Published on 15 Dec 2014
Ferdinand Foch was one of the most famous Entente generals of World War 1. He already began his military career in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71. Until the end of WW1 he rose to the rank of Commander in Chief of the allied forces. War had always been central to Foch’s life, though neither he nor anyone else really foresaw the size, scope, and horrors of World War One. In this video we’re showing his impressive life.
December 17, 2014
December 12, 2014
Published on 11 Dec 2014
Near the far away Falkland Islands the story of the German East Asia Squadron is coming to an end: in a naval battle nearly the entire squadron sunk and Maximilian von Spee dies together with over 2000 German seamen. Meanwhile, the war of attrition is still going on in Europe and Austria-Hungary has to learn that their conquest of Belgrade is not putting a lid on the Serbian resistance.
December 10, 2014
Published on 8 Dec 2014
Indy is answering your questions again and this week explains, among other things, how gas shells worked and what role Spain played during the war. You can always ask more questions in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter and Indy will gladly answer them in on of the next episodes.
December 9, 2014
During the first World war use of the four-letter word, as it is now called, became universal, or more probably its universal use was first observed by the literate classes. Between the wars the word was presented by writers in a modified form — mucking or flicking — or with its initial only: f—ing. Its use in full — fuck — now seems to be approaching literary, though not conversational, respectability.
A.J.P. Taylor, A History of England: England 1914-1945, 1961.
December 5, 2014
Published on 4 Dec 2014
During the first week of December, Austria manages to capture Belgrade. Thereby Austria is the first nation to achieve one of its war aims. The victorious Austrians are joyful, but the Serbs strike back and the Austrian euphoria takes a sudden end. Meanwhile, the Russians fight against the German and Austrian troops in front of Cracow. But the Austrians are able to stop the Russian offensive and achieve yet another victory.
The atrocities, the Austrians committed in Serbia, were part of our episode from August 28, in which we are also talking about the so called Rape of Belgium, a series of atrocities committed by German troops in Belgium: http://bit.ly/1BhsysW
December 4, 2014
Britain is deeply in debt, like most western countries, but some of the debt is much longer term than usual:
Britain will pay off all of its debt used to fund World War One next March, when it redeems a government bond first issued more than 80 years ago to help pay for the conflict.
The finance ministry said on Wednesday that it would redeem the 1.9 billion pound ($3 billion), 3.5 percent War Loan — a perpetual bond which means it has no fixed maturity date — on March 9 next year.
Issued in 1932, the War Loan was used to refinance debt accumulated during World War One, which ended in 1918.
Some market experts said they would miss the bond as a rare historical curiosity in modern finance.
“For those of us who’ve been looking at the gilt market for a long time, a little bit of magic has fallen out of the market,” said Barclays fixed income strategist Moyeen Islam.
What needs to be pointed out however, is that they’re not actually paying off the WW1 debt: they’re eliminating that particular interest-bearing bond (because it’s now paying a higher rate of interest than the UK government’s other debt instruments). The money to pay off the current holders of those bonds will be borrowed on the market at current market rates. That’s the government equivalent of paying off one credit card with another … you still have a debt, it’s just being held by a different lender now. Tim Worstall explains:
As background, yes, Britain ran up big debts in WWI. Those were those National War Bonds. And interest rates changed a bit, finances moved around, and in 1927 it was decided that those National War Bonds should be changed. And the change was to turn them into perpetual bonds: the capital would never be paid off, there would just be a stream of interest off into the indefinite future. The government retained the right to buy them in at any point (a “call option” on them) which is what Osborne is exercising now. One more thing: there were other bits and pieces of debt lying around. Odd bits and pieces from the 19th century, debt from the Crimean War, from those (not large enough) attempts to deal with the Great Famine in Ireland, bits and pieces relating to the Napoleonic Wars and even, would you believe it, some parts that related all the way back to the South Sea Company and the South Sea Bubble of the 1720s (although that connection is pretty remote).
All of these pieces were dumped into the same pot and “consolidated” into these perpetual bonds. They were and are thus known as “Consols”.
What Osborne is going to do is exercise that call option and bring those bonds back in. But he’s not actually “paying off” those debts. He’s going to issue other, more conventional, gilts in order to have the money to give to those sending in their Consols. He must be doing that: the government really is borrowing £100 billion a year and change at present. This is no more “paying off” those debts than my taking out a bank loan to pay off my credit card is paying off debts. It might well be a very good idea to do that, given the difference in the terms of the debts and the interest rates, but it’s still not paying off, is it?
