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The Great War
November 10, 2011 4:00 PM   Subscribe

It's the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month where I am right now, so I present to you Europeana, a project collecting memorabilia and stories from the period of the Great War (1914-1918).
posted by unliteral (30 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
awesome...
posted by MetaRoc at 4:22 PM on November 10, 2011


Pffft...

I can't believe you let the opportunity to post on the 11th second of the 11th minute of the 11 hour of the 11day of the 11th month of the 11 year (phew), pass you by...

And now that moment is gone.. forever.
posted by Skygazer at 4:28 PM on November 10, 2011


Had Germany won in 1918, would there have been a Nazi Germany? Discuss.
posted by Renoroc at 4:40 PM on November 10, 2011


It was a war which was not only merely good, but downright great!
posted by hippybear at 4:42 PM on November 10, 2011


"Had Germany won in 1918, would there have been a Nazi Germany? Discuss."

Had the Germans been forced to realise they'd lost in 1918 with Allied troops marching through Berlin the whole 'stabbed in the back' myth might never have taken root.

Had the French used their overwhelming army supremacy (100 infantry divisions!) to stop Hitler's re-occupation of the Rhineland in 1936, Hitler would have been removed and WWII - and the later Soviet occupation of eastern Europe - would never have happened.

Had the Germans won in 1918 then German imperialism would have dominated Europe from 1918 without an end in sight instead of just from 1939 - 1945.
posted by joannemullen at 4:59 PM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Every year, in countries across the world, people gather around war memorials, with poppies on their lapels, fall in thoughtful silence, and try not the think about how many people Douglas Haig killed.

Remembrance Day is an industry selling made–up history to people who don't want to admit that millions of people died for fuck all. My grandfather served in the Imperial War, and never once wore a poppy or marched in a parade. He could see it for the bullshit that it is.
posted by Jehan at 5:12 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Had the Germans won in 1918 then German imperialism would have dominated Europe from 1918 without an end in sight instead of just from 1939 - 1945.

Indeed. Germany was far stronger vis-a-vis France and Germany before the Great War than they were at the beginning of World War II.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:12 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doesn't Germany economically dominate continental Europe today though? Seems to me that things would have been roughly the same as now without a Holocaust ever taking place had the Kaiser won in 1918. They probably could have nipped Communism in the bud too with a German WWI victory.
posted by Renoroc at 5:21 PM on November 10, 2011


11 AM of 11/11/11, or as we programmers call it...255.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:22 PM on November 10, 2011


> Seems to me that things would have been roughly the same as now without a Holocaust ever taking place had the Kaiser won in 1918.

Well, don't forget about the creation of the state of Israel after WWII. It's really next to impossible to accurately say how events would be had things turned out differently.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:25 PM on November 10, 2011


Napoleon Bonaparte took the pegs out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, thus enabling the unification of the new German state, which quickly developed industrial and economic powers like England, but also wanted the real world-power-style empire which usually goes along with that stuff. So we could blame him, if we need to blame anyone. Which we don't.
posted by ovvl at 5:54 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Remembrance Day is an industry selling made–up history to people who don't want to admit that millions of people died for fuck all. My grandfather served in the Imperial War, and never once wore a poppy or marched in a parade. He could see it for the bullshit that it is."

No. The poppies sold in Britain raise money for the Royal British Legion which supports ex and injured soldiers and the families of soldiers killed or injured in all wars up to the present day. It is not "bullshit".
posted by joannemullen at 6:03 PM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


We have a fantastic old book (been in the family for years) by the Daily Mirror simply titled "The Great War" - has no prose, just four photographs per page spread each with a telling caption. "Gas" or "Food" on one memorable one is "This was a church", "This was a town", "This was a forest", "This was a man". Googling fails me, but amazing book.
posted by the noob at 6:41 PM on November 10, 2011


Happy Independence Day, Poland!
posted by LiteOpera at 7:38 PM on November 10, 2011


[some comments deleted; fewer random jokes and a little more rtfa, maybe?]
posted by taz at 12:36 AM on November 11, 2011


Rememberance day may collect money for good causes, but it's sentimental bullshit. I hate being made to feel that I'm a bad person for not wearing a poppy. Its an excuse for people to demonstrate how good they are and how bad non-poppy or white-poppy wearers are.

