November 4, 1918 Soldier Poet

Today in History

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was working as a private English tutor in Bordeaux, when the “Great War” broke out in 1914.

800px-Memorial_to_the_Artists_Rifles,_Royal_Academy,_LondonAt first in no hurry to sign up, he even considered joining the French Army before returning home to England, to enlist in the Artists Rifles Training Corps, in October 1915.

Originally formed in 1859, the Artists Rifles was a British special forces regiment, raised in London and comprised of painters, musicians, actors and architects, and symbolized by the heads of the Roman gods Mars and Minerva.

It must have felt a natural place.  Wilfred Owen was a poet, a talent first discovered about ten years earlier, at age ten or eleven.

Owen was commissioned Second Lieutenant after six-months training, and posted with the Manchester Regiment of line infantry.  An application to the Royal Flying Corps was rejected in 1916 and he was shipped to France, joining the 2nd Manchester…

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A Most Excellent Adventure Begins…

Possibly of interest to Dublin-based history fans.

Trinity HistoryCon

Calling all Jedi, Wizards, Hobbits, Goblin Kings, and Timelords…

“For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – Gandalf the Grey

In the internet age, many people outside of academia wonder how scholars stay relevant and connected. We have all heard in the classroom, “why should I learn this when I can Google it?” The truth is we, like the Jedi, help others see otherwise invisible connections in the world, “the Force”. Academic rigor brings to light causes, correlations, and questions in our history, our culture, our environment, and ourselves.

A twelve-year-old watching Star Wars for the first time may not grasp the layers of history embedded within the saga. She may not comprehend the concept of asceticism or monastic life but she will retain how Master Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi lived closed off from the galaxy, seeking a fulfilled life through communing with the Force.  Many historians and other…

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Take 3 Guys, all Conscientous Objectors.

Three British conscientious objectors.

Scarce heard among the guns. (Blogs about WW1)

These are three short bits about Conscientious Objectors. One is still sung about in Scotland his name is John Maclean (24 August 1879 – 30 November 1923). Born in Pollockshaws on the outskirts of Glasgow. John was Britain’s only revolutionary communist.  The others of his era, Manny Shinwell, Willie Gallacher and the other leading lights of Red Clydeside were Parliamentarian Communists. Educated at Glasgow University where he obtained an MA. John spent most of his adult life teaching other adults in Glasgow and founded the Scottish Labour College. He was Britains first Bolshevik Consul, although not recognised by the Westminster Government. Imprisoned for his anti-war stance under the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) he went on hunger strike and was released after protests. In April 1918 he was again arrested. At the beginning of December 1918 he was released. An event commemorated in a song by Hamish Henderson.

“Hey Mac…

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Backing the Bolsheviks, Dublin 1918.

When 10,000 people gathered in Dublin to hail the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.

Come Here To Me!

In February 1918, thousands of Dubliners celebrated the Russian Revolution at a packed meeting in the Mansion House. Indeed, the attendance was so great that it spilled out of the Mansion House, with many more filling parts of Dawson Street, with an attendance of up to 10,000 people.

Some of the most interesting characters of the time, such as Maud Gonne, Countess Markievicz and others spoke, and ‘The Red Flag’ was sung with gusto. The song, which has become something of a socialist anthem, was written by Irishman Jim Connell in 1889. Jim Connell was awarded the Red Star Medal by Vladimir Lenin in 1922, which gives an indication of the importance of the song to the socialist movement. While much has been written of anti-communism and anti-socialism in early twentieth century Ireland, this incredibly well-attended meeting is largely forgotten. The meeting was chaired by William X. O’Brien, who had…

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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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