H/T to Elizabeth for the original link.
December 3, 2014
Published on 1 Dec 2014
Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941), Germany’s last Kaiser, was born in Potsdam in 1859, the son of Frederick III and Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria. Wilhelm became emperor of Germany in 1888 following the death of Frederick II. During his rule, Germany’s relations with Britain, France and Russia became strained. William was forced to abdicate on 9th November, 1918. He fled the country with the rest of his family and lived in Holland for the rest of his life. Who was Wilhelm II the last emperor of Germany and what was his political and military influence on the Germans decisions during World War I?
November 28, 2014
Published on 27 Nov 2014
Four months after the outbreak of the war, a new fight develops: the fight for the most valuable resources. The modern warfare and its war machines need one thing more than anything: oil. The influence is immense – on the battles and the life of the soldiers. Oil, iron, steel or cole resources can be a matter of life and death. Meanwhile, the situation at the Front is gridlocked, especially in the trenches of the Western Front. The Britain’s advance into the Ottoman Empire and conquer the city Basra. Their goal is to secure their drilling facilities at the Arab Gulf.
… while the soldiers on other fronts had to make do with the usual assortment of camp followers, local girls and any brothels which survived the operations that brought the lines to that spot, both sides on the Western Front were able to avail themselves of the services of established brothels in the towns near the front on each respective side. Well, the officers could, at least; proper brothels which had existed before the war generally displayed blue lamps, signifying that they were forbidden to enlisted men by military regulations. Lower ranks had to content themselves with makeshift red-lamp facilities, sometimes the new French Bordels Mobiles de Campagne, but more often just commandeered pubs or other buildings whose facilities might consist of little more than, as one soldier reported, “a stretcher, with a very thin sheet and blanket.”
In 1914, Western civilization had not yet sunk into the modern madness of pretending that healthy young men can simply “just say no” to sex without ill effect (or that they should); with rare exception, absolutely nobody in military leadership imagined that they could really stop men from visiting brothels by ordering them not to. Of course, the British tried to anyway; unlike the Germans (who issued the troops both condoms and disinfectant) and the French (who issued entire brothels), British military officials issued only the epigrammatic advice from Lord Kitchener while quietly allowing the troops to visit French brothels under the excuse that they didn’t want to offend their allies and hosts. Since blue lamp facilities were established houses staffed by experienced professionals with a supply of condoms, they had no problem with sexually transmitted disease. The same, however, could not be said for the red lamps, and since the troops were issued neither prophylactics nor proper information, STIs ran rampant. Over 400,000 cases were recorded among British or Commonwealth troops during the course of the war, 150,000 of them on the Western Front alone; altogether roughly 5% of the men were infected at least once, three and a half times the infection rate among French troops and fully seven times the German rate.
By 1915 nurse Ettie Rout persuaded the New Zealand authorities to begin issuing prophylactic kits to their troops, and Canada soon followed suit; Britain’s response was to garnish the pay of soldiers who contracted STIs and treat them in separate, second-rate hospital facilities in order to punish and shame them. Considering that an English Tommy’s pay was a scant one-fifth that of his counterparts from Canada and Australia (sixpence a day vs. two and a half shillings), it’s hardly surprising that infected troops preferred to hide their infections and/or treat them with ineffective patent medicines or folk remedies.
Maggie McNeill, “Red Lamp”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-11-11.
November 26, 2014
Published on 24 Nov 2014
The prevalent conduct of war of the Twenties is unmistakably the trench warfare. The trenches with its knee deep mud are war theatre as well as home to the soldiers. But how does it look like inside a trench? How is it constructed?
Indy took a look and explains why the trenches are thought to be the base for a longstanding war and how life was inside a trench.
November 25, 2014
While they’re not true replica vehicles, the British Mark IV and the German A7V tanks can be seen at the Tank Museum in Bovington:
Uploaded on 11 Jan 2012
The Tank Museum has obtained the tank used in Steven Spielberg’s new World War One blockbuster Warhorse.
The fully operational replica of a British Mk IV tank is set to go on display when the film is released next week, and will also be used in the Dorset based Museum’s tank displays later in the year.
