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Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

When I was a kid in the 1950s most adults still called Veterans Day, Armistice Day. The name was formally changed around 1954, given that for most people by that time WWII or Korea was The War, not the one that was supposed to "end all wars." That said, Armistice Day hung around for quite some time even after it was formally put to rest. Whatever it's named, it's a good holiday, one in which we show our appreciation to and respect for those who have served in our armed forces. I am glad that President Ford defeated efforts to make it become another one of those holidays we commemorate only on Mondays. November 11 means November 11.

By next Veterans Day, we will be into the 100th anniversary of the war that ended with Armistice Day.  As a history buff, of course, I love those sorts of anniversary events. As a dour cynical product of our dour cynical age, however, I fear what direction that commemoration will take. The First World War is a source of endless fascination and commentary by the left. They love that war, as it, in their minds, captures all that is wrong with war, especially the notions of futility and despair. It was, for the leftist historians who have dominated the telling of the event, the last hurrah of monarchies and capitalism, and the midwife of the Soviet Revolution. It is also seen as a war that ended in a way that resolved nothing, and laid the groundwork for the even bigger war to come--and all that was the fault of the Republicans. It, after all, was the Republicans who stymied the great and good Woodrow Wilson and his vision of a New International Order, and turned the USA inward. If only we had joined the League of Nations. If only we had not become so isolationist. If only, well, you've heard it all in school, and don't need me to hash it all over.

That much of this is nonsense and not supported by the historical record, does not matter much. We can go over it all some other time. In sum, the British, the French, and their allies were the good guys. It was a war about something. A Europe dominated by the Kaiser and the Hapsburgs was infinitely worse than one in which Britain and France were the dominant powers. Liberty was at stake, at least in the West; the Russian situation was much more complex, but even then a Russia ruled by a modernizing Tsar or by Kerensky was much preferable to one dominated by the Germans or to the horror that eventually resulted, i.e., the most murderous state in the history of Europe, the USSR.

The Great War is fascinating for many reasons. One that always drew my attention was how a handful of American inventions, a British one, and a German one forever changed war and society. The American inventions of barbed wire, the modern machine gun, and the airplane, the British development of the tank, and the German use of poison gas--the first weapon of mass destruction--altered everything. No army, no war, no calculation of national power would ever be the same. A small force, for example, armed with aircraft, barbed wire, machine guns, gas (or other WMD) could wreak havoc on a much larger force.

With the large scale introduction by the German Army of the American-designed Maxim machine gun, the British and the French militaries faced a challenge not only to their immediate goal, i.e., victory over the Central Powers, but to the very survival of their organizations. Although Franco-British forces outnumbered those of the Germans, simultaneously fighting Russia, the machine gun annulled that advantage. Skillful German deployment of machine gun units and the development of a doctrine for their use, for a time made successful Allied offensive infantry operations virtually impossible. The increased lethality of the Kaiser’s men demolished “business as usual” on the battlefield, and led to a questioning of the competence of the Allied hierarchy. After much hesitation, the removal of inflexible senior officers, and a redesign of the Allied approach to offensive operations--including the introduction of tanks and their own machine gun units--the French and the British managed to continue the war and cancel the initial German advantage. A similar situation developed with the German use of poison gas on the battlefield; the advantage lay with the Germans until the Allies managed to develop effective gas masks, gas use doctrine, and their own gas weapons. The brutality and lethality of war increased exponentially. (I strongly recommend John Ellis, The Social History of the Machine Gun, for a fascinating account of the impact of the machine gun on modern society.)

The First World War also left us another legacy: The veteran as victim.

Most Americans, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, and Canadians have tended to view war veterans as heroes, as people who saw and did their duty. Leftist morons in the 1920s and 1930s, including General Smedley Butler and Senator Nye, however, left a lasting picture of the American veteran as victim of what later became known as the military-industrial complex. In all leftist tinged ceremonies "honoring" our veterans we can see this underlying belief; it is as though the left were channeling the old Soviet call for a union of soldier and peasants to overthrow the system. The left wants to enroll the veterans into its burgeoning book of victims. Veterans are depicted as unwitting boobs or just poor people forced to fight for the rich captains of industry. Don't believe me? See the horrendous movie "White House Down" which sums up this belief quite dramatically: in it the Iranians and US soldiers are victims of the US military-industrial complex, which seeks to overthrow a liberal black president for having the courage to call foul on our anti-Iranian policy pushed by the rich white guys.

Sorry. A long-winded diatribe with some ideas in there that need further exploring and refining.

Anyhow, I do not see the veterans as victims, I still hold to the old-fashioned view. They served and it was not for nothing. It was for something. A something that is now being undermined by the leftist loons who rule us.

77 comments:

  1. Interesting post, as usual. I've always been fascinated by WWI and the changes it wrought. Although I generally sum it up by saying that August 1914 was the beginning of the end of Western Civilization.

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  2. Nicely put, Dip. As usual. Thanks for remembering, and reminding us. We don't think much about The War To End All Wars any more.

    And the Maxim Machine gun? It was Hillaire Belloc who penned the doggerel "whatever happens, we have got, the Maxim gun, and they have not." Or was that the Gatling gun?

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    1. You have it right--Maxim gun. I did my MA and PhD studies on WWI; it was fascinating what I found when I got through the silly "Mud, Blood and Poetry" school of the left and into the real primary source material.

      As Dip said, it was indeed a war about something--and that something was (in the main) stopping German militarism.

