First World War in the News is an edited review of hand-picked World War I (1914-1918) articles - covering everything from the soldiers and generals to the trenches and militaria.

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Latest hand-picked First World War news. See also: See also 'Victoria Cross (VC)', 'Gallipoli Campaign', 'First Tanks', 'Submarines, U-Boats'.

Gurkhas: Nepalese warriors in World War I
Deutsche Welle takes a look at the contribution of the Gurkhas to the British war effort, fighting alongside Allied forces on European soil.
(dw.de)

Six Weeks: The short and gallant life of the British officer in the First World War by Jogn Lewis-Stempel
The average life expectancy of the young British lieutenants and captains in the frontlines of the 1914-1918 battlegrounds was just 6 weeks. They knew the odds, yet they marched firmly into the inferno, with a rifle and a helmet.
(dailymail.co.uk)

New online archive explores Edinburgh during the first world war
A new archive of locally sourced photos, posters and documents reveals stories of Edinburgh's participation in the great war. Much of the material for the online collection - called Edinburgh's War - was donated by local people, who were thanked at a reception in the University of Edinburgh, which led the collaborative project. WWI memorabilia and stories were collected from local historians, community groups, schools, clubs, libraries and businesses. An essential part of the archive is setting up a full roll of honour for the city's war dead. Site: edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk/.
(guardian.co.uk)

The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age (book review)
On Nov. 11, 1918, the Great War ended. For England, the 2.5 million dead or injured was not the only loss. Gone were Victorian certainties and the confidence of an empire. The millions of war veterans who returned faced a society struggling with unemployment, disability and sorrow. In "The Great Silence" Juliet Nicolson covers this tender WWI aftermath through personal stories that reveal a nation that was both traumatized and resilient. The story begins with the English tendency for "carrying on" - repressing emotional suffering as the soldiers came home. Some found diversion in drugs, others in entertainment.
(nwsource.com)

White Feather Campaign: How women branded civilian men as cowards who were not real men
The First World War trench warfare of the battlefield tore young Englishmen apart. But it wasn't only on the Front that the men faced a fight that threatened them. Those men left at home faced a merciless assault on their masculinity. The White Feather Campaign began with the creation of the white feather as a symbol of cowardice and unfulfilled civic duty. With the war effort and the recruitment campaign in full swing, the women of the White Feather would present any healthy young Englishman in civilian dress with this token: Upon receipt of a white feather, these men were being told that they weren't "real men".
(studentpulse.com)

A boy aged 12, who fought at the Battle of the Somme, is youngest British World War I soldier
The child, too short to see over the edge of a trench, was recalled by another under-age WW1 soldier, George Maher, who was only 13 when he was sent to the Somme. Maher had told a recruiting officer that he was 18 to join the 2nd King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in 1917. But his true age was revealed when he broke down and started to cry under shellfire. Maher recalled: "I was locked up on a train under guard, one of 5 under-age boys caught serving on the front being sent back to England. The youngest was 12yo. A little nuggety bloke he was, too. We joked that the other soldiers would have had to have lifted him up to see over the trenches."
(telegraph.co.uk)

Britain's last surviving World War I veteran Claude Choules says war was boring
Claude Choules, Britain's last surviving WWI veteran, described the war as boring. When told that he had become the last living British soldier to serve during the Great War after the death of Harry Patch, Choules brushed off the achievement: "Everything comes to those who wait and wait." His daughter Anne Pow says her father often told her that war was mostly very tedious punctuated by moments of extreme danger. Mr Choules served with the Royal Navy after joining the HMS Impregnable in 1916. During a 41-year career that included both wars, he served on HMS Revenge, witnessing the surrender of the German Imperial Navy in 1918 and the sinking of the fleet in Scapa Flow.
(telegraph.co.uk)

