CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Sunday, November 22, 2015

DOWNFALL OF EUROPEAN ROYALTY ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO Then World War One

 

 

Rasputin is infamous for the hold he had over the early century leadership of Russia and is believed to be part of their downfall in 1916

 

Nine European Sovereigns at Windsor for the funeral of King Edward VII in May of 1910, four years before the war began. Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, King Manuel II of Portugal, Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire, King George I of Greece and King Albert I of Belgium. Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King-Emperor George V of the United Kingdom and King Frederick VIII of Denmark. Within the next decade, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Ferdinand's empires would engage in bloody warfare with the nations led by King Albert I and King George V. The war was also a family affair, as Kaiser Wilhelm II was a first cousin to King George V, and an uncle to King Albert I. Of the remaining monarchs pictured, over the next decade one would be assassinated (Greece), three would keep their nations neutral (Norway, Spain, and Denmark), and two would be forced out of power by revolutions. (W. & D. Downey) #


     

DOWNFALL OF EUROPEAN ROYALTY One hundred years ago

Then World War One

 
 

One hundred years ago, in the summer of 1914, a series of events set off an unprecedented global conflict that ultimately claimed the lives of more than 16 million people, dramatically redrew the maps of Europe, and set the stage for the 20th Century.

A century ago, an assassin, a Serbian nationalist, killed the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary as he visited Sarajevo. This act was the catalyst for a massive conflict that lasted four years. More than 65 million soldiers were mobilized by more than 30 nations, with battles taking place around the world. Industrialization brought modern weapons, machinery, and tactics to warfare, vastly increasing the killing power of armies. Battlefield conditions were horrific, typified by the chaotic, cratered hellscape of the Western Front, where soldiers in muddy trenches faced bullets, bombs, gas, bayonet charges, and more. On this 100-year anniversary, I've gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world.

1

Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade walk on a duckboard track laid across a muddy, shattered battlefield in Chateau Wood, near Hooge, Belgium, on October 29, 1917. This was during the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by British forces and their allies against Germany for control of territory near Ypres, Belgium. (James Francis Hurley/State Library of New South Wales)

3

In 1914, Austria-Hungary was a powerful and huge country, larger than Germany, with nearly as many citizens. It had been ruled by Emperor Franz Joseph I since 1848, who had been grooming his nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand as the heir to the throne. In this photo, taken in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, a visiting Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Czech Countess Sophie Chotek, are departing a reception at City Hall. Earlier that morning, on the way to the hall, their motorcade had been attacked by one of a group of Serbian nationalist assassins, whose bomb damaged one car and injured dozens of bystanders. After this photo was taken, the Archduke and his wife climbed into the open car, headed for a nearby hospital to visit the wounded. Just blocks away though, the car paused to turn around, directly in front of another assassin, who walked up to the car and fired two shots, killing both Franz Ferdinand and his wife. (AP Photo) #

4

Assassin Gavrilo Princip (left) and his victim Archduke Franz Ferdinand, both photographed in 1914. Princip, a 19 year old a Bosnian Serb who killed the Archduke, was recruited along with five others by Danilo Ilic, a friend and fellow Bosnian Serb, who was a member of the Black Hand secret society. Their ultimate goal was the creation of a Serbian nation. The conspiracy, assisted by members of Serbia's military, was quickly uncovered, and the attack became a catalyst that would soon set massive armies marching against each other around the world. All of the assassins were captured and tried. Thirteen received medium-to-short prison sentences, including Princip (who was too young for the death penalty, and received the maximum, a 20 year sentence). Three of the conspirators were executed by hanging. Four years after the assassination, Gavrilo Princip died in prison, brought down by tuberculosis, which was worsened by harsh conditions brought on by the war he helped set in motion. (Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek) #

5

A Bosnian Serb nationalist (possibly Gavrilo Princip, more likely bystander Ferdinand Behr), is captured by police and taken to the police station in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, and his wife.(National Archives) #

6

Shortly after the assassination, Austria-Hungary issued a list of demands to Serbia, demanding they halt all anti-Austro-Hungarian activity, dissolve certain political groups, remove certain political officers, and arrest those within its borders who participated in the assassination, among other things -- with 48 hours to comply. Serbia, with the backing of their ally Russia, politely refused to fully comply, and mobilized their army. Soon after, Austria-Hungary, backed by their ally Germany, declared war on Serbia on July 28 1914. A network of treaties and alliances then kicked in, and within a month's time, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, Britain, and Japan had all mobilized their armies and declared war. In this photo, taken in August of 1914, Prussian guard infantry in new field gray uniforms leave Berlin, Germany, heading for the front lines. Girls and women along the way greet and hand flowers to them. (AP Photo) #

7

Belgian soldiers with their bicycles in Boulogne, France, 1914. Belgium asserted neutrality from the start of the conflict, but provided a route into France that the German army coveted, so Germany declared it would "treat her as an enemy", if Belgium did not allow German troops free passage. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

8

The conflict, called the Great War by those involved, was the first large-scale example of modern warfare - technologies still use in battle today were introduced in large scale forms then, some (like chemical attacks) were outlawed and later viewed as war crimes. The newly-invented aeroplane took its place as an observation platform, a bomber, and an anti-personnel weapon, even as an anti-aircraft defense, shooting down enemy aircraft. Here, French soldiers gather around a priest as he blesses an aircraft on the Western Front, in 1915.(Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

9

Between 1914 and the war's end in 1918, more than 65 million soldiers were mobilized worldwide - requiring mountains of supplies and gear. Here, on a table set up outside a steel helmet factory in Lubeck, Germany, a display is set up, showing the varying stages of the helmet-making process for Stahlhelms for the Imperial German Army. (National Archives/Official German Photograph) #

10

A Belgian soldier smokes a cigarette during a fight between Dendermonde and Oudegem, Belgium, in 1914. Germany had hoped for a swift victory against France, and invaded Belgium in August of 1914, heading into France. The German army swept through Belgium, but was met with stiffer resistance than it anticipated in France. The Germans approached to within 70 kilometers of Paris, but were pushed back a ways, to a more stable position, which would become battlefields lined with trenches, fought over for years. In this opening month of World War I, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded -- France suffered its greatest single-day loss on August 22nd, when more than 27,000 soldiers were killed by rifle and machine-gun, thousands more wounded. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

11

German soldiers celebrate Christmas in the field, in December of 1914. (AP Photo) #

12

The front in France, a scene on a battlefield at midnight. Opposing armies were sometimes situated in trenches just yards apart from each other. (Nationaal Archief) #

13

An Austrian soldier, dead on a battleground, in 1915. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

14

Austro-Hungarian troops executing Serbian civilians, likely ca. 1915. Serbians suffered greatly during the war years, counting more than a million casualties by 1918, including losses in battle, mass executions, and the worst typhus epidemic in history. (Brett Butterworth) #

15

The Japanese fleet off the coast of China in 1914. Japan sided with the United Kingdom and its allies, attacking German interests in the Pacific, including island colonies and leased territories on the Chinese mainland. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

16

View from an airplane of biplanes flying in formation, ca. 1914-18. (U.S. Army Signal corps/Library of Congress) #

17

The Salonica (Macedonian) front, Indian troops at a Gas mask drill. Allied forces joined with Serbs to battle armies of the Central Powers and force a stable front throughout most of the war. (Nationaal Archief) #

18

Unloading of a horse in Tschanak Kale, Turkey, equipment for the Austro-Hungarian army. (Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek) #

19

The French battleship Bouvet, in the Dardanelles. It was assigned to escort troop convoys through the Mediterranean at the start of the war. In early 1915, part of a larger group of combined British and French ships sent to clear Turkish defenses of the Dardanelles, Bouvet was hit by at least eight Turkish shells, then struck a mine, which caused so much damage, the ship sank within a few minutes. While a few men survived the sinking and were rescued, nearly 650 went down with the ship. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