The full sized replica was based on the Museum’s own Mark IV, which was built in 1917. OSCAR award-wining special effects company Neil Corbould Special Effects LTD, whose credits include Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator, visited The Tank Museum in 2010 to take measurements from the vehicle and copy original documents related to the MK IV tank held in the Museum’s Archive.
Published on 30 Nov 2012
The Tank Museum has acquired a working replica of a German First World War tank. See it in action here, alongside our British First World War replica from the film War Horse. For more information, visit www.tankmuseum.org.
November 23, 2014
Published on 11 Nov 2014
International historian Margaret MacMillan returns to The Agenda to discuss the events that led to the First World War, as chronicled in her book The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. MacMillan tells Steve Paikin why Europe’s major powers made decisions that resulted in The Great War.
H/T to Mark Collins, who comments:
The author’s website. Two quibbles: she lets Serbia off far too lightly; and she does not mention the not-unjustified German fear that, if Russia was not defeated fairly soon, by around 1916 she would be unbeatable in combination with the French (see here: “German Fears about Russia“).
November 21, 2014
Published on 20 Nov 2014
The commanders of the German army blame each other for the missing victories. Falkenhayn and Hindenburg both believe that they have the only solution to the problems. The German emperor feels more and more excluded when it comes to military decisions. His soldiers become pieces on a chessboard and the war of the 20th century also takes it’s toll on some of the best commanders. The situation at the Western Front stays unaltered: the French and Germans fight each other between the trenches. On the contrary, at the Eastern Front the Russians and the Germans are battling in a heavy fight.
November 18, 2014
In the Telegraph, Tim Rowley reports from Ypres:
In Flanders fields, dozens of men are digging trenches. From dawn to sunset, they force their shovels through the soil, even when the temperature plunges below freezing. When it rains, their clothes cling to their bodies. They were told it would be over by Christmas; now, they are not so sure.
This is Belgium, 2014, and the men are archaeologists, not soldiers – but in one regard their experiences are not so far removed from those of their forebears a century ago. The foes of the Great War have long been reconciled, but the weather is as harsh as ever.
“The cold is not the problem, it’s the rain,” says Simon Verdegem, one of the 30 archaeologists excavating land touched by only a plough for decades. “By the end of the day, our shoes are full of mud and we can’t walk straight because we slip all the time. And, this time, nobody’s firing at us.”
Verdegem’s great uncle fought on these fields 100 years ago. Now the 31-year-old is learning a little of the conditions he had to endure. “The first thing I do when I get home is take a shower and hang my clothes up by the fire. But they didn’t have the chance. They had to stay in a water-filled trench. I know how we feel after a day out here in the rain – we’re just miserable – and I can’t imagine it.”
All these years later, Belgium’s war wounds have still to heal. In the years following the Armistice 96 years ago today, vast mounds of earth were shovelled into the trenches. In the great cemeteries of Belgium, the row upon row of Portland stone stood as testament to the sacrifice of the men; the authorities were less keen to remember the inglorious squalor to which each side subjected the other.
If only that were so easy. For decades now, Flanders farmers have turned up a deadly harvest of unexploded bombs, shells and grenades. They all know the bomb squad’s phone number, and some have reinforced their tractors against explosion.
Yet archaeologists rarely get the chance to mine this rich seam of history. Under European Union regulations, they can only excavate these fields when there is an external threat to the artefacts buried beneath, such as a housing development.
Which is why Verdegem is so excited by this latest dig, the largest-ever excavation of First World War battlefields. Next year, Fluxys, a Belgian energy company, will lay a new £120 million gas pipeline across the country, snaking through 18 miles of land that formed the frontline for four years, as both sides inched from Ypres to Passchendaele then back to Ypres – each time, shuffling just far enough to bury their dead.
November 14, 2014
Published on 13 Nov 2014
The German army dug in at the Western Front and waited for the next enemy attack at the Eastern Front. Even though the Germans outnumbered their opponents, they barely stand a chance against machine guns in no-man’s-land. But they realize: to defend a position is a lot easier than to attack and conquer. Especially while fighting near Ypres. At the Eastern Front, things are going better for Chief of Staff Ludendorff: he breaks through outstretched Siberian lines. At the same time, Russian soldiers are faced with a new enemy and start the Bergmann Offensive in today’s East-Turkey.