British servant murdered by the Bolsheviks alongside last tsar has his name cleared
He had devoted his life to serving his master, and even in the face of certain death that loyalty never wavered. Yet for 90 years, Brian Johnson, killed by Bolsheviks in Russia, was labeled an "enemy of the people". As valet to Michael Romanov, brother of Tsar Nicholas II, Johnson had known he faced execution as the 300-year-old dynasty was wiped out in 1917. Michael asked his servant to escape to Britain, but Johnson refused. On June 12, 1918, both were shot by a mob. As Johnson lay dying, the wounded Michael went to his aid, begging the execution squad: "Let me say goodbye to my friend." Soon, he too was dead. Now the Kremlin has rehabilitated Johnson and the members of the Imperial Family.
(dailymail.co.uk)

Famous 1914-1918 by Richard Van Emden and Vic Piuk [book review]
Journalist Victor Piuk has wrote a book recounting the tales of some of the Britain's most famous men who fought in World War 1. He has joined forces with documentary maker Richard Van Emden to pen 'Famous 1914-1918'. The book features stories through the eyes of 21 different men, like JRR Tolkien who led soldiers over the top at the Somme and CS Lewis' battles which saw him injured and sent home. Other anecdotes feature AA Milne, Alexander Fleming and Winston Churchill. Mass murderer John Christie also earns a mention: He strangled 7 women at his home and used his experience in the Great War in his defence when brought to trial.
(holdthefrontpage.co.uk)

A young Edward VIII echoed Prince Harry's frustration at not seeing wartime action
Prince Harry was not the first member of the Royal family who felt disappointed when prevented from seeing wartime action. A letter written by future King of England Edward VIII during World War One (uncovered for the first time) echoes the letdown shown by the modern prince at not being allowed on the front line. It was written from the British Army HQ at St Omer in France during March 1915 and gives an insight into the mind of the young Prince of Wales: "...mine is a most rotten position in wartime. I hold commissions in both services and yet I'm not allowed to fight... I long to be taking my chance in the trenches."
(dailymail.co.uk)

Churchill's tender letter to Clementine to be opened if he was killed on the Western Front
It was the summer of 1915 and Winston Churchill's political dreams were in shreds ater he supported the failed Gallipoli campaign. Out of government but still keen to serve his country, he volunteered for the Western Front and he wrote a letter to be opened in the event of his death. Given the chances of surviving the bloody Flanders fields, Churchill could have been forgiven for a pessimistic tone. Instead, he celebrated the love he felt for Clementine: "You have taught me how noble a woman's heart can be." He was also dismissive of his own mortality: "Do not grieve for me too much... death is only an incident, and not the most important..."
(dailymail.co.uk)

Dad's Army star Arnold Ridley was bayoneted by a German soldier in WWI
As "Private Godfrey" in Dad's Army, he was the least threatening of Walmington-on-Sea's Home Guard. In reality, actor Arnold Ridley went through hand-to-hand fighting in World War I trenches. Research into his WWI service has shown that he went "over the top" twice during the Battle of the Somme. On the second occasion, his unit was blocked by a German trench that was not marked on map. With many of his comrades cut down by machine guns, Ridley and the other survivors made their way along the dugout using bayonets and grenades. During the fighting, a German soldier lunged at him with a bayonet, but he deflected the blade into his groin rather than his stomach.
(telegraph.co.uk)

Medal campaign for Walter Tull, the first black infantry officer in the British Army
MP Brian Binley has begun campaigning for the Military Cross to be granted to Walter Tull, the first black infantry officer in the British Army, who was brought up in dispatches for "gallantry and coolness" on the Italian Front. He died in action in 1918, but because his family was from outside Britain, he was not entitled to a military medal. The motion calls to correct this "sizeable injustice by posthumously awarding him the Military Cross for his gallantry". Tull had played for Tottenham Hotspur where he was the first black player in football's top circles.
(bbc.co.uk)

Henry Allingham - WW1 veteran and Britain's oldest man
Henry Allingham, Britain's oldest man at 112, has joked that his secret to longevity is "cigarettes, whisky and wild women". He did not have the easiest start in life: His father died from tuberculosis in 1898, when he was 18 months old. When he was 19, his mother died. The teenager then enlisted with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as a skilled mechanic and a year later, in 1916, he was involved in the greatest WWI naval battle, the Battle of Jutland. A year before the end of the war, he was sent to France to support the Royal Flying Corps, and helped service and rescue aircraft crashed behind the trenches.
(bbc)

