Sunday, 26 October 2014

Patching up Aircraft?

Everyone has heard of the Luftwaffe, the German air force of World War Two, but what about 1914?
The correct term is a bit of a mouthful - "die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches" Рthough often the word "Luftstreitkräfte" was used, which is hardly much better.

It's not obvious to a casual observer what early aircraft were made from. The rough answer is a wooden framework with a fabric of some kind stretched over it.  When these planes were shot at, many of the bullets and lumps of shrapnel that scored hits actually did little damage - they passed through the fabric and, so long as they didn't hit the wooden skeleton inside, passed out again.

When aircraft came back from patrol, there was a morbid fascination in the game of going over the fabric to look for holes. Repairs were then effected by gluing on patches and sewing round the patch.

The chaps in the picture are doing just that.

Interested in finding out more?  Click on this link to get a copy of my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

German cavalry, Polish children

In this photograph, we see German cavalry trotting through the streets of a Polish town, lance pennons flying. Dozens of Polish children have been attracted to the spectacle - note the bare feet - and are gleefully absorbing the sight of real soldiers.

It is perhaps a sobering thought that other Germans, attempting to renew their original plan of conquest in the East, would turn Poland into something resembling Hell just about the time when these children were entering the prime of life.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The U-boat Threat

Sir Winston Churchill famously remarked that the only thing that gave him serious cause for concern during World War 2 was the threat posed by Germany's submarines.

They were quick and cheap to build in large numbers and they usually sank many times their own tonnage before being sunk themselves. For an island nation dependent on maritime trade, this was bad news.
What is less well known is that U-boats existed in World War One also, and sank many ships, Royal Navy and merchant marine alike -- about five thousand of them, or twelve million tons in all.

Also less well known, at least in the Anglophone nations, is the fact that Austria-Hungary had a small submarine fleet, but the French managed to keep it bottled up in the Adriatic for the duration.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Russian Suffering German Ambitions

The Russian Empire in 1914 was a vast, backward absolute monarchy that extended right across present-day Ukraine, Belarus and Poland. Most people lived mediaeval lives, as subsistence farmers, in small villages or in poorly-developed towns. It seemed to the Germans a region ripe for improvement. The trouble was, "improvement" would mean replacing the Russians and Poles who lived there with Germans.

The imminent collapse of Russia eventually alarmed the United States into joining Britain and France in deploying troops. German divisions which had been fighting against Russia could now be entrained to fight in the West. It was believed that American soldiers would be required to shore up the Western Front against the expected German offensive.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Germans in Poland

Take the points off those helmets, and this could easily be a scene from 1941 instead of 1914.

Want to find out more about this period?  Click here to get a copy of The Deadly Playground, 1914, my latest novel. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

All tied up ...

This cartoon shows the German chancellor's dogs of war chewing over the bones of Europe. The Reichskanzler in question is Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, who held the post from 1909 to 1917. Our cartoon shows Bethmann Hollweg in uniform. He was never in the army, but did wear a general's uniform while about his business in Berlin. Odd, to say the least, but in 1914 Germany, a military uniform of some description was apparently de rigeur if one was to be taken at all seriously.

Bethmannn Hollweg's diplomatic deceptions in 1914 helped lead Europe to war. (His attempts beforehand to butter-up the British had failed to convince.) Just as well the British spurned his advances, because his so-called "September Programme" of 1914 revealed truly aggressive expansionist plans in which a quick European war was to be followed by grandiose victory demands.

These were the annexation of Luxembourg, Belgium and parts of Northern France, including a generous slice of the Channel coast. A fine of ten billion Reichsmarks was to be levied on France, along with crippling war reparations. The French would be forced to disarm, and their economy would be henceforth controlled by Germany. In the east, a new German empire would be created from the westernmost parts of the Russian Empire, while German Africa would be formed from French colonies and the Belgian Congo, and positioned so as to rival British overseas possessions.

In the event things didn't quite turn out that way, even after Adolf Hitler tried and failed to implement the plan a second time.

In a very real sense, what we are accustomed to call World War Two, is in reality just World War One Part Two.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Germans Cast Themselves in an Heroic Light.

While Edith Cavell was being shot and the rest of Belgium trampled under invading jack boots, the Germans were congratulating themselves on a job well done.

Once again, the man with the chicken on his head, Wilhelm II, is playing superhero. Here he is riding about, pinning iron crosses on wounded infantrymen while a Valkyrie looks on approvingly. According to Norse mythology, it was the Valkyries who were supposed to do the riding about.

The job of the virgin Valkyries was to choose among those who died in battle and bring the bravest to Valhalla. Most of the time Valkyries went about disguised as swans and, should a Valkyrie ever be spotted by a mortal without her disguise, then she herself would become mortal and could not re-enter Valhalla. So this one appears to be well and truly snookered, poor gal.

Can you believe that 100 years ago people actually fell for this preposterous rubbish?