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from The History Channel:

 

November 22, 1914

Fighting Suspended in Ypres Salient

 

On November 22, 1914, the first extended battle fought between Allied and German forces in the much-contested Ypres Salient during World War I comes to an end after over one month of fighting.

 

After the aggressive German advance through Belgium and eastern France was decisively halted by the Allied victory in the Battle of the Marne in late September 1914, the so-called "Race to the Sea" began, as each army attempted to outflank the other on its way northward, hastily constructing trench fortifications as they went. The race ended in mid-October at Ypres, the ancient Flemish city with fortifications guarding the ports of the English Channel.

 

On October 19, the Germans launched their so-called Flanders Offensive, aimed at breaking the Allied lines and capturing Ypres and other channel ports, thus gaining control of the outlets to the Channel and the North Sea beyond. The Allies held fast in their resistance, seeking the chance to go on the attack themselves whenever possible. On the last day of October, German cavalry units began a more concentrated assault, forcing British cavalry from their position at Messines Ridge, near the southern end of the salient. Further to the north, General Douglas Haig's 1st British Corps managed to hold its lines with superior rifle fire, leading many Germans to mistakenly believe they were facing British machine guns. Another German attack on November 11 almost toppled the British in the town of Hooge, but a motley crew of British defenders--including cooks, medical orderlies, clerks and engineers--was able to exploit German indecisiveness and eventually drive the enemy back to its own lines.

 

Chaotic fighting continued without respite throughout the next three weeks at Ypres, with heavy casualties suffered on both sides. On November 22, fighting was suspended with the arrival of harsher winter weather. The protracted First Battle of Ypres--or simply "First Ypres" as British survivors referred to it--had taken the lives of more than 5,000 British and 5,000 German soldiers and the region would see far more bloodshed over the four years to come, as both sides struggled to defend the positions established during that first month of conflict. In the memorable words of one British soldier, Private Donald Fraser, "one was not a soldier unless he had served on the Ypres front."

 

Cheers,

shredward

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from The History Channel:

 

November 19, 1915

British Pilot Makes Heroic Rescue

 

In one of the most exciting episodes of the air war during World War I, the British airman Richard Bell Davies performs a daring rescue on November 19, 1915, swooping down in his plane to whisk a downed fellow pilot from behind the Turkish lines at Ferrijik Junction.

 

A squadron commander in the Royal Naval Air Service, Davies was flying alongside Flight Sub-Lieutenant Gilbert F. Smylie on a bombing mission. Their target was the railway junction at Ferrijik, located near the Aegean Sea and the border between Bulgaria and Ottoman-controlled Europe. When the Turks hit Smylie's plane with anti-aircraft fire, he was forced to land. As he made his way to the ground, Smylie was able to release all his bombs but one before making a safe landing behind enemy lines. Smylie was then unable to restart his plane and immediately set fire to the aircraft in order to disable it.

 

Meanwhile, Davies saw his comrade's distress from the air and quickly moved to land his own plane nearby. Seeing Davies coming to his rescue and fearing the remaining bomb on his plane would explode, injuring or killing them both, Smylie quickly took aim at his machine with his revolver and fired, exploding the bomb safely just before Davies came within its reach. Davies then rushed to grab hold of Smylie, hauling him on board his aircraft just as a group of Turkish soldiers approached. Before the Turks could reach them, Davies took off, flying himself and Smylie to safety behind British lines.

 

Calling Davies' act a "feat of airmanship that can seldom have been equaled for skill and gallantry," the British government awarded him the Victoria Cross on January 1, 1916. The quick-thinking Smylie was rewarded as well; he received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Cheers,

shredward

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from The History Channel:

 

November 20, 1917

British Attack with Tanks at Cambrai

 

At dawn on the morning of November 20, 1917, six infantry and two cavalry divisions of the British Expeditionary Force--with additional support from 14 squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps--join the British Tank Corps in a surprise attack on the German lines near Cambrai, France.

 

After the British debuted the first armored tanks during the massive Somme offensive in September 1916, their effectiveness as a weapon--aside from the initial value of surprise--was quickly thrown into doubt. The early tanks were maddeningly slow and unwieldy; navigation and visibility from their controls were poor and though they were impervious to small arms fire, they could be destroyed easily by shellfire. Moreover, the tanks often bogged down in the muddy terrain of the Western Front in fall and winter, rendering them completely useless.

 

As a result, by the fall of 1917 many on the Allied side had come to doubt the viability of the tank as a major force on the battlefield. Commanders of the British Tank Corps nevertheless continued to press for a new offensive, including the large-scale use of tanks on a comparably dry stretch of battlefield in northern France, between the Canal du Nord and St. Quentin, towards the Belgian border. After initially vetoing the idea, British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig changed his mind and authorized the operation, hoping to achieve at least one useful victory before the year was out. The attack, led by General Julian Byng of the British 3rd Army, went ahead on the morning of November 20, 1917, with all available tanks--some 476 of them--advancing on the German lines with infantry, cavalry and air support. Within hours, the British forced the German 2nd Army back to Cambrai, to the north, taking some 8,000 prisoners and 100 guns on their way.

 

The British lacked adequate support for their initial advance, however, and more gains were significantly harder to obtain. Though German Commander in Chief Erich Ludendorff briefly considered a general withdrawal of troops from the area, his commander in the region, Georg von der Marwitz, managed to muster a sharp German counterattack of nearly 20 divisions to regain nearly all the ground lost. Casualties were high on both sides, with German losses of 50,000 compared to 45,000 for the British. While the use of tanks at Cambrai failed to achieve the major breakthrough for which Byng had been hoping, the attack nonetheless boosted the tank's reputation as a potentially effective weapon for targeted use during offensive operations.

 

Cheers,

shredward

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from The History Channel:

 

November 26, 1916

T.E. Lawrence reports on Arab affairs

 

On November 26, 1916, Thomas Edward Lawrence, a junior member of the British government's Arab Bureau during World War I, publishes a detailed report analyzing the revolt led by the Arab leader Sherif Hussein against the Ottoman Empire in the late spring of 1916.