Operation Kronstadt by Harry Ferguson - Mission of 2 Victoria Crosses
The mission began as the most hazardous rescue operation in the history of British Intelligence - and ended in a successful Royal Navy raid on the most heavily defended fortress in Western Europe. "Their cool, disciplined, daredevil gallantry turned what the outside world would have called a forlorn hope into a legitimate operation which met with far greater success than I had ever hoped," said Admiral Walter Cowan about the men of the Coastal Motor Boats who assaulted the Soviet Fleet in the Gulf of Finland on August 18, 1919 - two Victoria Crosses were granted for the action.
(dailymail)

Tragedy of 4 sons lost to the Great War
The tragic story of a Croydon family who lost 4 of their sons during a 2-and-a-half year period in the Great War has been disclosed by local historian Brian Roote. The tale echoes the film Saving Private Ryan. Albert, Stephen, Charles and Frank - the sons of Elijah and Mary Ann French - are all on Croydon's Roll of Honour after dying in combat. "The first one to be killed was Albert who volunteered to join the Canadian Infantry Central Ontario Division. He was killed on April 10, 1916... The next brother to die was Charles Ernest, of the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment 7 Battalion. He died on February 27, 1917, at Arras."
(croydonguardian)

Brothers at war: The WW1 soldier and the pacifist... who was the hero?
One marched his soldiers towards the German guns in the bloodshed that was the Somme. The other refused to fight and was doomed to death as a traitor. Now book "We Will Not Fight" by Will Ellsworth-Jones asks... which was the braver brother? --- Second Lieutenant Philip Brocklesby was desperate to see his older brother. "I sat on a grass hummock and waited. Then some 40 men came marching up the hill and I saw Bert... I shall never forget how his face lit up when he saw me." There was a distressing slant to this reunion: Bert was not a fellow soldier, a brother-in-arms, but a prisoner under escort, and about to be sentenced to die.
(dailymail)

Winston's Little Army - 10,000 naval servicemen on the Western Front
The exploits of legendary fighting force "Winston's Little Army" are published online, including the story of the youngest officer to die in the Great War. The war records of over 10,000 naval servicemen who fought on the Western Front in the Royal Naval Division are online for the first time. Founded in 1914 by Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, it was formed from the surplus of men unable to get a place aboard warships. The files document the date and cause of death of 10,200 men who fell 1914-1918, over 1,000 of them on April 28 1917 during the fight for Gavrelle windmill in the battle of Arras - the bloodiest day in the history of the Royal Marines.
(telegraph.co.uk)

3 brothers who died in one day of the first world war
It was a tragedy that shows the sacrifice of the Great War. Three brothers, in different regiments, all killed on the same day in one of the WWI's bloodiest battles. James, Matthew and Robert Mochrie died separately, on the opening day of the Battle of Loos on 25 Sept., 1915. A fourth brother Andrew survived but died in battle a year later. The story of the Mochrie brothers has now been disclosed by local historian Kevin O'Neill. "The memorial... only mentions the names and regiments... when I cross-referenced the names with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and researched their families, I discovered the tragedy of the Mochrie brothers."
(scotsman)

Churchill's old war office may be sold off for £35m
The building where Churchill once worked and where Lord Kitchener led Great Britain's World War I campaign could soon be for sale for £35m. The new owners of the Old War Office building would get 1,000 rooms, as well as more than 2 miles of corridors and various secret tunnels. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is under pressure from the Treasury to raise money by selling the neo-Baroque building, which houses the Defence Intelligence Staff. T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) also held an office in the building in 1914, drawing on his travels in the Middle East to compile maps of the region.
(independent.co.uk)

