25 May 1917 – Heavier than air


After the failure of the Zeppelin attack yesterday, the Germans launched a new weapon against Britain today.  As the limits of Zeppelins were becoming clear, the aarival in Winter 1916 of the Gotha IV bomber finally made aircraft raids on Britain a realistic possibility.

The Gotha IV was a biplane of 75 feet wing span and 42 feet in length. It wa sfitted with two 260hp Mercedes engines driving pusher airscrews, carried a crew of three, and was armed with three machine guns, one of which could fire through a ‘tunnel’ to attack fighting aeroplanes. It could carry up to 500kg of bombs and had a top speed of about 80 miles an hour.

A specialist squadron, Kampfgeschwader 3 der Oberste Heeresleitung (Kagohl 3 – Battle Squadron 3) was set up. After months of preparation the Squadron made its first raid today.

DB37DCE3-FEFF-4287-B867-ABC6F26C01BB-367-0000003EE4E444F3At around 1700 the squadron of 21 bombers crossed the…

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Farewell Alistair Horne

I have just learned that Alistair Horne has died. Horne was the author of The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, an account of the Battle of Verdun that heavily informed my own posts on that terrible battle. Horne had a unique ability to write narrative history that was also impressively analytical.

His book on Verdun was the middle of a trilogy on key Franco-German struggles, with the other books looking at the war of 1870 & the civil war that followed and the fall of France in 1940. All three of those books are excellent.

Horne wrote widely on many topics though it is his books on French history for which he will be best remembered. I hope one day to read his A Savage War of Peace, his account of the Algerian war of independence.


Alistair Horne, War Historian and Onetime British Spy, Dies at 91 (New York Times)

Sir Alistair Horne obituary (Guardian)

image source (Pan Macmillan)

“Burra, Due Hai Tipperary”



A version of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” as written down by an unidentified soldier of the 1/6th Battalion, The North Staffordshire Regiment (Territorial Force) in late June 1915, when he heard Sikh soldiers singing it while bivouacked alongside them at Ouderdom. The letter from which this extract was taken was printed in The Burton Daily Mail on 1 July 1915:

“Burra, due hai Tipperary,
Bahoot Lumbah knouch wo
Burra, due hai Tipperary,
Sake pas Powchenay ko,
Ram, Ram, Piccadilly!
Salaam, Leicester Square!
Burra, Burra dur hai Tipperary
Lakin del hoe-aye lah gah.”

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2 January 1917 – Rufini


Out in German East Africa, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces intends to hold the main enemy forces to the Mgeta front while he sends a flanking column to make a wide turning movement to the west. This column was to cross the Rufiji at Mkalinzo, where it is joined by the Ruaha, and then move south-west to join the Kilwa division coming from the direction of the Matumbi Mountains. These movements were designed to cut off the enemy forces on the Rufiji from those at Mahenge.

Rain on the Mgeta front delayed the opening of the operations from the 26th to the 31st of December 1916. A holding attack was delivered yesterday from the forward positions on the Dutumi front, while two columnsworked their way round the flanks.

The Tulo detachment (‘B’ Flight) of 26 Squadron RFC, which had been reinforced by two Henri Farmans from ‘A’ Flight at…

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27/10/1916 Dover Strait: Germany attacks in the Channel

The British continue to be concerned about the German U-boat menace. In order to stop the enemy submarines traversing the English Channel, the British have constructed the Dover Barrage, a network of nets and underwater minefields across the narrow sea near the port.

The Germans have a naval squadron based in the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Its commander, Ludwig von Schroeder, decides to attack the Dover Barrage and any Allied ships he can find in the Channel. His squadron sailed out yesterday evening. The raid goes well. In the course of the night, Schroeder’s ships sink a number of the drifters that attend the barrage. The British response is ineffectual, with the German ships several times mistaken for British ones. One British destroyer is sunk when the German squadron take it by surprise. The Germans also sink a British troopship (thankfully not carrying any troops at the time) and damage some other vessels.

In the early hours of the morning Schroeder returns to port. One of his boats has suffered minor damage, but he has successfully shown the British that they cannot take control of the Channel for granted.

28 October 1915 – 1 Wing RFC Injure the King


The King inspects the troops

King George V paid a visit to the troops today, First he visited British First Army at Labuissiere, southwest of Charleroi. He then went on to Hesdigneul to inspect a parade of 1 Wing RFC.

As the King rides past, the men raise a sudden cheer. The King’s mare rears in fright, slips on the wet ground and falls backwards. The King is partially pinned under her. His pelvis is fractured in two places. He is rushed back to Aire in his limousine.

‘I suffered great agonies all the way’ wrote the King.

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21 September 1915 – ”Remittance Man”

21/9/1915 The last flight of Stanley Caws.


Lieutenant Stanley Winther Caws and his observer Lieutenant William Hodgson Sugden-Wilson of 10 Squadron were shot down whilst on a long distance strategic reconnaissance for the forthcoming offensive, in their BE2c (2004). They had attracted the attention of a succession of enemy planes and fought two of them off before running out of ammunition. Lieutenant Caws was killed. Lieutenant Sugden-Wilson was badly injured and taken prisoner.

Stanley Caws Stanley Caws

This is the third victory for rising star Max Immelmann. He writes of the encounter:

“Aiming carefully, I give him about another 200 rounds from close quarters, and then my gun is silent again. One glance shows me I have no more ammunition left. I turn away in annoyance, for now I am defenceless. At last I discover the enemy. He is about 1,000 metres below me. He is falling earthward like a dead leaf. He gives the impression of a crow…

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