I often describe myself as slightly paranoid, which then seems to make others think I have some sort of philological issues. I don’t believe I am being “watched” for example. That would, in my opinion, suggest that I hold some degree of celebrity in my mind; this would also, if it were the case, indicate that I think that I am somehow a fellow of above average interest to others. I must admit that if I were any less interesting people would fall asleep during a hand shake with me. Perhaps what I should say is that I strive to be more careful than average when it comes to making purchases and in believing everything I am told. Purchases such as left-handed baseball bats and non-flammable candles may be easy enough to avoid. However I have lost count of all of the collectables I have purchased and then a few days later wondered how I could have made such unwise choices. A few examples of what I allude to are, prices being far too high or items that really didn’t fit into my collecting themes.
The problem of knowing when you are being told something other than the truth can at times be difficult. There are some physical signs which must not be taken on individual basis, such as someone rubbing their nose or excessive blinking of the eyes. These so-called signs, on their own, can be explained away as having nothing to do with attempted deceit. Collectively such signs, along with other indications may be used, in law enforcement as an example, to accept the statement or doubt what you are being told.
The most difficult “stories” to determine their truthfulness is when the person telling the story actually believes it to be the truth. This and the manner in which the story is delivered and the interpretation of what has been said may end in one doubting the story as being the truth. Two examples come to mind. If you hear someone say that smoking can be bad for you and you need to take measures to avoid smoking, you may think of someone inhaling smoke from a cigarette, which fits the caution; or something else. If you are standing too close to your BBQ and your clothing is starting to smoke then surely you need to take measures (stepping back) to avoid bursting into flames. My second, and last example, comes from the television comedy, Saturday Night Live (SNL) that first appeared in 1975 which is famous for their rather juvenile humour appealing to the adolescent mind. I became rather old and stuffy about 40 years ago and therefore stopped watching SNL. One of the sketches involved a group of people telling an individual on a beach that “You can’t look at the sun too long”. Most of us would take this as a warning and realize staring at the sun could be detrimental to your vision and not misinterpret this as you can’t get over the majesty of the sun, for example. Of course the poor fellow being advised took the first interpretation with disastrous results.
No, my retelling of this story is not very funny however, as has been said, “You had to be there to see it”.
One of the stories that has floated around guns shows and places where people interested in military history gather, at least here in Canada, is the topic of this blog. Yes, I know it has taken me a long time to get to the point...as usual. Why say something in a couple of dozen words when a plethora of paragraphs can achieve the same results? That’s a rhetorical question of course.
The story is that one can turn an FN FAL C1,or C1A1, rifle from a semi-automatic to a full automatic weapon by inserting a piece of match book in the correct place in the internal workings. This I have always held as being complete garbage. Any of those reading this who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces in the past and used the FN FAL C1 and the FN C2 please hold off on your hate mail until the end of this blog.
The Canadians used the FN FAL C1, a semi-automatic battle rife with the 7.62X51mm NATO round from 1953, being the first to officially adopt the FN FAL, until 1984 when it was replaced by the 5.56x45mm NATO C7 rifle and the C8 carbine both based on the American US AR-15. The British and Commonwealth Nations used the same rifle as Canada but called it the L1A1. I have read that the rifle was commonly known as the FAL however in my area of Ontario at least, we refer to it as simply the “FN”.
Here’s where the claim of using the FN C1, inserting a piece of match book to turn it into an automatic weapon, becomes argument. In each case where this has come up in the past I have tried to delve more deeply into this claim by asking if the service person is saying that with the insertion of a matchbook into the FN C1 they have changed it from a battle rifle (semi-automatic) into an assault rifle (full auto). Without exception the answer is “yes”. The problem in my mind, I have just recently discovered, is not whether you can modify an FN C1 with a foreign object to malfunction and discharge the weapon in rapid succession but have you actually “changed” this battle rifle into an assault rifle. A basic definition of an assault rifle is that it is a carbine sized firearm using a large capacity magazine capable of sustained full automatic fire. The FN FAL, even fitted with a large capacity magazine, falls short of being an assault rifle on two of the most important requirements that I have stated, even with the matchbook modification.
To all of the servicemen in my past who have engaged me in this argument, and there have been quite a few, I apologize. You are correct in that you can make an FN FAL C1 malfunction to fire several rounds in rapid, automatic-like, succession. On the other hand I would offer the suggestion that this could be done with almost any semi-automatic rifle.
On the other hand (you knew there would be an “on the other hand”) to all servicemen in my past who have engaged me in argument you failed miserably in qualifying your claim fully. You did not, I must repeat, did not, change this battle rifle into an assault rifle, and especially to one fellow who claimed to have changed the FN FAL C1 into the C2A1, the squad automatic weapon (SAW), as the C2 has a much more robust barrel to withstand the heat generated by sustained rapid fire. Some of our members might note that they have seen an FN FAL C1 with a selective fire option and you would be correct. There were some FN FAL C1 rifles fitted with the selective fire option and used only by the Royal Canadian Navy to give boarding parties the option of a full automatic weapon without the weight of the C2A1.
In past blogs I have managed to attempt to prove and at times disprove some claims. I’ve disproved some claims about the Battle of Crecy and the crossbow. We then proved the capabilities of the crossbow in experiments that were undertaken with minor casualties. These experiments also brought to light that during an apology for a range mishap the suggestion that, “It is only a cat”, is best left unsaid.
I think we successively supported claims regarding the possibility of an accidental discharge of the STEN gun. Now we have supported the claim that the FN FAL C1 can be made to fire with the insertion of a foreign object; yet without actually fully admitting that I was wrong.
It’s a win, win situation!
I will continue with my version of paranoia and look for myths that I can prove or disprove, while being on guard against my own poor purchase decisions.
The post has just arrived and I need to close now and open the shipment of prefabricated postholes I purchased on eBay.
My great-grandfather served in the Serbian infantry during the Great War. Although I have seen his picture in uniform, I am interested in discovering sources of components of the uniform, or of uniforms for sale (original or reproduction.
The third article in the series Artillery in the First World War has now been published.
Artillery in the First World War: Belgium’s Artillery and the Battle of Liege, 1914
The Tsar's Cannons, the Russian entry to the series, is still in rough draft and likely will be delayed further. Summer on the Bay is full of distractions; kayaking, fishing, crabbing, barbeques, beer drinking, gardening. And those are only the things I put on my "to-do list". Of course, the Commander-in-Chief (aka wife) is free to edit, amend, re-write, add, delete or otherwise re-prioritize my daily activities. (For further reading on this postulate see Brian Wolfe's News From The Home Office What Women Don't Know (About Men). Make coffee first.)
I have also been diverted by researching individual German artillery regiments (See my partner blog series: Imperial German Artillery Regiments). The good news about this is it gives me a smoke screen for searching internet auction and sales sites. Case in point:
Herself says "Why are you looking at that auction site? I thought we agreed that buying militaria wasn't a budget priority right now." *arms crossed, scowling*
Himself says: "Oh, I'm not buying. I'm researching another article." *quickly pulling up the rough draft document, avoiding eye contact* "Of course, if an unusual item pops up, I can always dip into the beer budget."
Herself says: "I'm going for a manicure." *eyes rolling*
So, you see, writing these articles serves multiple purposes. Give it a try. Oh, and keep posting in "Me and My Beer" thread; it's nice to see how the rest of the world lives.