William Stone served in both world wars: Dunkirk was the worst
William Stone is, 107, one of only two ex-servicemen in Britain to have served in both world wars. In 2004 he was presented with the National Veterans' Badge. "I joined the Navy on my birthday, 23 September 1918. The war was still on and I served from 1918 to 1945. My first ship was the Battle Cruiser H.M.S. Tiger. I joined her as a Stoker." Ordinary Seaman Stone was still training when the Great War ended. By the time of World War II, he was Chief Stoker Stone on the minesweeper Salamander. "Dunkirk was the worst part of my life. One of our sister ships, Skipjack, was bombed, and 200 soldiers and all crew were killed."
(bbc)

Surviving British World War I Veterans
Harry Patch was called up in 1917 and he fought at the battle of Passchendaele. "If any man tells you he went into the front line and wasn't scared, he's a liar." --- Claude Choules served in the Royal Navy. The Germans inflicted significant damage on the British fleet, notably at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, the largest clash of big-gun battleships of all time. In 1918 he witnessed the surrender of Germany's imperial Navy on HMS Revenge. --- William Stone and Syd Lucas both ended up in the Navy in 1918 - and they served in both world wars. --- Henry Allingham is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in 1916, before joining the Royal Flying Corps.
(bbc)

One of the most heroic one-man stands in the history of British warfare
Knee-deep in mud and surrounded by putrefying bodies, a British soldier gripped his bayonet and looked into the dense fog, preparing for the next assault. It came almost immediately: fuzzy grey shapes charging for his trench, accompanied by the rattle of machine guns. The situation was hopeless. Every other British position in the area had been abandoned. But single-handedly Lance Corporal John Sayer stood firm, determined to derail the German attack. Now new documents have come to light which prove that he not only staged one of the most heroic one-man stands in the history of British warfare, he may have helped change the course of the Great War.
(dailymail.co.uk)

A life-sized portrait of Harry Patch: The last living British trench soldier
A life-sized portrait of the last living British soldier to have fought in the trenches of the Grea War has been commissioned by the Western Daily Press. Harry Patch, 109, was called up in October 1916, to serve as a private in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, serving in a Lewis gun team, and was wounded by shrapnel from a shell which killed his 3 friends in September 1917. His memoirs of life, The Last Fighting Tommy, were published in August 2007. The portrait will be displayed in the Great Hall of the Somerset County Museum in Taunton in the run-up to Remembrance Day.
(holdthefrontpage)

End Remembrance Day Parade red tape, urges WWI vet Harry Patch
Harry Patch. the only surviving British veteran of World War 1 trenches, called on councils and police to reduce the bureaucracy that is threatening the future of Remembrance Day parades. "I will be going to a Remembrance service on Nov 11 this year, but I think there will be less of them if people are continually tied down by red tape," said the 109-year-old former soldier. Servicemen, veterans' organisations and military historians have now joined the campaign to allow parades to go ahead with fewer bureaucratic troubles.
(telegraph)

WWI hero who was jailed for trying to start a revolt
The latest declassified files include the case of Colonel Cecil John L`Es-trange Malone, an MP who fought with distinction in the Great War but then became a rabid communist and was sent to prison for 6 months for making a seditious speech in the Albert Hall. Addressing 9,000 people in 1920, he called on the workers to string up members of the Government or put them in front of a firing squad. A search of his flat revealed a pamphlet which called for a revolutionary uprising against the capitalist classes.
(timesonline)

The Last Fighting Tommy - War Memories of Harry Patch
The last surviving british soldier of the Great War, Harry Patch, has recorded his memories of the conflict in a book. Co-written by Richard Van Emden, the book recounts Patch's experiences in the trenches. He was forced to abandon his plan to become a plumber when he was conscripted as a machine gunner in the Duke of Cornwell's Light Infantry. At 19 he took part in the battle of Passchendaele, losing 3 friends, and was injured by an exploding shell. Heavy rain fell during the opening assault, which resulted in clinging mud that caked uniforms and clogged up rifles. The mud became so deep that, in places, men and horses sunk beneath the surface.
(forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl)