      Look at the 1914-5 military goals the Germans came up with and there is a rather clear similarity to the ones that came later with the 3d Reich, though the racial/genocidal aspect was not there so much. It was more so with the Austrians, as any look at how they behaved in the Balkans will show. Indeed, that so many high-ranking Nazis turned out to be Austrians (from Hitler on down) was no accident.

      The continuity between both wars was reexamined in the 60s when the German historian Fritz Fischer argued that there were more similarities than differences between the regimes--this caused a real storm of controversy that endures to this day.

      Fortunately, newer WWI histories have gotten beyond some of the truly awful stuff that was written in the 60s and 70s. Not that our children are learning about it, alas.

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  3. It's called Remembrance Day down here and it must drive the "progressives" crazy as every year the numbers turning up to our Shrine of Remembrance for the 11am service grow.

    The number of Flanders Poppies worn on lapels leading up to the 11th November is also growing

    Buglers from one of the Armed Services stand at the major intersections in the CBD in Melbourne and at 11am sound the Last Post and one minute later Reveille.

    It is really quite emotional and for those of us who have worn the uniform of one of Her Majesty's services satisfying to see so many young people coming to understand the sacrifices their forebears made for their country.

    If any of you get the chance to go to Ypres in Belgium there is a commemoration ceremony each night where the Last Post is played at the Menin Gate to commemorate the fallen from the British and Commonwealath Forces who fought there in WW1. Very hard to keep a dry eye as the Belgians remember the sacrifices made there on their behalf.

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  4. Freedom is not free.

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  5. I don't disagree that the technological weapons advances had a huge impact, but I would add two tactics implemented by the Canadians and Australians that resulted in the major breakthroughs of 1917.
    The Canadians at Vimy implemented the creeping barrage (look it up) the Australians improved on that by adding tanks in the attacking force between the creeping barrage and the front line infantry at Hamel I believe.
    In both cases these tactics were implemented after the Canadians and Australians demanded the right to be commanded by their own generals and not by the wasteful useless British generals who were the cause of the major casualties for no gain in the early war.
    Were it not for this, and the arrival of the USA the Brits and French would still be fighting in the very same trenches. It's safe to say that wherever a great allied breakthrough occurred in WW1 and WW2 the Australians, Canadians, USA or NZ were involved.
    My observation like David is that remembrance day here in Canada gets more popular every year, despite the best efforts of lefties and schools to play it down and introduce more Kumbayah.

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    1. Very good points. The creeping barrage was a major innovation, and I should have mentioned it. The Aussies also were master sappers. I am encouraged to hear that in both Australia and Canada Remembrance Day--actually a much better name than just Veterans Day--is growing in popularity.

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    2. Cascadian is "spot on". Hamel was indeed a combination of the creeping barrage, tanks and then the infantry.

      The battle of Hamel was also the first time in WW1 that American troops participated in an offensive action under non-US command. Ten companies were originally assigned but six were recalled prior to the battle leaving four to go in alongside the Australians. The operation was planned and commanded by General John Monash [later Sir John Monash] arguably the greatest Australian military commander we have produced.

      Hamel was the true start of a long military association between the two countries.

      No visit to the WW1 battlefields of France and Belgium is complete without visiting the magnificent Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, the New Zealand cemeteries and memorials at Messines Ridge and Tyne Cot or the Australian cemetery and memorial at Villers Bretonneaux.

      The battle at Villers Bretonneaux in April 1918 was the occasion of the first battle between two tank forces - three British Mark iv's and three German A7V's. I guess the Germans lost as Villers was taken by the Australians on 25 April, 1918.

      I stand to be corrected but it is my understanding that the US combined its memorials for both wars in Normandy a long way from where the WW1 soldiers served.

      Why the interest? My maternal grandfather was an artilleryman at Gallipoli and then in Belgium and France, my father and four of his five brothers served in WW2, I was in uniform in the '60s and my son is a Lieutenant Colonel in our army now.

      The words of Flavius Vegetius Renatus, "if you want peace prepare for war" should be emblazoned on the entrance to any parliament in the Western world for as sure as God made little green thingies there are a lot of people who do not wish us well.

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    3. Hey, I salute the contribution and sacrifice of all the Canadian and Australian soldiers but on a point of order.

      The creeping barrage was NOT either a Canadian or Australian innovation.. The Bulgarians were arguably the first in 1913, the British General Horne began its use in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and made it part of Allied doctrine. (As a tactic it was hardly decisive eg. The French CIC Nivelle's reliance on it led directly to the disaster of the Second Battle of Aisne).

      Whilst after the Somme there was 'political' pressure for the 4 Canadian divisions to fight as a unit, to quote " the ill trained and poorly equipped recruits" (almost all British born at that) "were transformed under the command of Lt. General Alderson which laid the foundation for the later victories at Vimy." so those 'useless' British generals trained and equipped the very people who you now say did it all despite them.

      And Australian use of Tanks (that would have been British tanks with British artillery support then) merely showed the evolution (across all nationalities) of an almost brand new technology (first fielded in 1916). To be honest Hamel, a brilliant victory, was only notable for the presence of a couple of companies of Americans (the first, getting some introduction/experience). The Australian force held a number of cards in their favour at that 'minor battle' - the German offensive had already effectively been stopped, tank warfare was developing, more LMGs (Lewis) and crucially air involvement (reconnaissance and resupply).

      I am NOT minimising or even undermining the contributions but I'm afraid your post is jingoistic (almost to the same extent a the average Hollywood movie in which America saves the day without any help, if not hindrance from the incompetent Brits,French, etc.) and patently wrong in many ways.

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    4. Forgive the rant but it was just another case of 'lets minimise the British contribution' let alone ignore its losses (that and all those 'other' countries involved) in favour of yet more The US/Canada/Australia saved the day (legends in their own minds at least)

      Canada fielded 4 divisions. Australia 9 - Britain fielded 84.

