World War 1 – the last hours

image1This short piece was sent in by by an anonymous jotwatcher, for which much thanks.  It shows a typed military communique about the end of hostilities in World War 1 that was kept by his  great, great grandfather and handed down through the family. It reads:

After telling the troops, my great great grandfather folded up this piece of paper and put it in his pocket nearly 100 years ago. It’s been handed down since. It marks the end of the First World War:

Translation:
1) Hostilities shall cease along the entire front at 1100 hrs on November 11th (French time)
2) Until further orders, troops shall not move forward of the line seized by this hour and date. Report exactly the position of the line. 
3) All communication with the enemy is forbidden until receipt of instructions by the army commander.

A real piece of history! Now raising a massive gin and tonic to those who gave their tomorrow for me to enjoy my today and I’m surrounded by people I love. Don’t forget to remember. 

‘The sewer of this vile book’ : one man’s rage against a poetry anthology.

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Today, a hundred years on, most historians find it difficult to justify the carnage that was the Great War. Back in 1919, many were morally divided on the issue. One man who saw the fight against German brutality as a wholly justified, glorious crusade, was the poet and playwright Henry Newman Howard (1861 – 1929). On reading The Paths of Glory, an anthology of anti-war poetry, he sent a scathing letter to its pacifist editor, Bertram Lloyd. A typewritten copy of this letter was recently found, tucked in with a batch of press cuttings relating to the offending book, in a copy of it , which may have been Lloyd’s own, that ended up the library of Maria Assumpta College, Kensington and was subsequently de-accessioned into the secondhand book trade.

Here in full is Howard’s letter to Lloyd:

29 Jan 1919

25, Charlbury Road,

Oxford.

Sir,

Your’ anthology ‘of War Poems is a crime. I grieve that the publishing house fathered by noble John Ruskin should be Sponsors to this execrable publication. Never again will I purchase a book bearing the stamp fouled by the guilt of this sinister booklet. Other books there are one recalls as foul things. Il Principe, possibly John Davidson’s Testament; Nietzsche—these last, like the German Empire, died mad of their guilty thoughts. Your book, garbage from end to end—if not in the individual poems, assuredly in their bringing together—carries the sickly unction of a spurious humanitarianism.

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William Loring, academic, soldier and first Warden of Goldsmiths

Found among  the papers of the long defunct literary agency Michael Hayes of Cromwell Road S.W.5  - parts of a manuscript memoir by one L.R. Reeve of Newton Abbot, South Devon. Mr Reeve was attempting to get the book (Among those Present: Very Exceptional People) published, but on the evidence of the unused stamp Hayes never replied and  L. R. Reeve published the book himself through the esteemed vanity publisher Stockwell two years later in 1974.

L R Reeve had in a long life met or observed a remarkable selection of famous persons. He  presents 'vignettes' of 110 persons from all grades of society (many minor or even unknown) they include Winston Churchill, Dorothy Sayers,  H H Asquith, John Buchan, the cricketer Jack Hobbs, J.B. Priestley, H.G. Wells, Marconi, E.M. Forster, Duchess of Atholl, Marie Stopes, Oliver Lodge and Cecil Sharp -- 'it is unnecessary to explain that  many I have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me."

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The Tragedy of Copped Hall

The effects of the First World War were wide and long lasting, not just for those who were directly involved in it, one way or another , but for the architectural heritage of Britain. The deaths of so many sons of the upper class meant that estates that had been run so successfully up to 1914 were plunged into uncertainty. Great mansions were sold off or demolished. A different fate befell one great house and its astonishing gardens in Essex, as some clippings found among the papers of the late Peter Haining, who must have passed the site regularly on his route to and from his Essex home, tell.

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Wilfred Owen – ‘A Cribber’?

Has it ever been acknowledged that the memorable and now iconic line of Wilfred Owen- ‘the pity of war’ is actually the title of a novel from 1906, that happened to be written by his close friend and fellow soldier-combatant Conal O’Riordan?!

The Pity of War. F. Norreys Connell ( i.e. Conal O’Riordan) 1906. Henry J Glaisher, London.

[Sent in by ATSJ - for which thanks]

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A real match for the Axis

Found, if I recall, among bric-a-brac, in a job lot at an auction in the east of England, is this ‘striking’ packet of matches, only three of which have been used. As there are a number of US air bases in this part of the world, it may have once belonged to an airman who eventually settled here. Presumably, the date of manufacture by The Match Corporation of America in Chicago would be sometime between 1941 and 1945 and it is certainly possible that the US Air Force brought over to England large numbers of such packets for the use of their staff.

Advertising propaganda urging patriots to buy War Bonds dates back to the First World War, but I haven’t yet discovered any satirical British advertising on everyday objects, such as matches or cigarette packets, that dates from a hundred years ago . If any Jot 101 readers know of some, we would welcome further information. [RMH]

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Colossus – the first true electronic computer

Found - in a paperback novel from the 1980s this press cutting. It is from a glossy magazine (possibly Electronics World) and is a letter from one G.O. Hayward. This is the war hero Gil Hayward who had worked at Bletchley Park and was given a medal by the Prime Minister in 2010 and died a year later aged 93. He had worked on the "Tunny" decryption machines at  at the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill, North London, and later at Bletchley Park. These were used to break the code of even higher grade secret messages than the Enigma machine. Towards the end of the war, up to 15 of the Tunny machines were in use at Bletchley Park, providing Allied leaders with around 300 messages from the German High Command a week. Among other things, Tunny provided key intelligence for D-Day. The Colossus computer was developed from it...

