Monday, August 4, 2014

4 August 1914/2014: England and Germany at War

"England and Germany at War", Birmingham Gazette, 5 August 1914Source: British Newspaper Archive

As this August 1914 front page (courtesy of the fascinating British Newspaper Archive's post on WWI Headlines) proclaims, Britain entered the First World War on 4 August, 1914. Earlier on the same day, Germany declared war on Belgium after the latter had attempted to remain a neutral territory. In consequence, Britain declared war on Germany late that evening. By this point, the two sides of the terrible conflict had been mustered: the Allies, which comprised Britain, France, and Russia; and the Central Powers, which included Germany and Austria-Hungary. 

A massive crowd of Londoners cheered the news of the war that night. The next morning, we might assume, many of these ghosts of 1914 opened a newspaper to take in the momentous occasion. We can read the 5 August 1914 edition of The Daily Telegraph along with some of them, thanks to the The Telegraph's wonderful online WWI newspaper resource.


Photograph of the crowd outside Buckingham Palace, London after the declaration of war against Germany, 
4 August 1914.  © National Archives, UK. 


Civilian Britons reading of their nation's entry into war were met, perhaps strangely, with a distinctly non-wartime assortment of peppy advertisements for hair products, laxatives, and vacations to Spain. Such newsprint chatter vied for space with maps of the conflict and reports of the official declaration, though. Already, some panic over war's consequences for civilian life are apparent, as one article details "Civic Cowardice" in the form of "housewives" whose frenzied stocking up on food items was already creating high prices and low supplies (p. 10). Another article insists, however, that supplies of meat and grains are plentiful (p. 9). Poignantly, an eye-catching notice reminds young unmarried men that "Your King and Country Need You!".

The Daily Telegraph, 5 August 1914, (p. 9). © The Telegraph World War One Archive

Its insistence that "each day is fraught with the gravest possibilities" and its portrayal of the Empire as being "on the brink of the greatest war in the history of the world" are both chillingly accurate and  already out-of-date. Clearly written before the awful certainty of this particular day's news, the Army notice reminds us that the gravest of possibilities for Britain in 1914 had come true.

© Fiona Robinson



Friday, August 1, 2014

1 August 1914/2014


From The Telegraph: "First World War Centenary: how events unfolded on August 1 1914"
Image © The Telegraph

One hundred years ago today: Germany declares war on Russia, 1 August 1914--a date recognized as the official start of the First World War.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

And so it began to begin...

As one who hangs down-bending from the side
Of a slow-moving boat, upon the breast
Of a still water, solacing himself
With such discoveries as his eye can make
Beneath him in the bottom of the deep,
Sees many beauteous sights--weeds, fishes, flowers,
Grots, pebbles, roots of trees, and fancies more,
Yet often is perplexed, and cannot part
The shadow from the substance, rocks and sky,
Mountains and clouds, reflected in the depth
Of the clear flood, from things which there abide
In their true dwelling; now is crossed by gleam
Of his own image, by a sunbeam now,
And wavering motions sent he knows not whence,
Impediments that make his task more sweet;
Such pleasant office have we long pursued
Incumbent o'er the surface of past time
With like success, nor often have appeared
Shapes fairer or less doubtfully discerned
Than these to which the Tale, indulgent Friend!
Would now direct thy notice.

 --William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book 4, ll. 256-76
                  

Hello Readers,
It's somewhat strange, waiting with bated breath for the steady gears of history to make their circuit towards the date when we can look back exactly one hundred years to the start of the Great War. It's as though we anticipate some kind of perspicuity that, like gazing down into a glass-clear lake, is only possible when the present aligns with the past just so. Like Wordsworth's boy looking down into the "still water" and confused by the reflections therein of sky and earth and of "his own image", though, perhaps we may find (and perhaps we already know) that shadow and substance cannot be so easily separated. Though the great span of time that a centennial marks might suggest a certain poignant stillness, calming the past into clarity and granting us objective distance, our own image may surprise us in those depths. What might we learn about ourselves and our world by looking  for and listening to those ghosts of 1914? As we have for some time now on this blog, we shall continue ask to this very question. We will continue to chase shadow and substance in the (deceptively) glassy deep of hundred-year-old history.

As we near and enter the official centenary, it is my aim to direct the blog towards following events of the war's unfolding over the years 1914-1918. 

To that end, I present a small collection of articles about the events of exactly one hundred years ago, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia:





And a last-but-not-least suggestion: hstry.org's fascinating "Back to the Mud" blog series on one man's adventure through family WWI history.


