Posts Tagged ‘Great war’

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 21

April 7, 2018


War at sea Total navy and merchant marine force losses during the war 86,000

England alone suffered more than half the losses: 2,468 officers and 30,895 sailors of the Royal Navy,

and 14,661 officers and men of the Merchant Navy.

Tonnage torpedoed or sunk during the war:

England 8.610,000 tonnes

USA 613,000 tonnes Norway 1,287,000 tonnes

France 972,000 tonnes

Italy 923,000 tonnes

Japan 182,000 tonnes

In total, 12,587,000 tonnes with a value of 50,000,000,000 francs, corresponding to 5,000 ships.

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 20

April 4, 2018


Progress in war… War has progressed. That is undeniable. Today it kills more quickly and better. If we compare the losses in the 1914-18 war with the losses in the eight great wars of the previous two centuries, a real improvement is noticeable:

Seven Years War 551,000 men killed

Revolutionary Wars 1,400,000

Napoleonic Wars 1,700,000

Crimean War 785,000

War of American Independence 700,000

Russo-Japanese War 624,000

Balkan Wars 108,000

Great War 10,000,000

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 19

April 4, 2018


The first four months

During the first 4 months of the war (August to November 1914) we lost (killed) 454,000 men, that is to say one third of our total losses.

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 18

April 3, 2018


The development of artillery:
number of guns in service in the armies at the start of Sept 1914/ Nov 1918 

campaign artillery approx 3,400 (93%) /6,200 (41%)
heavy artillery 230 (7%) /6,800 (45%)
trench artillery (Nov 1918) 2,200 (14%)
totals 3,630/ 15,200

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 17

April 1, 2018


The front on 11 November 1918 represented a development 550km long, shared out thus:

the Belgian Army held 30 km (12 divisions, 110 fighting battalions)
the British Army held 90 km (60 divisions, 560 fighting battalions)
the French Army held 330 km (102 divisions, 1081 fighting battalions)
the American Army held 100 km (31 divisions, 372 fighting battalions)

To these troops must be added:
2 Portuguese divisions – 24 fighting battalions
2 Italian divisions – 26 fighting battalions
1 Polish division - 15 fighting battalions

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 16

March 27, 2018


Losses in particular time periods This table is again pretty self-explanatory and so I haven’t translated it fully. The war has been divided into separate time-slots, dominated by a particular battle or action, and the losses are listed in three categories under each head:

Died on the battlefield, missing or taken prisoners

Died in first aid/ dressing stations

Died in hospital (behind the lines)

For us to notice again is the huge proportion of casualties in the opening months of the war.

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 15

March 25, 2018


The war cost France: costs of the war 989,483,000,000/debts and reparations 137,111,000,000 francs. Total = 1,126,594,000,000 francs.

The war cost the belligerents: According to calculations by the League of Nations, spent or destroyed the value of ten trillion (10,000,000,000,000) francs.

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 14

March 25, 2018


The first wounded Frenchman in the war was customs-officer Lalbe. On 2 August 1914 – before war was declared – at about 9am, he was at Suarce (Belfort territory) where horses and cars were being requisitioned. A patrol of uhlans commanded by Lt Mayer arrived, and he took a bullet. This first injury did not prevent him taking part in combat, being mentioned in dispatched several times, and receiving the military medal. He dies 20 November 1932 aged 57.

The first Frenchman killed: the first death of the war was Cpl Andre Peugeot of the 44th infantry regiment, a teacher and son of a teacher, born at Etupes (Doubs department) 11 June 1883. On 2 August 1914 – before war was declared – he was killed at 10am at Joncherey, 2km from Delle, by Lt Mayer of the 5th horse chasers Garrisoned at Mulhouse. [same Lt Mayer as above?]