Originally I was going to write a blog titled “What I know About Women”; forty five minutes passed and the screen was just as vacant as my sixth-coffee-caffeine-induced-comatose stare. It was at this time that I realized I had exhausted the full extent of my knowledge in that field of research. True, a title such as “What I Know About Women” followed by a blank page would not only be quite humorous but at the same time sadly accurate. Lesser men would have been deterred by this revelation from continuing along these lines of exploration into the human condition but not yours truly. No, I simply decided to write about “What Women Know About Men”. Ha! Much easier I said to myself and poured yet another cup of coffee. By this time I had the shakes from a little too much caffeine so after wiping up the spilled coffee and the bottom of the wet cup (see, men can be trained my wife would love to interject here) thereby eliminating the coffee ring on the desk, I continued. The subject, what women know about men, would have to withstand the scrutiny of any scientific paper in order to be taken seriously. Under that condition I would, of course, have discount what women “think” they know about men as we all know that they almost always miss the point, well a man’s point; which would be the subject of this thesis after all. Let me ponder this for a moment...
More blank screen, more coffee, can no long see straight, bright spots of light in front of my eyes. Brain stuck on “I Got You Babe” over and over. Oh, my God I’m in the movie “Ground Hog Day”. Need sleep, mind clearer in the morning.
Ah, the next morning and a revelation.
I poured myself the first coffee of the day, no I learned nothing from the previously evening, and sat down in front of my computer and typed the title of this month’s blog, What Women Don’t Understand (About Men) .
Even in my youth I realized that women were incapable, for the most part, of understanding men. For example most women don’t “get” the Three Stooges”. Understanding the Three Stooges is much like understanding the principals of Zen Buddhism. To understand either concept one must stop looking and allow Zen or Stoogeness to wash over you and then you can become one with the Stoogeness. Simple? Right? Obviously not according to any women I’ve known and the few unwary enough to accept my proposal of marriage. The other area of entertainment seemingly beyond the acceptance of their gender is Dr. Who. What’s there not to get about Dr. Who? I’ve been a Whoist, as they now call the fans of the good time lord, for decades and “getting it” has never really entered into my mind. The greatest part about Dr. Who is the exchange between a male Dr. Who fan and his girlfriend, or his wife. It’s usually best to have either one or the other. If that is not your situation then it is definitely best the two don’t ever meet. She asks, “What do you see in Dr. Who? To which you reply, “What?” She repeats “Who”. You say, “What are you talking about?” “Who” she replies, to which you say “You; I said what are you talking about”. Usually this results in her telling you to never mind, it no longer matters, knowing this could go on all night... with luck.
When it comes to attending gun and militaria shows they seem to be completely lost. Women can’t understand why men will get up at 04:30 on a Sunday morning, drive to their buddy’s house and then travel several hours to stand in line in order to be the first through the door of the show all in a blinding snow storm. Especially when she can’t get you out of bed in time to drive to her mother’s, on Mother’s Day, for dinner with her family. Ok, that one should be self-evident.
Most of this month’s blog was arrived at due to the renovations to my new office. Women seem to think that you should sweep and wash the floor and dust down the walls of an empty room before you start to bring in large cabinets. What’s with that? The cabinets are going to cover much of the floor and even the walls so who’s going to see if the floor was dusty before the cabinets went in? Then there’s the crazy idea that you should repair all of the nail holes and small damages to the walls and repaint. Don’t they realize that’s why you frame all of those huge photos, prints and documents? They’re great for covering up these so called defects. You can choose the correct width of framed picture in accordance to the spacing of the damage to the wall. It’s brilliant!
I’ll wrap this blog up with the one question that no man would seldom dignify with an answer, though I shall not shy away from doing so here. Question: “Why would you need a beer fridge in your office”?
Garrison: Landau (In der Pfalz) Established: 1 October 1901 Brigade: 3. Königlich Bayerische Feldartillerie-Brigade Division: 3. Königlich Bayerische Division
Kaserne 12. bFAR Landau
One of twelve active field artillery regiments of the Bavarian Army, 12. bFAR was formed in October 1901 from the III. Abteilung and the 6. Fahrenden Batterie of the Königlich Bayerisches 2. Feldartillerie-Regiment „Horn“ as well as two newly organized Fahrenden Batterien at Würzburg, Bayern. Prior to mobilization in August 1914, 12. bFAR, was garrisoned at Landau in der Pfalz, in southwestern Germany. The Regiment was subordinate to the 3. Königlich Bayerische Feldartillerie-Brigade / 3. Königlich Bayerische Division.
After mobilization, 12. bFAR remained with the redesignated 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division throughout the war; thus earning the same campaign credits as the Division. First World War Campaigns 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division:
The I. Abteilung 12. bFAR was armed with the 7.7cm Feldkanone (FK 96 n/A); II. Abteilung was armed with the 10.5cm leichte Feldhaubitze 98/09. In February 1916, two guns from each of the 1., 2., and 3. Batterie, were given up to form the 21. Feldartillerie-Regiment. In January 1917, 12. bFAR was enlarged with a III. Abteilung. The Stab, 7., 8., and 9. Batterie of the III. Abteilung initially fell under the command of the III. Armeekorps for training. Training was completed at the Truppenübungsplatz Thimougies in Belgium in February 1917 and the new battalion joined the Regiment in the field.
At mobilization, the 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division was part of Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern’s 6. Armee. The 6. Armee was central to the bitter fighting in Alsace-Lorraine during the Battle of the Frontiers at the beginning of the war. Official German reports for August 1914 set casualty figures in the 6. Armee at 34,598, with the number of dead at 11,476. (Herwig) One of those dead was Kanonier Alois Plinganser of 5. Batt. 12. bFAR, who was killed on 24 August 1914. After holding off the French offensive in the south, 6. Armee counter-attacked on 20 August with the objective of capturing terrain south of Nancy, known as the Gap of Charmes. After initial success, the 6. Armee’s attack stalled on 24 August just east of Bayon; the French 1st and 2nd Armies counter-attacked, pushing the line back to its 14 August positions. On 24 August 1914, 12. bFAR and Kanonier Plinganser’s 5. Batterie were located at Remenoville, right in the center the brutal back and forth fighting. Early on 24 August, 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division was given the task to open the route from Mont to Blainville; 12. bFAR was attached to the 5. b. Infantrie Brigade on the right side of the avenue of attack for this task. By early afternoon, 12. bFAR had taken up a position on Hill 251, north of Blainville, but without the 5. Batterie. The 5. Batt 12. bFAR had been fixed in its previous position by enemy artillery fire and was not able to move until the next morning (the morning of 24 August) when it took up a position south of Lamath. Infantry regiments of the 3. Bayerische Infanterie-Division continued a slow advance from Blainville toward Remenoville, supported by its own artillery, but under heavy counter-fire from French artillery. Progress was made kilometer by kilometer and by 6pm on 24 August, elements of the Division were outside Remenoville. However, during this advance, II. Abteilung 12. bFAR came under heavy French artillery fire near Franconville, a few kilometers north of Remenoville. The heaviest casualties were suffered by 5. Batt 12. bFAR. II. Abteilung 12. bFAR finally arrived at Remenoville by 7pm in the evening. Almost immediately, the German troops at Remenoville came under heavy French artillery fire and infantry attacks. By dawn on 25 August, Remenoville was in flames and the front line between German and French forces was just outside the village. Kanonier Plinganser, however, had not lived to see that dawn.
The Battle of the Charmes Gap, August 1914
Line of German Attack on 24 August
12. bFAR positions Remenoville, 24 August
Line of French Counterattack on 25 August
With the end of the war in November 1918, the III. Abteilung was dissolved, with the 7. Batterie being completely disbanded, the 8. Batterie moving to I. Abteilung, and 9. Batterie moving to II. Abteilung. The Regiment was demobilized at Ebermannstadt on 18 December 1918 and dissolved in January 1919. Elements of the Regiment became part of Frei- or Volkswehr-Batterie Zacherl, later Heyl; later these elements became 3. Batterie Reichswehr-Artillerie-Regiment 23. In August 1921, this unit became 3. Batterie des 7. (Bayerisches) Artillerie-Regiments garrisoned in Würzburg. The tradition of 12. bFAR was taken up in the Wehrmacht by the II. Abteilung des Artillerieregiments 33 in Landau und later by Artillerieregiment 69 in Mannheim.