 

As a scholar and archaeologist, the future "Lawrence of Arabia" traveled extensively in Syria, Palestine, Egypt and parts of Turkey before beginning working formally with the British government's bureau on Arab affairs in 1916. At the time, the Arab Bureau was working to encourage a revolt by the Muslim and Arabic-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire in order to aid the Allied war effort. The leader of the planned revolt would be Sherif Hussein ibn Ali, ruler of the Hejaz, the region in modern-day Saudi Arabia containing the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

 

Hoping to remain neutral and collect bribes from both sides, Hussein remained undecided in the war until April 1916, when he learned Ottoman leaders were sending a German-Turkish force to depose him. Wanting to strike first, Hussein declared a revolt in the Hejaz sometime between June 5 and 10, seeking the protection of the British Royal Navy along the coast of the Hejaz.

 

Around that same time, at Lawrence's suggestion, the Arab Bureau published its first informational bulletin, featuring the observations and insights of the hopeful British organizers and backers of Hussein's revolt. It soon became clear, as documented by the Arab Bulletin, that the British considered Hussein's revolt to be a dismal failure. In his report of November 26, 1916, Lawrence gave his analysis of the situation: "I think one company of Turks, properly entrenched in open country, would defeat the Sherif's armies. The value of the tribes is defensive only, and their real sphere is guerrilla warfare…[they are] too individualistic to endure commands, or fight in line, or help each other. It would, I think, be impossible to make an organized force out of them."

 

Despite his derisive view of Hussein's troops, Lawrence made clear his admiration for the sherif himself, as well as for his three elder sons, Ali, Feisal and Abdullah, praising them as "heroes." He became close to Feisal in particular, and by early December 1916 he had joined Arab troops in the field, where he spent the rest of the war attempting, with varying degrees of success, to organize the disparate tribesmen into fighting units that would pose a real threat to the Ottoman enemy.

 

At the post-war peace conference in Paris in 1919, the victorious Allies failed to grant full independence to the various Arab peoples, instead placing them under British and French control according to the mandate system imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. While his son, Feisal, was crowned king of the new state of Iraq, Hussein himself ended up losing control of Mecca and the Hejaz to the rival Saudi clan in the 1920s. Meanwhile, T.E. Lawrence--who had accompanied Feisal Hussein's Arab delegation to Versailles--resigned from his post in Britain's colonial office in the Middle East, disgusted by the Allies' failure to fulfill their promise of Arab independence. He lived much of the rest of his life in obscurity, dying in a motorcycle accident in 1935

 

HMS Bulwark

November 26, 1914

The battleship HMS Bulwark was destroyed by an internal explosion whilst moored at Sheerness, with the loss of 730 crew.

She had been commissioned at Devonport on 18th March 1907 and it was intended she should become the flagship for the Mediterranean Fleet. However because of a long refit she became the flagship to the Home Fleet instead. In October 1907 she became grounded and received some damage requiring repairs. In August 1908 (she was commanded by the most junior battleship Captain at that time, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, who later earned fame as the Antarctic explorer), she joined the Channel Fleet and then Home Fleet, reduced to the Reserve in March 1910 but was recommissioned in 1912 to join the 5th Battle Squadron.

 

From the outbreak of World War I she carried out Channel patrol duty and on the 26th November 1914 while loading ammunition at Sheerness, she was destroyed by a huge explosion, probably caused by black powder charges being mishandled. Only 12 men survived.

post-32273-1236147781_thumb.jpg

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from Michael O'Neal:

 

November 23, 1916

Death of Lanoe Hawker

At about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, 23 November 1916, a patrol of English DH-2 fighter planes led by Major Lanoe Hawker, VC were attacked by several German Albatros fighters. Hawker was arguably Britain’s most famous fighter pilot. Early in the war, when air-to-air engagements were rare, Hawker shot down two aircraft in the same day using a machine gun mounted obliquely on his Bristol Scout. He scored seven victories before being posted to England to form a new fighter squadron, #24 Squadron one of the first homogenous fighter units. Hawker was twenty five years old on 23 November, just a month short of his 26th birthday.

 

By the time 24 Squadron reached France with their DH-2’s, the German engineers had already provided their pilots with a superior airplane. The DH-2’s were much inferior to the Albatros in many ways. Slower in a climb, slower on the level and with only one gun to the Albatros’s twin guns, the DH’s were disadvantaged from the start. The fight soon broke up into individual combats and Hawker was pressed by a particularly aggressive German.

 

The young Prussian Lt. had recently scored his 10th victory and was quickly gaining a reputation as a fine leader. At 24 he was older than most of his fellow pilots, and his age and previous combat experience in the Calvary gave him an unusually calm demeanor. As he with Hawker, the fight drifted lower and lower.

 

“We must have come down at least six thousand feet, as now we were little more than three thousand feet above the ground. The wind was in my favor….I saw now that we were even behind the German lines in front of Bapaume, and my opponent must have noticed that it was time for him to back out of the fight because he was getting farther into my territory.”

 

“But he was a plucky devil . With me behind and above him, he even turned and waved his arm at me, as though to say ‘Wie gehts?’. We went into circles again-fast and furious and as small as we could drive them. Sometimes I estimated the diameter of the circles between eight and a hundred yards. But I always kept above him and at times I could look down almost vertically into his cockpit and watch every movement of his head.”

 

“Apparently the idea of landing and surrender never occured to this sportsman, because suddenly he revealed his plans to escape by going into several loops….As he came out of them, heading for his own lines, my first bullets began whistling around his ears, for up to now, with the exception of his opening shots, neither one of us had been able to range on the other.”

 

“The battle is now close to the ground. He is not a hundred yards above the earth. Our speed is terrific. He knows my gun barrel is trained on him. He starts to zig-zag, making sudden darts right and left, right and left, confusing my aim….but the moment is coming. I am fifty yards behind him. My machine gun is firing incessantly. We are hardly fifty yards above the ground-just skimming it.”

 

“Now I am within thirty yards of him. He must fall. The guns…jams. The it reopens fire….One bullet goes home. He is struck through the back of the head. His plane jumps and crashes down. It strikes the ground just as I swoop over.”

 

Hawker was killed instantly. His DH-2 crashed and cartwheeled without reaching the British lines.

