Saturday, 21 February 2015


In this old photo we see three Turkish soldiers posing for a studio photograph with their grisly trophies.  

It's not known who the two heads on the table might have once belonged to, but it's certain they won't be giving the Turks any more trouble. Beheading prisoners has such a medieval flavor to it. A sign of desperation? Very likely. After all, the Turks were soon after crushed by British and British-Indian troops and their shaky empire removed from them.  

After the war, Turkey was reduced to something like its present-day borders, and much of the erstwhile Ottoman empire put under the rule of either the British or the French who were to set about modernizing it – without terribly much success.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Germans driven by Turks

This photograph shows German officers being driven about in Turkey in a gigantic car. If you can identify the make, I would be interested to know. It looks to me as if it might be German, but that's a guess.

Turkey controlled the Ottoman empire, which had been slowly collapsing for centuries, but which managed to retain a strong sense of its own usefulness. It was reputedly labelled "the Sick Man of Europe" by Tsar Nicholas I.

Turkey made the mistake of siding with the Germans in the First World War. (The Germans gave them a cruiser and a battle-cruiser, which may have helped.) During the war they famously took against the Armenians and behaved badly, slaughtering large numbers, for what reason I still do not know. British forces, having failed to force the Dardanelles strait and lay siege to Istanbul, then pushed up from Egypt. General Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem on 11th December, 1917, and subsequently went on to capture Syria.

After the war, the Ottoman empire was cut up and the parts given to Britain and France to administer – and what a thankless task that has proven to be! Turkey itself, reduced more or less to the borders we know today, began to modernize. It eschewed religion in favour of secular government and got rid of Arabic script. It now makes more refrigerators than you could comfortably shake a stick at, and is becoming an absolute hive of industry.

It's a shame that a few other places I could mention, don't choose to do the same.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Call to Empire

Australia, a land quite familiar to me, since I was partly brought up there, was of course once part of the British Empire. Those wishing to disparage Australia will often call attention to the origin of certain cities Down Under which began life as penal colonies, but this, as you will see, is somewhat unjust.

This poster, designed to be put up in the Australian city of Adelaide calls particularly upon "South Australians." Why? you may ask.

Well, back in 1914, Australia had officially been one nation for only a dozen years or so, and therefore people felt allegiance to their particular states rather than Australia collectively. South Australia, incidentally, was never a penal colony, but started out as a settlement of free men. 

The myth put about by the odious Mel Gibson and certain others of that ilk that Australians fighting in the Great War were all Outback lads duped into dying at Gallipoli, is nonsense. Most volunteers were city dwellers, more stockbrokers than stock-herders, who joined up out of a sense of patriotism. Most proved to be superb soldiers who fought extremely well.

Want to find out more about WW1?  Click here to see my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Recruiting in 1915

As the war grinds on, the supply of volunteers runs out, and the British government realize that some kind of conscription must be introduced. Initially, Lord Derby proposed a scheme to register volunteers, in which it was promised that single men would be called up before married men. Two hundred thousand came forward immediately, and over two million put their names down to join later.

Want to find out more about WW1?  Click here to see my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Anchors Aweigh!

Ships in New York Harbour, loading armaments for use by Britain and France. Germany tried to stir up Irish-Americans against the trade, and to otherwise interfere with the wharfs.

On 30th July, 1916, a giant explosion blew out thousands of windows in Manhattan when a New Jersey ammunition warehouse on Black Tom wharf was sabotaged. This wharf jutted out into the bay close to the Statue of Liberty, which suffered damage.

The explosion may have destroyed some war materials, but the damage caused to Germany's reputation was incalculable. I mean, what kind of imbecile would so casually jeopardize a universally recognized symbol of freedom?

Echoes of the Black Tom blast were heard in Maryland and Connecticut. And, in a metaphorical sense, in Washington.

Click here to see my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Evil Septopus?

This German cartoon depicts John Bull, the personification of England, as a slightly crazed, seven-armed octopus which is grasping at American resources. British orders contributed billions of dollars to American prosperity, and Great Britain honourably paid back all her loans after the war - which is more than could be said for other countries, notably France.

If you are interested in this period of history, then click here to get a copy of my latest novel - "The Deadly Playground, 1914"

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Walrus and the Carpenter

This German cartoon shows a portly Britain wearing Union flag underwear being shark-bitten by a U-boat. American president, Woodrow Wilson is helping to rescue the victim. Perhaps this is where Laurel and Hardy got the idea for their act.

Interested in this period?  Click here to get a copy of my latest novel, The Deadly Playground, 1914