Kraus, Jürgen. Handbuch der Verbände und Truppen des deutschen Heeres 1914-1918. Teil IX: Feldartillerie. Band 1. Vienna: Verlag Militaria, 2007. Web (Wikipedia Deutschland). 24 August 2014
Herwig, Holger H. The Marne, 1914. New York: Random House. 2009. Print.
“Les batailles de Lorraine.” n.p. n.d. chtimiste.com/batailles1418/lorraine.htm Web. 24 August 2014
“Pierre’s Photo Impressions of the Western Front.” n.p. n.d. pierreswesternfront.punt.nl/content/2012/10/als-lorraine-gap-of-charmes Web. 24 August 2014
The Prussian and spolei. “Kgl. Bayer. 12. Feldartillerie-Regiment info needed.” GMIC.co.uk Web. 24 August 2014
My intention was to publish this entry yesterday on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Mons. However, as Robert Burns wrote, "The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley." That applies to combat operations plans as well. No plan survives enemy contact. This special issue of Artillery in the First World War will also further delay publishing "Artillery in the First World War: Russia – The Tsar’s Cannons." In the meantime, another special issue has already been submitted for publication, "Artillery in the First World War: Special Issue – Belgium’s Artillery and the Battle of Liege, 1914." Hopefully, you will be reading that entry very soon. In the meantime, here is a short piece on Britian's Royal Artillery and the Battle of Mons.
So, much has already been discussed and published regarding the British Army during the First World War, especially the British Expeditionary Force’s first battle at Mons in August 1914, that any short article about the Royal Artillery during the First World War would be profoundly superficial. Nevertheless, a modest purpose of this GMIC article series on Artillery in the First World War is to encourage further reading and discussion on the topic; thus, a short refresher on the Royal Artillery’s role at Mons seems to be in order on this 100th anniversary.
Royal Artillery Gunner
The British Expeditionary Force first landed in France on 9 August 1914 and by the Battle of Mons numbered four infantry divisions and five cavalry brigades. (Two additional divisions would arrive by the end of August.) Each infantry division had three field artillery brigades equipped with 54 18-pounder guns, one field howitzer brigade with 18 4.5 in howitzers, and one heavy artillery battery with 4 60-pounder guns. Each cavalry brigade had one battery of Royal Horse Artillery; each battery being equipped with 6 13-pounder field guns, for a total of 30 13-pounders.
1st Cavalry Division (4 brigades): D Battery, E Battery, I Battery, J Battery, RHA 5th Cavalry Brigade (independent): L Battery, RHA
The Battle of Mons was part of a larger campaign later called the Battle of the Frontiers, the result of France implementing its Plan XVII and Britain deploying the BEF in response to Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality. After conquering the fortresses of Liege and Namur, the German Army continued its advance toward France in accordance with the Schlieffen Plan. Generaloberst Alexander von Kluck’s 1. Armee advanced toward the French border and encountered the BEF near the Belgian town of Mons. The BEF had taken up positions along the Mons–Condé Canal in order to delay the advance of the 1. Armee and protect the left flank of the French Army as it prepared to meet the oncoming German assault. While the canal provided a useful obstacle for defensive positions, some British accounts after the war related that the surrounding terrain was difficult from an artillery perspective. There were some good locations for siting batteries on the high ground south of the canal, but for the most part along the line, artillery officers had difficulty in finding suitable positions for batteries or even for single guns, as well as in finding proper positions for observation posts. At the time, artillery tactics dictated pushing the field batteries or gun sections as close as possible to the infantry positions to provide supporting defensive fire, and to keep the mass of the artillery, including the heavy battery, on the flanks, where the guns could cover all the open ground and prevent a turning movement.
The BEF first engaged the 1. Armee on 22 August in a cavalry skirmish that also included an exchange of artillery fire. The 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, along with E Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, exchanged fire with the German Kürassier-Regiment Königin (Pommersches) Nr.2. No. 4 Gun, E Btry, RHA earned the honor of firing the first British artillery round of the First World War in the vicinity of Bray, along the Mons- Charleroi road. Additionally, on 22 August, two RFA batteries of the British I. Corps came under fire from German batteries of the 17. Infantrie Division, causing some of the first British casualties of the war.
Ordnance QF 13-pounder Light Gun; No. 4 Gun, E Btry, RHA – Imperial War Museum (Wikipedia)
On 23 August shortly before 9a.m., German field guns took up positions on the high ground north of the canal and began heavy shelling of the British line. Battery after battery from from 1. Armee moved forward and joined the barrage; the Germans gradually achieved almost a 2:1 advantage in artillery during the battle. Throughout the day, German infantry regiments attacked the British line with direct support from their own field artillery. The British infantry stubbornly resisted the attacks with equally effective close support from its Royal Field Artillery batteries. At one point during the battle, Grenadier-Regiment Prinz Karl von Preußen (2. Brandenburgisches) Nr. 12 from the 5. Infantrie Division, supported by up to five batteries of field artillery, pushed hard against positions of the 1st West Kent and 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regiments. The 120th Battery, RFA, had significant effect in support; however, the battery was eventually forced to withdraw with the loss of two guns, abandoned in their exposed position on the canal at St. Ghislain. Further along the line, 107th Battery, RFA, provided equally effective fire in support of a company of 4th Royal Fusiliers defending the Nimy Bridge, largely due to the accuracy of artillery observers entrenched with the infantry. Eventually, the BEF was forced to withdraw from its positions; Royal Artillery batteries up and down the line gallantly covered the deliberate withdrawal of their infantry brothers. Supporting the rearguard action of the 2nd South Lancashire and 1st Lincolnshire Regiments near Ciply/Frameries, 109th Battery, RFA provided devastating fire which helped break the assault of three German regiments of the 6. Infantrie Division. Reportedly, 37th Battery, RFA, fired its howitzers “as if they were machine guns.” (Lomas) Despite giving up terrain, Mons can be considered a tactical success for the BEF, especially in terms of artillery support to the infantry. Up and down the British line in the defense, as well as during the withdrawal, the action of the Royal Artillery at Mons provided a text book study of field artillery in close support of infantry.
Works Cited: The vignettes and histories related in these articles have been compiled from various sources found on the internet, as well as many published references. They are meant only to provide a snapshot and encourage further research of artillery in the First World War. Any inaccuracies, misquotes, or dropped citations are unintentional and if brought to my attention, will be corrected immediately.
Chandler, David and Ian Beckett. Ed. The Oxford History of the British Army. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Web. 23 August 2014.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The British Campaign in France and Flanders 1914. New York: George H. Doran, Co., 1918. Web (CGSC.edu). 23 August 2014.
Edmonds, James E. The Battle of Mons: Military Operations France and Belgium 1914. New York: Macmillan, 1933. Web. 23 August 2014. Hamilton, Ernest W. The First Seven Divisions: Being a Detailed Account of the Fighting from Mons to Ypres. Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1916. eBook. 24 August 2014.
Lomas, David. Mons 1914: The BEF’s Tactical Triumph. London: Osprey, 2014. Web. 24 August 2014.
I am urgently looking for a detailed high resolution image of a Colonial Cyprus Police Badge. This is on behalf of a charity who are placing a memorial in Northern Cyprus this year to recognise those Police Officers killed during the Cyprus conflict. If anyone can supply a high resolution image (attached is a low resolution image which is not sufficiently detailed) it would be appreciated as this is needed to assist with the cutting of the memorial stone.
