100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Archive for the category “Military”

The Battle Of Vauquois Hill

The Butte de Vauquois is the highest hill in the area west of the Argonne, France and offers an unobstructed view in all directions. In September 1914 the Germans occupied this hill and made it a fortress. The French have attacked the position repeatedly with little success.

On March 4, 1915 the French Army attacked the Butte de Vauquois with thousands of men several times. Since they lacked the strategic advantage of topographic height, they suffered enormous casualties, only capturing the southern side of the hill by the end of the day. The top, with its ruined village, is a no-man’s land.

The French plan is to build mine tunnels through the dry and stable bedrock towards the German lines. Soldiers from coal-mining areas will be employed to dig caverns underneath the German trenches. Once this Mining War starts, no doubt the Germans will respond with tunnels of her own.


Butte de Vauqouis

Butte de Vauqouis

German Submarine Fires On English Island

Walney Island is an island off the west coast of England. Walney is the largest island of the Furness Islands group, both in population and size, as well as the largest English island in the Irish Sea. Walney had a battery post since 1881 and in 1911 coastal defenses were constructed for the Lancashire and Cheshire Royal Garrison Artillery.

On January 29, 1915 at 2:15pm the German submarine ‘U21’ surfaced and opened fire on the ‘German designed’ airship sheds that had been constructed on the island. The rounds that they had discharged fell ‘well short’ of their intended target. The U21 had sunk the HMS Pathfinder in September 1914. It was the first time a ship had been sunk by a self-propelled torpedo.

Deck artillery of the German submarine U21

Torpedo being loaded onto the German submarine U21

Published January 29, 1915

The Western Mail was founded in Cardiff, Wales in 1869 as a penny daily paper. It is the most populat newspaper in Wales.

Two days ago, Kaiser Wilhem of Germany celebrated his 56th birthday. Since the beginning of the war in Europe, one of the Kaiser’s many honorific titles was ‘Supreme War Lord’. Here cartoonist for The Western Mail Joseph Morewood Staniforth changed the title to a more satirical ‘Great High War Lord’. It depicts the change in the Kaiser’s fortunes after releasing his army in 1914, represented by an enthusiastic dachshund. The dachshund has returned exhausted with decrepit army boot presented to his dismayed master inscribed with the recent defeats to Germany.

MAD WILHELM: Good dog! Go and fetch your Great High War Lord a splendid victory as a birthday present. MAD WILHELM: Mein Gott! Do you call this a splendid victory?

MAD WILHELM: Good dog! Go and fetch your Great High War Lord a splendid victory as a birthday present. MAD WILHELM: Mein Gott! Do you call this a splendid victory?

Canadian Motorcycle Troops Train In England

At the outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914, Canada had no regular military forces. Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault raised the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry named after the Duke of Connaught’s daughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught. The Duke of Connaught was Queen Victoria’s third and and the Governor General of Canada. It was the first Canadian infantry unit to enter the conflict, arriving in Europe in December 1914.


Motorcycles were developed in 1880-1890 with the first motorcycle company coming into existence in 1894. The motorcycle first saw military duty in 1913 with the US military in the borderland conflict between US forces and Mexican revolutionaries.

On January 28, 1915 Canadian Army dispatch riders prepare to set out on a training ride across Salisbury Plain in England on their Douglas 2.75 horse-power motorcycles. Their role as messengers is hoped to be invaluable.


US Ship Sunk By German Warship

Yesterday, the US merchant schooner William P. Frye was detained off the coast of Brazil by the German raiding ship Prinz Eitel Fredrich. The William P. Frye and its cargo of wheat for an English firm were headed for the United Kingdom. The captain of Prinz Eitel Fredrich gave orders to the American crew to dump all their cargo into the ocean.


On January 28, 1915 after working all night, the crew of the William P Frye had still not dumped all their cargo. So the captain of Prinz Eitel Fredrich ordered the US crew abaord his ship, set explosives and sank the William P Frye. This is a serious escalation of hostilities involving US ships aiding Britain.

Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Forced To Resign

Leopold Graf Berchtold von und zu Ungarschitz, Frättling und Püllütz
or Count Leopold Berchtold was born into a wealthy noble family. He studied law and joined the Austro-Hungarian foreign service in 1893. He married Countess Ferdinanda Károlyi, the daughter of one of the richest aristocrats in Hungary, in Budapest and their combined fortunes made him one of the wealthiest men in the empire. He served at the embassies in Paris (1894), London (1899) and St. Petersburg (1903). In 1906 he was named Ambassador to Russia.

In February 1912, Count Berchtold was appointed as his successor and thus became, at the age of 49, the youngest foreign minister in Europe. The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 had Austro-Hungary pursuing a hard-line policy and flirting with the idea of war against Serbia. It managed to prevent Serbia from securing an outlet to the Adriatic Sea by support given to the creation of Albania but Russian influence in the area remained strong among Balkan nationalists and supporters of Pan Slavism. Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in June 1914, Count Berchtold seized the opportunity to launch punitive action against Serbia and deal the country a mortal blow. After diplomacy failed, the Austro-Hungarian government made a decision to enter a state of war with Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Once the war commenced, Italy’s role was a questionable problem. The Italians wanted certain territorial concessions for their participation. The Austro-Hungarian government was dead set against any Italian demands and were ready to go to war with Italy over it. But Brechtold has learned that Italy has obtained vague promises of compensations in South Tyrol from Germany. Under this German pressure and wishing to avoid a two-front war on its borders, Berchtold sends out messages indicating that he was ready to cede the Trentino and parts of the Albanian coastline to Italy. When the ruling cabinent members of the Austro-Hungarian government find out, they are enraged.

On January 13, 1915 Austro-Hungarian Imperial Foreign Minister Count Brechtold has been forced to resign his post. He replacement has been named, Count Stephan Burián von Rajecz.

Imperial Foreign Minister of Austro-Hungary Count Berchtold - resigned

Imperial Foreign Minister of Austro-Hungary Count Berchtold – resigned

Russian Tank Proposal Approved

The idea of the tank came from earlier experiments with mechanized farming vehicles that could cross difficult land with ease by using caterpillar tracks. But the leading officers of the major armies of the world had been raised with cavalry, mounted horseman, playing a major role in battle. The first engagement between the British and Germans in 1914 had involved cavalry near Mons. Cavalry engagements fought in mud proved hampered with little effectiveness and proved costly, fatal and hopeless. It was soon realized that trench warfare had made the use of cavalry null and void. Still, senior military commanders were hostile to the use of armored vehicles as it would have required a change of traditional tactics they have all been steeped in.

When the war started in Russia in 1914, the Main Military-Technical Department submitted two projects for tracked armored vehicles designed by Russian inventor A.A.Porohovschikova.

On January 13, 1915, after a long delay, Porohovschikova’s proposal was approved and 9,660 rubles was allocated for the construction of all-terrain vehicle.


Russian tank design – 1914

Recorded January 8, 1915


Since the beginnings of the hostilities in Europe, America has taken a stand of neutrality and non-involvement. Various groups from different sides of the political spectrum such as labor unions, socialists, members of the Old Right, and pacifist groups publicly oppose participation in the war. Powerful leaders such as Andrew Carnige and Henry Ford financially have backed the Peace Movement. President Wilson promises to guarantee neutrality and keep the US out of the war. However the US is still shipping war goods to Britian and France – half the rifles in the British Army are American-made. Most of the steel used in the French armaments industry is American, along with half the French TNT. Still, the overwhelming majority of Americans wish to avoid this global conflict.

Alfred Bryan is a Canadian lyricist and arranger in New York and has written lyrics for many Broadway shows. Working with composer Al Piantodosi, he wrote an anti-war song in late 1914 – “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” subtitled “A Mother’s Plea for Peace.” It is told from the standpoint of a mother as she contemplated her dotage without the son who should have been there to support and succor her. It was recorded and published on January 8, 1915 by Morton Harvey, a popular vaudeville singer who was the first ever to record a blues song, the “Memphis Blues” by W.C. Handy which he recorded on October 2, 1914.