20

1915, British soldiers on motorcycles in the Dardanelles, part of the Ottoman Empire, prior to the Battle of Gallipoli.(Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

21

A dog belonging to a Mr. Dumas Realier, dressed as a German soldier, in 1915. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

22

"Pill box demolishers" being unloaded on the Western Front. These enormous shells weighed 1,400 lbs. Their explosions made craters over 15 ft. deep and 15 yards across. (Australian official photographs/State Library of New South Wales) #

23

A motorcycle dispatch rider studying the details on a grave marker, whille in the background an observation balloon is preparing to ascend. The writing on the marker says in German: "Hier ruhen tapfere franzosische Krieger", or Here rest brave French warriors. (Brett Butterworth) #

24

Highlanders, soldiers from the United Kingdom, take sandbags up to the front in 1916. (Nationaal Archief) #

25

British artillery bombards German positions on the Western Front. (Library of Congress) #

26

A British officer leads the way "over the top" amid the bursting of German shells. (John Warwick Brooke/National Library of Scotland) #

27

American soldiers, members of Maryland's 117th Trench Mortar Battery, operating a trench mortar. This gun and crew kept up a continuous fire throughout the raid of March 4, 1918 in Badonviller, Muerthe et Modselle, France. (U.S. Army Signal Corps) #

28

A German soldier throws a hand grenade against enemy positions, at an unknown battlefield during World War I. (AP Photo) #

29

French soldiers, some wounded, at the taking of Courcelles, in the department of Oise, France, in June of 1918. (National Archives) #

30

A stretcher bearer patrol painfully makes its way through knee-deep mud near Bol Singhe during the British advance in Flanders, on August 20, 1917. (AP Photo) #

31

German soldiers practice with a flame-thrower on April 4, 1917. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) #

32

Candor, Oise, France. Soldiers and a dog outside a ruined house in 1917. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

33

British tanks pass dead Germans who were alive before the cavalry advanced a few minutes before the picture was taken. World War I saw the debut of tank warfare, with varying levels of success, mostly poor. Many of the earlier models broke down frequently, or got bogged down in mud, fell into trenches, or, (slow-moving) were directly targeted by artillery. (National Library of Scotland) #

34

Western Front, German A7V tanks drive through a village near Rheims in 1918. (National Archive/Official German Photograph of WWI) #

35

Ottoman Turk Machine Gun Corps at Tel esh Sheria Gaza Line, in 1917, part of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. British troops were battling the the Ottoman Empire (supported by Germany), for control of the Suez Canal, Sinai Peninsula, and Palestine. (Library of Congress) #

36

A bridge across the mud flats in Flanders, Belgium, in 1918. (Library of Congress) #

37

An aerial view of the Hellish moonscape of the Western Front during World War I. Hill of Combres, St. Mihiel Sector, north of Hattonchatel and Vigneulles. Note the criss-cross patterns of multiple generations of trenches, and the thousands of craters left by mortars, artillery, and the detonation of underground mines. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive) #

38

A color photograph of Allied soldiers on a battlefield on the Western Front. This image was taken using the Paget process, an early experiment in color photography. (James Francis Hurley/State Library of New South Wales) #

39

A German ammunition column, men and horses equipped with gas masks, pass through woods contaminated by gas in June of 1918.(National Archives/Official German Photograph) #

40

German soldiers flee a gas attack in Flanders, Belgium, in September of 1917. Chemical weapons were a part of the arsenal of World War I armies from the beginning, ranging from irritating tear gases to painful mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine.(National Archive/Official German Photograph of WWI) #

41

Members of the German Red Cross, carrying bottle of liquid to revive those who have succumbed to a gas attack. (AP Photo) #

42

British enter Lille, France, in October of 1918, after four years of German occupation. Beginning in the summer of 1918, Allied forces began a series of successful counteroffensives, breaking through German lines and cutting off supply lines to Austro-Hungarian forces. As Autumn approached, the end of the war seemed inevitable. (Library of Congress) #

43

The USS Nebraska, a United States Navy battleship, with dazzle camouflage painted on the hull, in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 20, 1918. Dazzle camouflage, widely used during the war years, was designed to make it difficult for an enemy to estimate the range, heading, or speed of a ship, and make it a harder target. (NARA) #

44

A German dog hospital, treating wounded dispatch dogs coming from the front, ca. 1918.(National Archive/Official German Photograph of WWI) #

45

U.S. Army Company A, Ninth Machine Gun Battalion. Three soldiers man a machine gun set up in railroad shop in Chateau Thierry, France, on June 7, 1918.

     

France had been the major power in Europe for most of the Early Modern Era: Louis XIV, in the seventeenth century, and Napoleon I in the nineteenth, had extended French power over most of Europe through skillful diplomacy and military prowess. The Treaty of Vienna in 1815 confirmed France as a European power broker. By the early 1850s, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck started a system of alliances designed to assert Prussian dominance over Central Europe. Bismarck's diplomatic maneuvering, and France's maladroit response to such crises as the Ems Dispatch and the Hohenzollern Candidature led to the French declaration of war in 1870. France's subsequent defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, including the loss of its army and the capture of its emperor at Sedan, the loss of territory, including Alsace-Lorraine, and the payment of heavy indemnities, left the French seething and placed the reacquisition of lost territory as a primary goal at the end of the 19th century; the defeat also ended French preeminence in Europe. Following German Unification, Bismarck attempted to isolate France diplomatically by befriending Austria–Hungary, Russia, Britain, and Italy.

Sometime after 1870, the European powers began acquiring settlements in Africa, with colonialism on that continent hitting its peak between 1895 and 1905. However, colonial disputes were only a minor cause of World War I, as most had been settled by 1914. Economicrivalry was not only a source for some of the colonial conflicts but also a minor cause for the start of World War I. For France the rivalry was mostly with the rapidly industrializing Germany, which had seized the coal-rich region of Alsace-Lorraine in 1870, and later struggled with France over mineral-rich Morocco.

Another cause of World War I was growing militarism which led to an arms race between the powers. As a result of the arms race, all European powers were ready for war.

France was bound by treaty to defend Russia, which was in turn bound by treaty to defend Serbia.[1] Austria–Hungary had declared war on Serbia due to the Black Hand's assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which acted as the immediate cause of the war. France was brought into the war by a German declaration of war on August 3, 1914.

Organization during the war

In January 1914, the French Army had 47 divisions, composed of 777,000 French soldiers and 47,000 colonial troops. The French army was organized into 21 regional corps, along with attached cavalry andfield artillery. Most of these troops were deployed in the French interior, the bulk of those along the eastern frontier as part of Plan XVII.

Fear of war meant another 2.9 million men were mobilized in the summer of 1914, and heavy losses on the Western Front forced France to conscript men up to the age of 45.

In June 1915, the Allied countries met in the first inter-Allied conference. Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, Serbia, and Russia were all represented, and agreed to coordinate their attacks. However, such attempts were frustrated by strategic enemy maneuvers.

In the spring of 1917, after the failed Nivelle Offensive, there was a series of mutinies in the French army.[3] The mutinies started on April 17, the day after the failed Nivelle Offensive, and ended on June 30. Over 35,000 soldiers were involved with 68 out of 112 divisions affected, but fewer than 3,000 men were punished.[3] Of the 68 divisions affected by mutinies, 5 had been “profoundly affected”’ 6 had been “very seriously affected”, 15 had been “seriously affected”, 25 were affected by “repeated incidents” and 17 had been affected by “one incident only”, according to statistics compiled by French military historian Guy Pedroncini.[3]

By 1918, towards the end of the war, the composition and structure of the French army had changed. Forty percent of all French soldiers on the Western Front were operating artillery and 850,000 of the French troops were infantrymen in 1918, compared to 1.5 million in 1915. Causes for the drop in infantry include increased machine gun, armored car, and tank usage, as well as the increasing significance of the French air force, the Armée de l'Air.