(continuing the series of posts I introduced here)

Balance-sheet of the First World War – 3

February 26, 2018


The French dead

killed by (gun/shell) fire 674,700
died of wounds 250,000
missing presumed killed by (gun/shell) fire 225,300
died of disease 175,000
= 1,325,000
losses among colonial troops 66,000
total = 1,391,000

(continuation of a series translating this French poster)

On honour, duty, loyalty and patriotism

July 9, 2017

I’ve been thinking about these topics as a result of the previous book I read, about Major-General Sosabowski’s loyalty to his country, and where it got him. I’ve never felt in the least bit patriotic, shocking as this may sound, and I’m aware that some of this lack of feeling may come from being neither fish nor fowl, half-English and half-Polish. But somewhere I’ve always agreed with Johnson’s adage that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Looking rather more seriously at the issue, I have always found it almost impossible to understand why men marched to their deaths in the Great War in the way they did. I have stood at various places on the former western front, where the British climbed out into no-man’s-land on the first day of the battle of the Somme and looked into the distance at the crest of the hill some hundreds of yards away where the Germans were entrenched, and thought, my God how could anyone bring themselves to do that? And, when teaching the A level English Literature paper on Literature and the First World War, students and I would agree that we could not behave like that now, we would not be prepared to die like that…

Writers and poets of the time were clearly doing what they felt to be their duty, including rebels like Sassoon who threw his medals into the Mersey and brought much opprobrium on himself by writing in protest against the way the war was being conducted. He felt loyalty and a duty of care to the men under his command, as did Wilfred Owen, who also protested against incompetent leadership in his poems, and who ultimately gave his life.

I’ve also wondered about what creates and fosters a sense of loyalty to one’s country. Shakespeare creates a marvellous picture of ‘this sceptred isle’ in the famous speech in Richard II, and I agree that England is a beautiful country that is very fortunately situated… but to die for? And because we are an island, unconquered for nearly a thousand years, we do not perhaps understand what happens in the thoughts of others. French casualties in the Great War were horrendous, and a huge proportion of the deaths came in the first months of the war as the French strove desperately to drive the marauding German invaders from their country. I can see that men like Sosabowski felt great loyalty to their nation which, having only regained independence in 1918 after over a century of non-existence, was snuffed out a mere twenty years later by the combined treachery of Nazis and Soviets, and why thousands of men like my father volunteered for the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade that Sosabowski set up in order to train men for the liberation of Warsaw (which never happened). And having read his book, I am now clearer about the enormous sense of betrayal all those men felt as a result of Churchill’s machinations after Arnhem and in the closing months of the war.

Similarly, it’s quite clear the sense of pride in their country, in the motherland, in defending their socialist homeland, that the millions of Soviet men and women who died in the Great Patriotic War felt, even in spite of the horrors of Stalinism which they had also lived through. Reading novels like Vassily Grossman’s epic Life and Fate, or the last part of Anatoly Rybakov’s Arbat trilogy, Dust and Ashes, is incredibly moving, and, for me, a learning experience about the meaning of loyalty and patriotism. And Svetlana Alexievich’s book of Soviet women at war was even more powerful, because true…

Sadly, I have to say that very little about the current nation of England (or Great Britain, or the United Kingdom) makes me feel proud, other than our National Health Service, which the current government is doing its best to wreck. And throughout the Cold War I was aware that any conflict with the Warsaw Pact would mean that ‘my’ country would be attacking the country where half my family lived, while ‘their’ country would be trying to kill us… I wasn’t looking forward to the consequences of being a conscientious objector, but mentally prepared myself. And then I discovered that I would have been a ‘security risk’ because of my family on the ‘other side’ and thus probably not liable to service anyway.

Somewhere on the other side of the scales, before I get too serious, I have to put Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svejk, the story of a congenital idiot who volunteers to do his patriotic duty at the start of the Great War, for the Austro-Hungarian Empire… one of only two humorous books I know of about war (Catch-22 is the other) and remind myself that, like the Irishman asked for directions, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here. In other words, like Johnson, we ought to be stepping back from the issues of patriotism, loyalty and duty to ask ourselves why we got into the mess in the first place, and aren’t there rather better ways of dealing with our problems?

Beware those who offer you easy answers (especially if their names begin with ‘T’)!

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