Harry Patch: the only living British soldier who fought in WWI trenches
Harry Patch remembers floundering in the mud of Ypres, sipping his rum ration from his mess tin lid to stop his teeth chattering, drinking petrol-flavoured water, carried up the line in fuel cans, and having no bath for 4 months before shrapnel wounds ended his ordeal. As he writes, in his autobiography "The Last Fighting Tommy": "It was absolutely sickening to see your own dead and wounded, some calling for stretcher-bearers, some beyond help. Or blown to pieces. Or trampled upon as they sank, screaming, into the mud." His faith in the Church was shattered, and he says that these days Armistice Day is just showbusiness.
(dailymail)

Last survivor Harry Patch re-lives the horrors of Passchendaele
You have to strain to hear Harry Patch - the last surviving Tommy from the World War I trenches is growing frail. But his mind is as sharp today as it was 90 years ago when he was ordered over the top at the Third Battle of Ypres - known as Passchendaele, it has become a byword for senseless slaughter. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig launched "Flanders Offensive" to relieve French troops in the south and stop the Germans deploying U-Boats from the Belgian ports. Objective soon shrank to the pointless task of taking the ruined Passchendaele. It was impossible not to be moved as Harry surveyed the landscape, his eyes misting over at the memories of 1917...
(dailymail.co.uk)

9 decades ago Royal Family dropped the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
90 years ago, Royal Family decided to change its name, backed into a corner by a public increasingly hysterical about the enemy within. On 18 July 1917 a royal proclamation introduced the name Windsor and dropped "all German titles and dignities". Since the marriage of Victoria, the last of the Hanovers, to Prince Albert, Britain's royal family had been "of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha", or Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In a time of brutal WWI with Germany, a more German family name would be hard to find. After 3 years of World War I, anti-German feeling had neared fever pitch, fuelled by wild tales of alleged German atrocities.
(bbc)

Britain: 2 of last 3 WWI vets met Queen at a Buckingham garden party
Two of Britain's last three surviving First World War veterans have met the Queen at a Buckingham Palace garden party. Henry Allingham is a Royal Navy veteran who saw action at Ypres and the Somme - and who at 111 is the UK's oldest man. He was joined by Bill Stone, 106, the last known ex-serviceman, living in Britain, to have served in both world wars. Two great-great grandsons of soldiers who died in the WWI Battle of Passchendaele also greeted the Queen.
(bbc)

Harry Patch: the last fighting Tommy of Passchendaele, World War I
Harry Patch is the last fighting Tommy of WW1. He alone will preserve the living memory of the Battle of Passchendaele on its 90th anniversary. Next week Patch will meet his sole surviving British-based comrades from the First World War: Henry Allingham who served in the RAF, and Bill Stone formerly of the Royal Navy. They will have an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Two days later, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will travel to Belgium to commemorate Passchendaele, a name synonymous with the mud and carnage of the Great War. The veterans are too frail to travel so soon after visiting London, but hope to make the pilgrimage this summer.
(guardian)

The last surviving British vet of WWI trenches celebrating 109th birthday
Harry Patch served with the Duke of Cornwall's light infantry and saw action in the bloody Battle of Passchendaele, where more than 70,000 soldiers died in 3 months in 1917. Heavy rain coincided with the opening assault producing thick, clinging mud. Sharing his experience of the battle, he said: "It was mud, mud and more mud mixed together with blood." During the fighting Patch was badly wounded and 3 of his best friends were killed when a shell exploded nearby. "My remembrance day is on 22 September when I lost three mates."
(bbc)

Life and times of Britain's oldest man Henry Allingham
June 6 1896: Henry William Allingham is born in Clapton, east London. 1915: Following the death of his mother, he enlists with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as a skilled mechanic and bodybuilder. 1916: Allingham is posted to RNAS at Great Yarmouth and joined HMT Kingfisher which was involved in the greatest naval battle of the Great War, the Battle of Jutland. 1917: He is posted to France to support the Royal Flying Corps, and joined No 12 Squadron of the RNAS to service and rescue aircraft that crashed behind the trenches. 2003: He receives France's highest military honour, the Legion D'Honneur.
(dailymail)