At the end of the war on November 11, 1918, the French had called up 8,317,000 men, including 475,000 colonial troops. France suffered over 4.2 million casualties, with 1.3 million dead.

Commanders in Chief

 

File:Joseph Joffre.jpg

A photograph of Joseph Joffre, Commander-in-Chief for most of the war, taken before 1918.

Joseph Joffre was Commander-in-Chief, a position he had held since 1911. While serving in this position, Joffre was responsible for development of the Plan XVII blueprint for the invasion of Germany, which proved unsuccessful.[4] Joffre was thought to be the 'Savior of France' due to his serenity and a refusal to admit defeat, valuable at the beginning of the war, along with his regrouping of retreating allied forces at the Battle of the Marne. Joffre was effectively relieved of his duties on December 13, 1916, following the Battle of Verdun and other losses. Due to his popularity, it was not presented to the public as a dismissal when he was promoted to Marshal of France on the same day.

Robert Nivelle, who began the war as a regimental colonel, was appointed Commander-in-Chief.[5] However, after the failure of the Nivelle Offensive in April 1917, and theFrench army mutinies, he was removed from his position and given a post in North Africa.[5]

On May 15, 1917, Philippe Pétain was made Commander-in-Chief, and restored the fighting capability of the French troops by improving front line living conditions, and preferring defensive operations.[6] In the Third Battle of the Aisne, fought in May 1918, French positions collapsed due to Pétain's alien tactic of "tactical defense", and the consequence for Pétain was subordination to the Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch.

File:French 87th Regiment Cote 34 Verdun 1916.jpg

Soldiers of the 87th Regiment, 6th Division at Côte 304 (Hill 304), northwest ofVerdun, in 1916

Germany marched through neutral Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan to invade France, and by August 23 had reached the French border town of Maubeuge, whose true significance lay within its forts.[7] Maubeuge was a major railway junction and was consequently a protected city. It had 15 forts and gun batteries, totaling 435 guns, along with a permanent garrison of 35,000 troops, a number enhanced by the British Expeditionary Force.The BEF and the French Fifth Army retreated on August 23, and the town was besieged by German heavy artillery starting on August 25. The fortress was surrendered on September 7 by General Fournier, who was later court-martialed, but exonerated, for the capitulation.[7]

The Battle of Guise, launched on August 29, was an attempt by the Fifth Army to capture Guise, they succeeded, but later withdrew on August 30.[8] This delayed the German Second Army's invasion of France, but also hurt Lanrezac's already damaged reputation.[8] The First Battle of the Marne was fought between September 6 and September 12. It started when retreating French forces (the Fifth and Sixth armies), stopped south of the Marne River.[9] Victory seemed close, the First German Army was given orders to surround Paris, unaware the French government had already fled to Bordeaux. The First Battle of the Marne was a French victory, but was a bloody one: 250,000 French soldiers died, with similar numbers believed for the Germans, and over 12,700 for the British.[9] The German retreat after the First Battle of the Marne halted at the Aisne River, and the Allies soon caught up, starting the First Battle of the Aisne on September 12. It lasted until September 28, it was indecisive, partially due to machine guns beating back infantry sent to capture enemy positions.[10] In the Battle of Le Cateau, fought on August 26–27, the French Sixth Army prevented the British from being outflanked.[11] The first major Allied attack against German forces since the incarnation of trench warfare on the Western Front, the First Battle of Champagne, lasting from December 20, 1914, until March 17, 1915; it was a German victory, due in part to their machine gun battalions and the well-entrenched German forces.[12]

The indecisive Second Battle of Ypres, from April 22 – May 25, was the site of the first German chlorine gas attack and the only major German offensive on the Western Front in 1915.[13] Ypres was devastated after the battle.[13] The Second Battle of Artois, from May 9 – June 18, the most important part of the Allied spring offensive of 1915, was successful for the Germans, allowing them to advance rather than retreat as the Allies had planned, and Artois would not be in Allied hands again until 1917. The Second Battle of Champagne, from September 25 – November 6, was a general failure, with the French only advancing about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi), and not capturing the German's second line. France suffered over 140,000 casualties, while the Germans suffered over 80,000.

The Battle of the Somme, fought along a 30 kilometres (19 mi) front from north of the Somme River between Arras and Albert. It was fought between July 1 and November 18 and involved over 2 million men. The French suffered 200,000 casualties. Little territory was gained, only 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) at the deepest points.

The German population responded to the outbreak of war in 1914 with a complex mix of emotions, in a similar way to the populations in other countries of Europe; notions of overt enthusiasm known as the Spirit of 1914 have been challenged by more recent scholarship. The German government, dominated by the Junkers, thought of the war as a way to end Germany's disputes with rivals France, Russia and Britain. The beginning of war was presented in authoritarian Germany as the chance for the nation to secure "our place under the sun," as the Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bulow had put it, which was readily supported by prevalent nationalism among the public. The Kaiser and the German establishment hoped the war would unite the public behind the monarchy, and lessen the threat posed by the dramatic growth of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which had been the most vocal critic of the Kaiser in the Reichstag before the war. Despite its membership in the Second International, the Social Democratic Party of Germany ended its differences with the Imperial government and abandoned its principles of internationalism to support the war effort.

It soon became apparent that Germany was not prepared for a war lasting more than a few months. At first, little was done to regulate the economy for a wartime footing, and the German war economy would remain badly organized throughout the war. Germany depended on imports of food and raw materials, which were stopped by the British blockade of Germany. Food prices were first limited, then rationing was introduced. The winter of 1916/17 was called "turnip winter" because the potato harvest was poor and people ate animal feed especially vile tasting turnips. During the war from August 1914 to mid-1919, the excess deaths over peacetime caused by malnutrition and high rates of exhaustion and disease and despair came to about 474,000 civilians.

File:German soldiers in a railroad car on the way to the front during early World War I, taken in 1914. Taken from greatwar.nl site.jpg

German soldiers on the way to the front in 1914. A message on the freight car spells out "Trip to Paris"; early in the war, all sides expected the conflict to be a short one.

 Western Front (World War I)

The German army opened the war on the Western Front with a modified version of the Schlieffen Plan, designed to quickly attack France through neutral Belgium before turning southwards to encircle the French army on the German border. The Belgians fought back, and sabotaged their rail system to delay the Germans. The Germans did not expect this and were delayed, and responded with systematic reprisals on civilians, killing nearly 6,000 Belgian noncombatants, including women and children, and burning 25,000 houses and buildings.  The plan called for the right flank of the German advance to converge on Paris and initially, the Germans were very successful, particularly in the Battle of the Frontiers (14–24 August). By 12 September, the French with assistance from the British forces halted the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (5–12 September). The last days of this battle signified the end of mobile warfare in the west. The French offensive into Germany launched on 7 August with the Battle of Mulhouse had limited success.

In the east, only one Field Army defended East Prussia and when Russia attacked in this region it diverted German forces intended for the Western Front. Germany defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the First Battle of Tannenberg (17 August – 2 September), but this diversion exacerbated problems of insufficient speed of advance from rail-heads not foreseen by the German General Staff. The Central Powers were thereby denied a quick victory and forced to fight a war on two fronts. The German army had fought its way into a good defensive position inside France and had permanently incapacitated 230,000 more French and British troops than it had lost itself. Despite this, communications problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of obtaining an early victory.