Image taken for reference from http://www.hamwichouse.com/
Fellows Auction House which is a reputable London based auction house has a Coin and Medal Sale on Thursday 31st July 2014. You can download a copy of the auction catalogue from here. Live bidding can be made via the internet and telephone. In keeping with the Great War Centenary there are some fine examples of WWI British Gallantry and Campaign Groups including a MM Group to the South Stafford's. Other medals include British Victorian medals, including the Most Eminent Order of the Empire of India. There is also a selection of British WWII campaign medals and a small selection of other medals and badges including Soviet, and Masonic.
There are several notable items in our military section, including Military Medals awarded for acts of bravery; Lot 244 is an admirable example. This Great War Military Medal Group was awarded to Ralph Webster of Walsall, who enlisted in 1914 with the South Staffordshire Regiment. The lot includes his identity tag, South Staffordshire Regiment badge, post card photograph of the recipient and various transcripts; including a letter written to the recipients’ mother when Webster was hit by a German Sniper in the right arm during the course of a tour in the front line trench.
Fellows is also delighted to offer Lot 308 (back cover). This Companion’s badge in gold and enamel is a beautiful example of one of three classes included in the order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878 as part of The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. The British founded the order in order to reward British and native officials who served in India.
On the eve of the beginning of the First World War we are blessed, or cursed depending on your point of view, with many new and old documentaries dealing with the Great War. Of course originally it was referred to as the “Great War” because we had not yet realized that we enjoyed the carnage so much that we started to number them. Finally after years of waiting and countless boring and pointless Olympics, FIFA, NFL, NHL, baseball, basket ball games etc. wasting good research time filling up the television we will have our moment of glory as these documentaries and discussions about the First World War are presented. Before someone inevitably does a spit take spraying their favourite beer all over their computer screens I shall offer an apology regarding my comment about sports games being pointless. Of course there is a point. As far back as the days of ancient Rome it was recognized that presenting sports games not only entertained but distracted the unwashed masses, the plebeians as it were, from seeing what was actually taking place around them. So for those who may have the attention span of a squirrel, that is to say easily distracted, I have apologized for my rudeness in pointing it out. Oh, look, something shiny!
Now that I’ve had my fun, I’ll move on to the topic for discussion which is, as the title suggests, whether the Great War was indeed avoidable, as many contest, or an unavoidable consequence resulting from a complex and perhaps naive culture of the times.
Often, over the years, I’ve either read or heard it said that the First World War was totally avoidable. The only war that is avoidable is the one we have yet to have. You can’t avoid something that has already happened; it’s like saying that a vehicle accident could have been avoided. How we often have heard that one; though it does seems to make sense unless you take into account everything that occurred from the start of the day up to and including the point of impact. Position of the sun, time of the day, speed and...was that a squirrel? We can take precautions to avoid an accident or steps not to repeat another mishap and with a little luck prevent the accident that we haven’t had but the one we have experienced, as they say, is history.
If we could travel back in time to the turn of the twentieth century what would we find? What was the political and social atmosphere of the day? France was still stinging over the loss of territory to Germany as a result of the Franco Prussian War and still in distrust of Britain, Germany and Russia due to their alliance against Napoleon. The British were embroiled in a very unpopular war in South Africa and was being criticised for their involvement by just about everyone outside of their own Empire. The Russians had been a pain in the behind of the British and the French in the Crimea and through their involvement in adding to the hatred of the British Raj in India through Afghanistan resulting in the Indian Mutiny of 1857 (First War of Indian Independence?). Fear and distrust were the watch words of the day. It would be quite accurate to suggest that this period in history was not unlike the Cold War of post WW II times, which was experienced by many of the older members here at GMIC.
Add to this atmosphere of international paranoia an arms race and we have what modern man would recognize as the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s. The biggest difference being that no one had the common sense to back down. Not to get too side tracked, but I often wonder who the real hero of the Cuban Missile Crises really was. While President Kennedy rightfully prevented the installation of missiles by potentially hostile parties in the very back yard of the U.S.A. it was the Soviet withdrawal that actually prevented an all out war. It really hurts to have to say that and it flies in the face of everything we have learned through decades of James Bond movies.
Back to the topic at hand...darn squirrels. The British had the greatest navy which bothered the Germans considerably and especially the Kaiser, who was the head of the German navy. It would seem that the German government controlled many things in the country but it was the Kaiser who held sway over things military and in particular the German navy. To be fair, the British naturally had the largest navy, after all when you have an empire upon which the sun never sets it only stands to reason that you need a large navy to hold it. The Kaiser feared that the British would use their large navy to control German commerce on the high seas and could threaten the German Naval ports in Europe as well. So the best way to prevent this from happening was to not only match the British but do them one better or even two or three better. Naturally the British couldn’t let the Germans maintain a large navy right in their back yard (see Cuban Missile Crisis) so it was a situation of naval one-ups- man-ship.
While the boys were busy building bigger and better boats, not to mention a lot of them, the diplomats were doing what they do best, diplomacy. Early in the new century (1905) Japan had defeated the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War, destroying most of Russia’s Pacific fleet and wiping out the Baltic fleet as they steamed to the aid of the Pacific fleet. The Japanese had made an unannounced pre-emptive strike on Port Arthur destroying the Russian Navy stationed there (can anyone say Pearl Harbour). This left Russia looking for an ally and since Britain had allied herself with Japan Russia turned to France for an alliance. France needed the large military might of Russia in order to offer two fronts to Germany in the chance Germany was to attack France. France also distrusted the British who had been their mortal enemies far back in time to the day when the British had captured Joan of Arc and some cleaver lad decided to burn her at the stake as a witch, rather than imprisoning her as the solidifying or rallying point of the French army. Smart move, now you’ve created a martyr! Then there was the little matter of the Seven Years War and the loss to Britain of Canada and that little matter of the Battle of Waterloo.
German diplomats couldn’t just let things alone either and attempted, as did the British to ally themselves to anyone who would consider it. Even a British/German alliance had been tossed about for a while. In the end Germany allied with Austria Hungary, France with Russia and Russia with Serbia. The British made up with France and formed an alliance and in the end the public must have been quite confused. Just when the comedians in the British music halls had developed ripping racist jokes about the French, their cheese and wine and they had to change their material to include poor imitations of German accents and making jokes about bratwurst sausages und beer.
Europe was poised on the brink of disaster and not unlike a row of dominos was just waiting for the first domino to be tipped over. Who at that time would have thought that the whole thing would be set in motion by a single pistol shot in Sarajevo by a Bosnian youth on 28 July 1914?
Was the whole war avoidable? When looking back and knowing what we know now one would be tempted to answer in the affirmative. However, as we today are blind about what is just about to happen and the effects of our actions on the future so were those people at the turn of the twentieth century. I submit that the First World War was, due to the times, unavoidable. It’s much like this. What are you going to do right after that giant meteor that’s heading towards earth strikes us early next month?
Oh, sorry I wasn’t supposed to tell you that...look, over there...a squirrel.
Sources vary and exact figures are difficult to achieve; however, consensus is that artillery caused the majority (something close to 60 percent) of combat casualties in the First World War. Add in the effects of constant harassing fire, reaching far behind the lines with large caliber weapons, as well as those of artillery-delivered gas attacks, and there can be no doubt that artillery was an effective killer. German production of artillery shells went from 1.36 million in 1914 to 36 million in 1916. Certainly, many (if not most) of those were fired across no-man’s land into allied positions. On the other side, Britain’s Royal Artillery fired 170 million shells by the war’s end, sometimes in barrages that would last for days. The sheer volume of artillery ammunition expended during the First World War certainly made life on the battlefield very dangerous.