His Telegraph obituary notes that he was interested in electronics from an early age - "On his own motorcycle.. he built an indicator which integrated a clock with his speedometer and indicated his average speed.

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Zeppelins over literary London

A correspondence on Zeppelins in the letters column of the Times Literary Supplement  prompted a visit to a local Suffolk church where 17 German airmen were buried after crashing their Zeppelin in 1917. The letters have the slightly leaden header 'Led by a Zeppelin' and concern a remark of Katherine Mansfield's about how she was so attracted to the sound and sight of a Zeppelin during a raid on Paris that '…she longed to go out and follow it…' This reminds the correspondent of G.B. Shaw's reaction to a Zeppelin over Potter's Bar in October 1917 -'…  the sound of the engines was so fine, and its voyage through the stars so enchanting, that I positively caught myself hoping next night there would be another raid…'

This letter (from the American writer Stanley Weintraub) prompted a riposte about the metropolitan bias of the T.L.S. letters from Suffolk beer baron Simon Loftus (26/9/2014). He notes that Zeppelin raids were relatively common on the East Coast - "...towns such as Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Southwold were bombed more or less ineffectually by these strange  Leviathans of the skies…" He then alludes to the Zeppelin shot down near Theberton, noting that pieces of the aluminium structure, salvaged from the wreckage were auctioned in aid of the Red Cross. The 17 German airmen were buried in the peaceful graveyard at Theberton. Also buried there is the author of Arabia Deserta Charles M. Doughty. The airmen's  bodies have since been moved to a central burial ground in Staffordshire, although a memorial can still be seen in the cemetery across the road from the church.

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Angels at Mons

Found - a small thin 4 page pamphlet Angels at Mons printed in Felixstowe, England about 1920. Its price was ninepence for a 100 and it was almost certainly for distribution in churches. Ours was found in a missal.

There is much elsewhere about the angels that are said to have appeared on the WW1 battlefield at Mons. Arthur Machen's 1915 book The Bowmen and Other Legends of War really started the legend.

Historian A.J.P. Taylor was so impressed by the evidence then available that he felt confident referring to Mons, in his 1963 History of the First World War, as the only battle where “supernatural intervention was observed, more or less reliably, on the British side.”

The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural says of Machen's book: "During Machen's lifetime 'The Bowmen' was easily his most influential work of fiction, in ways he never predicted. First published in a 1914 Evening News after the Battle of Mons, it told how British troops, their retreat cut off by the Germans, were miraculously rescued by a ghostly St. George and his bowmen of Agincourt. Widely accepted as true or as a genuine legend, the incident is regularly referred to even today, in books of occult lore and oral histories of the Great War." Fortean Times has this great story of hoaxes and mayhem around the legend with a report on a Hollywood movie that was going to be made on the angels with Marlon Brando.

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A Johnson and Boswell scholar at the front 1918

From the introduction to R.W. Chapman's scholarly edition of Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland... (Oxford 1924.) Chapman survived World War One. While a generation of great  scholars were killed and many books and academic projects were never completed Chapman actually managed to work on editing Boswell while soldiering at the Macedonia front - as he explains.

In the fine tradition of the soldier/scholar he always travelled with his Horace (Odes); just after the war he wrote The Portrait of a Scholar and Other Essays Written in Macedonia 1916-1918 (Oxford University Press, 1920.) He collected silver spoons, and on that subject he regarded 'the speech of Eton and Christ Church as the most beautiful of earthly sounds...' Returning from the Eastern front he stated that there were 'few more exciting pursuits than textual criticism.' He also edited Jane Austen, for which he is now chiefly known.

Mountain gun at Macedonia Front in World War 1

This edition was planned, and in great part executed, in Macedonia, in the summer of 1918. I had a camp behind Smol Hill, on the left bank of the Vardar, and a six inch gun (Mark XI, a naval piece, on an improvised carriage; 'very rare in this state'), with which I made a demonstration in aid of the French and Greek armies, when they stormed the heights beyond the river; I think in June. This was in the early hours of the morning, and a very  pretty display of fireworks. 12 hours later, I remember, Mark XI was still too hot to touch. But long weeks of inactivity follow. I had a hut made of sandbags, with a roof constructed of corrugated iron in layers, with large stones between, to allow perflation*; and here, in the long hot afternoons, when 'courage was useless, and enterprise impracticable', a temporary gunner, in a khaki shirt and shorts, might have been found collating the three editions of the Tour to the Hebrides, or re-reading A Journey to the Western Islands in the hope of finding a corruption in the text. Ever and again, tiring of collation and emendation, of tepid tea and endless cigarettes, I would go outside to look at the stricken landscape - the parched yellow hills and ravines, the brown coils of the big snaky river at my feet, the mountains in the blue distance; until the scorching wind, which always blew down that valley, sent me back to the Hebrides. These particulars are doubtless irrelevant; but I like to think that the scene would have pleased James Boswell."

*Samuel Johnson has the word perflation in his dictionary and defines it as 'the act of blowing through' from perflate 'to blow through.' He uses it in this very book on page 72 -'perpetual perflation' - talking of the drying of oats. See also this excellent posting on Chapman and this book.