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from acepilots.com

 

November 21,1914

The Friedrichshafen Raid

 

Avro 504 biplanes participated in a raid on Nov. 21, 1914 when Sqn. Cdr. E.F. Briggs, Flt Lt. S.V. Sippe, and Flt. Cdr J.T. Babbington led some RNAS machines on a bombing raid on the Zeppelin sheds at Lake Constance. At 09:30 AM, three brand-new, untested Manchester-built machines, flown by Briggs (in a/c number 874), Babington (873) and Sippé (875), took off from Belfort, France. Avro 504 piloted by Flt Sub-Lt R P Cannon broke its tailskid and was forced to abort. Flying around neutral Switzerland, the three machines flew over Lake Constance to Friedrichshafen, a distance of 125 miles, and caught the Germans completely unawares, dropping 20-lb pounds. It was a sensational raid, although the Germans were secretive about the damage they suffered. Briggs was shot down when flying low over the sheds; he was taken prisoner and managed to escape two year later. His companions completed the round trip in about four hours. All three pilots were awarded the Distinguished Service Order, Gazetted on 1 January 1915.

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from The History Channel:

 

November 27, 1914

Hindenburg celebrates Warsaw campaign

On November 27, 1914, German commander Paul von Hindenburg issues a triumphant proclamation from the battlefields of the Eastern Front, celebrating his army’s campaign against Russian forces in the Polish city of Warsaw.

On November 1, Hindenburg had been appointed commander in chief of all German troops on the Eastern Front; his chief of staff was Erich Ludendorff, who had aided him in commanding several earlier victories against Russian forces in East Prussia. The new command, dubbed OberOst, had two objectives: First, they were to mount a counterattack in Poland while their colleague, Erich von Falkenhayn, managed German forces fighting in the Ypres region on the Western Front. Second, they were to balance the faltering Austrian command headed by Conrad von Hotzendorff. Earlier, Conrad had audaciously blamed his army’s failure against Russia on a lack of sufficient German support and demanded that 30 new German divisions be sent east, a notion that Falkenhayn steadfastly opposed.

The German campaign against Warsaw, launched in early November 1914, aimed to draw Russian manpower and other resources away from their ferocious assault on the struggling army of Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary. In this it proved successful. The Germans scored several significant victories, most notably at the neighboring city of Lodz. Though the broader German assault ultimately failed, leaving Warsaw still in Russian hands, the kaiser rewarded Hindenburg by promoting him to field marshal, the highest rank in the German army.

In his statement of November 27, Hindenburg expressed his satisfaction with the results of the campaign and, of course, with his promotion. "I am proud at having reached the highest military rank at the head of such troops. Your fighting spirit and perseverance have in a marvelous manner inflicted the greatest losses on the enemy. Over 60,000 prisoners, 150 guns and about 200 machine guns have fallen into our hands, but the enemy is not yet annihilated. Therefore, forward with God, for King and Fatherland, till the last Russian lies beaten at our feet. Hurrah!"

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from the History Channel:

 

November 30, 1917

German foreign minister celebrates revolution in Russia

 

On this day in 1917, Foreign Minister Richard Von Kuhlmann stands before the German Reichstag government to deliver a speech applauding the recent rise to power in Russia of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and his radical socialist Bolshevik Party.

 

Soon after November 7, 1917, when the Bolsheviks seized control in Petrograd from the provisional government--in place since the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in March--Lenin moved to secure an immediate armistice with the Central Powers in the First World War. Not surprisingly, Austria-Hungary and Germany welcomed this development with open arms; the latter nation had actually helped smuggle the exiled Lenin back to Russia the previous April. The German chancellor, Count Georg von Hertling, went so far as to suggest to Kuhlmann on November 29 that Germany make the new Russia one of its allies.

 

The following day, Kuhlmann addressed the Reichstag, declaring that "Our eyes at the present moment are turned toward the east. Russia has set the world ablaze." The mobilization of Russia, he continued, was "the actual and immediate cause" of the entire war; only now was Russia in the hands of leaders who would set things right and seek immediate peace with Germany. According to Kuhlmann, Russia's allies--Britain and France--would do well to consider following its lead, as "the German people will stand up and be prepared to beat force with force until the dawn of the better and more humane understanding which is beginning to appear in the eastern sky shall arise in the nations of the west, which are as yet filled with greed for money and power."

 

While the Central Powers rejoiced at the turn of events in Petrograd, the Allies were filled with a sense of dread. With Russia out of the war, Germany would be free to transfer more manpower to the Western Front; to the south, Austria-Hungary seemed close to overpowering Italy. Although the United States had entered the war on the side of the Allies in April 1917, it was not expected to deliver troops in significant numbers until the following summer. By the end of 1917, with casualties mounting on the Western Front, the Allies looked ahead with trepidation as the possibility of victory seemed to recede ever further into the distance.

 

from the History Channel:

 

December 2, 1917

Russia reaches armistice with the Central Powers

A day after Bolsheviks seize control of Russian military headquarters at Mogilev, a formal ceasefire is proclaimed throughout the battle zone between Russia and the Central Powers.

 

Immediately after their accession to power in Russia in November 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, had approached the Central Powers to arrange an armistice and withdraw from a war they saw as the major obstacle to their plan of providing food and land to the long-impoverished Russian peasant population. Leon Trotsky, in charge of foreign affairs, pressed Britain and France to open peace negotiations, threatening to make a separate armistice if his demands went unmet. After no response from the Allies, the Bolsheviks went ahead with their plan and made an appeal for peace that was welcomed by both Germany and Austria.

 

As a result of the ensuing negotiations at Brest-Litovsk, concluded in March 1918 after three months of debate and even renewed fighting in some areas, Russia would lose a million square miles of its territory, a third of its population, a majority of its coal, oil, and iron stores, and much of its industry. Lenin insisted that his Congress of Soviets accept the "shameful peace," as he called it, "in order to save the world revolution" and "its only foothold – the Soviet Republic."

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from the History Channel:

 

December 3, 1916

Nivelle replaces Joffre as French commander

As part of a general upheaval within the French government and military due in part to demoralizing losses at Verdun and the Somme, the formidable General Joseph-Jacques-CÉsaire Joffre is dismissed as commander in chief of the French forces in favor of General Robert Nivelle.

 

French authorities blamed Joffre, the stalwart champion of France's Plan XVII military strategy since 1911, for recent defeats on the Western Front as well as for the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, where some 500,000 Allied troops based out of the Greek port city of Salonika were mired in what they feared might be a losing struggle with Bulgarian forces. For his part, Nivelle believed an aggressive offensive was the key to a breakthrough on the Western Front. The French government felt pressure to take some action to counter the Germans' declaration of unrestricted U-boat warfare; they were also swayed by the support Nivelle enjoyed from their counterparts in Britain, including the new prime minister, David Lloyd George.