      Canada lost almost 65,000, Australia 62,000 - Britain 886, 000.


      My Grandfather came from a family of 13 boys. Every one volunteered - only he came back. Repeat and rinse for every family in the country. Over 2% of the British population was killed, selected from the best and brightest young men. But hey they just got in the way of those Canadians/Australians/Americans who won the war didn't they?

      Did they do a lot, hell yes. The Canadians became known as Stormtroopers because of how well they fought. Was Monash an exemplary commander, damn straight, but he wasn't the only one.

      Jingoism and patriotism is all well and good but try, at least, to think about what you're talking about next time. Lets remember Germany fielded 151 divisions - lasted long against them would you?

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    5. I don't minimize any countries contribution, I criticize the incompetent and wasteful British generals, losses in your own family surely confirm that.

      You are obviously a student of the war, take those numbers and calculate them on a per population basis as it existed close to 1914, you will find the contribution is as significant as the UK, and it was not the commonwealth's fight was it? Also tell me how long the poor British tommies had been going forwards and backwards at Vimy gaining no ground and taking tremendous losses before the job was handed to the Canadians (ably assisted by British gunnery)?

      Again, I commemorate the loss of any soldier, but I do not admire and glorify stupidity.

      Your families loss is extreme, and your tenacious defence of their memory is commendable, but try a clear reading of history the main reason that Canadians and Australians despise British jingoism are Dieppe and Gallipolli but there are many other grievances. And constant harping about the contribution of the USA is just abysmal ingratitude.

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    6. Able 7:09am

      Any reading of Vimy will acknowledge the creeping barrage was a decisive tactic, almost all tactics evolve over a long period, the fact that Bulgarians used it first is significant, but the fact that the British and French could not co-ordinate artillery and infantry effectively surely makes my point.

      Also it just maybe that the "ill trained and poorly equipped" Canadians were in no mood to blindly follow the British Generals, insubordination has it's place when your own leaders are about to get you killed. I cite the Newfoundlanders at Beaumont Hamel as an extreme example. And yes I know Newfoundland was not a part of Canada in 1918.

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    7. Cascadian

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

      already done for you (Canada .92%, Australia 1.38%)

      It is a documented fact that despite it not being ' the commonwealths fight' (thankfully your ancestors viewed mutual defence treaties differently) almost all Canadians fighting in WW 1 were British born, fighting for the motherland (Canadian born troops only began arriving at the very end of the war - making up most of the 5th division, never committed).

      So Vimy was not fresh troops and support that was decisive? (and those British troops didn't weaken the Germans at all since they did nothing but run around like headless chickens) No it was the fact they were a specific nationality. Yes they were superb troops but patriotism shouldn't cloud judgement by that amount surely.

      The accepted meme is that British 'incompetent' and 'wasteful' Generals caused all those unnecessary deaths, yes? But, what about those superb German Generals? Why did they not overwhelm such incompetence with no loss of life? Care to check the German casualty rates?

      Was there inexperience, errors, misjudgements and even incompetence? Of course but you know what? I'll guarantee with what equipment, training and experience the troops and Command Staffs had at the beginning even Canadian and Australian Generals would have had (as they did later) massive losses.

      I am 'not' criticising or minimising the contributions of any nationalities (including Canada, Australia, NZ and the US). What I am saying is blindly assuming it would have been different if you'd been in charge is naive wishful thinking.

      Oh, and ingratitude for the American contribution? Where? What I despise is a typical American trait, as with your own, of painting a nice imaginary picture that the only important actions, victories and contributions are/were yours (assuming they even acknowledge they were even there). I minimised and underrated no countries contribution, you did!

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    8. The whole "British generals were stupid" thing has been very much overdone. I recommend anybody with a serious interest to look at the work done by Profs Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson. It's very instructive.

      My Great Grandfather served in the 9th Lancers and Royal Horse Artillery throughout the war. He was there with the original BEF and was there when the armistice went into effect.

      Amazingly, he was never wounded--he arguably suffered more (if minor) injurnies when he was blown out of a department store in Liverpool by a Luftwaffe bomb, where he was acting as a volunteer air raid warden.

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    9. If we are discussing the events that brought about the end of WWI then perhaps we should pay some attention to the German accounts, which are quite clear and unequivocal. Ludendorrf wrote that the critical event was 'Der Schwarzer Tag', the Black day of the German Army, on 8 August 1918, which was the first day of the Battle of Amiens. On that day, for the first time in WWI, all of the Australian Divisions were lined up side by side with the Canadian Corps, and with the British III Corps to the north. Parts of the American 33rd Division were present in support. The plan was devised by Australian General John Monash and based on the tactics tested at the Battle of Hamel. The British General Rawlinson and Field Marshall Haig claimed the credit, but the plan belonged to Monash. The Battle of Amiens was the first part of the Hundred Days Offensive that ultimately ended the war, but Ludendorff attributes the ultimate capitulation to the events on that day when the Allies and particularly the Australian and Canadian troops made the largest advances of the war.

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    10. Cascadian

      Just thought I'd add about Vimy. You may wish to read in a little more detail. Tactically innovative it was, but based on the Verdun lectures and experience of the French and Nivelle. The 'Canadian Corps' achieved a brilliant victory.

      Why the stress on Canadian Corps? Why, because of the 170,000 troops in that corps, half were from the British 5th infantry as well as most of the artillery and support troops. The victory arguably hinged also, perhaps even more so than on the lessons learned, on the failures of the German 6th as much as actions by the Corps.

