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17 November 2016 1913-1914

1914-books

Order books from Amazon related to 1914: two on Kindle and the Peter Simpkins’ book on Kitchener’s Army in print. All to set the scene, and cover before, during and after the two week episode where 11,000 recruits to Kitchener’s Army turned up in Lewes, a Sussex market town with a population of a little over 10,000 and had to be billeted.

I feel I am speaking out the broad background to events in Lewes but need specific reports, letters or diaries to provide the necessary detail. Should I find out in which houses they stayed and locate the public buildings? How were they fed? Where were the entertainments held? Will the Regimental Diary for 22nd Division tell me anything? How many Lewes men had either gone to France or were in training in another part of the country as Territorials or as new recruits?

I’m on antibiotics and prescription painkillers to try and tame my sinus pain. I am dehydrated at night and have a migraine like headache all the time.

1914 Evening

 Fig.1 Screen grab from a news report style presentation on why Britain went to war 100 years ago / at midnight tonight.

I stumbled upon all of this by chance. Who’d imagine the BBC Parliamentary Channel would produce an evening of documentaries, talks and lectures. Former foreign secretaries reflect on the important role Edward Grey in 1914 took to keep Britain out of a continental conflict. I hope it’s all on the iPlayer as every word is worth sharing.

Who caused the First World War?

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If a gas shell in the mud of Paschendaele in late October 1917 represents an absolute truth regarding the First World War, especially if you are perched behind a machine gun in a pill box just a few yards away, then this truth soon shifts as time passes, the gas is released and a morning breeze first backs, then slows, then changes direction moving ever further from the moment if truth. And thus, the politicians and historians play merry with the facts, in the form of official documents, as they are offered, revealed, exposed, disguised and refuted Try pegging where any of them stand on the truth of the causes of the First World War and you’ll have flags planted in every direction with little chance of getting back to the original point. And thus we have revisionists and anti-revisionists and their reasons for writing this way or that. The simple answer is that the problem Europe got itself into in 1914 was a mess. And from the perspective of a hundred years on I look through my timetelescope and want to damn the lot of them; but that was then, and now is now.

Reflections of a post-post graduate – the no-man’s land before a PhD

 

Fig. 1. How the eBrain looks – everything’s tagged. (Lost property, London Underground)

I’m delighted to say the Open University’s student blog upgrade is an enhancement. The improvements are seamless without any loss of what we had before … a ‘bulletin-board-cum-blog-thingey’.

Become an OU student to see this for yourself.

I will get Internet access in my ‘office’ – a studio down the road, away from home and family, DIY, the garden … but not the dog. She’s allowed.

All that it requires from me is something I lack – self-discipline NOT to get distracted by email, which includes updated postings from forums and the likes of Linkedin (let alone a gaggle of family members on Facebook). AOL is the worst as I innocently go to check email and find 20 minutes later I am still clicking through the inviting gobbets of news and sensation that is offered.

I had hoped to behave like the smoker trying to give up – I’ll only smoke other people’s fags. A very, very, very long time ago … I can honestly say I have never smoked a cigarette since I turned 20.

Back to the Internet. Like Television.

Or diet. We are living in an age where self-control is vital. Having not had a TV for several months I was eventually pushed to buy one. Courtesy of Which? we now have a TV so Smart that it probably tells my brother in South Africa who is watching what …. we can Skype sofa to sofa. I just wonder if our antics could be recorded and posted on YouTube? Not my doing but any of the teenagers with the wherewithal just hit a record button somewhere.

In all this hi-tech I DO have a tool I’d recommend to anyone.

I’ve invested in an hour-glass. In runs for 30 minutes. While that sand is running all I may do is read and take notes. This might be an eBook, or a printed book, either way they are on a bookstand. I take notes, fountain pen to lined paper. What could be easier? The left hand may highlight or bookmark and turn a page, while the right writes?

This works as the filtering process of the knowledge that I am reading and want to retain needs to go through several steps in any case. The handwritten notes will be reduced again as I go through, typing up the ideas that have some resonance for me.

My current task has been ‘How Europe went to war in 1914’ by Christopher Clark.

I doubt my second thorough read will be the last. From notes I will start posting blogs and going into related social platforms to share and develop thoughts and in so doing be corrected while firming up my own views. I need this social interaction, to join the discussion if not the debate.

Meanwhile I will revisit Martin Weller‘s book on Digital Scholarship.

However swift the age of the Internet may be he suggests it will still take a person ten years to achieve the ‘scholar’ level … whereas John Seely Brown recently reckoned this was now down to five years. i.e. through undergraduate and postgraduate levels and popping out the other end with a PhD in five years.

DIdn’t an 18 year old who was home schooled just get called to the Bar?