Given the importance of artillery to the First World War and the centenary of the war, a broad survey of the topic seems in order. Ideally, over the course of the centenary, I will periodically add installments to this space. While I spent over 10 years as a professional artilleryman, I am only an amateur historian; therefore, I do not presume I will add anything new to the wealth of information already written about artillery in the multitude of volumes on the First World War, including several texts dealing exclusively with the subject. There are also some very detailed and worthwhile websites on the topic. However, I have noted that this wealth of information is a lot like disconnected pockets of gold in a mine. By bringing together some basic facts and interesting information from both the printed works and these websites, my goal is to provide a useful starting point for discussion and further research for those with an interest in artillery during the First World War. I also will try to bring the topic to the soldier’s level by tying in post cards, documents, and other items related to artillery in the First World War that I have collected over the years. This also will allow me to try and focus the discussion more on the tactical level of regiment and below rather than on the strategic and operational levels above divisions.
The series started with two articles introducing Germany and France's artillery. These have already been published in GMIC Articles. (The above paragraphs are copied from the introduction of the "The Kaiser's Guns," the first in the series.) They are survey articles looking at the topic from a pre-war and macro level.
Artillery in the First World War: The Kaiser’s Guns
Artillery in the First World War: France - Vive la Soixante-Quinze
The next article in the series will be "Artillery in the First World War: Russia – The Tsar’s Cannons" This article will not only be a survey of Russian artillery from a pre-war and macro level, but will also delve into Russian artillery at the Battle of Tannenberg. This should be published to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the battle, 26-30 August. Hopefully, an article delving into both French and German artillery at the First Battle of the Marne, 5-12 September, will quickly follow. The series will then pick back up with survey articles on British, Austro-Hungarian, and Turkish artillery, as well as on the artillery of the smaller combatant nations.
In the meantime, enjoy this video I found while researching the Russian artillery article:
In February 2012 I started on a series of blogs dealing with the collecting of items that didn’t really fall within the usual collecting parameters of military yet where on the fringe, or periphery, of that field. Originally I thought to begin with The London County Council (LCC) School Attendance Medals. I will admit that this was the only topic that came to mind that fit the category for which I was aiming and therefore was intended to be somewhat of a “one off” entry. After looking through the collection, in drawers long forgotten, I found several examples that fit into the area of collecting the periphery. So I decided to begin with some of those confident that I would soon exhaust the subject and armed with the LCC School Attendance Medals as my back up I waded in.
Some of the topics touched on in past blogs were, Japanese Red Cross Medals, Women’s Voluntary Service Medals, Life Saving Medals and Germany’s Mother’s Crosses, to name a few. It seemed that the more I dug around in the collection the more topics I found, always shoving the School Attendance Medals to the back of the class, so-to-speak; which coincidently is where I found myself for most of my formal education. So almost two and a half years later I am finally getting around to my original subject;
“The London County Council School Attendance Medals”.
A standardized education system was introduced to Britain in 1870 in the form of an official Education Act. With this came the requirements for the creation of School Boards. Prior to this time the education of British children was pretty much a hit and miss proposition with attendance being non-compulsory. With the use of child labour and the need for families to bring as much funding into the home as possible the value of an education, any formal education, was seen as an unnecessary luxury. The government of the day saw a good basic education for all children would produce citizens who could read, write, and understand the history, geography and, to a point, politics of the country. Then, as today, it was recognized that an educated population was more beneficial to the country than merely an uneducated population mainly suited to manual labour. Though this was to prove to be somewhat a double edged sword as better educated workers began to form trade unions and demands for better work conditions and higher wages were put forward, sometimes violently so. I will be posting a short article on the General Strike of 1926 in the main section of the forum under the British Police section at a later date.
Some of the regulations set out by the Education Act of 1870 besides the standardization of the education system were, mandatory attendance with non-attendance being punishable by law and a grant system for the running of the schools based on daily attendance.
I believe that here in Ontario Canada the grants were still based on daily attendance at least until the 1950s and possibly the 1960s, when this was replaced by an “enrolment system” whereby as long as you could drag your little monster to school and enroll him or her the government would fund the school. Attendance was still mandatory though there was the option of “Home Schooling”.
Returning to the 1870’s; it was decided that there needed to be a reward system aimed at the children to encourage daily attendance. Many school boards implemented a reward system where the child would earn picture cards for perfect attendance as well as medals for regular attendance for a whole school year.
The London County Council school board did not implement their award system as early as many other school boards and commenced their program in 1886. In order to qualify for the medal the child needed 100% attendance with even an unavoidable absence due to illness being sufficient enough for the child to be disqualified. The system was so strict that even the headmaster’s word that the child had perfect attendance was not acceptable; it required a certificate signed by the school managers. I would suspect that the school managers depended greatly on the honesty of the headmaster to supply accurate data, rather than the managers actually verifying, on a daily basis, that the child was actually in attendance. Even with these stringent regulations there were a great number of medals awarded every year.
The first of the LCC medals featured the bust of Queen Victoria and were struck in white metal which was suspended from a bronze plaque displaying the date. The pupil’s name was engraved on the back. In 1890 it was decided to offer medals stuck in different metals to signify those whose attendance went unbroken for longer periods of time. For years 1 to 3 it was white metal, 4 and 5 was in bonze and 6 through 9 years of perfect attendance the medal was gilt. Later on a 10th and even 11th year medal was offered in silver but according to some reports the only sliver 11th year medal struck was a specimen from Spink in competition for the contract; no pupils were ever awarded the 11th year medal.
Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 a new medal was struck featuring the bust of King Edward VII. There were some changes to the reverse of this medal but basically the design remained the same as the previous design. The obverse changed in 1910 as far as the wording and this can be seen in the photos below.
As time went on the regulations, as they applied to medal qualifications, were lightened somewhat and up to two days absence due to illness was allowed, with a note from the parents verifying the reason for the absence. Later, it was decided that the school board needed to recognize that children who were ill were best kept home in order to lessen the chances of a class-wide infection. Therefore, children who were ill for an extended period of time were not disqualified from receiving the medal.
1911 brought with it a new monarch, King George V, following the passing of his father King Edward VII. The first pattern of medal was similar to those from past monarchs. Up to this time the medals had been 1½ inches but a new design was proposed and past that completely changed the look of the medal.
The new medal was struck in bronze, suspended from a red, white and black ribbon in the military style, with the suspension bar reading LCC and the qualifying year shown on a clasp on the ribbon. For each additional qualifying year there would be a clasp added to the medal. From what I have found these “additional” clasps did not have the date specified and used a laurel branch design. The recipient’s name was shown on the medals edge rather than on the reverse and the size was reduced to 1¼ inches. There was a large medal also offered in 1912 for those who qualified under the old system, however these are very scarce with only 200 ever being awarded. The new smaller medals were issued throughout the “war years” and the last year this was offered was 1920.
In the end the LCC had the longest “run” of any of the other participating school boards having used the medals system for thirty years. One of the exciting parts of collecting these medals is that at times you can also pick up the original boxes and better yet sometimes you can get a series that was awarded to one student (see photo below).
In the above set you can see the change of design between 1909 and 1910 (Edward VII) and the George V large version of the 1911 as well as small version of the 1911/1912 medals. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to collect groups of medals that span monarchs as well as including design changes involving the same monarch, so this set really “spoke” to me.
I hope you found this blog interesting and it will encourage you to look outside of collecting only military medals, or at least consider looking into it.
Hi. I'm hoping there's someone who can help me? I'm doing some research on a family member who was part of the Northern Rhodesia Police Force during the 1950's. His name is Alexander Dodding and he was a member of Swansea Police(PC 73). He left for Northern Rhodesia in April/May 1953. I would be very grateful for any information and/or records.