      Much like Gallipoli and ANZAC day? You should remember that the bulk of troops there were British and French. The 2000+ Australian deaths were overshadowed by the 34,000 British in that first attempt at amphibious assault (no doctrine or experience pre that event). Interpretation, and fixation on one nation only leads to fallacy (that and the still underestimation of the Ottomans and their fanatical defence - see their death toll).

      John Monash was not only lauded, but actively supported, by British High Command for his innovation and ability, hardly the actions of 'the donkeys' we've all grown to expect, no? (check the actions of the King - a first for hundreds of years, or Montgomery's assesment).

      Again, I'm not minimising Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and American troops and their contribution and sacrifice - I'm simply asking for the same (and a little reading between the lines of the anti-British, anti-colonial, left wing historians re-writes and interpretations for their own reasons too).

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    11. Cascadian,

      The view of Monash and his treatment by the British High Command that you express above is redolent of the writings of Sir Basil Liddell Hart; which is apparently the basis of most modern assessments of Monash. Hart thought Monash 'the best man in France', but the simple truth is that despite his innovation and stunning successes, Monash was never to command an Army. Some will claim that if the war had continued that role could not have been denied to him, and perhaps that is true. But the rather unpalatable counter-point is that Monash was perhaps not truly supported by the British High Command because he was a colonial militiaman and of the Jewish faith.

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    12. These were allied victories, I am well aware there were British alongside the Canadians at Vimy, mostly in artillery counter-battery and creeping barrage support that was crucial to Canadian success. The reason this battle was so important was to secure the British flank which was about to attack, if it had failed then the Germans would retain the commanding heights of the ridge and decimate (or worse) the British. The Canadians did not win WW1 and nor did the British or Australians, it required a co-ordinated effort, one thing is certain Britain could not win alone.

      You may attempt to minimize the victory, by claiming German failures, but they were forced failures made possible by the counter-battery bombardment (by the British), the bombardment made it hazardous for reserve forces to re-inforce the ridge. If it was not part of plan then it was fortuitous, but I believe any general would recognize the utility of bombarding areas that reserve forces had to move through. This was part of the Canadian general's plan. Similarly, silly comments about Hamel as a minor battle and emphasising the use of British tanks is unconvincing. No matter what facts you have provided here this kind of success was not achievable by British generals with the same resources.

      You are missing the point Able. The point that David, Brett and I am making is that success started happening when Australian and Canadian generals asserted themselves to lead their own armies. Up until then British generals led commonwealth armies, often ( though admittedly not always) with inconclusive results and massive casualties. That British generals were wasteful of troops for minimal advantage is well documented, and seems to be acceptable to a broad base of Britons like yourself. I see no reason why commonwealth partners should gullibly accept such waste, that was the impetus for Australia and Canada demands that their armies be led by their own generals.

      The rest as they say is history, which Brett accurately describes.

      I hold to my earlier comment that successful breakthroughs were not achieved until Canadian and Australian generals asserted themselves and the USA assisted the effort. If you find that a little too "Saving private Ryan" that is for you to resolve.

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    13. Cascadian

      "success started happening when Australian and Canadian generals asserted themselves to lead their own armies"

      Really? So your prior 'issues' surrounding Vimy didn't happen then? Perhaps checking who was in command then would help - in case you struggle with facts, that would be Lt. General Sir Julian Byng. You know, one of those despicably incompetent British Generals.

      Brett

      Monash was so shunned he received a KCB and GCMG (the French gave him a Légion d'honneur and Croix de guerre) . He continued to be almost universally lauded, even by such as Field Marshall Montgomery. I suspect, if you wish to find someone who disliked and undermined his reputation, you'd have to look towards Australia - Bean perhaps. (not given an army? Notice many British Generals commanding a majority American army? No, think that 'may' have been a more likely reason?)



      OK, So I seem to have to phrase this in simpler language.

      Could Britain and France (Russia and all those other inconsequential countries - sarcasm for the hard of thinking) won without the assistance of Canada, Australia, NZ and particularly the US? Conceivably, but possibly not. (this wasn't WW2 with the massive US manpower without which the war was certainly unwinable).

      Did those countries fight and win every battle (with all the rest either just getting in the way or just killing their own troops)? Only in the delusional minds of 'certain people'.

      Your patriotism and pride in your troops is laudable and understandable, however that does not excuse your blatant disrespect, dismissal and vilification of every other (but reserved especially for those hated British) nations troops and their sacrifice.


      There is a strange meme in both Scotland and Ireland in which every bad deed performed by one of their own aristocracy (ie. the clearances) results in them being described as English (despite being as Scots/Irish) as those doing the complaining. Whilst any good deed, whatever their ancestry, results in an automatic titling as Scots/Irish. Why? Blame, excuse. Insecurity - who knows.

      You here do exactly the same. The Somme, Gallipoli - bad English General. Vimy - Good Canadian.

      Sad! And intellectually both corrupt and incompetent. But mostly sad and pathetic.

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    14. Able
      I an English and live in Canada but grew up in post-imperial Britain. I deeply understand your frustration. But is is the fate of a great power to be blamed by all (including her children). I always thought it a kind of separation problem. Canada in the period was a fledgeling nation and Vimy has beome (in the Canadian folklore) the break point when a sense of being Canadan emerged. The bottom of the barrel for for me was when I heard the UK blamed for Vietnam. As to the US the First World War may have opened the door to its inevitable victory over the UK in its struggle for lead power status. The US 'won' and the winners write the history books - or in this case make the films! It is however aggravating to have your history stolen and twisted.
      Kirkbride

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    15. Able, you have again missed the point, intentionally perhaps.

