WW1 Revisited

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  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

The sight of front-line barbed wire remains a powerful image of the Great War. In the early stage of the war the use of so-called ‘Chevaux de Frise‘ (or knife-rests as they were known by the British) enabled soldiers to prepare barbed wire defences behind the lines and bring them up, putting them in place at night. Being portable they could also be moved. Few survive intact but this section is part of… Read More

The Western Front ran for more 450 miles from the Belgian coast to the Swiss Border. At the Belgian end the trenches petered out in the sand dunes near to the Belgian town of Nieuport. Soldier-author Charles Douie fought in the area with the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment in 1917 and left this description of the sector: Nieuport was not greatly different from other towns lying in the near vicinity of the… Read More