Personally, I'm for any charity giving I do to be anonymous. I believe the government should pay for its wounded. It pisses me off that radical Muslims have been banned from burning poppies.

Its slowly getting to the point where people are judged for not wearing the poppy, and this sentiment goes against everything I believe.
posted by seanyboy at 1:00 AM on November 11, 2011


Your not a bad person for not wearing a poppy, but calling other people's sorrow "sentimental bullshit" seems a bit uncool. I'll grant that since "we" went to war again this decade, the popular sentiment for Rememberance Day, and to an even greater extent here Anzac Day, have become much more "support our troops" and not enough "remember the dead" for my liking. But I think that only puts the onus even more squarely on those of us who'd rather things be different to treat these days with the solemnity befitting 20 million dead. Otherwise... well, we will indeed have forgotten. And there's quite enough of that these days already... :(
posted by adamt at 4:33 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not calling people's sorrow "sentimental bullshit", and I apologise if this is how the comment reads.

The day itself is surrounded by sentimental bullshit, and is (to my tastes) overly sentimental and full of bullshit. Maybe the 36+ hours of news coverage showing old war footage and interviews with old soldiers does accurately reflect how people want to remember past and present wars, but for me - it's all a bit tacky.

Add to that the sheer discrepancy between how most people feel about today and they're told how to feel.

If you lost someone, or this is an important event for you, then fine. But (to strain an analogy), just because you got engaged on Valentines Day doesn't mean the day itself isn't celebrated societally in a vulgar way.
posted by seanyboy at 5:30 AM on November 11, 2011


I don't know if anyone has looked at the actual post link, but it's really good, and a pretty nice way to approach the memory aspect of Remembrance Day.
posted by taz at 5:40 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


sorry taz.
posted by seanyboy at 5:42 AM on November 11, 2011


Guys I think taz wants us to read the article!
posted by Aizkolari at 5:55 AM on November 11, 2011


Had the French used their overwhelming army supremacy (100 infantry divisions!)

123 divisions -- but 13 of the were fortress divisions, manning the Maginot line, 5 of them were cavalry -- basically useless, and 22 were in reserve.

The big problem. Of all those divisions, exactly 6 were armored, and 9 were motorized infantry (that is, truck borne, not APC borne, but still mobile.) 3 of the armored and 2 of the motorized were the reserve, along with 17 infantry. Very few could move quickly, and most of the ones that could were in deep reserve, too far away from the front to quickly enter battle.

There are a few reasons the Germans were able to take France so quickly.

Reason one that the Germans won was that they made sure not to fight all of those divisions at once. With three panzer corps, two organized into an army-level command, they chose where the battle happened. The fundamental strategy of Germany was to use massed armor and mech infantry to punch through, then use foot infantry to hold the gap while the armor and mech infantry exploited the breakthrough. Basically, the global numbers didn't matter, the Germans made sure that, when they were attacking, they had at least a 3-1 advantage in the area of battle.

Reason two was that the Germans had, for the first time, truly brought combined arms -- Armor, Infantry, Artillery and Air Support -- to the battlefield. The Luftwaffe was a huge factor in the speed of the German Advance, and the Armée de l'Air was simply incapable of stopping the vastly larger and better equipped Luftwaffe.

Reason three was that, despite the French having better tanks, the German tanks and infantry battalions all had radios, which meant that Germany could react much faster to the battle than the French, which was another component of the combined arms strategy.

Reason four was the French command turning out to be basically incompetent, and the German s were very competent. In particular, there were two German commanders (the commanders of XIX Armeekorps and of the 7.Panzerdivision) who ignored orders from OKW because they saw the situation was different than OKW thought it was. The end result was the breakout of the Meuse Bridgeheads and the collapse of the northern front. At this point, the British Expeditionary Force knew France was lost, and started arguing for a fallback. Oh, those commanders names? Guderian and Rommel.