      I have not "dismissed....every other nations troops and their sacrifice". Frankly you are getting irrational.

      I have excoriated British generals in the early part of the war for their inept and wasteful tactics.

      If you wish to have the last word, be my guest. I've made my point.

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    16. Able,

      "Notice many British Generals commanding a majority American army? No, think that 'may' have been a more likely reason?"

      And yet you have no problem with British Generals commanding Commonwealth armies.

      Australia rightly revolted at the slaughter of our troops in the wastrel stalemate on the Western Front engineered by the British High Command; which is why Australia asserted its right to command of Australian troops. I have visited in Northern France the graves of 4 of my forebears who paid the price of the British Command of which you are so proud. Others who returned to Australia did so because they served under Australian command, which saw the folly in repetitively hurling men to useless slaughter, and came up with a better way that broke the stalmate.

      No country won the war by itself; but Britain was well on the way to losing it as late as 1918. British revisionists have since engaged in a creeping airbrushing of the contributions of all of the other nations who fought in WWI.

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    17. Brett

      Commonwealth armies? Which ones were they? A Corps is not an army (still at least you did have your own unlike Cascadians Canadians, half British and the rest Britain's who lived in Canada). Just as when the overwhelming majority of troops are American in WW 2 (Korea, Iraq, Nato) overall command is automatically American. in WW 1 senior command was British. That senior command remained, over all Australian forces, until May 1918 when Monash was promoted because he was favoured by Haig and Birdwood who held command until then (inconveniently for your narrative during those other Australian victories) and they 'remained in overall command' of him and his afterwards.

      Technology (tanks, machine guns, aircraft) and evolution of tactics, across the board, is what changed. Innovations and developments, such as combined arms, were used by all - that Monash was particularly good is unquestioned, but he was hardly either the first or the only practitioner.

      'British' revisionists! Are you serious? With intellectual integrity like that you must be a democrat. History has been rewritten by anti-British (anti-Imperial, anti-colonial, left-wing ivory tower intellectuals) for a century. Care to tell me how many of those British dead (two of my Great Uncles included) were/are ever even acknowledged as even being there at Gallipoli on your ANZAC day? Or do you ever acknowledge that at Hamel, Australias great victory, it was British tanks, artillery and aircraft or does 'combined arms' only count if you're the Australian part of it? Hypocrisy, what a surprise. (Try comparing it to the average Armistice Day in a small British town where all the commonwealth etc. are remembered).

      British, French, etc. all were forced by circumstances to use the same tactics. The Germans likewise (care to check their dead, or the Ottomans at Gallipoli). But according to you 'only' the British were incompetent and wasteful. Likewise as tactics and technology adapted, despite most being British innovations, it was 'only' the Australians who did so, and subsequently won the war for the rest of us - hurrah for you!

      Keep living in your little dream world.

      As I've said repeatedly before, I'm not dismissing or minimising the contributions of Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans (and all the other commonwealth and European nations). This supposed 'creeping airbrushing', if it is indeed occurring, will be no more than questioning the blatant falsehoods, propaganda, jingoism and hypocrisy. Then all I can say is 'about bloody time' that some redress occurred - not that 'the science is settled' types like you would ever consider reading anything that might make you question your 'faith' (sure you're not a democrat?).

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    18. Able,

      Your responses have passed beyond any form of rational debate. Think what you will.

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    19. Actually Brett i thought it passed the rational event horizon quite some time ago - still it is probably an unusual experience when someone whom you have insulted/disparaged their person, nation, military and culture turns around in the end and insults you back.

      As they say "don't try to teach a pig ...", I'll remember next time.

      Maybe reading some of the syllabus/required reading list of the ADFA will help - I've yet to meet a Red-Tab who'd agree with your interpretation is all.

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    20. That is rather funny, if only because it is fair description of the way that you have behaved toward anyone who has a view different to your own. It never ceases to amaze how the British fail to comprehend how they are really seen in the Commonwealth and former colonies. You have this strange idea that because we share some distant common heritage, and speak the same language, that we are the same and somehow beholden to you.

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    21. British generals have commanded US forces, however. Sir Harold Alexander commanded 15th Army Group in WW2 for the invasions of Sicily and Italy (US 3d and later 5th Army were under him). Montgomery commanded 21st Army Group from D-Day until the formation of 12th US Army Group later that summer.

      In WWI, US forces landing at Archangel, Russia, were under the command of Sir Edmund Ironside during their fight against the Bolsheviks.

      So it has happened before. The US 1st Infantry Division was likewise under UK command during early US involvement in WWI. It was logical the Commonwealth forces should be under British command initially and much has been made of "callous" British commanders sacrificing the colonials, but it's mostly nonsense (regardless of public opinion).

      The British contribution to WWI was huge; so was that of the Commonwealth formations and let's not forget the French, who suffered some 5 million killed and wounded.

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    22. Consider yourself berated by your betters, Brett. When the tough get going, the generals read their ADFA and attend to the filing system.

      It's all here in one neat sentence- "I've yet to meet a Red-Tab who'd agree with your interpretation is all" British generals (red tabs for the benefit of all us colonial plebs) don't agree with your interpretation-surprise,surprise,surprise.

      Those might be the generals who dazzled us with their tactics at Basra in recent times, perhaps.

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    23. Cascadian

      Really? You show your LIV credentials with every word you type.

      Red-Tab is Australian military slang for ... wait for it ... an Australian senior officer.

      Some of us have studied and have experience related to the topic, unlike certain armchair generals who've read a book (presumably with cartoon illustrations) and now think they know it all.