For the vast majority of collectors collecting is a passion, an obsession; some would even call it a sickness, however, those are the people whose opinions are completely unworthy of consideration. They are like vegans at a BBQ telling me that if I knew where that steak came from I would not eat it. First of all Ive been a butcher in one of my varied past work experiences so I know where meat comes from and second I tell them that I see myself as a non-practising vegetarian, I support their views in principal but shut up and pass me another hamburger...please (I always like to be civil if not completely supportive). Im also a supporter of PETA as long as that stands for People Eating Tasty Animals. My perfect meal would be steak and shrimp with BBQ chicken as a chaser just to be fair to the animal kingdom in covering all of the bases of earth, sky and water. Im nothing if not fair...oh yes, and civil. By the way I do know that chickens dont fly, or at least not very well.
Now that we have eliminated the opinions of those annoying people who fail to understand us, be they friends or spouses, we can move on, even though, for some unexplained reason I am getting hungry.
When we start out collecting there seems to be a never ending supply of whatever it is that we have decided to base our collection on. Take medals for example, British medals for the sake of this discussion. You go along building a collection until you have almost all of the common specimens then you realize that unless you are collecting to a particular regiment and want to continue adding to your collection the next level is going to be quite expensive. Going from a WWI Trio at around $195.00 to a Crimea 1854 Sebastopol and Turkish Crimea 1855 pair at $795.00 can take ones breath away. (Current prices provided by Tanya Ursual of Medals of War)
So there you are at the proverbial crossroads of collecting (and the theme of this blog) with decisions to make. Do you take the jump to the higher level of collecting, continue on adding the same old/ same old or change collecting direction completely. Ive managed to come to this crossroads many times. Which way to go? Spend more money or change direction? Decisions, decisions, what to do? Lucky for me I can make such decisions easily as I almost always do both. Unfortunately Ive hit quite a bump in the road in that is as disastrous as the feared crossroads. No its not the advancing years of old age because I shall collect until my children pull the plug, pry the keyboard (eBay) from my cold dead fingers and nail the lid on the coffin. Actually my dear wife, Linda, said that one cannot let age determine how much we do or even what we do, within physical limits of course. Mixed Martial Arts is probably not in my future, nor Olympic javelin catching, but as to collecting its full steam ahead and the devil take the hind most.
Im actually out of room in the study for any additions to the collection that take up much space. So I am left with a decision to make, sell some items (like thats going to happen), stop collecting (seriously?), take over a second room (a possibility, one is available) or mainly collect smaller items such as medals. I do have a good deal of drawer space left for medals in the units I have built for that purpose. On the other hand that other room is looking more and more inviting all of the time. As you can see even collectors who have been collecting for a good number of years still find that they are standing at the crossroads from time to time.
I do have some advice for younger collectors, those who may still not be too deeply in debt to the dark side of collecting, to the point where their collection is no longer referred to as eclectic but rather just a jumble and bits of odds and ends.
Always set goals.
Ive always done this, however once a goal has been met and new ones started your collection will still become eclectic but at least not a hoard as might be expected of a hermit living next to the city dump. I set my goal for the British black powder firearms section of the collection starting with the Brown Bess and ending with the pre .303 cal. Martini Henrys. True somewhere along the line I did add a Bren gun and then an A1L1 FN, which still has Linda wondering how those last two fit into the collection. My only argument was that this section of the collection was a Brown Bess to Bren collection which was a great argument (to my way of thinking) until I purchased the FN then that hastily fabricated rational fell apart rather rapidly. Setting goals will assist you in staying on course and will end up costing less than collecting whatever comes along because you can afford it at the time. Its perfectly alright to have more than one goal at any given time within reason. For example you can be collecting British medals, German medals and cavalry swords at the same time but not also antique clown noses, left handed salt and pepper shakers and high compression muffler bearings. Its just too much. Keep it simple and focus.
Costs should not set the goal of a collection.
Dont let costs be the determining factor in the area you are collecting. By this I mean dont get to a point where there are still a good number of specimens left to collect but the price is getting too high. Still collect but not as much; were looking at quality/rarity verses quantity. Just because a Military Cross is a lot more money than a BWM should not be the only reason for changing direction. Sure if you are ready for a change then do so but if it is based on the cost then you need to slow down and add a new specimen when you can afford it and dont purchase other material at the same time.
Research, research, research.
Part of your collecting activities should be researching and studying the subject of your chosen field of collecting. There is a wealth of information out there in the form of books and on the internet. Take full advantage of them. Nothing is worse than a fellow with a large collection yet lacking in the knowledge of the history of the items themselves. Studying the background of the item in question will not only build a more interesting collection and a more interesting you but will help to ease the temptation to add more and more lower end items which prevents you from adding the more expensive and crucial items. Soon the addition of knowledge will become as crucial to your collection as the items themselves. Warning: While I said you will become more interesting it will probably only be so to fellow collectors. Dont expect the plebeians to understand.
Beware the Card.
Never and I mean never collect on the card. Credit cards are great and as long as you pay them off monthly everything will be alright. The pit fall is (and the banks are counting on this) if you purchase an item on the credit card then make the minimum payment at months end because there is something else you want you are dancing on a mine field and chances are that you will end up with the nick-name stumpy; a fellow who is always just short of being able to pay the credit card bill.
This is a tough one and ties into the next and last bit of advice. What is disposable income? Thats the money you have left over after EVERYTHING ELSE in your life has been paid off for the month. Its money you can afford to tie up, perhaps for the rest of your life. True you can always liquidate your collection when the need arrives, if it arrives, but at what loss. Youre probably making most of your purchases at market so when it comes to selling you will most likely be looking at wholesale values. If you need to dump the lot as soon as possible you will not likely get much more than twenty-five cents on the dollar invested. Only a fool thinks that everything he or she touches turns to gold, most of the time when you need to sacrifice a collection what you will realize out of it will be more akin to something you would spread on a garden. A sad but true fact of life.
Theres more to life than your collection.
I do not want to sound like one of, or both of, your parents but far too many collectors end up spending their limited free time on the collection rather than on family and friends. Collections come and go and so will family and friends if you ignore them long enough. This is getting preachy but better you hear it from me than a divorce lawyer.
Set some goals, stay the course and remember that there will always be more material out there to collect than there is money to purchase it. Most of all dont forget what is really important in life.
Eight years ago my friend in India, and fellow GMIC member, Samir, strongly suggested that I look into this forum with the intention of possibly joining. It hardly seems like eight years have passed by since I joined, but the numbers don’t lie; eight years and not one regret. True there have been times when I have found myself biting my lip for want of making a curt reply to someone’s remarks but calmer emotions took over and I refrained from adding fuel to the fire. This calming down process has taken several days in some cases but it is a matter of the ends justifying the means (in this case time).
I’m not one to belong to very many forums, finding my “free” time limited; a phenomenon that has only increased since my retirement from public life last autumn. I have, on the other hand visited several other forums and researched material on some of my collectables found there. What I have found on some of these forums, not all being military orientated, was rather an eye opener. Compared with the GMIC some forums have an over abundance of rude, crude and lewd members, sort of “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” of the internet. Some forums seem to have no set rules while others are quite draconian in there enforcement.
That’s not to say there are no rules here, as there are and somewhat restrictive if one was to enforce them to the extreme. However that holds true with any law or legislation anywhere in the free world. What I have observed in the past and present is an overwhelming sense of gentlemanly conduct demonstrated by the membership. Only on rare occasions has it been necessary that the rule book be taken off the shelf, the thick layer of dust blown from the cover and the “Riot Act” read.
The atmosphere generated, in my opinion, by our Chairman, Nick and the rest of the founding members have galvanized this group of collectors into what can only be described as a true internet “community”. It has been said that it takes a community to raise a child and this holds true here. It takes the whole community working together to foster this feeling of cohesiveness and desire to help one another to enjoy our hobby.