Finally, though, reason five -- the big reason. Germany earmarked 135 divisions for the offense, and used 141. When you count Belgium, the Netherlands, and the BEF, there were about 144 allied divisions on the field -- and while the Allies had a third more tanks and twice the artillery that the germans had, but the Germans had basically the same number of troops -- both sides used about 3.3 million men in the battle.

The allies didn't have an overwhelming supremacy of anything. Where they did, it usually involved more numbers, but worse gear. The one exception was the French tanks, which were better pretty much in every way, but were used solely as mobile forts and infantry support, and the Germans had designed their attack to neutralize static fortifications.

The best way to have beat back the Germans was to fight blitzkrieg with blitzkrieg. Once Germany was well invested into the low countries, have the French 3rd and 4th army attack north, aiming at the Ruhr Valley, counting on the Maginot Line to hold off a second front, and having the French 2nd and 1st Army, and the BEF, slowly withdraw as needed to blunt the attack as the counterattack went for the encirclement. Get to the Ruhr, and the Germans on the front lines lose supply -- no gas, no bullets means you become useless.* The Germans would have to turn around to regain control of supply lines.

However, this sort of attack was basically inconceivable to the French command, which was still very scarred from WWI, and very much believed that attacking was just a great way to waste men. France, for all intents, lost a generation of young men in WWI, and they vividly remembered the trenches. Attacking them was foolish. So, they held the lines they had. The Germans vividly remembered the trenches as well, and spent years working out ways to punch through. They worked. France fell.

So, there were a number of reasons for the stunning German victory in 1940 France. But in terms of troops? Basically, the same. It's not the size of the army, it's how you use it and what you give it to fight with.



* The old saw about military studies applies here. Amateurs study tactics, smart amateurs study strategy, but professionals? They study logistics. An army used to fight on its stomach, it now fights on its trucks -- which bring it food, fuel and ammunition.

Without supply, you rapidly lose battle effectiveness. One of the reasons the US Army became the dominant force in Western Europe was that, by and large, US troops always had access to food, fuel and ammo. You could argue that Germany's and Britain's infantry were better, and certainly, their tanks were, and for a large part of the war, so were their planes. But, with very few exceptions,** the US Army -- and thus, for the most part, the Allied Armies in Europe, always had fuel for the tanks and trunks, bullets for the guns, and food for the bellies.

We built something like 40 carriers during WWII, but we built over 2700 Liberty Ships alone, never mind all the other cargo carriers. Supply is *everything* in war.

** Things like Bradley halting 3rd Army because he couldn't get fuel up, 101st Airborne at Bastogne, etc.

posted by eriko at 7:08 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Remembrance Day is an industry selling made–up history to people who don't want to admit that millions of people died for fuck all.

Admittedly this is from a foreign perspective influenced by things like watching Blackadder Goes Forth and reading Wilfred Owen, but I've always thought that Remembrance Day is precisely for thinking about how millions of people died for fuck all. Is that not the actual common feeling?
posted by kmz at 8:44 AM on November 11, 2011


"Rememberance day may collect money for good causes, but it's sentimental bullshit....

"It pisses me off that radical Muslims have been banned from burning poppies.

"Its slowly getting to the point where people are judged for not wearing the poppy, and this sentiment goes against everything I believe."


posted by seanyboy

I work in an old peoples home, we observed the silence in the lounge. Perhaps you would like to pop down and tell the old boys and girls how shite rememberance day is? I looked round and nearly cried as i realised that these guys were there in WWII, their friends were gunned down and killed, their friends houses bombed.

Maybe while you are there you can tell them how wonderful it would be if Muslims were allowed to burn poppies, something they can only do due to the sacrifices of others, not just in the wars, but in the period after, the dark and cold winters of 46/47, the austerity of the late 40s and early 50s.