She graduated with a law degree while contemporaries did A’ Levels and finished High School and then did a year of pupilage I suppose.

The intellectual ‘have’s’ of the future will, by one means of another, achieve degree status at this age. The Internet permits it.

School is far, far, far, far, far too lax.

It tends to the median if not the mediocre. Long ago it found a way to process kids as a genderless year group instead of treading each student as an individual … so let them skip a year, let them stay back a year … allow them to expand and push subjects that appeal to them.

Slipping over the edge …

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In my youth, like an idiot, I would sometimes ski off trail heading towards a seemingly tame gully. There was this time as I descended with too much confidence into a steep funnel that I realised there was no safe way back … the snow was too deep, on too steep a slope so I had to go on. Worse, I knew that I would have to take a leap of faith to clear the edge and any rockfalls below. I love to ski but prefer to keep them on the ground whatever I do having smashed a leg badly in my teens doing this kind of thing.

A hundred years ago the world slipped over the edge, nations gathered on this slope and many ventured down to the edge to try and peak over, others took the brash view that whatever happened they’d be fine or that the shake up was necessary.

No book, of some 100 or more I must have read over a three decade period does more to set the scene – the mutiple players, the ambitions, the intrigues and affairs, the plots, plotting, murders, the arms race, the arrogance, the empire building, the lack of consideration by any of the players for the people they represented, claimed to represent, ruled or brutally exploited. Here we have an authoritaive and informed voice looking down from the moon observing as best as possible the events over the centuries, decades, then months and weeks that led to ‘Total War’. God forbid that we can ever be so foolish, collectively, again. Yet here we are about to take a part in Syria. Any action or in-action has consequences. So what is it to be? I wonder if now, as a hundred years ago, the wrong people, as ever, are running things.

In a move from WW1 enthusiast to subject matter expert I begin a Masters Degree in First World War studies with the University of Birmigham next month. Over the next two years and during the duration of the centenary events to mark the 1914-18 conflict I hope to build this blog into a valuable resource with an emphasis on the lot of the person on the front line, man or woman, from all sides with a focus all the same on the British Machine Gun Corps and Royal Flying Corps.

How to tell the tragedy of two love stories – the power and construction of memorable narrative

Fig.1.Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria-Hungary – Only son of the Emperor Franz Josef

You are one of the wealthiest and privileged men in the world and likely, by all accounts, to be one of the most powerful men too some day soon, but you are deeply unhappy and married as protocol requires to another European royal.

You are Crown Prince Rudolph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – wanting for nothing and everything. Your are also crushingly unhappy – the privilege a burden.

Then you fall in love and like royals before you the woman becomes your mistress – two years of bliss are doomed when your father the Emperor demands that it ends. Rather than give each other up you commit suicide, shooting first your 17 year old mistress, then turning the gun on yourself.

Love for a girl and hate for the Empire could only be resolved through violence. The year is 1889.

Fig.2. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, wife the Duchess Sophie of Hohenberg and their children  Sophie 13, Max 10 and Ernst 8 c 1914.

Some two decades later your nephew, the heir presumptive since your own death, appears to have it all – a compromise had been found when he refused to give up the woman he wished to marry in 1890. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, stunningly wealthy, happily married to the Countess Sophie Chotek – the woman he loves, with three healthy children, and trained up through his military career to rule would expect to become the next emperor soon – his grandfather the Emperor Franz Josef is now in his 80s.

Then, on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s misplaced ‘love’ for his subjects and his unquestioning love for his wife puts them both in an open top tourer on a formal visit to the Austro-Hungarian provincial capital of Sarajevo.

Hate looms in the form of the 19 year old Gravilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, desperately poor, principled, prepared and determined. Under instructions and guidance from the leaders of the radical Serbian terrorist group ‘The Black Hand’ he finds himself positioned on the route the Archduke will take back and forth through Sarajevo with six others – armed and eager to kill.

In their different ways both Franz Ferdinand and Gravilo Princip disliked what the Austro-Hungarian Empire represented and how it behaved – both had ideas of how the problem could be fixed – Franz through compromise and accommodation – he tabled a federation of Austro-Hungarian states in 1906 -while both Count Rudolph at one end of the scale and Princip at the other, both felt that two bullets from a revolver were the pill that wold fix everything when others controlled your life in a way that you found intolerable.

Two world wars later, nearly 50 million dead and conflict only recently resolved in the Balkans and if there is a one word lesson to take from the 20th century it is ‘Diplomacy’.

(Born Aug 24, 1855, died Feb 12, 1944)

My goal is to find a way into this story – my quest might be over.