1916

1916 was characterized by two great battles on the Western front, at Verdun and Somme. They each lasted most of the year, achieved minimal gains, and drained away the best soldiers of both sides. Verdun became the iconic symbol of the murderous power of modern defensive weapons, with 280,000 German casualties, and 315,000 French. At Somme, there were over 600,000 German casualties, against over 400,000 British, and nearly 200,000 French. At Verdun, the Germans attacked what they considered to be a weak French salient which nevertheless the French would defend for reasons of national pride. The Somme was part of a multinational plan of the Allies to attack on different fronts simultaneously. German experts are divided in their interpretation of the Somme. Some say it was a standoff, but most see it as a British victory and argue it marked the point at which German morale began a permanent decline and the strategic initiative was lost, along with irreplaceable veterans and confidence.

Hundreds of rare images charting one German soldier's experiences of the First World War have been made public for the first time.

The rare glimpse into life in the trenches reveals Walter Koessler's journey from the smiles and hopes of signing up to fight, to the stark the reality of war.

The poignant album begins with Walter smiling and 'playing at war' with his friends to dead soldiers lying buried in muddy trenches.

German officer Walter Koessler's rare collection of photos that have been preserved by his descendants show his devastation of the First World War

German officer Walter Koessler's rare collection of photos that have been preserved by his descendants show his devastation of the First World War

The unique set of images provide a glimpse into what life in the trenches was like for a German officer The unique set of images provide a glimpse into what life in the trenches was like for a German officer  

 

 

The unique set of images provide a glimpse into what daily life in the trenches was like for a German officer

Pictures such as this one of German soldiers playing cards together next to their trenches 'garden'

Pictures such as this one of German soldiers playing cards together next to their trenches 'garden' give an insight into the reality of the boredom, as well as the violence, of warfare

He also records for posterity the devastation that was wrought on Europe.

Walter took almost 1,000 photos while serving in the Reserve Artillery Battalion and as an aerial photographer. While beautifully preserved by Walter's descendants, the unique window into the war has been hidden in a cupboard for almost a century. However, Walter's great grandson Dean Putney has now launched an ambitious project to share the images and hopes to turn them into a book. Software developer Mr Putney only discovered the album's existence during a Thanks Giving visit to his mother in 2011. He said the day before he was due to return to his home in San Francisco, California, she 'casually' pulled it out to show him. Mr Putney told Mail Online: 'I thought "this is incredible". 'There were hundreds of photos over a century old. 'I am in publishing and spend a lot of time looking at stuff like this. I immediately knew it was something really special that lots of people needed to see.

 

The albums and negatives have been preserved immaculately by Walter's famil The albums and negatives have been preserved immaculately by Walter's family

The albums and negatives have been preserved immaculately by Walter's family but they have only now been made public by his great-grandson Dean Putney

Mr Putney now wants to turn the images into a photo book and is raising money to kickstart the project

Mr Putney now wants to turn the images into a photo book and is raising money to kickstart the project while sharing images of his great grandfather and friends online

Mr Putney feels a connection to his ancestor. He is one year younger than Walter Mr Putney feels a connection to his ancestor. He is one year younger than Walter (pictured left and right) was when he was conscripted into the war

Mr Putney feels a connection to his ancestor. He is one year younger than Walter (pictured left and right with friends) was when he was conscripted into the war

Pictured, two soldiers wrestle in the snow

The software developer said early photos seem to show the men playing at war and the first sets in the album show them having fun. Pictured, two soldiers wrestle in the snow

The smiling early portraits, such as this one left, are gradually replaced by images of devastation and dead soldiers (right) The smiling early portraits, such as this one left, are gradually replaced by images of devastation and dead soldiers (right)

The smiling early portraits, such as this one left, are gradually replaced by images of devastation and dead soldiers (right). 'Not only did lots of people need to see it, it was something that I needed to spread and share.

'I hope people can get in touch with that understanding - how different life was back then.' Mr Putney said he immediately felt a connection to the pictures of his great-grandfather. At 23, he is just one year younger than his ancestor was when he was conscripted into the war. But they also look strikingly similar. Mr Putney said the album is a 'real treasure' and especially important because it tells the personal story of a German, when most of the photographs that remain are from the Allies' side. The negatives have also been kept and among the collection is a box of more than 100 3D stereographs from the war. Mr Putney, who is currently sharing the images through the Walter Koessler Project Tumblr blog and on Boing Boing, has spent the past two years researching the images. He has even visited France so he can compare some of the photos with how the sites look today.

Towards the end of the album, Walter's images increasingly begin to show the stark realities of the First World War

Towards the end of the album, Walter's images increasingly begin to show the stark realities of the First World War

Mr Putney said the images, such as this one of soldiers carrying heavy artillery Mr Putney said the images, such as this one of men carrying heavy artillery and a German soldier posing, are a 'real treasure'

 

 

Mr Putney said the images, such as this one of men carrying heavy artillery and a German soldier posing, are a 'real treasure'

The relaxed early images in the album reflect the initial ease the German Army had in moving across Europe before the stalemate of the trenches

The relaxed early images in the album reflect the initial ease the German Army had in moving across Europe before the stalemate of the trenches

Walter Koessler's early pictures show his friends relaxing together and posing for his photographs

Walter Koessler's early pictures show his friends relaxing together and posing for his photographs

Others show the heavy artillery at the disposal of the German Army Others show the heavy artillery at the disposal of the German Army

 

 

Others pictures in the vast collection show the heavy artillery at the disposal of the German Army

None of the pictures are annotated so Mr Putney said one of the only clues to the time of year is if there is snow on the ground

None of the pictures are annotated so Mr Putney said one of the only clues to the time of year is if there is snow on the ground. Walter survived the war and went to have a hugely successful career in Hollywood as an art director. He moved to Los Angeles soon after the Armistice where he worked on the Charlie Chan films and worked for Universal Studios. The family believe he was also the set designer for the classic World War One film, All Quiet On The Western Front. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the start of the war and Mr Putney said the images are a crucial reminder of what life was like for soldiers on both sides of the devastating conflict. Walter had trained as an architect before being conscripted into the German Army. As an aerial photographer, he was one of the first to chart battlefields and help create maps from the air, in biplanes and hot-air balloons. At the beginning of the album, the photographs of him and his friends look like a picture postcard to be sent home. But with every page turned, the reality of the war kicks in and Mr Putney said by 1918 his great-grandfather was a staunch pacifist.

Mr Putney has spent the past two years researching the images and has even travelled to France to compare them to the actual sites

Mr Putney has spent the past two years researching the images and has even travelled to France to compare them to the actual sites

Because Walter was not an official photographer, his images show a different side to the First World War

Because Walter was not an official photographer, his images show a different side to the First World War

Mr Putney said the personal images 'humanize a terrible war' and how how life was for those fighting on both sides

Mr Putney said the personal images 'humanize a terrible war' and how life was for those fighting on both sides

He hopes the project will help people get in touch with First World War and is aptly timed as the 100 anniversary next year

He hopes the project will help people get in touch with First World War and is aptly timed as the 100 anniversary next year. Mr Putney said: 'I think that his album and his photos are humazing of this really terrible war. 'He tells a brilliant story. The first pictures are of him and his friends going off to war. 'At the beginning of the album they are almost playing at war - they are swimming in lakes and taking photos. They are almost glamour shots. 'When you reach the middle of the album the aerial shots. 'There are pictures of a crashed airplane. 'Towards the end of the album you really see his understanding of what they are doing. 'He stops taking photos of his friends. It is pretty much taking photos of destroyed churches, of dead men in the trenches, blown up tanks. 'It's scary stuff. The smiling faces disappear.'

The poignant images also put faces to just some of the hundreds of thousands of forgotten people who died in the war

The poignant images also put faces to just some of the hundreds of thousands of forgotten people who died in the war

 

Notorious monk who brought down the Tsar

Chilling pictures of the notorious Rasputin have been colourised to vividly bring to life the so-called 'Mad Monk' - 99 years after he was poisoned, shot, beaten and drowned by Russian nobles fearful of his growing influence.

