On this day one hundred years ago, Imperial German soldiers who had peacefully arrived in the Belgian city of Leuven (Fr: Louvain), having taken hostages and accepted the parole of its mayor on behalf of its citizens, without warning set fire to the city and massacred its inhabitants forever altering the city, its university's library, and the course of the war.
Belgian Judicial Report on the Sacking of Louvain in August 1914 The destruction and rebuilding of the Louvain Library: claim and counterclaim
First world war – a century on, time to hail the peacemakers "On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, we should remember those who tried to stop a catastrophe" [more inside]
"The Wall Street Journal has selected 100 legacies from World War I that continue to shape our lives today." You can sort according to your interest via the tabs at the top of the page. [Previously]
The BBC will be covering World War One in great detail over the next four years. They've already started, with podcasts, interactive guides, online courses, programs new and old plus much, much more. Perhaps it's best to start at the beginning, with Professor Margaret MacMillan's Countdown to World War One (podcast link) or the account of her fellow historian Christopher Clark, Month of Madness. Of course, how the war started is still contested by historians, as recounted in The Great War of Words. The latter two are also part of the main WWI podcast. Or you can dive into the Music and Culture section, go through an A-Z guide or look at comics drawn by modern cartoonists.
Operation War Diary is the newest crowdsourced science effort from Zooniverse, cataloging WWI British soldiers' war diaries from the Western Front. Participants can help tag dates, locations, people, and events from 1.5 million pages of war diaries from the Western Front. Entries range from the uneventful (October 24 | PONT DU HEM | 5:30 am | Occupied same position. Did not fire all day) to the eventful (A & B cleared the village and the regiment eventually captured the convoy in the wood about a mile on after it had been headed back by a returning movement of 12th Lancers. In all 200 prisoners). [more inside]
"It’s not often that one finds buried treasure, but that’s exactly what happened in Wayland High School’s History Building as we prepared to move to a new campus. Amidst the dusty collection of maps featuring the defunct USSR, decades-old textbooks describing how Negroes are seeking equality, and film strips pieced together with brittle scotch tape, was a gray plastic Samsonite briefcase, circa 1975."
The Letter Repository contains hundreds of personal letters from the early 18th Century through the Second World War. A large portion of the letters are from periods of conflict, the largest chunk being from World War Two, though there are also sizable numbers from the First World War and the American Civil War. There are also quite a few love letters. You can both see scans of the letters (and photographs or other materials) as well as transcriptions, which you can edit should you spot errors. One of my favorite collection of correspondance is the one between a Herbert Beyer, who served in the Air Force in World War Two, his darling Cleo and his parents.
The Great War Archive goes live today (November 11), the 90th anniversary of the Armistice. Launched by the University of Oxford in March 2008, the initiative invited members of the general public to submit digital photographs, audio, film, documents, and stories that originated from the Great War. Although the dealine for submissions is past, photos can still be added to the project's Flickr group.
Voices and Music of World War I and Voices of World War II: Experiences From the Front and at Home both feature spoken word, sheet music and songs galore (all audio RealPlayer). The Great War site has plenty of stuff, but the core is the collection of songs, anti-war, patriotic, France-themed, Kaiser-knocking and so forth. The WWII site also has a whole bunch of music, demonstrating the changing mood of the US, from conflicted feelings about the start of the war to conflicted feelings about the atomic bomb. Among the artists are Nat King Cole, Leadbelly, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. But in addition the wonderful songs there are newscasts, speeches, propaganda and other radio broadcasting of all kinds.
Gallipoli is one of the most famous battles of World War I. Fought in on a Turkish peninsula in 1915 it was, like most Great War battles, a huge waste of life and largely fruitless. Jul Snelder's site has a wealth of information, the causes, history and aftermath of Gallipoli, the slang of the ANZAC forces, placenames in both English and Turkish, interesting little factoids, how Allied troops used subterfuge to hide their evacuation, the Turkish perspective, pictures of the battlesite today juxtaposed with old photographs, a mini-travel guide to Gallipoli and much more. One of the most famous units at Gallipoli was the Australian 12th Light Horse Regiment. To learn more about this type of unit, responsible for the "last successful great cavalry charge" two years after Gallipoli, I direct you to the excellent website of the Australian Light Horse Association, where you can learn anything you might reasonably want to know about the subject.
90 years ago today, whistles blew around the river Somme in France as British troops prepared for an attack on German trenches. By the end of the day they had suffered 57,470 casualties. By the battle's end in November, there were over 600,000 Allied casualties, with perhaps the same number of German casualties. The Imperial War Museum has launched an online exhibition, where you can find out more about how the battle was planned, personal stories of those involved, and myths about the attack. Elsewhere you can find copies of Army reports on the first day, look at film of the attack, diaries and letters home from the troops, go on tours of the trenches, listen to contemporary songs and music inspired by the battle, and see some more modern responses.