WW1 Revisited

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In a small side road on the edge of fields in Northern France is a small shelter with a British clock face on the roof bearing the name of a company in Derby. On close inspection within lies the grave of Lieutenant Anthony George Attwood Morris. The youngest son of a family from Rugby, Morris had been educated at Winchester and had been commissioned in the regular army before the war, serving… Read More

A century ago the fighting in the fields of the Marne close to Paris was in full swing. Nearly two and a half million British, French and German soldiers, with Colonial troops from the far flung corners of the French Empire, were locked in combat in what would be one of the most decisive battles of 1914 and arguably of the whole war. Historian Dan Snow has just released this excellent video… Read More

On this day a century ago the Battle of the Marne began, a turning point in the early months of the Great War when the German Army was stopped from reaching Paris. Nearly two and a half million men fought in this battle which lasted less than a week and resulted in heavy losses on both sides; one in four of the French soldiers who took part became casualties, for example. The… Read More

The village of Hénencourt was behind the British lines in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme and was a rest area for troops going to and from the trenches. The chateau was used by various Corps commanders and was a massive complex dating back to the eighteenth century. The woods surrounding it contained a large army camp and by March 1918 the village was full of men again as the German… Read More

On the road between Henencourt and Baizieux, south of the village of Warloy-Baillon, is the Moulin de Rolmont. Typical of those in the region it is a stone tower that in 1914 was a fully working and functioning windmill. In 1916 the windmill was well behind the lines in what was a rest area for the British Army, and close to a Royal Flying Corps aerodrome. It was photographed by official photographer John… Read More

Audregnies is a small village west of Mons, out on the far west flank of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of Mons in 1914. On the 24th August 1914 the largest cavalry action of 1914 took place here when 9th Lancers and 4th Dragoon Guards charged the German positions at the Audregnies sugar factory. Captain Francis Grenfell led the 9th Lancers into action at Audregnies and was later awarded a Victoria Cross… Read More

A century ago today the Battle of Mons was raging in Belgium. The men of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) were dug in along the Mons-Conde canal and the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, a regular army battalion largely recruited in and around London, were defending two bridges over the canal. Sufficient explosives did not exist to blow them so their right flank was on a swing bring and their left on a… Read More

  In the streets of Sarajevo on this day a hundred years ago the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip stood up from beside a street cafe and emptied the contents of his automatic pistol into a car bearing Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, killing them both. The outrage over the murder of the heir to the Austrian throne would bring about the conflict that became the Great War, and was the first… Read More

By the close of the Great War France had lost nearly 1.4 million dead and just as in Britain across the country every village, town and city was keen to erect a war memorial to those who had died for France. The memorials vary greatly from lists in a frame on the wall of a church to impressive statues of French Poilu defying the enemy, or a fallen soldier draped in the… Read More

Today is the 97th Anniversary of the Battle of Arras, in some respects one of the forgotten battles of the Great War. Despite the huge amount of publications on Ypres and the Somme, in recent years only Jon Nicholl’s Cheerful Sacrifice, Peter Barton’s & Jeremy Banning’s Arras 1917 and my own Walking Arras have been published on this short but bloody battle. I blogged about this for the University of Oxford WW1 Centenary site last year… Read More

” A ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth!” C.E.W. Bean The Pozières Ridge was the scene of heavy fighting between July and September 1916 when Australian, British and later Canadian troops pushed the Germans back over what was the highest point on the 1916 Somme battlefields. On the nearby Pozières Windmill, which sites on the Ridge, an inscription reads: “The ruin of Pozières windmill which lies… Read More

Les Crapouillots was a satirical magazine during the Great War and also the name given to the Trench Mortar branch of the French Army by the Poilus in the trenches. This memorial in the village of Laffaux in the battlefields between Soissons and the Chemin des Dames commemorates 12,000 men of the unit who died on the Western Front. Constructed in the 1930s it was badly damaged in May 1940 during the… Read More

The village of Sommepy in the Champagne battlefields was behind the German front line for most of the war until the ruins of it were taken by American troops from the American Expeditionary Force in September 1918. This archway, which was once part of the entrance to a large chateau, is the only remaining structure from the pre-1914 days still standing in the village. It is peppered with shell impact marks and… Read More

The Voie Sacrée, or the ‘Sacred Way’, was a road running from Bar le Duc, a major railhead behind the front, and the forward battle zone at Verdun. In 1916 it was realised that the defence of Verdun by the French Army rested on its ability to resupply the front with men, ammunition, food and equipment. The road ran for 72km and operated night and day with thousands of men and vehicles moving up… Read More

Located within the St Mihiel American Cemetery is an imposing stone statue of an American ‘Doughboy‘ – in fact an American officer dressed in the uniform worn by US troops here in 1918. The text on the memorial reads: Blessed are they that have the home longing for they shall go home. The memorial was placed in the cemetery by Harriet Beale, whose son Walker Beale is interred here. 1st Lieutenant Walker Blaine Beale served… Read More