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    24. Able, it would appear that during my cartoon browsing, I have come across a Colonel Blimp.

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  6. I would add a couple of Imperial 'inventions'.

    1. Combined arms warfare which Monash called 'the Battlefield Symphony' - first put into practise by Monash at the Battle of Hamel where carefully coordinated use of infantry, aircraft, artillery, machine guns and tanks resulted in an amazing success.

    2. Anti-submarine warfare as a naval science - the largest, most expensive, most secret (successfully so) and longest term military development program of the period 1918-1939 was the Royal Navy's development of ASDIC systems and tactics. See Franklin's remarkable 'Britain's Anti-Submarine Capability 1919-1939'.

    3. Construction of a global trade protection system which extended to direct, centralised coordination and managment of the ranked and prioritised needs of the civil economy, mobilised war-production economy, all shipping both Allied and neutral, as well as the French and Italian import programs and food supplies. You'll have to wait a couple of years for my doctoral thesis on that one though!

    Cheers: Mark Bailey
    Australia

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  7. I can only agree with the above. It was the war we started thinking (and using) of the air and under the sea in a big way militarily. The scientific community organized and harnessed for the first time to aid the effort.
    And what can you say about Ypres. As I understand it the Menin Gate commemorates the 90,000+ allied troops who were never found in that place, not the total casualty list for there. A terrible terrible place.
    Then Mr. Mad I say you are too kind to the left. To me they are ghouls who gnaw on the bones of wars past for their sustenance of policies present and I despise them in all ways possible.
    Finally a salute to ANZACS, Brits, Irish, Canadians, and all who have fought with us for freedom, and that includes you French who know who you are.

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  8. "Mud, Blood and Poppycock" by Gordon Corrigan is a tremendous book. The author demolishes all the leftist myths about the First World War that have become "facts". Well worth reading if your child's education involves being shown the likes of "Blackadder Goes Forth".

    Algy,Edmonton, Alberta

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    1. Indeed, the book by Corrigan is excellent. It's written mostly with a perspective on the British experience in WW1, but provides intriguing details about just what life was like then for average soldiers, be they officers or enlisted.

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  9. Great post (as always), but part of the American "soldier-as-victim" idea comes from a more prosaic source: The performance of the US Army in World War One was abysmal. Despite watching the Europeans slug it out for years, the US military rejected any changes to its pre-war doctrine. The result was that the US Army fought by (in the words of one US Army officer and historian), "smothering German machine guns with American flesh". Ever notice that there is virtually nothing names after World War One US generals? It's not an accident, as most of them were callous butchers (Hunter Liggett excepted). Many Doughboys felt justifiably used and abused by an incompetent military in a pointless war.

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    1. Hardly a pointless war--but you are right on that the Americans were hamstrung by Pershing and the other senior officers who were not well schooled in the changes that had occurred since 1914 and were still grappling with the rather monumental task of handling a large, unwieldly army, the like of which had not been fielded since the Civil War.

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    2. Pershing was far from a great General. He did, however, have a sense of politics and of the need for the US Army--a pretty rag-tag outfit back then fit, barely, for chasing Mexican bandits--to establish its own identity. His insistence on that delayed for many months the entrance into action of the US forces, but in the end he got his way. The Army relied largely on French trainers who, naturally, taught French doctrine. The tiny Marine Corps, however, had its own doctrine and proved very adept at fighting the Germans, as the Germans readily acknowledged.

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    3. Interestingly, the French at first taught the tactics they had learned the hard way--small groups of "Nettoyer," that is assault teams with grenades and automatic weapons going forward in small groups to minimise exposure. Pershing saw this and nixed it, demanding to see "bayonet charges."

      Tactical subtlety was not a hallmark of the AEF in WWI, especially among the senior officers. Making matters even tougher was that the junior and mid-level officers were also in many cases completely inexperienced. It was a rough school of learning for them. This was complicated by the large, unwieldy nature of US infantry divisions, too. They numbered nearly 20,000 in two unwieldy brigades of two regiments each. Made for some real challenges in command, control and coordination.


      You are dead on about Pershing's sense of politics--some of the ideas the Entente commanders came up with would have mean the AEF being used as little more than replacements for existing French and British formations--it is to Pershing's credit that he fought this.

      Good point about the Marines, as well. They were also a lot more experienced. They were a small organization that had "been around" in Latin America and elsewhere, whereas any of the US Army formations with real experience would have been limited to those involved in the 1916 expedition to Mexico, which didn't amout to more than a division's worth of troops.

      Does make me wonder if "Punitive Expeditions" will be in our future re: our southern neighbor someday, though that's a different topic.

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  10. Between you and me Bob, I'd find it very hard to take seriously a man whose first name is 'Smedley'.

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    1. Smedley Butler was a wonder: a genuine hero turned ... lefty. (I don't know his exact terminal coordinates, so I can't be more specific than than.)

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    2. Umm ... my maternal Grandmother was a Smedley - they're an old Quaker family from Pennsylvania, although the great-grand-father was a ferocious Abolitionist (and keeper of an Underground Railway safe house. Not on the Mayflower, but practically the next boat. Smedley Butler was a shirttail cousin; full name was Smedley Darlington Butler. I've often wondered if he was named on "The Boy Named Sue" Principle.

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    3. Celia- That's fascinating. Smedley, the General, was also known as the Fighting Quaker or something along those lines. He was an extremely brave and competent warrior--one of the most decorated Marines of all time, two-time MOH winner--but went off the rails when he got exposed to politics.