Till next time,
Fiona


© Fiona Robinson

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The first Ghosts of 1914...

Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie leave Sarajevo City Hall on June 28, 1914.
© JU Muzej Sarajevo/Washington Post/Reuters


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on June 28 1914, in Sarajevo. This was the day, a century ago, when the world began hurtling towards the Great War. Though the conflict would not begin officially until August, we might say that the Archduke and his wife, Sophie, were the first Ghosts of 1914.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, hstry.org has held a fantastic Twitter reenactment of the assassination today, related from the perspective of a journalist who was there at the time. You can review their posts from today here:


The Archduke and Sophie shortly before the assassination, June 28, 1914
© IWM (Q 79761)



There are many other resources for those seeking more about what happened on this dreaded day, one hundred years ago. A selected few, for those new to this history and for seasoned sleuths:

There is also news of the centenary observations, some of which have provoked serious controversy due to the persistent instability that WWI brought to Eastern Europe.

And for those of us who wonder what might have been, had this day's ancestor (June 28, 1914) been no more remarkable to us today than any other, several writers have written or explored alternate histories. These are just a few:

There is something so compelling about asking what our world would be like if, at the conclusion of that day in Sarajevo, the car bearing the Archduke and his party had simply returned to the train station in Sarajevo and nothing more of deep significance had been recorded. We'd like to think that the millions of Great War casualties would never have happened, that so many lives cut short or  harmed by the four years of strife and its aftermath could have remained untouched, undisturbed, and that a gentler course of history might have run peacefully through the first decades of the twentieth century. Perhaps this could have happened. But I think the most useful aspect of such dreams of a peaceful 1914-1918 is the waking from them, with eyes open to modern conflict and searching for the way to peace.

Yours,
Fiona

© Fiona Robinson




Monday, June 16, 2014

Carrier Pigeons and Tweeting: oh, what a digital war!

Cher Ami, an heroic U.S. Army Signal Corps carrier pigeon.
Washington DC: The Smithsonian Museum


Hello, friends.

I have a feeling that our Ghosts of 1914 would not be so taken aback to find that, as we approach the centennial anniversary of the Great War's start, our relationship to the war can now be (and may be primarily) digitally mediated. We've gone from carrier pigeons, like the brave and beautiful Cher Ami, who risked HER life to save hundreds of soldiers (and whom I saw on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on a recent jaunt to Washington DC),  to Twitter.

The other day, it struck me that this is probably the first war, and certainly the first major global conflict, whose one hundredth anniversary could become so digital. As 1914-1918's digital renaissance takes on further zeroes and ones, it is fitting, I think, to consider the  novel technological ways in which we can invite the Ghosts of 1914 to become part of our lives--our awareness, our everyday existence. 

On that note, the good folks at an exciting multimedia history education project, hstry, have shared with me that they are having a most interesting event later this month: a reenactment of Franz Ferdinand's 1914 assasination on Twitter. Here are the details:

hstry: Franz Ferdinand's Assasination Relived on Twitter!

What's more, hstry's blog will be featuring stories from a journey through WWI family history. Stay tuned for that!

While I'm delighted and intrigued at hstry's Twitter reenactment, don't be surprised to hear more on our avian Ghost of 1914, Cher Ami, quite soon...

Cheers,
Fiona

© Fiona Robinson



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lives of the First World War Project

Had to pause studying for finals to post this exciting news:

The IWM has just launched their incredible Lives of the First World War project!


On the project website, they say:

Imperial War Museums needs you to help piece together the Life Stories of more than 8 million men and women who made a contribution during the First World War.


How could I resist such a call to duty? Looking forward to getting started soon and I hope you'll join the ghosts of 1914 in this exciting endeavor! More of my own posts will arrive here at the blog soon too.

--Fiona

Monday, March 24, 2014

Springtime Tidbits

Hello Readers!

Some interesting WWI tidbits from around the ether:

Is it true that all ten brothers in the Calpin family of York went to war AND returned alive? It's not the most reliable source, but the Daily Mail has been featuring some intriguing stories of WWI lately and this one really caught my eye. Might warrant some further research:

"Band of TEN Brothers: When the Call Came to Serve..."

Then, on my local public radio station, there were the following excellent programs and series (the first two of which explore counter-factual histories (an interesting genre)) about WWI:



Enjoy and stay tuned for more!

Fiona