcaster that was taken over was TRT Haber, the state news channel. But NTV and other channels supporting Erdoğan were left alone.
That was remarkable, but what struck me even more was the fact that these channels — especially NTV — were able to talk to the president and the prime minister. That’s strange, to put it mildly. Normally, when the military stages a coup, the civilian rulers are among the first to be arrested. After all, as long as the country’s civilian leadership are free, they can tell forces supportive of them what to do… and they can even tell the people to rise up against the coup.
And that’s exactly what happened. Both Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called into news programs and told their supporters to go out on the streets and fight back against the soldiers. A short while later, streets in the big cities (Ankara and Izmir) were flooded with Erdoğan supporters, who even climbed on top of tanks. Fast forward a few hours and it was officially announced that the coup had failed, and that Erdoğan and his AK Party remained in power. About 1500 soldiers were arrested.
As I wrote on Twitter yesterday, there were three options:
- The coup was staged by a small group within the military, which would severely limit their ability to strike.
- The coup was staged by the entire military, which meant Erdoğan’s chances of surviving politically were extremely small.
- The coup was a set-up. Think the Reichstag fire.
The main argument against option number three is that there was some very serious fighting taking place, including massive explosions. Dozens of people have been killed. If this was a fake coup, it probably was the bloodiest one ever. That’s why many people are skeptical about this option, and believe it was just an incompetent attempt at a military takeover.
July 5, 2016
At Samizdata Patrick Crozier points out some things that are necessary to understand why it took so long (relatively speaking) for the “new army” (and the other freshly raised Dominion and Empire forces) to begin winning battles:
First of all, Britain was fighting a war in Western Europe against a large, well-equipped and tactically skillful enemy. That is a recipe for a bloodbath. Britain repeated the exercise twice in the Second World War (May 1940 and June 1944 onwards). They were bloodbaths too. We tend to forget that fact because overall the numbers killed in the Second World War were much lower than than the First and because they achieved a succession of clear victories.
Secondly, Britain began the war with a small army. To make a worthwhile contribution Britain was going to have to raise and train a large army. Soldiering, like any other job, is one where experience counts. Anyone who is familiar with the rapid expansion of an organisation will know that this is a recipe for confusion and chaos. In the case of the British army the inexperience existed at all levels. Corporals were doing the jobs of Sergeant Majors, Captains doing the jobs of Colonels and Colonels doing the jobs of Generals. Haig himself (according to Gary Sheffield) was doing jobs that would be carried out by three men in the Second World War. Talking of the Second World War, it is worth pointing out that it took three years for the British to achieve an offensive victory (Alamein) over the Germans which is much the same as the First (Vimy).
Thirdly, Britain began the war with a small arms industry. Expanding that involved all the problems mentioned above plus the difficulty in building and equipping the factories. It comes as no surprise that many of the shells fired at the Somme were duds and even if they were working they were often of the wrong type: too much shrapnel, not enough high explosive.
Canada’s army in both 1914 and 1939 was a tiny cadre of what the nation would eventually raise, train, equip, and send to foreign shores. The amazing thing is that they managed to become a valuable fighting force to the British army in particular and the allied cause in general from such a tiny, unmilitarized population. Britain’s highly competent regular army was effectively expended to gain enough time for the volunteer forces to train and organize, and even then the early going was far bloodier at least in part because the troops had still not been sufficiently trained and had to be lead in ways that exposed them to higher risks of casualties whenever they were on the attack.