 

In early April 1917, then, French and British troops embarked on what would become known as the Nivelle Offensive, hoping to quickly and decisively punch a hole through the German lines in France. All did not go as planned, however, as the strength and depth of the German positions, built up since the fall of 1914, proved too much for the Allies. By the end of the first day, almost all the French tanks, introduced into battle for the first time, had been destroyed or had become bogged down, and within a week the hospitals in the area were treating 96,000 wounded. The battle was called off on April 20.

 

The contrast between Nivelle's lofty objectives and the reality of the offensive's disappointing outcome caused great disillusionment and anger among the French troops. A series of mutinies began in late April 1917 and increased in the two succeeding months, eventually involving about 40,000 troops. Nivelle had cut soldiers' leave time in March, only releasing 5 percent of the French army at a time. In July, Nivelle was replaced by Phillipe PÉtain, who increased the leave time given to each soldier to 13 percent, or ten days' leave every four months, in an effort to curb discontent and offer the French troops some much-needed time to rest and recuperate.

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from the History Channel:

 

December 5, 1915

Siege of British-occupied Kut, Mesopotamia begins

On this day in 1915, Turkish and German forces launch an attack on the British-occupied town of Kut al-Amara on the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq.

 

Under the command of Sir John Nixon, British troops had enjoyed early success in their invasion of Mesopotamia. Forces led by Nixon's forward divisional commander, Sir Charles Townshend, reached and occupied the Mesopotamian province of Basra, including the town of Kut al-Amara, by late September 1915. From there, they attempted to move up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers towards Baghdad, but were rebuffed by Turkish troops at Ctesiphon (or Selman Pak) in late November. Despite outnumbering the Turks two-to-one, Townshend's troops, made up partially of soldiers dispatched from India, were forced to retreat to Kut, where on December 5 Turkish and German troops began a siege that would last for the next five months.

 

Nixon had envisioned Kut as a base for his troops to invade further into the region and eventually provide a pivot point for an ambitious strategy where the Russians would enter the region through Azerbaijan and Persia and join the Allied forces to envelop the enemy. Unfortunately for the British troops, problems with illness among the British officers and sinking morale due to wet weather and dwindling supplies plagued Townshend's forces, who tried four times without success to confront and surround their Turkish opponents only to suffer heavy casualties.

 

Kut fell on April 29, 1916, and Townshend was forced to give up the fight, along with his remaining 10,000 men. That day marked the largest single surrender of troops in British history up until that time.

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from the History Channel:

 

December 6, 1917

Munitions ship explodes in Halifax

At 9:05 a.m., in the harbor of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating manmade explosion in the pre-atomic age occurs when the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, explodes 20 minutes after colliding with another vessel.

 

As World War I raged in Europe, the port city of Halifax bustled with ships carrying troops, relief supplies and munitions across the Atlantic Ocean. On the morning of December 6, the Norwegian vessel Imo left its mooring in Halifax harbor for New York City. At the same time, the French freighter Mont Blanc, its cargo hold packed with highly explosive munitions--2,300 tons of picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline, and 10 tons of gun cotton--was forging through the harbor's narrows to join a military convoy that would escort it across the Atlantic.

 

At approximately 8:45 a.m., the two ships collided, setting the picric acid ablaze. The Mont Blanc was propelled toward the shore by its collision with the Imo, and the crew rapidly abandoned the ship, attempting without success to alert the harbor of the peril. Spectators gathered along the waterfront to witness the spectacle of the blazing ship, and minutes later it brushed by a harbor pier, setting it ablaze. The Halifax fire department responded quickly and was positioning its engine next to the nearest hydrant when the Mont Blanc exploded at 9:05 a.m. in a blinding white flash.

 

The massive explosion killed more than 1,600 people, injured another 9,000--including blinding 200--and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than 1,600 homes. The resulting shock wave shattered windows 50 miles away and the sound of the explosion could be heard for hundreds of miles.

 

from the History Channel:

 

December 7, 1916

David Lloyd George becomes prime minister of Britain

On this day in London in 1916, the embattled prime minister of Britain, Herbert Asquith, is replaced by David Lloyd George.

 

Lloyd George, a member of the radical wing of Asquith's Liberal party who had served as chancellor of the exchequer from 1908 to 1915 and since then as minister for munitions and secretary of war, had long disagreed with the prime minister's direction of the war effort. Together with members of the Conservative party, he conspired to oust Asquith in the first election since the formation of the wartime coalition cabinet in May 1915, causing a split within the Liberal Party which would never really heal.

 

As chancellor of the exchequer, Lloyd George had championed small businessmen against privileged landowners and the aristocracy and pushed through radical budgets; as prime minister, however, he saw the aggressive prosecution of the war as the principal task facing the British government. His first major project was to create a much-needed Imperial War Cabinet to direct the nation's war strategy. Many members of the new war ministry under Lloyd George were Conservatives, monarchists, and pro-military figures, none of whom felt altogether comfortable with this intellectual, liberal-minded prime minister, but all of whom saw his boundless energy and formidable oratory skills as a welcome change from the ineffectual Asquith.

 

Over the next two years, Lloyd George would more than once be forced to yield to those same conservative forces and to the British generals, particularly Douglas Haig, who was often at odds with the prime minister. When he took office, the Allies seemed to be facing defeat; Lloyd George held his country together and led it to victory in November 1918. He would also play a crucial role in the ensuing peace negotiations at Versailles, where he appeared rather moderate next to the angry demands of his French counterpart, Georges Clemenceau, and the idealistic notions of Woodrow Wilson. Lloyd George came to regret the Versailles Treaty, however, predicting—correctly, as it turned out—another major war within the next two decades.

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from the History Channel:

 

December 8, 1914

The Battle of the Falkland Islands

A month after German naval forces led by Admiral Maximilian von Spee inflicted the Royal Navy’s first defeat in a century by sinking two British cruisers with all hands off the southern coast of Chile, Spee’s squadron attempts to raid the Falkland Islands, located in the southern Atlantic Ocean, only to be thwarted by the British navy. Under the command of Admiral Doveton Sturdee, the British seamen sought vengeance on behalf of their defeated fellows.