I’m doing this as an exercise

I’m taking known facts rather than fiction and using the 1939 book ‘Story Writing’ by Edith Ronald Mirrieless as my guide. Narrative is a powerful tool, but compare a factual account, say of the sinking of the Titanic, with the move. Compare too some botched attempts at the telling of the 1914 Sarajevo assassinations where students recall above all else that Gravilo Princip apparently went into a cafe to buy a sandwich when he say the Archduke’s car outside. There is invention and accuracy, but also responsibility to ensure that the facts that matter and can be corroborated are in the story.

The story I tell will be told by the Infant Marie Theresa of Portugal who married Archduke Karl Ludwig a month before her 18th birthday at Kleinheubach on 23 July 1873.

She would have been 32 when Crown Prince Count Rudolph killed himself. Maria Theresa then stood in for the Empress who retired from court life after her son’s death. She carried out honours at the Hofburg Imperial Palace with the Emperor until 1896 and was instrumental in helping her step-son Franz Ferdinand  fulfill his desire to marry the Countess Sophie Chotek which he achieved in July 1990.

The following details I sourced from various places and will verify and alter in due course. 

It was then Marie Theresa who broke the news of the couple’s death to their children Sophie, Maximilian and Ernst. She also managed to ensure the children’s financial security after telling the Emperor that if he did not grant them a yearly income, she would resign the allowance which she drew as a widow in their favour. (The majority of Franz Ferdinand’s property went to his nephew the Archduke Charles)

When the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed following its defeat in the First World War. After his abdication, Maria Theresa accompanied Karl and his wife Zita into exile in Madeira, but eventually returned to Vienna where she spent the rest of her life.

In 1929, following a decline in her finances, Maria Theresa engaged two agents to sell the Napoleon Diamond Necklace, a piece inherited from her husband, in the United States.

After a series of botched sales attempts, the pair finally sold the necklace for $60,000 with the aid of the grand-nephew of Maria Theresa, the Archduke Leopold of Austria, but he claimed nearly 90% of the sale price as “expenses”. Maria Theresa appealed to the United States courts, ultimately resulting in the recovery of the necklace, the imprisonment of her grand-nephew, and the absconding of the two agents.

Maria Theresa died in Vienna during World War II.

Franz and Sophie – the tragic love story that will forever be considered the opening shots of World War One

Franz and Sophie – the tragic love story that will forever be considered the opening shots of World War One.

Surgeon Soldier in Iraq – Part 2: Exsanguinating Hemorrhage and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary

My lines of enquiry can take me in some peculiar places.

All I wanted to do was write a 60 second piece on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the streets of Sarajevo on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914. (Around 300 words to read, 260 or so out loud for video, even less with pauses)

Not a simple issue, and after a day of reading and several thousand words and enough for a 20 minute documentary I conclude that the story has to begin centuries before with the conquest of the Balkans by the Ottoman Empire … then first ideas for a Greater Serbian State free not just of the Ottoman Empire, but also of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from around 1901.

There were seven assassins on the street – trained, armed with revolvers and hand-thrown bombs ready to act. It was well organised, the target agreed many months before, the nationalist group behind it already with a successful regicide on its books.

Had the Archduke listened to advice he would not have been in Sarajevo and he most certainly would not have returned to the streets after the first failed attempt on his life when a bomb was thrown at this car but ended up under the vehicle behind seriously wounded several and injuring many more.

The vital thing for all students to understand is that treaties, the Great Powers taking sides, and agitations of many kinds had the players on the field eager to get started. When you’ve got a fight brewing in the playground and the kids, teachers and authorities are all shouting ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ that is what will happen. The assassination by a lone killer of the leader of the French Socialist Party Jean Jaures, who was determined to find a peaceful solution in late July 1914 indicated the mood – the assassin was considered heroic.

I’ve been through the sixty minutes that take the 19 year old Gavrilo Princip from one side of the Quay Appel at around 10.15 am as the entoruage pass to the opposite side of the Street and the Rue Frans Joseph where he is standing with a revolver by the side of the road when the entourage returns stops in front of him and starts to reverse putting the assassin less that 5ft away from the Archduke and Duchess at around 10.50 am. Princip is a good shot, he’s been practising for months. He shot twice – once at the Archduke, then at the Duchess. The first bullet entered the Archduke’s neck. piercing the external jugular and lodging itself in his spine. At this short range it suggests that the bullet ‘mushroomed’ on impact, otherwise it would surely have penetrated the rear seat of the vehicle. The second bullet entered the Duchess’s abdomen.

Curious to see it all in my mind’s eye I Google away and have ample to read on gunshots to the neck – including medical and surgical papers I can read through the OU Library. A hundred years on a surgeon on hand and a dash to the hospital and the Archduke may have survived – though damage to his spine would have left him a quadriplegic. 65-60% fatality even today. Also a 30% chance of brain damage. Ligation of the vein. Count Harrac was at the Archduke’s side put a handkerchief against the wound, what he needed to do was reach in and grip either side of the severed vein.