Just a week after DNA evidence confirmed the discovery of the bones of Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, colour pictures of the man whose sinister influence led to their downfall have been released.

The unsettling pictures show the hypnotic gaze of Grigori Rasputin, whose intensely cold blue eyes won over the impressionable Tsarina. Rasputin is infamous for the hold he had over the early century leadership of Russia and is believed to be part of their downfall in 1916

New colour photographs of the Russian 'faith healer' Rasputin have brought his chilling gaze and persona to life

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Mads Dahl Madsen, 21, from Denmark, is the artist behind these amazing colourisations

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New colour photographs of the Russian 'faith healer' Rasputin have brought his chilling gaze and persona to life

So concerned was she over the health of her haemophiliac son, she would do almost anything the mystic healer Rasputin demanded. Other pictures show the Tsar Nicholas II with his son, Tsarevich Alexei Nicolaevich with Rasputin and two Russian soldiers.

Mads Dahl Madsen, 21, from Denmark, is the artist behind these amazing colourisations, taking up to six hours to perfect each image.

He said: 'They are beautiful shots that help to show Rasputin's personality and some of his mythical character. It brings you closer to him, and allows you to connect with him better, and with the timeline he was so embedded in.

'To me, it's a window into the past that seems so alien and foreign, which is all of a sudden brought to life.'

Tsar Nicholas II was the last tsar of Russia under Romanov rule. Following a series of political blunders and lack of regard for the working classes the tsar was forced to abdicate, but given the resentment that had built up for him among his people it was already too late for the Russian monarchy.

Experts believe it was Rasputin who convinced the Tsar to personally lead the Russian military in the First World War, which left him vulnerable to the Communist uprising which eventually overthrew him.

Rasputin met a grisly end in 1916 when he was poisoned, shot, beaten and thrown into a river under the orders of Russian nobles fearful of his influence over the Tsar.

But it was too late. On 17 July 1918 Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks, forever ending more than three centuries of the Romanov dynasty's rule.

Rasputin met a grisly end in 1916

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He was poisoned, shot, beaten and thrown into a river under the orders of Russian nobles fearful of his influence over the Tsar

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Rasputin met a grisly end in 1916 when he was poisoned, shot, beaten and thrown into a river under the orders of Russian nobles fearful of his influence over the Tsar

Here he is pictured left with two Russian nobles

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Tsar Nicholas II with his son, Tsarevich Alexei Nicolaevich

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Here he is pictured left with two Russian nobles. Right is Tsar Nicholas II with his son, Tsarevich Alexei Nicolaevich

Mr Madsen explained how he was able to bring the images of the family back to life.

'Human skin is built up in layers, much like a colourisation. Any little thing will affect the colour of the skin, because skin is highly reflective and absorbs light. I build it up bit-by-bit with a different method for males and females.

'I do reds for the blood, yellows and oranges for the primary parts of the skin, blue for the muzzle of the face and a light blue colour for the atmospheric light affecting his skin.

'It's basically an exercise in anatomy, trying to perfectly re-create the colours naturally present in the face with a lot of references being used.

'I'm really intrigued by the Romanov history, it's the spark that ignited the First World War. The assassinations, the murders, and the outcome of that tragedy is something that still interests me.

'When people see these images their reaction is usually amazement and disbelief seeing the old images brought back to life.

'It's bit of a shock seeing images you're used to seeing in dull black and white in brilliant and realistic colours. You are able to connect with the image and the people pictured. We're all just humans, separated by nothing but a camera and time.'

 

 

Erzherzogin Elisabeth Franziska und Herzoherzogin Hedwig von Österreich, Arch Duchess of Austria

Desolate Waste on Chemin des Dames Battlefield, France

Repairing Field Telephone Lines During a Gas Attack at the Front

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German Tanker Armed with Flamethrower

A crewman from A7V 506 at San Quentin, March 21, 1918, the opening day of the Kaiser's Battle. Serving dismounted in a shock troop, he is armed with a Kar 98AZ and a ring-shaped portable flamethrower that is not the Wex M.1917. It may be an experimental model manufactured by the L. von Bremen Company specifically for the use of tank crewmen.

The flamethrower has been fitted with a cloth cover and is disconnected from the lance. Although A7V tanks were originally intended to carry flamethrowers on board, the idea was abandoned as too dangerous. Instead, infantry patrols carried the devices, which the dismounted tankers used when serving as shock troops.

WWI American Field Service. WWI American ambulance drivers serving with the American Field Service stationed in the Toul Sector of the Western Front, France.

WWI American Sailor 1918 photograph depicting an American sailor posing in front of his country's flag

WWI French Machine Gun Crew, detail from a WWI photograph depicting French machine gunners at the front.

German Model 1916 Portable Flamethrower

Captured Kleif M.1916, distinguishable form the 1917 model by the three metal legs and external propellant line on the left side.

The igniter is live; however, the ball valve of the lance is in the "open position. It's likely that the flamethrower is therefore empty. The rubber hose is sleeved in linen and wrapped in steel wire to prevent folding or kinking.

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German Flamethrower Regiment Grenadier

Grenadier of the 12th Company, Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment. He wears the M1915 blouse with regulation black shoulder straps piped in red and the death's-head sleeve badge awarded July 28, 1916.

Equipment includes M1916 steel helmet, M1916 metal gas-mask container in the "alert" position, M1916 and M1917 stick grenades (Stielhandgranaten) and Kar 98AZ carbine.

Joseph Chambers Wounded at the Battle of the Somme. Killed 16th August 1917. 9th Battalion. Royal Irish Fusiliers. His cousin John was killed at the Battle of the Somme

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Flamethrower Pioneer of Assault Battalion Rohr

On the left is a Gefreiter of Infantry Regiment No. 382. His companion is an Unteroffizier of the flamethrower platoon of Assault Battalion Rohr.

This photo is a mystery. The flamethrower platoon of Assault Battalion Rohr was awarded a Guard Pioneer Pickelhaube on June 6, 1916, a helmet that featured a Brunswick death's-head badge on the front. Assault Battalion Rohr became Assault Battalion No. 5 in December of 1916, five months after the flamethrower platoon was awarded the Prussian death's head-sleeve badge.

This Unteroffizier wears an M1915 blouse (Bluse) with field-gray shoulder straps that feature red piping and a red number "5." If still a member of the flamethrower platoon, he should also be wearing the death's head sleeve badge. However, he displays an unauthorized Brunswick death's head on his cap instead.

He may have transferred into the Assault Battalion proper before being awarded the death's-head sleeve badge but retained his Brunswick badge as a matter of pride.

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German Flamethrower Pioneer

Pionier of the 6th Company, Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment. He wears the M1907/10 service jacket and the M1908 peaked cap.

This photo was likely taken between April 20, 1916, when the flamethrower regiment was established, and July 28, 1916, when the death's head sleeve badge was awarded.

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Fallen German Flamethrower Pioneer

Pionier Kurt Böhme, 2nd Company of the Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment (Garde-Reserve-Pionier-Regiment), who died in hospital on July 18, 1916, of wounds received at Verdun. He was twenty years old.He wears the M1907/10 service jacket and is equipped with a pioneer shovel and Kar 98ZA carbine. Flamethrower pioneers were issued carbines instead of rifles.


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WWI German Landsturm Soldier in Namur, Belgium 1914

I acquired this photograph of a WWI German Landstrum soldier about 7 or 8 years ago. However, back then I did not know that was what he was. I only knew that I had never seen any WWI headgear like what he was wearing. It was only a few months ago that I found out that he is a Landsturmmann, and that the most distinguishing feature about the uniform of a Landsturm soldier is his oilcloth cap (Wachstuchmütze) with it's white or yellow metal Landwehr Cross. Naturally, however, due to the havoc of war and various shortages, not all Landsturm soldiers are readily identifiable in their photographs by this characteristic cap. They can appear wearing an amazing variety of headgear.