 

Spee could have given the Falklands a wide berth, but he brought his fleet close to British squadrons anchored in Cape Pembroke in the Falkland Islands, confident he could outdistance the slow British Dreadnoughts, or big battleships, he saw in the port. Instead, the German light cruisers, damaged by the long voyage and heavy use, soon found themselves pursued by two swift battle cruisers, Inflexible and Invincible, designed by Britain’s famous First Sea Lord, Jackie Fisher, to combine speed and maneuverability with heavy hitting power.

 

Inflexible opened fire on the German ships from 16,500 yards, careful to stay outside the range of the German guns. Spee’s flagship, Scharnhorst was sunk first, with the admiral aboard; his two sons, on the Gneisenau and NÜrnberg, also went down with their ships. All told, Germany lost four warships and more than 2,000 sailors in the Falkland Islands, compared with only 10 British deaths.

 

Historians have referred to the Battle of the Falkland Islands as the most decisive naval battle of World War I. It gave the Allies a huge, much-needed surge of confidence on the seas, especially important because other areas of the war—the Western Front, Gallipoli—were not proceeding as hoped. The battle also represents one of the last important instances of old-style naval warfare, between ships and sailors and their guns alone, without the aid or interference of airplanes, submarines, or underwater minefields.

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Nope, I'm scooping it directly from SOH.

Gotta hurry before it disappears!

 

Although it's not showing up anymore, should be able to grab all you need before it gets wiped clean.

 

OFF 1/2

http://www.sim-outhouse.com/sohforums/forumdisplay.php?f=8

 

OFF 3

http://www.sim-outhouse.com/sohforums/forumdisplay.php?f=62 _________________________

Stormtrooper

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from the History Channel:

 

December 9, 1917

Jerusalem surrenders to British troops

On the morning of this day in 1917, after Turkish troops move out of the region after only a single day's fighting, officials of the Holy City of Jerusalem offer the keys to the city to encroaching British troops.

 

The British, led by General Edmund Allenby, who had arrived from the Western Front the previous June to take over the command in Egypt, entered the Holy City two days later under strict instructions from London on how not to appear disrespectful to the city, its people, or its traditions. Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot—in deliberate contrast to Kaiser Wilhelm's more flamboyant entrance on horseback in 1898—and no Allied flags were flown over the city, while Muslim troops from India were dispatched to guard the religious landmark the Dome of the Rock.

 

In a proclamation declaring martial law that was read aloud to the city's people in English, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and Greek, Allenby assured them that the occupying power would not inflict further harm on Jerusalem, its inhabitants, or its holy places. "Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people, I make it known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer…will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred."

 

Church bells in Rome and London rang to celebrate the peaceful British arrival in Jerusalem. Allenby's success, after so much discouragement on the Western Front, elated and inspired Allied supporters everywhere.

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Hello Shredward,

 

december 8th ..

since i just saw a history channel documentary, and wrote about a similar theme..

There's more about it here: http://www.worldwar1.co.uk/falkland.html

Your quote is certainly ok, just because this battle had some impact later :

 

Spee did not give the Falklands a wide berth, because he did not know the british fleet was waiting for him. Indeed he wanted to "raid" the Falklands to get coal for his fleet. He was almost warned, but unfortunately did not pay attention to the fishing boat that had been sent to warn him.

 

Arriving at the harbour Spee soon realized what was going on. It would have been possible, to shell and sink the british fleet, which was coaling and out of steam, pants down. However Spee missed this golden opportunity, and tried to escape.

Indeed the british fleet was not exactly waiting, but provisioning their ships to then hunt Spee and his group down - on special order of Churchill, who wanted vengeance for the sinking of the two battleships. At the end of the war, the british Navy had lost exactly 100 battleships, and Churchill had to give up his position because of that.

 

After sighting the german fleet and their manoeuvering, provisioning was abandoned, steam made up, and the ships left the harbour to hunt Spee and his fleet. The german fleet, its main battlewagons consisting of two armoured cruisers, was indeed suffering from worn-out engines and lack of coal, and the ships were not able to outrun the battleships Inflexible and Invincible, nor able to fight them out of range. Spee then turned around to give his light cruisers the chance to slip away.

 

" ...Inflexible opened fire on the German ships from 16,500 yards, careful to stay outside the range of the German guns. Spee's flagship, Scharnhorst was sunk first, with the admiral aboard; his two sons, on the Gneisenau and NÜrnberg, also went down with their ships. All told, Germany lost four warships and more than 2,000 sailors in the Falkland Islands, compared with only 10 British deaths. ..."

 

But the german ship "Dresden" was able to outrun the british ships.

From wikipedia:

 

" ... Dresden was the only German cruiser to escape destruction at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, her turbine engines proving faster than her expansion-engined squadron mates. The ship then headed south back around Cape Horn to the maze of channels and bays in southern Chile. Until March 1915 she evaded Royal Navy searches while paralyzing British trade routes in the area. ..."

 

The hunt for the Dresden took months as she made her way into the Pacific pursued by British cruisers. They eventually caught up with her at Mas a Tierra on March 13 by Glasgow, Kent and the armed merchant cruiser Orama. Glasgow had escaped from Dresden at Coronel, Dresden evaded Glasgow at the Falklands but it was Glasgow and Captain Luce who were to be final victors.

The Dresden had only 80 tons of coal left, no ammunition for its main batteries, and was virtually out of action due to its engines, that had suffered badly by running at full speed all the time.

 

Glasgow infringed Chilean neutrality at Robinson's island by opening fire on Dresden whilst she was anchored in Chilean waters. After five minutes Dresden was heavily hit and surrendered. Whilst surrender talks were going on the Germans abandoned ship and scuttling charges detonated her magazine, ending the last of Spee's squadron. Dresden suffered eight killed and sixteen wounded.

Churchill had wanted his fleet to set an end to the Dresden by all means, he had pursued the last surviving ship with a personal hate. It is said that it was him who wanted to bomb the city of Dresden near the end of WW2 just because of this personal slight against him, or so he saw it. Churchill had lost his position in the British Navy due to the heavy losses of warships, and his decision to invade Turkey via Gallipoli.

 

I know this is completely OT, but since i came about this last week i thought you might like to read it.

