Friday, 29 August 2014

Humanity shatters "Kultur"

Much anti-German sentiment during the Great War was directed at something called "Kultur." What was it, and why was it reviled?

It means in German roughly what we would mean by "culture" in English, but was used sarcastially in Britain to lampoon the supposed German belief that their culture was superior to all others - "Uber alles", and all that. The British naturally found this belief both risible and self-evidently inaccurate, and started depicting Germany as a drooling ape in a pickelhaube helmet running around with a large club with the word Kulture engraved on it, presumably looking for victims to educate.

But "Kultur" also has another shade of meaning relating to something called "Kulturkampf." Those Noble Readers steeped in 20th Century lore, will notice that word "kampf" - as in Mein Kampf, the title of a peculiar fantasy penned by infamous jail-bird Adolf Hitler.  "Kampf" means "struggle" or perhaps "battle," and "Kulturkampf" refers to late 19th Century efforts in Prussia to cleanse the domain of Roman Catholic influence. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck introduced increasingly stringent curbs on Catholic institutions, which had an effect later when, in August, 1914, the Germans overran Belgium and Poland, both notably Catholic countries.

Click on this link to get a copy of my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914 

Friday, 22 August 2014

The British Are to Blame for Everything.

Most Americans will nod with recognition when it is suggested that you can't be Top Nation without attracting enormous jealousy, not to say envy, from nations of lesser wealth and magnificence.

What is directed at Americans today we British had to put up with a hundred years ago. The jealousy was most apparent among the Kaiser's clique, and indeed in Wilhelm's own attitude.

He was completely out of his mind, of course, but still it almost beggars belief that, having invaded France and Belgium, the Germans could depict Britain as the cause of all the woes afflicting those benighted countries.

Talk about a regime deep in denial.

Click on this link to get a copy of my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Jonah Jessop?

The name of this lovely lady was Violet Jessop, Violet Constance Jessop to be exact, whose Irish parents emigrated to live in Argentina. You'd want to think twice before you bought a ticket to ride on any ship Violet was travelling aboard, and let me tell you why.

In 1911, Violet was working as a stewardess aboard the world's biggest liner, the Royal Mail Steamer Olympic when she was in collision with HMS Hawke - the liner, not Violet. She was reassigned to another ship, the Titanic which promptly ran into an iceberg as a billion movie-goers are now aware. Nothing daunted, she then joined the Red Cross and went off to serve aboard the hospital ship, Britannic, just in time for it to be torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. (Some say it was a mine.)

Violet died in Suffolk, England, in 1971. She was 83 years of age. Talk about the luck of the Irish ...

Saturday, 16 August 2014

"Like the Titanic, only worse"

In 1914, the Germans were in possession of 30 submarines, the famous U-boats. These were not the ocean-going craft familiar to students of World War 2, but smaller craft designed to operate in coastal waters. They were, however, armed with numbers of self-propelled torpedoes, and were deadly enough. Of the 360 submarines Germany built during the Great War, half were captured or sunk, but they did succeed in destroying more than 12 million tons of shipping.

In May 1915, U-20, captained by one Walther Schwieger, torpedoed the passenger liner RMS Lusitania, killing over a thousand people, including some pretty irritated Americans.

But when Titanic went down didn't she take over 1,500 people with her? Yes, indeed, but what made the Lusitania sinking worse was the fact that the Titanic disaster was an accident, the Lusitania was sunk on purpose.

They say that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword, so it's perhaps no surprise that Captain Schwieger's own remains are still aboard his last command, U-88 - at the bottom of the North Sea. His submarine was sunk by the British Q-ship HMS Glenfoyle alias Stonecrop alias Dunlevon alias Winona.

A Q-ship was a fake merchantman equipped with hidden guns. These decoys were used by the Royal Navy to literally lure U-boats to their doom, hence the confusing array of names.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Artists and Writers

If artists contributed to the British war effort, so did writers. In fact, in the twenty or so years leading up to the First World War, growing concerns over Germany's war-like intentions created an atmosphere of anxiety.

Novels such as The Battle of Dorking and The Riddle of the Sands led people to expect a German invasion, or at least to mistrust the Kaiser.

This pre-war poster is advertizing a play being staged at Wyndham's Theatre in London, entitled, "An Englishman's Home". The title refers to the popular saying, "An Englishman's home is his castle", which attempts to promulgate the notion that the ownership of property was inviolate in England, that the homeowner's status was well protected by law, and woe betide anyone who tried to interfere with his privileges.

Here we see Britannia, the spirit of Britain. She was a figure familiar to British people of the time through her appearance on the penny coin. She seems to be warning a gent peaceably enjoying his hearth that the enemy are at the gates.

My latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914 might also be of interest to you.  Click here to take a look.

Monday, 11 August 2014

War and Cholera - 1911

This hard-hitting German poster of 1911 shows what lies in store for those leaders who fail to steer their nations away from war. The piles of naked corpses in the bottom of the picture seem eerily prescient, reminding people of a later generation of footage shot at Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Get a copy of my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914 here:

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Not Much Change Since Napoleon.

Another misconception frequently held by people not sufficiently steeped in historical research - and that means 99% of us - is that the Great War was all about mud-filled trenches. In fact, the Great War was fought in many places around the world, and only in the northern end of the Western Front was it like that.

Of course, that's the part of the line the British army had to endure - the legendary mud of Ypres and Paschendael - so the static war looms large in British memory. But in the early part of 1914, the war in the West was a mobile affair, with cavalry units and horse artillery playing a notable part. In the East, where the Germans were fighting the Russians, the war continued to be mobile.

In 1914, British soldiers wore cloth caps, French infantry had bright red pantaloons and cavalrymen of all persuasions rode into battle with lance and sabre. By 1916, the last vestiges of the kind of warfare that Napoleon would have recognized had disappeared forever.

Why not click on this link and get a copy of my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914