The Landsturm ("Land Storm") soldiers were the Reservists of the German Army, which was basically comprised of older (sometimes quite elderly) men and youths. Although they served a vital military purpose in the army, sadly they were frequently issued old and out-dated uniforms, equipment, and weapons. Nevertheless, they came through magnificently on numerous occasions. Equally sad, many of the books written on the history of WWI and on WWI German uniforms ignore these unsung heroes.

 

Secret WWI diary written by Englishwoman, known as 'The Outlander', behind enemy lines in Germany is unearthed in dusty loft

  • Great nephew of Annie Droege found two battered books in a box
  • Next to it was album of photos of Annie and husband Arthur who moved from Stockport to Germany over 100 years ago
  • Annie, who lived in a garrison town, had friends fighting for the Kaiser as well as British family members in trenches on Western Front
  • Diary chronicles horrors of war, as well as observations like food prices
  • At one point, mob of villagers terrorise her and family in country home

Annie Droege, an Englishwoman, moved to Germany in the early 1900s where she wrote her account of life in WWI. Her husband Arthur had an English mother and German father

Annie Droege, an Englishwoman, moved to Germany in the early 1900s where she wrote her account of life in WWI. Her husband Arthur had an English mother and German father

As an Englishwoman in Germany during the First World War, and with her husband interned in a prison camp, she was known as 'The Outlander'.

She was shunned by old friends and viewed with suspicion in the garrison town she called home.

Now, the secret diary penned behind enemy lines by Annie Droege, originally from Stockport, Cheshire, has been uncovered and lovingly transformed into a book.

The Diary Of Annie’s War only came to light when retired engineer Mark Rigg, 66, was sifting through a dusty box left for decades in a loft.

Mr Rigg, also of Stockport, is delighted the chronicle has now gone on sale to the public.

He said: ‘I was having a clear-out when I came across these two battered old books covered in dust that belonged to my great aunt Annie Droege.

‘When I opened them up I was stunned, because there was my great Aunt Annie’s feelings and thoughts about life in Germany during World War One.

‘And accompanying it was a photograph album from more than a century ago. The images turned out to be taken before the war had started as Annie and her husband Arthur had moved to Germany from Stockport just over a 100 years ago.

‘I was absolutely amazed at the historical content of the diary - she was keeping some very detailed facts and figures and her words provide a fascinating insight to life inside Germany during the Great War.

‘I’ve seen movies based on real-life stories and the Diary Of Anne Frank from World War Two was an international publishing sensation, so I knew the diary deserved a wider audience.

‘Straightaway I felt compelled to share her insights with people of all nations - the book will be published in the UK initially and then I would hope to bring it out in Germany and move it to other nations after that.

The secret diary penned behind enemy lines by Annie Droege, originally from Stockport, Cheshire, has been uncovered and lovingly transformed into a book

The secret diary penned behind enemy lines by Annie Droege, originally from Stockport, Cheshire, has been uncovered and lovingly transformed into a book. She is pictured, left, with her husband Arthur and Winnie, a friend of the family

Her diary chronicles the horrors of war and has mixed in with it every day life, details of shortages, the prices of food and the tragedies that were all around on a daily basis

Her diary chronicles the horrors of war and has mixed in with it every day life, details of shortages, the prices of food and the tragedies that were all around on a daily basis

‘I did at one point think it would make for a great dramatisation, but with the 100th anniversary of the conflict approaching I felt it was more important to give Annie’s voice a wider audience without any embellishment.

‘Her diary chronicles the horrors of war and has mixed in with it every day life, details of shortages, the prices of food and the tragedies that were all around on a daily basis. ‘It also reveals her anguish when their country home is placed under siege in the dead of night by a mob of villagers who cut the phone lines and terrorise the family.

‘I am delighted that after nearly a century, Annie’s diary has now been published and it shows just what hardships previous generations faced.

The Diary Of Annie's War only came to light when retired engineer Mark Rigg, 66 - Annie's great nephew - was sifting through a dusty box left for decades in a loft

The Diary Of Annie's War only came to light when retired engineer Mark Rigg, 66 - Annie's great nephew - was sifting through a dusty box left for decades in a loft

‘It is dedicated to the memory of the 16.5million lives lost in the Great War - including 5.7million Allied soldiers and 4million troops with the Central Powers. It is estimated that 6.8million civilians of all countries died.

‘The figures are frightening, but the horror of modern warfare was even more terrifying for those caught up in the conflict.

‘Arthur was the love of her life and they had married in 1900 in Shaw Heath, Stockport, and moved to Germany a decade later when his inheritance materialised.

‘She vowed from the outset only to return home with Arthur, so it is also a fantastic love story about how one woman never gave up on her man.

The house and lands in Woltershausen, Lower Saxony, where Annie lived with Arthur, who had been left an inheritance

The house and lands in Woltershausen, Lower Saxony, where Annie lived with Arthur, who had been left an inheritance

‘She was in the unique position of being an Englishwoman in a German garrison town, with friends fighting for the Kaiser but also had family members in the trenches along the Western Front.

‘We should never forget the sacrifices made by servicemen from previous generation nor those currently risking life and limb in foreign fields on our behalf.’

Annie was born in Stockport, Cheshire in 1874 and died in 1940, but it is her time placed under virtual house arrest when her German husband Arthur was interned by the authorities that provides the backdrop to her dramatic diary.

The house and lands were in Woltershausen, Lower Saxony, while the couple had another house in the garrison town of Hildesheim.

This was where Annie spent most of her time chronicling life behind enemy lines. They also had a house in Kvnigswinter and another by the salt springs in Bad Salzdetfurth.

On November 6, 1914, Arthur was interned in Ruhleben, Berlin, where many people with British connections were held at the former racetrack turned prison camp.

Above, German and British troops meeting in no-man's land during the Christmas Truce of 1914

Annie was in the unique position of being an Englishwoman in a German garrison town, with friends fighting for the Kaiser but also had family members in the trenches along the Western Front. Above, German and British troops meeting in no-man's land during the Christmas Truce of 1914

Mr Rigg (pictured), also of Stockport, is delighted the chronicle has now gone on sale to the public

Mr Rigg (pictured), also of Stockport, is delighted the chronicle has now gone on sale to the public

The reason for his internment was that his mother was English - though his father was German.

He was released on or around February 6, 1917.

When the conflict began, Annie became known as ‘The Outlander’ and was shunned by many old friends and others who knew she was English.

She did on many occasions have the option of returning to England but said repeatedly: ‘When we leave, we leave together’.

The final entry from the diary reveals the date when the couple both ventured back home to Britain in 1917.

'I FELT AFRAID WHEN WE WERE TAKEN FOR SPIES': DIARY EXTRACTS

Annie spent much of her time chronicling her life from her home (above) in the garrison town of Hildesheim

Annie spent much of her time chronicling her life from her home (above) in the garrison town of Hildesheim

Below are some of Annie's accounts of life in war-time Germany...

Wednesday, August 5, 1914
We were the only foreigners in that district (Woltershausen and surrounding villages - Alfeld, Lamspringe, Graste, Sehlem, Netze) and of course we were the object of all their spite. Louise, the cook, was very upset when I got into the kitchen and at once implored me to get away. She said she was sure harm was intended for us. I felt afraid when I knew we were taken for spies. Among such people, and in war time, it was not a very nice position. Also we must remember that the nearest police station was four-and-a-half miles away and the house stands alone.

...............................................................