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    4. The Medal of Honor awarded twice - well, OK, they were in rather piddling wars - but still. My daughter was absolutely blown away when she enlisted in the Marines, and discovered that he was famous outside of our family. (She kept it very, very quiet, all the time she was in the Corps.) There was an account about how he was tapped in the 1930s by a cabal of anti-Roosevelt industrialists - to be the figurehead of a military coup. He was outraged and led them on just long enough to get the goods on them. I think that would have contributed to some of his disillusion - even though he was definitely not a Roosevelt fan at all. (Quite the reverse, actually.)
      IIRC, the family legend is that he was rather a rebellious juvenile, and essentially ran away to join the military at the age of 16 and very much against his family's wishes.

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  11. On the subject of leftist revisionism, Down Here we have just had a minor skirmish as the lefty dominated Public Sevice wanted to remove the words 'Known Unto God' from our Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier and replace it with 'He Is All Of Us' which is a quote from the past raving lefty prime minister Paul Keating, an uneducated thug who was given the bum's rush in 1996. Once the news slipped out there was a huge public outcry and this odious little scheme has been dropped.

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    1. Apparently Keating's words are still to be inscribed on brass plate and placed at the entrance to the Tomb; which I find almost as repugnant. I simply cannot fathom the mindset of people who would interfere with the memorials chosen by the people who loved, lived and fought with the those who died. It is an incredible impertinence.

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    2. Amongst the more nauseating aspects of Keating having ANYTHING to do with the AWM is that his party, the union-dominated Labor Party, refused to load our supply ships to SVN, refused to handle mail to or from SVN, raised money to be sent to Hanoi and generally became a pain in the neck to anyone serving, of which I was one.

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    3. Not only that, but WTF does "he is all of us" even mean? More nonsensical lefty PC speak. Ugh.

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    4. That's easy. "He is all of us" means "We all bask in his reflected glory--so don't you *dare* call us unpatriotic, just because we are traitors".

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  12. Wow! Some great stuff here. Reading the comments board should be worth at least four undergrad credits. We should do an open thread on WWI; there are obviously some very well-informed folks out there.

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    1. I was about to say as much. The knowlege displayed here, and yes some of the passion too, should remind all of us that united, we are the best of the world. A loss of any one of our nations would harm us all. No need for a "Treaty of Ghent" among us today. This has been fascinating!

      My closest connection to the Great War was my late father-in-law, a lowly army private. Cost him most of his hearing. My only exposure to any part of it was part of my college career 40 some years ago at the University of Graz, Graz Austria. History was very fresh in the minds of the people then. Officials within local government were always quick to thank us younger people from Anglosphere nations for ALL of our common sacrifices.

      For each of us today and going forward, we have a common enemy: the Global Left.

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    2. Sadly, we are enduring Duck Soup, the Marx Bothers saw it all coming. Funny then. Now, not so much.

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    3. "there are obviously some very well-informed folks out there." You've got that right. No slackers in this outfit!

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  13. Re Woodrow Wilson: An 'appreciation' of his finer sensibilities

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  14. Yes, my family has people to remember. My mother's father's brother was a US soldier in what he continued to call "the Great War". My father, thanks to the itchy feet of his peculiar tribe, had first cousins in both the British and German armies, and more distant relatives in the Austro-Hungarian. Those in the Central Powers ended up killed in a mass murder organized by an erstwhile Landsmann and Kamerad--a slaughter that probably wouldn't have happened if a few saner heads prevailed and someone managed to mediate the conflict before it got out of hand.

    The repercussions on the Far East were horrific as well, even though it was at most a peripheral theater of the war. The decision that Japan should get Germany's former concessions in Shandong unleashed the May 4th Movement, including the birth of the Chinese Communist Party, and ensured that another Sino-Japanese War would be fought--with all the suffering that war and totalitarianism unleashed.

    I sometimes wonder what might have happened to the Ottoman Empire had WWI not broken out. But a part of me thinks that without WWI, much of the poison that is Middle Eastern politics would never have been unleashed.

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  15. Oh OT, but the comment verification form has always miffed me. To be bluntly told I must prove I'm not a robot is insulting "Danger Will Robinson!" oops sorry, pay that no mind.

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  16. Merkwurdigliebe

    This boring old fart is looking for a good book to receive from his family this Christmas, could you give the title of the Prior and Wilson tome?

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    1. There are several:

      http://www.amazon.com/The-First-World-History-Warfare/dp/030435256X

      http://www.amazon.com/The-Somme-Robin-Prior/dp/0300119631

      http://www.amazon.com/Passchendaele-The-Untold-Story-Second/dp/0300093071

      There are also a lot of articles and such out there as well.

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    2. I may have to borrow some of those, Doctor M!

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    3. Thank you, were I to try to convince myself that English generals were not all wastrels, what would you recommend.

      Not Passchendaele for sure, and I'm guessing the first volume is a general history. So the Prior book whose name name you referenced previously?

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  17. This really takes me back. There once was a time within the memory of some of us still living ... if only just ... that little American boys and girls were taught in public school about some of the battles of America's wars, enough to have opinions (not unlike their teachers' opinions, typically) on why this or that battle was won.

    ... and to respect and be grateful for the men who gave the last full measure of devotion that we may live free.

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  18. I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell. One class of men makes war and leaves another to fight it out.
    - William Tecumseh Sherman

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    1. Post-holocaust can there be any doubt that sometimes defeat is worse than even the worst war?

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  19. In my view much of the mythology about "stupid British officers" comes from leftist British writers. If you read novels and other works in the interwar years they are full of the "stupid" officers meme. Much of it, of course, was deliberate leftist class warfare, but we cannot ignore the destruction of nearly a generation of British men in the trenches. That produced a genuine horror and revulsion and, as happens, a search for culprits and villains. Who better to blame than the military officers? The movies about WWI don't help either as they have perpetuated that view in the public mind.