In closing, I would like to wish the Gentleman’s Military Interest Club a happy 10th Anniversary and the hope for many more to come. Further to this I would like to thank our Chairman, Nick, for following through with his brain-child and developing what can only be seen as one of the top military interest forums on the internet today. Congratulations, Nick, on the 10th Anniversary of your successful creation.
I maybe going to Erbil, Iraq with work for an extended period of tie and would like to know if there is the possibility of buying British medals at any markets or shops there, if so any assistance would be great
I might be famous as the one person to start a phobia all by myself and I have deemed it to be Femoraliaphobia.
For years one of my many obsessions which includes a need to check the weather forecast, always knowing what time it is and the need to have everything in neat rows has been to create drawers in everything I build in the shop. This coming year I plan to build another kitchen table, this time longer than the eight foot one we presently have, at least a twelve footer, and I’ve included drawers in the drawing. Years ago my Amish ancestors always included a drawer in the end of the table, where the elder sat this, I have been told, was a Bible drawer. I’m thinking silver ware etc. but still a functional and quite practical application, even if I do say so myself.
While on the topic of the Bible, it says in the Good Book “...go forth and multiply...”. We had five children, all married and in the process of adding to the population of the world. One would think that an eight foot long table should suffice but at times I think the kids are taking the Bible a bit too literally; this has caused the need for a longer, twelve foot table. Of course not only do I digress from the subject of this blog but I do so in jest.
Yes, I’ll put drawers in anything and everywhere I can. I once built a table for one of the washrooms that fit in between the wall and the bathroom vanity. My wife was less than impressed to find that not only was there a drawer in the front of the table there was one in each end as well, even though they could never be pulled out due to the wall on one side and the vanity on the other. She of course needed to know why; she is a bit of a “needy” woman, always needing to know why, in her words, “would anyone in any imaginable universe even think of doing ...(fill in the blank)?” My answer is always to paraphrase Sir Edmund Hillary in that I did it because I could. This makes me once again digress with the thoughts of Sir Edmund Hillary at the summit of Everest and never having his photo taken to commemorate the event. He took a photo of his Sherpa holding his ice axe but never had his own photo taken. Did he have fears that Tenzing Norgay would take off with the camera and run to the nearest pawn shop? I suppose one could argue that there may have been a pawn shop as close as 29,029 feet away, albeit straight down. You really need to work on those trust issues Sir Edmund.
Sorry for the side tracking, I’m back now. I believe that most of the world’s problems revolves around drawers, either the over abundance of them or the lack of drawers in some cases. In the past some countries obviously had too many drawers and found most were empty. Hannibal is a good example, too many drawers and not enough to fill them, so he went to Rome because they had more things than drawers to put them in and brought stuff back for the drawers of Carthage. Everyone was happy until the cabinet makers of Rome made more drawers and Rome wanted their things back and therefore went to Carthage to get their stuff back to fill their new drawers. They liked Carthage so much they stayed in the area after they applied salt to the lands where the city used to exist, as a biodegradable weed control, or so I surmise.
Almost everything should be kept or could be kept in drawers. Socks, in drawers; silverware, in drawers; handguns, in drawers; cats, well perhaps not everything. I like to keep most of my collection in drawers as to display all of it in display cases would take up the whole house, seriously. So as I finished up the second drawer cabinet of the year my dear wife expressed a deep concern about my obsessive behaviour. She thinks I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which is sheer madness because first of all it should be CDO because that is the correct order the letters should be in, and secondly, ... alright I don’t really have an argument. I think she is the one with physiological problems and I have even come up with a clinical term for it, Femoraliaphobia; a fear of drawers. Her argument is that as soon as I build more drawer cabinets I can’t stand not filling them and that starts the collecting mania once again. Yah, like collecting could ever be considered a mania; sometime I wonder why I even try to have a conversation with her. Women! They’re always bringing reason and common sense into every discussion.
Just to prove her wrong I went into the study, at her request, and counted the number of drawers holding my collection. I only have 199 drawers, all in beautiful neat rows. It’s not like I have 200 drawers or anything, now that might be considered obsessive. Not by me mind, but by some.
So there you have it. I may have accidently caused my wife to develop Femoraliaphobia. If she decides to seek help I can build her some drawers to keep the files in, after all most things should be kept in drawers.
I’m off to surf eBay now as I noticed there were some empty drawers in one cabinet.
There are times as I sit in my study, usually later in the evening, I feel a bit like the narrator in Poe’s “The Raven”
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
''Tis some visitor,' I muttered, 'tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.'
The exception being that the raven in my case is a Nazi eagle desk ornament and the “forgotten lore” attestation papers of Canadian and British servicemen of the First World War. Perhaps it is advancing age that makes me more pensive, or simply maudlin, but I start to think about these people listed on the official documents more deeply than simply an addition to the seemingly ever-growing collection. I look at the drawers and drawers (literally drawers and drawers) of medals and the filing cabinet of documents, some supporting the medals collection and some standing as the only record of passed souls and think how much this is like a morgue. The last repository of the earthly remains of soldiers long past. Walls festooned with weapons, the tools of war wielded by men much braver than me and think that it is a shame that this may be all there is left of these heroes.
In some rare cases I have been put in the position of being the custodian of almost all of the family history of a soldier; past into my keeping by people who no longer care about their own roots. A sad comment on humanity as a person without knowledge of their roots is like a ship without a rudder. Still, this lack of concern on their part has allowed me to get to know some of the soldiers on a much deeper level than a simple engraved medal or statistics on an attestation document.
One case involves two brothers who both went to war; one married the other a single man. As fate would have it the married brother never returned. The unmarried brother returned and took over the duties of his brother raising the children and looking after his brother’s wife until the end of their years well into their eighties. One may look upon this today as being a bit odd but it was a different time and responsibility for others seen in a different light. If you were to see the photo of them sitting by the seaside well into their eighties, a true loving couple, you would not criticize their decision. In fact what right do any of us have to pass judgement on those who went through the horrors of the Great War and suffered the grief and losses they experienced?
Another case deals with brothers-in-law, one starting in the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1914 and then being killed in 1918 while serving with the Bedfordshire Regiment. The other, a younger man, earned his Aviation Certificate as a Lieutenant in 1918 and flew as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. After the War he became an aviation engineer designing and developing aircraft through World War Two and well beyond.
The last I will mention in this article concerns a gentleman whose failing marriage found him living in a hotel when he enlisted. Some of the first photos of him, in the collection, show him at work as a mason. Later on we see him just as he arrives in England. In later photos one can see the effect the war is having on him. He is no longer the healthy-looking young man but a gaunt worn out old chap who will die shortly after the last photo that was taken in 1917. Letters to his son and beloved daughter bear no mention of their mother, his estranged wife, a harbinger of the resentment and hatred that was festering in her that would later be spread to the children resulting in their rejection of his very memory. She may have held a great deal of animosity toward her husband however it is evident by the government documentation that this did not extend to her acceptance of the war widows pension. As the years past and the children aged the amount of the pension decreased as did any feelings of good will toward our poor soldier even from his children and eventually his grand children. I purchased his Memorial Cross and BWM from his grand-daughter and then received boxes and boxes of photos and documents dating back well into the mid 1800’s, at no extra cost. The choice I had was to either accept the material or it was going to the land fill (garbage).
In some cases my study has become the repository of the only memories left of these lost souls with me being its curator. Stories cut short by war, others prevented from the opportunity to correct their mistakes in life and other paths changed forever. Stories once investigated, beyond the veneer of the serving soldier, into the deeper aspect of these real people and their personal trials and tribulations begins to forge a bond between researcher and subject. They become a true part of your life and to write their stories brings up a conflict somewhere between the desires to honour their memory and betrayal of a confidence shared.
Looking back at the German eagle stand-in for Poe’s Raven I can’t help but hope its famous statement is a prophecy regarding war - “Nevermore”.