Statue campaign for the first black British combat officer Walter Tull
Campaigners are calling for a statue to be erected on the White Cliffs of Dover in honour of one of Kent's pioneering inhabitants Walter Tull, who was killed on the Western Front in World War One in 1918. He was the first black person to be made a British combat officer in 1917. Campaigners want the statue to be erected on the cliffs because of its significance to soldiers returning from the battlefields in Europe.
(bbc)

German son who fought for England and anti-German emotion
When the call up to go to war came in 1914, George Haffner had no hesitation in reporting for duty to serve King and Country. He served was wounded 3 times, and awarded both the Military Medal and the Belgium Croix de Guerre. His story mirrors that of countless soldiers, but with one distinct difference, his father was German. His story is being told in an exhibition, which features his army uniform and possessions. He became the target of a wave of anti-German emotion which swept the country at the outbreak of the war. It got so bad that even the King, George IV, had to change his surname from Saxe-Coburg Gotha to Windsor.
(burnleycitizen)

A bravery medal after volunteering to fight the Red Army in Russia
Stuart Davies knew his father's father served in World War I but not that he signed for more action after the 1917 revolution. But the papers with Arthur Davies' 1920 Military Medal were stolen. He now wants to discover exactly why he received the medal: "We know that it was for bravery in the field." Local authority's chief executive Ian Miller is an amateur military historian and recognised one medal as from the Archangel campaign, when Britain sent troops to the anti-Bolshevik "white" forces in Russia. "He transferred to the Royal Fusiliers, which ... was a battalion which had served in the Russian campaign in 1919. Some refused to go. He volunteered."
(bbc)

"King Anthony" claimed throne from George V
Police inspector Anthony Hall claimed to be related to King Henry VIII threatened to behead the reigning monarch and take his place on the throne in the 1930s, according to secret files. He wrote a letter to the king: "You have no connection with the British royal family. You are an outsider. Therefore, leave this country." George V, who changed his Germanic surname Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor during World War One, was a "pure-blood German" who had no right to be king, Hall argued.
(financialexpress.com)

Indian soldiers of WW1 remembered in Germany
Until recently there was nothing to identify the quiet, leafy spot where Jafarullah Mohammad and Mata Din Singh were buried. The two servicemen were among thousands of Indian volunteers who fought for Britain in the first world war, and were captured at sea or on the western front. For more than 80 years the German graveyard where Mohammad, Singh and 204 other Indian volunteers are buried was forgotten. But today the war cemetery in Wünsdorf is to be officially reopened. The restoration is a recognition of the role played by troops from undivided India, who fought in the bloody battles of Ypres, Neuve Chapelle and Loos.
(guardian)

The most decorated serviceman in British military history
Liverpool is to have a permanent tribute to World War One hero Noel Chavasse, who won the Victoria Cross. The Oxford-born son of the Bishop of Liverpool become the most decorated serviceman in British military history, winning the VC twice. Captain Chavasse won his first VC in August 1916 when he took part in an attack on Guillemont. Almost 12 months later, during the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), he earned his second Victoria Cross. He died of his wounds on 3 August 1917.
(bbc)

The last British cavalryman to have ridden into battle on the Western Front
The last British cavalryman to have ridden into battle on the Western Front has died aged 108. Albert "Smiler" Marshall, who survived the brutal campaigns at Loos and the Somme, was one of only about a dozen remaining survivors of the First World War. Mr Marshall served with the Essex Yeomanry, and is thought to have been the last English cavalryman to have charged with a drawn sword.
(guardian)

British Generals frequently went close to the battle zone
Public perceptions of that war are still dominated by futile frontal attacks against machine guns in the mud of Flanders, of brave front-line troops who were sacrificed because of the ill-conceived plans of incompetent staff officers. The myth of the uncaring general - safely dining in his chateau while the front-line troops died - has proved durable. What is much less widely known is that 78 British and Dominion officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above died on active service in the WWI while a further 146 were wounded. These figures alone show that British Generals frequently went close enough to the battle zone to place themselves in considerable danger.
(bbc)


See also

'Victoria Cross (VC)'

'Gallipoli Campaign'

'First Tanks'

'Submarines, U-Boats'.