Wednesday, September 9, 1914
Arthur was up in a minute and we could hear the glass crashing and the banging of the door. The people were in front of the house and we could hear their voices. They said: ‘Come out and we will kill you’. ‘Oh yes’, said Herr Steffen and fired at once. They could not see exactly where he was for there are fifteen windows on that side of the house and we had no lights on in the place. He fired five times and then Arthur told him to keep one bullet in readiness. We waited, but no more noises were heard.

...............................................................

Friday, November 6, 1914

At 1.15pm we went into the dining room and I noticed how very quickly the dinner was served. They scarcely waited until we had finished the soup when the next course was on the table. Just as we finished the meal the waiter came and told Arthur he was wanted in the hall. I thought at once that it was the police. Arthur came back in a few minutes and said that he must go away. We went upstairs and hurriedly packed a few things for his internment. I must go twice a day to report myself morning and afternoon. I must be in my dwelling no later than 8pm and I must not leave before 7am. I must not go more than two-and-a-quarter miles away from home.

Sunday, December 20, 1914
The people are very busy getting ready for Christmas for the government has asked the people to make it as like Christmas as they can for the children. Every house has sorrow. One girl I met today was going to visit her uncle for Christmas. He has had three sons killed in one week in France. Another was on a ship sent out to South Africa in October and never heard of since. All four sons are gone and all were between the age of twenty and twenty-eight.

Tuesday, January 5, 1915
Belle and I took a walk today to see the place under snow. The soldiers make very merry and many a good game of snowballs I witness. The war seems wholesale murder. A lady here got her first letter from her husband two weeks after his departure saying: ‘Beloved wife, my last greetings on our third wedding anniversary’. That was all he was able to write being mortally wounded. She was at home with a one-year-old baby.

Annie is seen here with a man known as 'Uncle' George in Roder-Hof, 1913

Annie is seen here with a man known as 'Uncle' George in Roder-Hof, 1913

Saturday, January 30, 1915
The view was magnificent off the hill and for miles and miles nothing but snow. Then I saw a long black line just like a snake. It was the soldiers going to the shooting range and the others coming back. In the distance there was the constant shooting where the men were learning to shoot human beings. Perhaps some of them, before two days older, would be dead themselves. One could not believe that a war was raging and that a thousand of these soldiers are going away tonight.

Friday, February 12, 1915
I have received today a letter and a postcard from James Walmsley in Blackpool. The pleasure was so great that I cried with joy. It’s the first letter from England since September that I have received. I cannot write of the pleasure it gave me. James writes that things are normal there. I wish they were here. But he says it will be a very long time before we have peace. Thank God all are well. That’s something to know.

Tuesday, March 30, 1915
We had a very amusing incident here and I roared laughing. Belle got angry and said so. We went into a shop where I have spent a deal of money at times and, of course, they know that Arthur is a prisoner. I am pretty quick at noticing and at once saw the notice ‘God punish the English’ hung in a prominent place. While the assistant was serving me the proprietor came in and took down the notice. He put it under the counter in a great hurry.

Thursday, April 15, 1915
I saw a lot of men going to Berlin today. It was such a sad sight. I went to the Doctor’s and when I got there a woman, who was watching the procession from the windows in the Doctor’s rooms, asked me if my husband was amongst them for she could see that I had been crying. I said no - my husband was already away. She said: ‘So is mine. But I am past crying. Many of the wives of these poor men expect them home tonight, but they will get a telegram from Berlin instead’.

Friday, April 16, 1915
Three hundred men leave here today for Russia. I feel so sorry for the chambermaid as she is so upset for her brother-in-law. He goes to the front today for the fourth time. He has been wounded three times and says he does not care if the next bullet or bomb finishes him. He suffered so much with his wound last time that he dreads going away. All long for peace.

Thursday, July 1, 1915
I have been here (Woltershausen) a week and am a little better. I keep losing flesh but that does not matter for I was much too stout. I must not lose too much says the doctor. I now weigh nine-and-a- half stones but sleep a lot better. The baths are doing me good but the first few took the use out of my hand (the old complaint arthritis).

Monday, November 8, 1915
Now there are new rules as regards drink. You can only buy spirits during certain hours with none to be sold after nine o’clock at night and to no householder. You must sit in a hotel and drink what you buy. You cannot take a drop home. I wanted three pence worth of rum for cooking and it was not to be got for love nor money.

Thursday, December 16, 1915
Today there is a notice and we are not to bake any cakes for Christmas as it is forbidden to use flour, yeast, eggs or fat of any description. We know that the cakes we buy are made of potato, meat, egg powder and baking powder.

Friday, February 25, 1916
The food shortage is getting very serious indeed and you can go all over town and not get any. And that is with money and tickets in your hand. A cabbage costs one shilling (for five persons) and sprouts are seven pence a pound. Potatoes are not to be got and many bakers are to be closed. Children come to your door and beg for a ticket to buy a little bread.

Tuesday, April 11, 1916
I am having a deal of trouble with my stomach for this last three months. There is a lot of sickness here including diphtheria and smallpox. There is also typhoid. One cannot wonder for all are underfed, rich and poor alike, as the food one gets is so scarce and poor.

New Year’s Day, January 1, 1917
Another weary year is at an end and one wonders what the new one will bring to us. Peace does not seem any nearer but one can never tell. It does not do to look back on all the misery one has lived through. There were many more sad homes this Christmas. It is the little ones that grieve me. Please God it is the last New Year’s Day that dawns with such misery in the world.
Tuesday, February 6, 1917
I will leave here this morning at a quarter to seven and I hope for a successful journey. I am just writing a letter to Arthur and pray that I shall soon meet him.

 

 

Gentlemen of the skies: German flew behind enemy lines to deliver letter from Brit he shot down

  • German ace risked his life to deliver letter from uninjured British airman that told his family he was alright
  • After shooting aircraft down 'gentleman of the sky' flew to where they landed to shake their hands and send them to hospital
  • Archive of letters and photos telling extraordinary story now on sale

In the skies above northern France they were the deadliest of enemies. Yet there still remained time for chivalry among the First World War flying aces.

When a British plane was shot down in 1916 the German pilot followed the stricken aircraft and landed nearby to check the two-man crew had survived.

He then braved French and British fire to cross enemy lines and drop a letter to Allied forces telling them the pair were alive.

Blast! Oswald Boelke takes a picture of Formilli's crashed aircraft in January 1916 after shooting it down

Blast! Oswald Boelke takes a picture of Formilli's crashed aircraft in January 1916 after shooting it down

Sorry about that, old bean: The amazing tale of chivalry in the air in the First World War shows just how gentlemanly combatants were, even in the grim battle

Sorry about that, old bean: The amazing tale of chivalry in the air in the First World War shows just how gentlemanly combatants were, even in the grim battle

Chivalry: German Ace Oswald Boelke risked his life to deliver the letter of the man he shot down

Chivalry: German Ace Oswald Boelke risked his life to deliver the letter of the man he shot down

The astonishing tale of gentlemanly conduct in the heat of battle emerged yesterday when the letter and photographs of the incident were put up for auction.

It was on January 5, 1916, that the British single-engine biplane, crewed by pilot Lieutenant William Somervill and observer Lieutenant Geoffrey Formilli, took off on a reconnaissance flight from Lille.

Unfortunately, they encountered legendary flier Oswald Boelcke – known as the father of the German fighter air force and the aviator who trained the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen – roaming the skies in his Fokker E IV fighter.

Boelcke sprayed the British plane, a BE2c reconnaissance aircraft, with hundreds of rounds from his machine-guns, forcing it to crash land.

The German ace wrote about what happened when he landed and approached his two enemy airmen.

‘I went straight up to the Englishmen, shook hands with them and told them I was delighted to have brought them down alive,’ he wrote.