 

Greetings,

Catfish

 

Hallo Catfish,

Thankyou for that. I remember seeing a documentary where a diving team explored the grave of Dresden. Fascinating stuff.

Not at all off-topic - this is what I hoped this thread would do; stimulate us to explore what happened, and what might have been. I have been diving through old newspaper articles, and I often find hints of how, but for a decision here, or a twist of fate there, how the world we find ourselves in today, might have turned out so differently. I am always haunted, at this time of year, by thoughts of the Christmas Truce of 1914, and how different our world today would be, if only those men had not returned to the trenches, but ended the war right there and then.

Peace,

shredward

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from the History Channel:

 

December 15, 1915

British begin evacuation of Gallipoli

On December 15, Allied forces begin a full retreat from the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, ending a disastrous invasion of the Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli campaign resulted in 250,000 Allied casualties and a greatly discredited Allied military command. Roughly an equal number of Turks were killed or wounded.

 

In early 1915, the British government resolved to ease Turkish pressure on the Russians on the Caucasus front by seizing control of the Dardanelles channel, the Gallipoli peninsula, and then Istanbul. From there, pressure could be brought on Austria-Hungary, forcing the Central Powers to divert troops from the Western Front. The first lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, strongly supported the plan, and in February 1915 French and British ships began bombarding the Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles.

 

Bad weather interrupted the operation and on March 18 six English and four French warships moved into the Dardanelles. The Turks, however, had used the intervening time wisely, setting mines that sank three Allied ships and badly damaged three more. The naval attack was called off and a larger land invasion was planned.

 

Beginning April 25, British, Australian, and New Zealand troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula, while the French pretended to land on the opposite coast to divert Ottoman forces. The Australians and New Zealanders were devastated by the Turkish defenders, who were led by Mustafa Kemal, the future President Ataturk of Turkey. Meanwhile, the British were also met with fierce resistance at their Cape Helles landing sites and suffered two-thirds casualties at some locations. During the next three months, the Allies made only slight gains off their landing sites and sustained terrible casualties.

 

To break the stalemate, a new British landing at Suvla Bay occurred on August 6, but the British failed to capitalize on their largely unopposed landing and waited too long to move against the heights. Ottoman reinforcements arrived and quickly halted their progress. Trenches were dug, and the British were able to advance only a few miles.

 

In September, Sir Ian Hamilton, the British commander, was replaced by Sir Charles Monro, who in December recommended an evacuation from Gallipoli. On January 8, 1916, the last of the Allied troops were withdrawn. As a result of the disastrous campaign, Churchill resigned as first lord of the Admiralty and accepted a commission to command an infantry battalion in France.

 

from the History Channel:

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December 16, 1914

Germans bombard English ports of Hartlepool and Scarborough

At approximately 8 o'clock in the morning, German battle cruisers from Franz von Hipper's Scouting Squadron catch the British navy by surprise as they begin heavy bombardment of Hartlepool and Scarborough, English port cities on the North Sea.

 

The bombardment lasted for about one and a half hours, killing more than 130 civilians and wounding another 500. It would unleash a damning response from the British press, which pointed to the incident as yet another example of German brutality. The German navy, however, saw the two port cities as valid targets due to their fortified status.

 

Two defense batteries in Hartlepool responded to the attacks, damaging three of the German vessels, including the heavy cruiser Blucher. Hipper's squadron hoped to draw British forces to pursue them across waters freshly laced with mines. Another German fleet, commanded by Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, sat waiting offshore to provide support. A major confrontation did not take place, however, as the British decided to keep most of their fleet—depleted by the dispatch of their major cruisers to pursue the dangerous squadron of Admiral Maximilian von Spee—in the harbor.

 

An attempt by the Scouting Squadron one month later to repeat the tactics used to surprise the British at Scarborough and Hartlepool resulted in the Battle of Dogger Bank, where Hipper's squadron was defeated but managed to avoid capture.

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from the History Channel:

 

December 18, 1916

Battle of Verdun ends

The Battle of Verdun, the longest engagement of World War I, ends on this day after ten months and close to a million total casualties suffered by German and French troops.

 

The battle had begun on February 21, after the Germans—led by Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn—developed a plan to attack the fortress city of Verdun, on the Meuse River in France. Falkenhayn believed that the French army was more vulnerable than the British, and that a major defeat on the Western Front would push the Allies to open peace negotiations. From the beginning, casualties mounted quickly on both sides of the conflict, and after some early gains of territory by the Germans, the battle settled into a bloody stalemate. Among the weapons in the German arsenal was the newly-invented flammenwerfer, or flamethrower; that year also saw the first use by the Germans of phosgene gas, ten times more lethal than the chlorine gas they previously used.

 

As fighting at Verdun stretched on and on, German resources were stretched thinner by having to confront both a British-led offensive on the Somme River and Russia's Brusilov Offensive on the Eastern Front. In July, the Kaiser, frustrated by the state of things at Verdun, removed Falkenhayn and sent him to command the 9th Army in Transylvania; Paul von Hindenburg took his place. By early December, under Robert Nivelle, who had been appointed to replace Philippe PÉtain in April, the French had managed to recapture much of their lost territory, and in the last three days of battle took 11,000 German prisoners before Hindenburg finally called a stop to the German attacks.

 

The massive loss of life at Verdun—143,000 German dead out of 337,000 casualties, to France's 162,440 out of 377,231—would come to symbolize, more than that of any other battle, the bloody nature of trench warfare on the Western Front.

 

from the History Channel:

 

December 19, 1915

Haig becomes commander-in-chief of the British army in France

In the wake of the British defeat at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, Sir Douglas Haig replaces Sir John French as commander-in-chief of all British forces on the Western Front.

 

Haig, who commanded the 1st Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at Loos, had asked French to authorize the release of two reserve divisions before the battle. French eventually consented, but due to disorganization and the long distance they had to travel, the reserves arrived too late to make a difference. The offensive at Loos ended in failure, and the incident contributed to French's removal from his position in December in favor of Haig, who enjoyed some influence with King George V.

 

The controversial Haig served as commander of the BEF through the end of the war—from devastating battles at Verdun and the Somme to the Allied offensives in 1918 that would lead to victory—despite criticism from such formidable detractors as British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who wrote later that at times he wondered if he should have resigned rather than allow Haig to pursue his strategy.

