history foe



Whilst working at the archive and museum today I was utterly struck by the embedded intricacy of this painting. Layer upon brushwork upon detail; soldier beside solder. It manages to convey an epic sense of magnitude alongside the minutiae of war. From the ragged, upstanding, flag to bare and bereft trees…. 

Title: ‘The Seventh Battalion at Hill 70, 1915′

Painter: Joseph Gray

Background: The painting shows the 7th Camerons after taking Hill 70, one of their objectives during the battle of Loos, 25th September 1915. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel JW Sandilands, is depicted rallying the survivors of nine different battalions to hold the hill against German counter attacks. The painting was presented to the Regiment by Miss Eveline Barron. Her father, Major J Barron, died of wounds at Loos on 27th September 1915 while serving with the 7th Camerons. 

Biographical info:

‘Gray joined the 4th (Dundee) Battalion, The Black Watch Regiment after the outbreak of World War One and fought with them from August 1914 to March 1916, in the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Festubert and Loos.

There were a number of journalists who joined the 4th Battalion in the early stages of the war and they referred to themselves as ‘Fighter-Writers.’ Once he reached the trenches Gray’s talents as a draughtsman were quickly recognised. He was appointed an observer, a role which involved many expeditions into the firing line to make sketches of enemy positions. He was also called upon to duplicate trench maps, as he did before the Battle of Festubert, marking out the positions of the men of his battalion.

During 1915-1916 Gray sent back many reports to the Dundee Courier but was eventually invalided out of service in March 1916. Back home he was appointed official war artist at The Graphic illustrated newspaper and contributed drawings and articles about different aspects of trench life. All his drawings were based on original sketches made during his time in the firing line.’


“Here are shown no… glittering swords, and noble horses, but plain, steadfast, unconquerable men, standing with their faces to the foe and grasping their fixed bayonets in the firm determination to win or die.”

WAR AS IT IS. THE SEAFORTHS AT NEUVE CHAPELLE / The Inverness Courier, 23 September 1920.

Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia.

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The bad-tempered “Sergeant-King” wore his officer’s uniform around the house and turned the royal gardens into a military grounds. He was known for fits of screaming rage, calling everyone in sight “blockhead”, sometimes beating officials with a stick, and knocking out the teeth of several judged whose sentences displeased him.

At the age of eight-teen, Friedrich [his son] tried to run off to England to catch a glimpse of his intended English bride. When young Friedrich’s scheme, planned by his best friend - and perhaps his lover- was foiled, the furious Friedrich Wilhelm decided to have his son executed. When dissuaded by his officials, Friedrich Wilhelm made the young prince watch from a prison cell the decapitation of his friend. (From A History of Modern Europe - John Merriman.) So yeah, he was pretty dickish. And his actions made his sensitive, music and literature loving son into a total “aggressive absolute monarch”.

George B. McClellan

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George McClellan was a major general during the Civil War. He commanded the Army of the Potomac and (briefly) served as general-in-chief for the Union Army. He gathered and trained an impressive army, but unfortunately his flaws overshadowed his abilities. He constantly demanded more troops, weapons, and falsified the enemy’s numbers. He kept other generals and President Lincoln in the dark about his so-called plans for victory. Whenever an opportune moment to strike a blow against the Confederate Army arose, he rarely took the chance. When Robert E. Lee retreated after the Battle of Antietam, McClellan did nothing to weaken him. He allowed Lee to escape back to the South. 

I blame him for the Union’s dismal start in the Civil War. He was a spoiled brat, and egotist, and completely paranoid that he was always among enemies. My hatred for him grew this past semester when I wrote a research paper on his relationship with Lincoln. Several times I had to walk away from my laptop and take a break from writing, simply because I could not take his shenanigans anymore. Oh Little Mac, you raise my blood pressure like no one else. 

Douglas Haig

I have a bone to pick with Douglas Haig. He was the commander of the British Expeditionary Force from 1915 to the end of the first World War. He believed that more soldiers and ammunition would win the war when all it did was lead to the death of over 2 million soldiers. He refused to consider new tactics and technologies that could be used, and instead forced his soldiers to go ‘over the top’ (a tactic in which the soldiers would climb out of the trench and try to take the enemy’s trench with only brute force and poor weapons.) which also lead to the death of many soldiers. It was basically a suicide mission to go 'over the top’. It also doesn’t ease my hatred of Douglas 'The Butcher’ Haig that he commanded the regiments in the Battle of the Somme, in which every single one of the Newfoundland reigment was killed (a huge deal for me because I’m a strong Canadian nationalist), not to mention that it holds the record of the most deaths in British military history.

I just really don’t like this man.

[This submission is very dear to my heart - he came very close to being my 'History Foe’]

Fazlollah Zahedi

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Fazlollah Zahedi took the role of Prime Minister of Iran in 1953 by way of coup d'etat. Who I actually dispise here is not so much this man, as the the US and British governments that backed this guy’s coup d'etat against Mohammad Mossadegh. It’s hardly a hidden fact of history that the west helped instigate this coup because Mossadegh was working to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which would take that precious resource out of the greedy hands of the British and US oil industries. This regime supported by the west was what was finally overthrown in 1979. This is the real beginning of the conflict between the US and Iran. 

Sir Hudson Lowe

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He looks as bad as he was. Hudson Lowe (1769-1844) is probably best remembered for being the governor of Saint Helena during the time Napoleon was exiled to the island. He did not get on with Napoleon at all and made sure to make Napoleon’s life on Saint Helena as miserable as possible. 

He made Napoleon pay for his own imprisonment and did not supply him with enough firewood, amongst other things. Hudson Lowe also picked Napoleon’s place of residence, Longwood, which was a rundown, rat-infested estate. Moreover, some even speculate Hudson Lowe might have had something to do with Napoleon’s death. However, whether Napoleon died of natural causes or arsenic poisoning will probably continue to be debated until the ends of time. 

Suffice to say, whether or not Hudson Lowe actually had a hand in killing Napoleon, he ensured Napoleon’s last years were far more miserable than they should/could have been.

Alexander Hamilton

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Though known as one of the “Founding Fathers”, I prefer to call him a “Founding Failure”. A Federalist and proponent of centralized government/economy/everything, he butted heads with Thomas Jefferson at every opportunity, criticizing his wisdom–though that is not to say Jefferson was flawless either. He took advantage of a number of events in American history to promote violence and war in the US, as well as shamelessly slandering his political opponents and even some of his own party members, such as John Adams, who disapproved of Hamilton’s radicalism.

I blame him for a lot of the selfish capitalism in our country today. Aaron Burr never did so well as to relieve him of his duties permanently.

Alexander Graham Bell

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Famous for creating the telephone, but he was also of the opinion that deaf people should not marry each other because they might have more deaf children, along with being generally in favor of eugenics. He was also a strong proponent of oralism, because he believed that English was the only acceptable language in the United States (this view extended to other, spoken languages).

Richard Mentor Johnson

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The ninth Vice President of the United States, he would have found a better career as a mustache-twirling silent movie villain.  At the time, people hated him for his interracial relationships (all of the the women he married were his slaves.)  Wikipedia can tell you why I hate him:

“Following his wife’s death, Johnson engaged in a relationship with another family slave. When she left him for another man, Johnson had her captured and sold at auction. He then began a relationship with her sister.”

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Mentor_Johnson