People burning poppies are people who hate the UK. OK, well leave then, idiot.
posted by marienbad at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It has become a militaristic anniversary, with stronger patriotism and jingoism, and far less of a reflection on war itself. Wearing a poppy is almost expected, and protests against the commemorations banned. When newsreaders or television presenters don't wear one, people write in to complain and force them to adopt the practice.

It's part of a new wave of militarism in the UK, along with "Help for Heroes" and "The Military Covenant", praising the actions of soldiers who have "served" as some important military class rather than approaching war critically. It spills into everyday life in some places, such as in my local library where more than half of the history books are about WW1 and WW2. You can buy cooked meat that donates its profits to "heroes". The "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster is endlessly copied to invoke some kind of wartime spirit. Adverts for the Royal British Legion use WW1 imagery to portray "heroic" soldiers. The Prime Minister involves himself in nagging the FA to allow English footballers to wear the poppy. The education minister suggests that ex–soldiers should be fast–tracked into becoming teachers, as the have "the right qualities" to teach. It is even suggested that ordinary schools could be taken over by the military and run as uniformed cadet schools. Crowds turn out when bodies come home from Iraq or Afghanistan, draped in the flag, as though they died for something.

It seems the further this country slides into irrelevance, the more we hang onto some mythic glorious past of military victories. We're not many years from the end of the union here, with Scotland coming close to independence in the next decade. I expect things will reach a fever pitch at that point, and afterwards we'll be left looking increasingly stupid and outdated.

On preview, I think my point is proven.
posted by Jehan at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey Jehan. There's quite a bit of that jingoistic nonsense here as well, but my sense is that it's reached a high-water mark. It's important to make a distinction between those thinking in terms of WWII or WWI and the post-911 stuff, which I think is different in nature, even if superficially it seems like part and parcel of the militarism of those other celebrations.

And there was news footage here of James Murdoch being grilled by Parliament and everyone was wearing green and red flowers on their lapels without fail, and I take it those were poppies?
posted by Skygazer at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2011


There's quite a bit of that jingoistic nonsense here as well, but my sense is that it's reached a high-water mark. It's important to make a distinction between those thinking in terms of WWII or WWI and the post-911 stuff, which I think is different in nature, even if superficially it seems like part and parcel of the militarism of those other celebrations.

That's probably true, and it would be wrong of me to count everybody wearing a poppy as part of the militaristic culture. I am sometimes (well, often) too quick to over generalize. My apologies.

And there was news footage here of James Murdoch being grilled by Parliament and everyone was wearing green and red flowers on their lapels without fail, and I take it those were poppies?

Yes, they are poppies. And you can bet your house that if he hadn't have been wearing one, somebody would have commented negatively on the fact.
posted by Jehan at 10:23 AM on November 11, 2011


Thanks for making this post. 11-11-11 looks like a nifty date, but it has a sad history. The reason Veteran's Day in the United States, Remembrance Day (a.k.a. Poppy Day, Armistice Day) in British Commonwealth countries, Armistice Day in New Zealand, France and Belgium, and Independence Day in Poland are on November 11 is that the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.

The Great War was tragedy on a massive scale. Casualties were very high, from both fighting and disease, including the Great Influenza, which was spread by the increased travel of military around the world, as well as the harsh conditions of war, and the lack of good nutrition. The Great War featured trench warfare, the 1st use of flamethrowers, poison gas, zeppelins, bombers, and just plain slaughter. There was active war resistance, even among active duty officers. The consequence of WWI was WWII.

The literature of the 1st World War is some of the saddest, most poignant work I have ever read. I strongly recommend Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy. Also, great films that will break your heart.

Maybe poppies have become so standard that they’ve lost meaning, but this is why people wear them:
In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders field
- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army
posted by theora55 at 10:28 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


And there was news footage here of James Murdoch being grilled by Parliament and everyone was wearing green and red flowers on their lapels without fail, and I take it those were poppies?

Yes. Being on UK TV at this time of year and not wearing a poppy gets much the same press reaction as if you were to idly strangle a kitten while you are presenting the news.
posted by reynir at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for trying taz. Disappointing thread.
posted by unliteral at 8:33 PM on November 11, 2011


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