 

-If I remember the quote right, Lloyd George said he was "brilliant to the tops of his boots"

Cheers,

shredward

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from the History Channel:

 

December 20, 1914

 

First Battle of Champagne begins

After minor skirmishes, the First Battle of Champagne begins in earnest, marking the first major Allied attack against the Germans since the initiation of trench warfare on the Western Front.

Still determined to win a quick victory, and despite early defeats in the trenches against German positions, French commander Joseph Joffre planned a major offensive stretching throughout the Artois and Champagne regions of France from Nieuport in the north to Verdun in the south. After minor attacks on December 10 near Perthes in eastern Champagne, heavy fighting occurred simultaneously at Givenchy, Perthes, and Noyon, where the numerical advantage enjoyed by the French resulted in few gains in territory. The Germans were well-entrenched and their defense proved superior. From the outset of the war, machine gun battalions were used along with the regular infantry, which proved lethally effective in Champagne.

 

Winter weather made for dismal conditions on the battlefield: guns became clogged with mud and refused to fire, and heavy rainfall often made the trenches practically unusable. Fighting continued in the region from mid-December until mid-February, when the French paused briefly to reorganize, and then again until March 17, 1915. On that day, due to their continuing lack of gains and the strength of German counter-attacks since the beginning of the year, the French called off the attack. Joffre did not give up hope of eventual success in Champagne, however, and would begin another offensive there in the fall of 1915.

 

from the History Channel:

 

December 21, 1915

Sir William Robertson is appointed chief of the Imperial General Staff

Shortly after Sir Douglas Haig is installed as the new commander-in-chief of the British forces, his steadfast supporter, Sir William Robertson, is appointed the new chief of the Imperial General Staff, with King George's backing and over the head of the embattled British war secretary, Sir Horatio Kitchener.

 

Robertson, who first enlisted as a private solder in 1877, became the only man in the British army to rise from such humble beginnings to the rank of field marshal by the end of the Great War. His impressive ascent included stints as an officer in India and South Africa; positions in British Intelligence in both the Russian and colonial areas; head of the Foreign Section of the War Office in London; chief of the general staff under Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien; commandant of the Staff College from 1910 to 1913; and finally director of military training at the War Office, where he was serving when war broke out in August 1914.

 

With the start of war, Robertson was plucked from his duties in London and sailed to Boulogne, France, as quartermaster-general of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), then led by Sir John French. When Haig replaced French on December 19, 1915, the new commander-in-chief saw his chance to appoint his ally to replace Sir Archibald Murray as chief of an Imperial General Staff that had been allowed to weaken under Kitchener's watch since before the war.

 

The strong-willed Robertson had already concluded by the time of his appointment that the war could only be won on the Western Front. He wrote to Kitchener on December 27 that "we can only end the war in our favour by attrition or by breaking through the German line." In this view, Robertson coincided with Haig, but the force of his personality ensured that he would be more that just Haig's puppet. In his new role, he effectively served as a liaison between the army and the government. He supported the ousting of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in December 1916 in favor of David Lloyd George, then clashed bitterly with Lloyd George over the latter's attempts to subordinate Haig and Robertson himself through the formation of a Superior War Council that would direct the war's policy. In early 1918, when the new council created a strategic reserve corps of its own, against Haig's wishes and out of Robertson's command, Robertson resigned his position. He was replaced by Sir Henry Wilson.

 

Robertson subsequently returned to London. After the war, he served as commander in chief of the British Army on the Rhine. In March 1920, he was made a field marshal. He published two memoirs about his military career: From Private to Field Marshal and Soldiers and Statesmen. Sir William Robertson died in 1933.

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from Wikipedia:

 

Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914

 

The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The Scottish troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whisky, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The soldiers exchanged gifts, sometimes addresses, and drank together. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there are many stories of football matches between the opposing forces.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day.

The truce occurred in spite of opposition at higher levels of the military. Earlier in the autumn, a call by Pope Benedict XV for an official truce between the warring governments had been ignored.

British commanders Sir John French and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien vowed that no such truce would be allowed again, although both had left command before Christmas 1915. In all of the following years of the war, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to ensure that there were no further lulls in the combat. Troops were also rotated through various sectors of the front to prevent them from becoming overly familiar with the enemy. Despite those measures, there were a few friendly encounters between enemy soldiers, but on a much smaller scale than in 1914.

In December 1915, "When the Christmas bells sounded in the villages of the Vosges behind the lines ….. something fantastically unmilitary occurred. German and French troops spontaneously made peace and ceased hostilities; they visited each other through disused trench tunnels, and exchanged wine, cognac and cigarettes for Westphalian black bread, biscuits and ham. This suited them so well that they remained good friends even after Christmas was over." From an account by Richard Schirrmann, who was in a German regiment holding a position on the Bernhardstein, one of the mountains of the Vosges, and separated from the French troops by a narrow no-man's-land, described by him as "strewn with shattered trees, the ground ploughed up by shellfire, a wilderness of earth, tree-roots and tattered uniforms." Military discipline was soon restored, but Schirrmann pondered over the incident, and whether "thoughtful young people of all countries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other." He went on to found the German Youth Hostel Association in 1919.

During the first two years after the lines of the Western Front stabilized, other situations of informal armistice (i.e. armistice not imposed by high command) were recognized by both sides. According to anecdotes, inexperienced British commanders were astonished to find British and German forces both exposing themselves above the trench line within clear range of enemy guns. Artillery was often fired at precise points, at precise times, to avoid enemy casualties by both sides. Situations of deliberate dampening of hostilities also occurred by some accounts, e.g., a volley of gunfire being exchanged after a misplaced mortar hit the British line, after which a German soldier shouted an apology to British forces, effectively stopping a hostile exchange of gunfire.

On 11 November 2008, the first official Truce memorial was unveiled in Frélinghien, France, the site of a Christmas Truce football game in 1914. After the unveiling and a Service of Remembrance, men from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Welch Fusiliers) played a football match with the German Panzergrenadier Battalion 371. The Germans won, 2-1.