Wartime Diary Entry

Alphaeus Abbott Casey

Alphaeus Abbott Casey

Alphaeus Abbott Casey was born at Annesley Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire on January 1895, the son of Thomas and Annie Casey. He was a student of the University of Sheffield who joined the Sheffield City Battalion (12th Bn. York and Lancaster Regiment), which was formed in September 1914, partly at the behest of members of the University of Sheffield, Alphaeus kept a detailed diary which gives a rare insight into the training regime of a Pals battalion.


On January 6, 1915 Casey made this entry into his wartime diary:

Clear sky, sunshine. Felt stiff round belt. Sergeants’ Mess fatigue, paraded 7am

not time to perform toilet. Washed dirty supper pots 7-8.15.

Brekker:- sausage.

Returned 8.45, washed great no of pots, fetched 3 pans of coal and 1 coke, emptied 2 rubbish tins, scrubbed 2 tables, washed dirty glasses in sergeants’ canteen. Absolutely sick of work.

Dinner 12.45:- usual and figs (stewed). Very nice, savoury.

Played footer 1.15-1.45.

1.45-3.15 washed dinner pots. Thought would never finish. Scrubbed floors.

3.30 other 3 men went. I stayed to tea, went to canteen for provisions, helped butter and cut bread. Bardsley (picket) and I took guard sergeant tea.

6.10-6.30 tea, apricots and pineapple and cake. Enjoyed it. Very tired, slight headache, helped finish pots.

Finished work 6.45pm. Played Moses chess, lost. Several good games at solo-whist. Corporal asked for names of those applied for commission. Gave mine.”

Passport Issued to British Red Cross Worker

In June 1859, the Swiss businessman Henry Dunant travelled to Italy to meet French emperor Napoléon III. He arrived in the small town of Solferino on the evening of June 24th and witnessed the Battle of Solferino, an engagement in the Franco-Austrian War. In a single day, about 40,000 soldiers on both sides died or were left wounded on the field. Shocked by the terrible aftermath of the battle, the suffering of the wounded soldiers, and the near-total lack of medical attendance and basic care, Dunant completely abandoned the original intent of his trip and for several days he devoted himself to helping with the treatment and care for the wounded. Back in Geneva, he wrote a book entitled A Memory of Solferino which he published with his own money in 1862. He sent copies of the book to leading political and military figures throughout Europe advocating the formation of national voluntary relief organizations to help nurse wounded soldiers in the case of war. In addition, he called for the development of international treaties to guarantee the neutrality and protection of those wounded on the battlefield as well as medics and field hospitals.

In 1863 Dunant had organize a group of concerned Swiss citizen to establish an international conference about the possible implementation of measures to improve medical services on the battle field, the “International Committee for Relief to the Wounded”. One year later, the Swiss government invited the governments of all European countries, as well as the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, to attend an official diplomatic conference. Sixteen countries sent a total of twenty-six delegates to Geneva. In August 1864, the conference adopted the first Geneva Convention “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field”. In 1876, the committee adopted the name “International Committee of the Red Cross” (ICRC).

With the onset of WWI, the ICRC called upon the national Red Cross societies to support it in its new tasks to assist the millions of people who were falling victim to the conflict. In addition to its traditional work in aid of wounded or sick soldiers, the ICRC was to extend the scope of its action to include prisoners of war, although no convention specifically mandated it to do so. Many volunteers from all over Europe flock to join the ICRC.

On January 4, 1915 a passport lasting two years was issued to Mr Randolph Warrington Phillips of Great Britain. The passport allowed him to work for the British Red Cross Society in France and contains a photograph of Mr Phillips, then aged 33, in his Red Cross uniform.1aab

Post Navigation