Victory in combat relies on proficient scheduling along with prompt implementation of strategies. At the same time, there is a need to alter all obtainable information in to rapid dealing and efficient planning. As the saying goes, “the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”.
In these circumstances, military solutions are offered by companies like Rolta who offer an elegant and helpful tool which not only ensures smooth progress of outfitted planning but also furnishes senior officers at different levels with a wide-ranging training application, which is, war gaming. The solution provides a perfect stability by training the soldier during peace and by assisting rapid planning and implementation during war. They set caters for war gaming necessities at special ranks.
Some of the important solutions needed during this period are:-
Maps and Geographic Information System (GIS)
Operational Planning Tool
With the Centenary of the First World War approaching, I feel it's a good time to revive this blog and update the target list for my "plan" to acquire items from as many Imperial German Artillery regiments as feasible. As of January 2014, I've collected at least one item from 117 different Artillery Regiments and from 44 other artillery batteries/battalions/munitions columns; as well as dozens of photos of artillery pieces and soldiers from unknown units. I've added Austrian, Bulgarian, Turkish, French, British and Commonwealth, American, Italian, Belgian, Russian, and Serbian units and artillery pieces to the mix. Most of these items are post cards and I've posted many of them on GMIC.
The Imperial German Artillery consisted of two primary types: Field (or Light) Artillery (Feld-Artillerie) and Foot (or Heavy) Artillery (Fuss-Artillerie). Artillery regiments could be further identified as either Prussian or Bavarian; since Bavaria's Army remained nominally independent after German unification in 1871. Artillery regiments from Württemberg, Saxony, Baden, and the other German States became elements of the Prussian Army, but still maintained their unique State identity. Prussian and Bavarian artillery consisted of both active and reserve regiments; there were also Gebirgs-Artillerie (mountain artillery), Landwehr and Landsturm artillery units, as well as munitions columns for artillery ammunition transport. Specialized units also were associated with the artillery, such as Artillerie-Messtruppe (survey units) and Feld-Flieger Abteilungen Artillerie (aviation units for artillery observation). In addition to Fuss-Artillerie regiments, there were separate batteries and battalions of heavy artillery. The German Navy also fielded Marine Artillery units (Matrosen-Artillerie) and manned coastal defense guns.
Considering the extent of the Imperial German Artillery, I've still a very long way to go to assemble a very representative collection. I also still have the idea in the back of my mind to create a website to combine the items I've collected with some of the history of the regiments and gunners represented by these items. Maybe this will be the year to actually pull the trigger and set up the website. In the meantime, I hope to revive this blog and even write a few articles for the GMIC article section.
A few days ago, over in the Japan Section, a discussion was started regarding the use of “shills”. If you have never visited the Japan Section you should do so, it is quite interesting and quickly becoming the place to go for researching Japanese medals and decorations.
A “shill”, in case you didn’t know, is a person who is employed by an auctioneer to drive up the bids so that the item sells for more than it normally would have.
Years ago and before the internet I used to dabble in antiques, buying, repairing and reselling them. This involved a lot of evenings spent in auction houses and estate sales. One auctioneer in particular kept several burly rotund fellows employed to move the items onto the stage and off again after the item had been auctioned off. When not engaged in this activity they would sit in large armchairs which were perched on folding tables like well fed yet dishevelled scavengers, at the rear of the bidder’s area. If you watched them closely one would always make an indiscrete bid if the item was not reaching the bid that the auctioneer was trying to reach. Remember, the higher the final bid the more the auction house profits in their “cut”. Now, with the advent of the internet and the auction sites available, more people than ever are placing bids and “attending” auctions from the comfort of their own homes. With this new venue comes the return of the old practise of employing shills, though in a slightly different way.
Today, regardless of the rules set out by the online auction sites, people are able to cheat through several means if they are inclined to do so. Spouses can each have an account and bid on the other partner’s items to run the bid higher. Other adult family members and friends can also perform these duties not even to mention the person who will set up two separate memberships and bid on their own items. I’m not sure if this is still the case but eBay used to charge extra to place a reserve bid on an item assuring the seller would get a minimum amount for the item that would be acceptable to the seller. Using one of these underhanded means circumvents this “legal” reserve bid option and at no extra cost; which finally brings me to the meat of my story.
There is a local collector that I was acquainted with through our wives who worked together. This fellow used to spend each and every day on eBay and bought and sold with a passion that surpassed the border between fanaticism and a sick obsession straight to the lunatic fringe. He had taken an early retirement for the armed forces and had a small pension so this allowed him the luxury, if not the funds, to sit in front of the computer screen all day long.
He had approached me several times to place bids on his items at what he considered a reserve bid, without having to pay eBay for their service. Each time he asked I declined.
As a bit more background information, he collected WWI medals named to members of his old regiment. One of the arrangements he made with me, that I agreed to, was that if he were away and not near a computer I would bid on items he was interested in so that he would not miss out on them. While he was away one time there was a BWM named to a Sergeant from his regiment offered for sale. I waited until near the end and not seeing his eBay name as a bidder placed a maximum bid high enough to assure I would “win” it for him. Unknown to me he had access to a computer and had been watching the medal himself. Being a paranoid and rather untrusting person he placed a very high maximum bid just before the auction closed (sniped) and won the item. He then wanted me to plead with the seller, a well known dealer here in Ontario, Canada, that he should only have to pay the price that my first bid would have come to and not the final bid. He even had the nerve to ask that I pose as his wife bidding on the item as his birthday gift. Talk about one sick individual! I flatly refused to do this. A day or two later I was contacted by the seller (remember we, my wife and I, are quite well known to this dealer) and asked for the facts as he had spun her several odd stories. I told her that she should ignore them and that I would purchase the medal if he didn’t want to pay the amount he had bid. Needless to say this fellow was enraged at my decision. He paid the deal the agreed upon price of his final bid. I didn’t tell him but I would have let him have the medal for what I paid if he hadn’t purchased it. The difference between the two bids was only twenty dollars. Actually I still considered him a friend at that time, (talk about gullible), and would have gifted the medal to him, had he not been such an ass.
Shortly after this he asked me once again to act as a shill on a couple of auctions he had going. One was an individual medal and the other was a small South African War group. By this time I had had it with him so I said I would do it under these conditions. He would tell me his “reserve” bid that he wanted me to assure and I would place a maximum bid higher than that. Then if my bid was the winning bid he would have to actually follow through and sell the item or items to me. In the end I did indeed win both auctions and I had placed my maximum well above what he wanted as I really did want these in my collection. I made the payment through Pay Pal and then, he went ballistic. He didn’t want to let me have the items and said he would refund my Pay Pal costs. I gave him a choice, either hand over the medals or explain to eBay why he had broken the rules regarding following through with the conditions set out by eBay and also why he was trying to use shills in his auction. I knew the names and eBay user names of two of his friends who were actively acting as shills for him and was ready to burn him. Yes, I am the type of person who, if you piss me off bad enough, will hug you as I pull the pin on the grenade!
In the end he acquiesced and let me have the medals after telling me what I could do with them. I didn’t follow his suggestion, of course, opting instead to place them in my collection. We haven’t spoken since and that’s alright by me as this is one time revenge, if not justice, was levied on a seller who was using shills.
I have written a book which will be published later this year. In it I have written an article about The
Lord Wakefield Gold Medal. I have been able to name nineteen recipients of this medal and would like to name more if possible. I saw a Blog by HOLYBOY who I thought said that he owned one of these medals.
Please get in touch. This is my first blog.
This year marks the centenary of the Great War 1914-1918. In recognition of this GMIC will be establishing a Centenary area for you to post all you relevant topics relating to World War 1. At the end of the centenary period all posts will be moved to their respective areas.