1st Battalion The Royal Welsh and Panzergrenadier Battalion 371 were invited to take part because their regimental ancestors from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 134th Saxon Infantry Regiment had held the Truce at Frelinghien on Christmas Day, 1914. Before the match, as happened in 1914, a Saxon soldier rolled a barrel of beer towards the Welsh while Major Stockwell offered Lieutenant-Colonel von Sinner a plum pudding and a cigar. The football, signed by all players, is now in the possession of the Arbeitkreis für Sächsische Militärgeschichte.

 

 

shredward

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On November 7, 2006, singer Chris de Burgh paid £14,400 at Bonhams auction house for an original 10 page letter from an unknown British soldier that records events and incidents with the Germans on that night describing "the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent".

 

The letter begins:

 

This will be the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don't think theres been a shot fired on either side up to now. Last night turned a very clear frost moonlight night, so soon after dusk we had some decent fires going and had a few carols and songs. The Germans commenced by placing lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us—wishing us a Happy Christmas etc. They also gave us a few songs etc. so we had quite a social party. Several of them can speak English very well so we had a few conversations. Some of our chaps went to over to their lines. I think theyve all come back bar one from 'E' Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir. In spite of our fires etc. it was terribly cold and a job to sleep between look out duties, which are two hours in every six.

 

First thing this morning it was very foggy. So we stood to arms a little longer than usual. A few of us that were lucky could go to Holy Communion early this morning. It was celebrated in a ruined farm about 500 yds behind us. I unfortunately couldn't go. There must be something in the spirit of Christmas as to day we are all on top of our trenches running about. Whereas other days we have to keep our heads well down. We had breakfast about 8.0 which went down alright especially some cocoa we made. We also had some of the post this morning. I had a parcel from B. G's Lace Dept containing a sweater, smokes, under clothes etc. We also had a card from the Queen, which I am sending back to you to look after please. After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches! We've had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week. He was about a 100 yds from our trench. A few of our fellows went out and helped to bury him.

 

About 10.30 we had a short church parade the morning service etc. held in the trench. How we did sing. 'O come all ye faithful. And While shepherds watched their flocks by night' were the hymns we had. At present we are cooking our Christmas Dinner! so will finish this letter later.

 

Dinner is over! and well we enjoyed it. Our dinner party started off with fried bacon and dip-bread: followed by hot Xmas Pudding. I had a mascot in my piece. Next item on the menu was muscatels and almonds, oranges, bananas, chocolate etc followed by cocoa and smokes. You can guess we thought of the dinners at home. Just before dinner I had the pleasure of shaking hands with several Germans: a party of them came 1/2way over to us so several of us went out to them. I exchanged one of my balaclavas for a hat. I've also got a button off one of their tunics. We also exchanged smokes etc. and had a decent chat. They say they won't fire tomorrow if we don't so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday—perhaps. After exchanging autographs and them wishing us a Happy New Year we departed and came back and had our dinner.

 

We can hardly believe that we've been firing at them for the last week or two—it all seems so strange. At present its freezing hard and everything is covered with ice…

 

The letter ends:

 

There are plenty of huge shell holes in front of our trenches, also pieces of shrapnel to be found. I never expected to shake hands with Germans between the firing lines on Christmas Day and I don't suppose you thought of us doing so. So after a fashion we've enjoyed? our Christmas. Hoping you spend a happy time also George Boy as well. How we thought of England during the day. Kind regards to all the neighbours. With much love from Boy.

 

shredward __________________

We will remember them.

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from the History Channel:

 

December 29, 1915

French government gives land for British war cemeteries

On this day in 1915, the French National Assembly passes a law formally ceding the land that holds the British war cemeteries to Great Britain. The move ensured even as the war was being fought that its saddest and most sacred monuments would be forever protected.

 

The law stated that the land was "the free gift of the French people for a perpetual resting place of those who are laid there." By the end of the war, it would apply to more than 1,200 cemeteries along the Western Front, the majority located near the battlefields in the Somme, Nord, and Pas-de-Calais regions. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, established in 1917 by a British royal charter, supervised the construction of the cemeteries and their monuments, which were designed by some of the most prominent British architects of the day. The last monument was put in place in 1938.

 

The French office of the commission is charged with the maintenance of these cemeteries; between 400 and 500 members of its staff tend the graves and the surrounding horticulture. In addition to the cemeteries, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission also tends to the numerous monuments that exist on the Western Front to commemorate the missing. One of the largest of these stands at Thiepval, on the Somme battlefield, and bears the names of 73,357 British and South African soldiers and officers who died there between July 1915 and March 1918 and whose final resting place is not known.

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Researchers unlock secrets of 1918 flu pandemic

Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:44pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers have found out what made the 1918 flu pandemic so deadly -- a group of three genes that lets the virus invade the lungs and cause pneumonia.

 

They mixed samples of the 1918 influenza strain with modern seasonal flu viruses to find the three genes and said their study might help in the development of new flu drugs.

 

The discovery, published in Tuesday's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could also point to mutations that might turn ordinary flu into a dangerous pandemic strain.

 

Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and colleagues at the Universities of Kobe and Tokyo in Japan used ferrets, which develop flu in ways very similar to humans.

 

Usually flu causes an upper respiratory infection affecting the nose and throat, as well as so-called systemic illness causing fever, muscle aches and weakness.

 

But some people become seriously ill and develop pneumonia. Sometimes bacteria cause the pneumonia and sometimes flu does it directly.

 

During pandemics, such as in 1918, a new and more dangerous flu strain emerges.

 

"The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most devastating outbreak of infectious disease in human history, accounting for about 50 million deaths worldwide," Kawaoka's team wrote.

 

It killed 2.5 percent of victims, compared to fewer than 1 percent during most annual flu epidemics. Autopsies showed many of the victims, often otherwise healthy young adults, died of severe pneumonia.

 

"We wanted to know why the 1918 flu caused severe pneumonia," Kawaoka said in a statement.

 

They painstakingly substituted single genes from the 1918 virus into modern flu viruses and, one after another, they acted like garden-variety flu, infecting only the upper respiratory tract.

 

But a complex of three genes helped to make the virus live and reproduce deep in the lungs.

 

The three genes -- called PA, PB1, and PB2 -- along with a 1918 version of the nucleoprotein or NP gene, made modern seasonal flu kill ferrets in much the same way as the original 1918 flu, Kawaoka's team found.

 

Most flu experts agree that a pandemic of influenza will almost certainly strike again. No one knows when or what strain it will be but one big suspect now is the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

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