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    1. Glad you weighed in.

      I'm not myself "up to snuff" on the land campaigns - although three uncles died, one came back gassed - there was just the single mention of ASW (to which I almost chimed in "If the land generalship was so bad, why was the Admiralty so good?")

      Arkie

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    2. Well, it seems that the prime minister of the UK as well as others had already formed the opinion that Haig and most of his staff was stupid and wasteful, but could not find a better candidate. What does that say about the British general staff?

      That lefties have exploited that view is unsurprising. I don't think it should negate our sympathy for the poor tommies, diggers, canucks and others of all classes that suffered and died for often foolish reasons of no tactical importance.

      http://books.google.ca/books?id=39lMz-GiafgC&pg=PA233&lpg=PA233&dq=imperial+war+cabinet+haig+stupidity&source=bl&ots=4e-5b8l3nK&sig=rhjCx4d6LxmNHfNn3hfNRjIHLK8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nnqFUviHD4XW2QXuvoHwBQ&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=imperial%20war%20cabinet%20haig%20stupidity&f=false

      Page 232-3.

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  20. Unfortunately for the Left, we veterans do not see ourselves as "victims" of anything. We also tend to believe that despite the end of our active service to the Nation, our oath to the Constitution has no expiration date.

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  21. A bit off-topic but at an Imperial Conference in early 1918 the Canadian Prime minister Sir Robert Borden, enraged by the level of Canadian casualties and demonstrated British incompetence siezed the British Prime Minister Lloyd George by the lapels and shook him 'like a Jack Russel shaking a rat' according to startled onlookers.

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    1. A good anecdote, and the way diplomacy should be conducted, I'm sure Diplomad would agree.

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    2. My point replying to Dip's was merely this,

      If it was a General "Acceptance" on the land campaigns to waste Men on the line then, as a combatant's strategy being a general thing (strategy is not tactics) - why not on all fronts?

      I think Diplomad's point contains far more mass than we are giving credit to - ordinarily understanding, his Service [as I think more S. Amer in these regards] and us "merely" typing our understandings/opinions.

      A "Combatant Country" - or, perhaps as it was with the UK - adopts a strategy then, with tactics seeks the strategic end - goal as it were.

      There are here "many" who it would seem, fail abjectly to discern (even with hindsight) what - given Napoleonic tactics then, the American Civil War & Europe's Industrialization [recall: where Carnegie got the Bessemer steel process from] - land campaign tactics could not possibly in my humble opinion, progress at the same rate as technology did.

      (Keep in mind, Mssrs Gatling, Colt, Maxim & Browning were allowed to tinker up weapons in their home basement workshops unencumbered by Pentagon Gee DARPA Whiz, Bells & Whistles See for example the first $Trillion DoD F-35 JSF Lightning - which Brother John McCain likes a lot.

      In the early years of the 20th Century nobody ever thought of what we now know:

      An Elephant .... is a Mouse built to Government specifications.

      I've been thinking about this for a long time and I'd appreciate whatever help - anybody can take the credit - I'm old enough to not care:

      When the decision for war is decided by the uninvested so the Congress can put Flag-pins on their lapels, We the People should vote to send Our Government to someplace like Syria or generally speaking, anyplace between Riyadh and Karachi. After nine months we'll accept them back - but if they've not learned any useful skills - another deployment.

      Lobbyists have to do a ten year tour chopping wood in Antarctica.

      Well. I may've ...

      Arkie

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    3. A Camel is a Horse designed by committee.

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  22. David from Oz-- I am glad you mentioned Monash. It is very hard in the States to get a good bio on the man who was probably not just Australia's greatest general but the greatest general of WWI. My old Jewish grandmother living in Morocco was the first person I ever heard mention Monash. According to her, whenever anybody needed anything great doing, they had to call a Jew to do it. She used to say, when the British and French couldn't beat the Germans in the First World War, they had to call on an Australian Jew to do it for them. Admittedly, my grandmother was not an objective observer of life, but still I have enjoyed reading about Monash and am trying to score a good bio of him. On Amazon they are incredibly expensive.

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    1. I have a wonderful book: 'War Letters of General Monash', edited by A.K. Macdougall, which contains Monash's letters to his wife. It is a remarkable insight into the man and his role in WWI. It was originally published in 1934 following Monash's death in 1931. I have a reprint by Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 2002.

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    2. Expensive-yep, most of them. But a couple of bargains there.

      http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=general+monash

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  23. I have come into this debate a bit late but I would just like to offer the following table:
    Comparison of Casualties (Captured, missing, wounded or killed)
    Australian Campaigns in the Great War - Lt The Hon Stanisforth Smith


    Country Total Casualties Total Embarkation % Casualties of Embarked
    British isles 2,535,424 5,000,000 50.71
    Canada 210,100 422,405 49.74
    Australia 215,585 331,781 64.98
    New Zealand 58,585 98,950 59.01

    The contribution and sacrifice of the Commonwealth nations in proportion to their population was huge and the perception of the Australian people to the Great war can I think be best summed up by the Cenotaph in Hyde Park, Sydney. Inside as the central theme is the sculpture "Sacrifice" by Rayner Hoff, look up the image and you should see what I am referring to.














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  24. Sorry about the table, it looked fine in Preview!

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    1. Thanks for that. You're always welcome late or early. Genuinely stunning stats.

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  25. We should always take the time to remember our Veterans. We are veterans year-round, not just on November 11.

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