‘I had a long talk with the pilot, who spoke German well. When he heard my name he said with a grin, “We all know about you!”

‘I then saw to it that they were both taken in a car to the hospital where I visited the observer today and brought him some English papers and photos of his wrecked machine.’

Lieutenant Formilli then wrote a letter to a Captain Babington of the Royal Flying Corps that Boelcke dropped over the British lines.

The letter said: ‘Just a line to say that Somervill & I are alright. We had a scrap with a Fokker. Willy got a graze on the side of his head & I got one through the shoulder half way through.

‘We had most of our controls shot through & had to land & crashed very badly. 'I am in Hospital now & Willy is in Germany. Will you let my people know please, yours G Formilli. PS. It was Boelcke who brought us down.’The letter was later forwarded to Formilli’s mother by a soldier, C F Murphy, who watched it being dropped by the German pilot.

Dropping a line: The chivalrous German visited the British observer Lt Geoffrey Formilli in hospital, and then incredibly undertook a perilous mission to drop a note from Formilli over his Squadron's HQ to let them know he was alive

Dropping a line: The chivalrous German visited the British observer Lt Geoffrey Formilli in hospital, and then incredibly undertook a perilous mission to drop a note from Formilli over his Squadron's HQ to let them know he was alive

Good news: The auction also contains the letter from Formilli's grateful Squadron commander to his parents confirming his survival

Good news: The auction also contains the letter from Formilli's grateful Squadron commander to his parents confirming his survival

He wrote: ‘The German machine very sportingly held on through heavy shell fire from us and the French and was chased by several of our machines and had to run a hot gauntlet on its errand but it escaped all right.

‘The news has given us all great pleasure and I rejoice to be able to send it to you.’

The archive of letters and several photos taken by Boelcke – who downed 40 enemy planes before dying, aged 25, after a mid-air collision with another German plane later in 1916 – is being sold by Formilli’s family through Mullock’s of Ludlow, Shropshire, later this month. It is expected to make a four-figure sum.

Caught on camera: A picture of Formilli's aircraft taken by Oswald Boelke in January 1916

Caught on camera: A picture of Formilli's aircraft taken by Oswald Boelke in January 1916

Richard Westwood-Brookes, from the saleroom said:  ‘This is an extraordinary tale that made headlines at the time.

‘Pilots at this time were quite gentlemanly even though they were trying to shoot each other down.’

A fresh insight into life in the trenches in World War One has been discovered in a series of amazing sketches and drawings found in a soldier's diary hidden away for 90 years.  

Lieutenant Kenneth Wootton's 120-page journal vividly brings to life the horror of major WWI battles, and even includes detailed ink drawings of tanks and battle movements.

Lt Wootton, who was awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, kept a diary from 1915 until 1917, when he was sent home to England after being injured in an explosion.

Enlarge Startling discovery: A soldier's-eye view of the horrors of WWI caught in sketches in an intimate diary.

Startling discovery: A soldier's-eye view of the horrors of WWI caught in sketches in an intimate diary. Here Lt Wootton's eerily beautiful watercolour shows a French-built Renault FT17 tank - the first 'modern tank to be built - on the battlefield

Now the diary and Wootton's incredible pictures have been found by his great granddaughter, who inherited a mass of old books and papers and discovered the diary lying inside.

Enlarge Hero: Lt Wootton was awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty

Hero: Lt Wootton was awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty

The journal presents a story of life on the front line of the trenches, and the never-before seen glimpse into life for the 1/21 Battn London Regt Tank Corps will excite military history buffs.

As a tank operator, Wootton experienced the full horror of trench warfare, and fought in the Third Battle of Ypres - one of the most notorious clashes of the war.

Lt Wootton even describes the Christmas truce between the British and German soldiers in December 1916 - where both sides stopped firing at each other to enjoy a festive dinner.

In a poignant picture from the book a British 'Tommy' can be seen doing the unthinkable: staring out over the trenches without fear of being shot.

The diary entry for Christmas day reads:

'Christmas Day 1916, Ypres: Distance between the line was 100 yards. Had an excellent Christmas dinner in a dug out, turkey, Christmas pudding, mine pies, fruit and champagne. Both sides stopped. Did patrol from midnight till 3am and felt very merry.'

The diary is expected to fetch more than £3,000 when it is auctioned off at the end of September.

Auctioneer Charles Hanson said: 'The diary and Wootton's heroic tales provide a fascinating insight in to the realism of terror in the trenches during WWI.

Enlarge Untouched for more than 90 years: The soldier's great granddaughter inherited a mass of old books and papers and discovered the diary lying inside

Untouched for more than 90 years: The soldier's great granddaughter inherited a mass of old books and papers and discovered the diary lying inside. Here he depicts the British Mark IV tank as it plows across no-man's land

'His story is poignant, and even jovial at point as he recounts the good humour that saw the British boys through the war.

'It is a tale of survival and success in the British army.

'We hope the diary will be purchased by a national institution and made available for the public to enjoy the adventure Wootton had through WWI.'

In excerpts from the diary Lt Wootton mentions fellow soldiers, including a driver known only as Fagg. Wootton recalled the bloody reality as his tank broke enemy lines at the 1917 Third Battle of Ypres, in Belgium.

He wrote: 'My driver Fagg could be seen anxiously peering through the half open window in July 1917 at the Third Battle of Ypres. I lit a cigarette as my mouth became quite dry, I lit another, it tasted rotten but I smoked it somehow as we got nearer the lines of burning shells.

Enlarge Lt Wootton depicts Christmas Day in the same year when the two sides declared a temporary truce

Lt Wootton depicts Christmas Day in the same year when the two sides declared a temporary truce

'We escaped with nothing more than lumps of earth falling around us. The German front line had been smashed almost out of recognition as we passed through shell holes and most were filled with filthy water and bodies.

'Up the hill Fagg and I felt we were in for it as the Germans still held Westhoek and Gelncorse wood. I was kept busy dodging from side to side on my tank as a great many shells fell around us. I should have got inside but I hate being boxed up in the stifling heat of a tank. I felt safer in the open.

'Captain Crew, our section commander dashed madly about to try and get our tank up to an impossible speed. He imagined a tank could behave like a new motor car. Heavens, how heart breaking it was to guide a tank over the frightful ground. Long lines of mules followed us carrying shells and stumbling over the broken ground.'

On the eve of another engagement Wootton wrote: 'My crew had made some hot cocoa. The gunners and I were waiting anxiously for the opening of the barrage.

'Suddenly there was a tremendous noise and a blinding flash. Every gun on a ten mile front  had opened fire.

'This was the start of the barrage. We jumped up to watch the burst  of the shells, it was a most wonderful sight. The ground seemed to burst like a golden rain.'

In another extract Wootten writes about the care he tries to give a British wounded soldier while he deals with the horror of driving his 40 tonne tank over a dead German.

Enlarge Detailed: Lieutenant Kenneth Wootton's incredible diary includes poignant ink drawings

Detailed: Lieutenant Kenneth Wootton's incredible diary includes poignant ink drawings

He wrote: 'I found  one of our own infantry lying wounded with a bad gash in his head, I gave him some water and told him the stretcher bearers were coming up, I hope it was true.
'I dodged him but I was obliged to drive over a dead German and I shall never forget the sight of his face after it had been pushed in to the mud by a 40 tonne tank.

'The awful mud made it a hopeless mess. Our tank fell in a crater and we fitted the unhitching beam. By the 10th try Fagg crawled out exhausted in trying to work the clutch and brake. He revived himself with some whisky.

'A poor lonely German without boots or socks and shot through both legs kept us company. He spoke little English and told us his comrades had removed his boots and socks when he was wounded and so left him.

'At a dressing station and on foot I was given a tin of peaches all of which I ate before falling asleep.'

 

 

 

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