To save the Duchess it sounds as if a laparotomy would have been required urgently using procedures to control the damage done to the abdomen – such surgery only started to become common place in the 1950s. An ‘abbreviated laparotomy with physiologic resuscitation in the intensive care unit and staged abdominal reconstruction’ would have done the job – indeed I’ve just read about people with multiple shots across the abdomen from a machine gun who survive – in 2011. So fly in the air ambulance time machine and bring her out … or just get there a few moments earlier and stop the whole shenanigans.

This below, for a contemporary take on field surgery in a war zone is a gripping, heartwarming, informed read. I guess after 6 weeks in somewhere like Iraq an US surgeon is ready for Chicago or the Comptons, Los Angeles.

Surgeon Soldier in Iraq – Part 2: Exsanguinating Hemorrhage

 

Somewhere to get my head around the 1914-1918 Conflict

Fig. 1. Copies of World War (from a set of 52 published between November 1936 and November 1937)

Memories of a place are a damnable thing and in this case it wasn’t even me as a child, but as a parent bringing children that I visited Newhaven Fort for the first time.

My son age 5 or 6 wouldn’t enter the darkened rooms of the WW1 display for a few visits (we were living close by) and far preferred charging down the long, high, stoney, echoed, spookey corridors.

This visit is pre–empting thinking ahead if WW1 100.

How to create interest, how institutions can use this as an excuse to revist what they do, bringing it to life so that it engages the public.

The lack if interactivity, the repetitive loops, the way the thing glosses over and offers just the tip of the conflict.

How do you make it relevant?

I’d project ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ or ‘Shot at Dawn’ on a loop in a room somewhere; have people prepared to sit down for 90 minutes for a start. I’d stay well clear of the nonsense of Birdsong and Downton Abbey, so how do you ‘popularise’ the period and its crisis?

Internet access is vital, even if we feed them all things WW1 from a ‘walled garden’.

A captive audience on a Horror Show ride through the trenches? Cheap or gives a captive audience, like time travellers to the trenches a taste of what it was like?

A 3D experience?

Must have tie ins to primary, secondary and tertiary education, if indeed WW1 is being taught.

I think back to the science museum of my youth in Newcastle: it was tactile, you turned handles and pressed buttons, you pulled handles and poked at things to see what would happen.

Some ‘Creative Probelm Solving’ is required. I’ve bought a season ticket and quickly found a silent spot this afternoon only to find I could have been locked in as it was thought everyone had left.

They’ll have to get used to me: free parking, quiet from the traffic, shelter for the wind, few people to trouble me, internet access throught the iPad and a thousand places to settle down to think, and write. I’m using a screenwriting APP for the iPad and then Final Draft when I get home.

My French exchange from 33 years is in touch. Both his grandfathers served in Verdun; one he says couldn’t stop talking about it while the other (the one I met) refused to say a thing. How will France mark these years, let alone Germany or Russia?

How about some virtual war games online?

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WW2 The Assassination of Jean Jaures, Paris

Jean jaures

Jean jaures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 56 year Jean Jaures, the Socialist leader in France, was an enthusiastic, educated and informed voice in 1914 Europe. He wanted to finding a peaceful settlement between European powers after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. His arguments however went counter to the mood of late July 1914 as Austria, Germany and Russia and the Serbs mobilised for war.

Jean Jaures was teaching philosophy at the University of Toulouse when in 1892 he had supported the miners of Carmaux when they went on strike over the dismissal of their leader, Jean Baptiste Calvignac. Jaurès’ campaigning forced the government to intervene and reinstate Calvignac’s. The following year Jaurès stood for election and became deputy of Carmaux in the Midi-Pyrenees, a seat he lost in 1898 largely as a consequence of his staunch support to overturn of the false accusations against Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been falsely accused of spying for Germany. During his time out of government Jaurés completed the mammoth ‘Socialist History of the French Revolution’.

As leader of the Socialist Party, Jean Jaures became a figure of hate of a radical and probably unhinged nationalist Raoul Villain, a 29 year old studying archaeology in Paris and a member of the League of Young Friends of Alsace-Lorraine.

Villain bought a revolver and stalked the socialist leader keeping tabs on his every movement in a pocket-book.

At around 9.40pm on Friday, July 31st Villain approached Le Cafe du Croissant at the corner of Rue Monmarte and Rue du Croissant in Paris. Jaures was discussing with colleagues how to make an appeal to the US President Woodrow Wilson when Villain saw him sitting in a bay window. Villain raised the revolver and shot Jaures twice in the head.

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