Salvation Army at the Front

Women Volunteers

Salvation Army Women Volunteers

The Salvation Army devoted itself to making the lives of service men better and keeping up morale. Thousands of women volunteered to serve at the front in non-combat roles, running rest areas for the soldiers and cooking warm meals.

Here a group of women Salvation Army volunteers are cooking pies for the soldiers. Note that they are wearing metal helmets and standing near a trench line.

Although the women were unarmed and not technically part of the fighting, their proximity to the front lines meant that they shared many of the same dangers as the men.

French Propaganda Poster 1918

French Propaganda Poster from World War 1aThis French propaganda poster from 1918 shows a massive French tank literally crushing German soldiers under its tracks. The caption reads: “Subscribe and We Shall Have Victory!” The goal of the poster is to get people to subscribe to the National Loan of 1918.

Campaigns such as this were essential to raise money to fight the extremely costly war. Citizens were encouraged to buy war bonds as a patriotic duty, and were promised that is they contributed money, victory would come at last.

I find this poster interesting for the blunt way in which it makes the connection between your contribution of money and the death of German soldiers. There is absolutely nothing subtle about the message, and the fact that it would be socially acceptable to “sell” the bonds in this way, says much about public sentiment about the war and their adversaries after 4 long years of slaughter.

The poster is also noteworthy for its depiction of the latest tank as a symbol of coming victory. During world war 1, the British and the French both fielded large tank formations which succeeded in doing a great deal of damage to the German front lines by breaking through German trenches. The tanks promised to end the stalemate of trench warfare and restore mobility to the battlefield.

The Germans also attempted to develop a tank force of their own but their designs were not as successful and very few machines were produced. For the most part the Germans relied on captured allied tanks that they restored and put back into service.

Romanian Army Officers in Dress Uniform

This photograph shows a group of Romanian (or Rumanian, which was the preferred spelling back then), in dress uniforms in 1914. When this photo was taken, World War 1 had already started in the rest of Europe but Romania would not enter the war until 1916 on the side of the Allies, but then be forced to surrender in December 1917 after suffering severe defeats by Germany and Austria.

Romanian Officers These officers’ sabres and plumed hats lend a majestic air to these men and make the whole business of killing seem so much more honourable and classy, and not the sordid, bloody slaughter that it actually is.

At the beginning of the Great War, both sides still favoured military uniforms that would not have seemed much out of place during the Napoleonic Wars or even earlier. It is a visual reminder of the strange dichotomy that became apparent during the Great War – on the one hand, amazing new weapons never before used in warfare (flame throwers, gas warfare, and aircraft) and n the other, 19th century thinking by officers and political leaders.

decorated soldier

 

The splendid giant officer on the right of the picture, with his chest full of medals, is particularly interesting. I am not aware of his identity, but I wish I knew the story of how he had earned all of his medals and whether he served his country honourably in the War, or whether this towering giant of a man succumbed to a flesh destroying artillery explosion, or a lucky shot from an enemy soldier.

 

 

 

War and its Waste

We often talk of war and its waste. And it is certainly true that war is wasteful of human lives and is wasteful in terms of money and resources which could have been spent on improving society. But what we do not often talk about is the literal waste generated by war: the tons of metal scraps, fragments, and garbage left behind after the armies have passed through.

Empty Shell Casings

Piles of Used Artillery Shell Casings

In this photograph we can see piles of empty shell casings, littering the side of a road in France. These represent the thousands of artillery shells that were fired by the allies against the Germans during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in 1917.

Interestingly, modern warfare not only created piles of scrap and garbage such as seen pictured here, but also provoked the first efforts at recycling. On the home front, drives were organized to collect scrap metal and even convince housewives to part with pots and pans to convert into bullets and other implements of war. And on the battlefield, spent artillery shell casings such as these would eventually be collected and then melted down to make more artillery shells. The circle of death was nearly complete.

The Strange Story of Britain’s Phantom Battleship

The HMS Audacious sank in 1914 but kept on sailing throughout most of the War as a phantom ship.

The Phantom Ship

The HMS Audacious was a British battleship. It was launched in 1913 and had seen only about a year of active service, when world war 1 began. As part of a plan to get the fleet ready for combat, the Audacious and several other ships sailed to a position off of the coast of Ireland to conduct gunnery practice. Unfortunately the ship struck a German sea mine and began taking on water.

 

attemptstotowtheship

The Audacious attempted to steam towards land in order to beach itself so that it could later be refloated and repaired, but water flooded the engine rooms and stopped the ship. Other warships were dispatched to tow the battleship to shore but they did not arrive in time.

The ship sank October 27, 1914. It never saw action. But that did not stop the HMS Audacious from continuing to sail the seas for most of the War.

 

 

The loss of this newly built battleship was considered such a blow to the navy, that the Admiralty decided to keep it secret in order to deceive the Germans about the navy’s strength. For most of the rest of the war, the Audacious was listed on official reports and charts as participating in fictitious maneuvers and missions. The truth about the sinking of the Audacious was not officially revealed until three years later, in 1917.

 

 

 

HMS Audacious Sinking

 

 

This photograph shows the battleship sinking. It was taken from the deck of the Olympic, Titanic’s sister ship. The Olympic was one of the ships dispatched to rescue survivors.