Italy Declares War on Germany

August 28 1916, Rome–When Italy had agreed to enter the war in April 1915, they had agreed to declare war on all of the Central Powers within a month.  However, they only declared war on their immediate neighbor and rival, the Austrians.  They eventually did declare war on the Ottomans in August 1915, but, over a year later, had still not declared war against Germany. This was presumably because Italy feared German troops showing up on the front.  However, they already had; since almost the very beginning of the war, German troops had served in the Tyrol, though they did not take part in any offensives.  The situation was even more farcical at sea.  German submarines operating in the Mediterranean still sank Italian shipping, though they made sure to hastily raise the Austrian flag when operating against Italian vessels.  This had led to the United States protesting to the Austrian government after a German submarine using an Austrian flag sank an Italian passenger liner, killing 25 American citizens.

This embarrassing situation finally came to an end on August 28, 1916.  Germany had declared war on Romania in response to their invasion of Transylvania.  Italy, a long-time ally of the Romanians, at last declared war on Germany in response.  This allowed them to seize a few long-interned German ships, but more importantly ended the pressure from their allies to declare war on Germany.  Some German U-boats, however, continued the use of Austrian flags despite the ruse no longer being necessary; they thought it would be suspicious if most “Austrian” U-boats suddendly disappeared from the Mediterranean.  Mote importantly, they had found it useful to confuse the enemy, preventing them from obtaining a reliable count of the number of U-boats in the Mediterranean.

Today in 1915: Mimi and Toutou Expedition Breaks Down in the Congo
Today in 1914: French Civilians Evacuate As Germans Advance

Sources include: Paul G. Halpern, The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914-1918; József Galántai, Hungary in the First World War.

The first major naval confrontation of the First World War was fought today - 28 August - in 1914; the Battle of Heligoland Bight. The Kaiserliche Marine lost four ships and 1,000 sailors while British casualties numbered just 33. The odds were largely stacked against the Germans as five British battlecruisers, eight light cruisers and over thirty destroyers met with just six light cruisers and a few dozen torpedo boats.

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I wanted to see what my World War I paintings looked like in black and white. I kind of like them better like this tbh. The top image is taken from a photograph of Bulgarian wire cutters post 1916, and the bottom is a French soldier handling a messenger owl on the Western Front.

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#WeAreHere

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme and to commemorate this the Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller created the performance art project We Are Here. In conjunction with 28 theatres throughout the UK actors and volunteers, dressed in a variety of WWI uniforms, placed themselves in central locations as a reminder of the human cost of that battle - 19,240 British boys and men died on the first day alone. 

Silent, save for an occasional rendition of We Are Here Because We Are Here, the actors waited for trains in the same manner that their forebears did, bringing home the fact that many of them didn’t get to make a return journey. Their only interaction  with the public was to hand them a card with the name, rank and age of a soldier who had died 100 years ago today. 

As many of my compatriots know and understand, the British are extremely reverential to their war dead and this project was a sincere and beautiful tribute to them. It also highlights the importance of art’s public role in the national arena, and how effecting it can be and draw us together (especially after a week that has been defined by division). 

Those men and boys who gave their lives at the Somme shall forever be remembered and held in our hearts

Strafbattalion, often referred to as “Hitler’s Dirty Dozen” were infantry units consisting of convicts and felons, all which were taken from German prisons and sent on dangerous operations, akin to suicide missions. One common mission of these doomed men was to walk across minefields in order to clear them. Those who refused any dangerous operation they were ordered to do were executed on the spot or taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. One such unit was the 36th Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS, whch beame known as the Dirlewanger Brigade, which was formed under the orders of Henirich Himmler. This particular unit was led by Oskar Dirlewanger, a convicted child molester. It was considered the “worst of the worst” and consisted of mostly murderers and rapists. Non-surprisingly, weaponizing these dangerous men proved deadly. They conducted mass executions on civilians; raping and torturing many of them beforehand. On one occasion, they set a pack of starving dogs upon residents of a small village. Another documented case reveals how they poisoned a group of young children with strychnine, for their own sadistic pleasure. It was said that they killed as many as 30,000 civilians before being sent to the front line, where they proved to be inexperienced in real combat fighting.

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Battlefield 1 Trailer Analysis

A few months ago I examined the first trailer for EA’s new entry into the Battlefield series - Battlefield 1. The new game takes place during World War One and the new trailer looks at the Middle Eastern theatre more than previous trailers have. The new trailer showcases some interesting firearms, while this post isn’t an exhaustive rundown of what’s seen I’ll look at some of the more interesting firearms. 

Check out my earlier trailer analysis here

While there are now plenty of gameplay videos from the beta launch floating around I thought it would be fun to take a look at another trailer and see what new weapons might be hinted at.


Remington Model 10A

The first weapon we see is a hammerless shotgun, a Remington Model 10A - with a stylised British flag on its receiver. In the background two aircraft fly over some temple ruins. 

Beretta M1918

Next we see a soldier armed with a Beretta M1918 submachine gun firing on a horseman riding through the ruins. The italian M1918, chambered in 9mm Glisenti, was a development of the earlier Villar-Perosa. An estimated 5,000 M1918s were made and saw limited service towards the end of the war.

Ottoman Mauser

A Mauser rifle, probably the Gewehr 98, outfitted with a scope and an anachronistic bipod, again with a stylised Ottoman flag on the receiver. 

MG 08/15

An armour-clad soldier wields a MG08/15 light machine gun complete with belt-drum. 

Borchardt C93

The unmistakeable Borchard C93 is an interesting choice to include. Obsolete by the outbreak of war, however, the trailer showcases the pistol’s unusual action as it shows the pistol firing and being reloaded. 

Lewis Guns

The Lewis Gun appears mounted in a number of vehicles with a MkII Aerial Lewis Gun seen first followed by tank and armoured car mounted guns. 

Cei-Rigotti Rifle

The unmistakable Cei-Rigotti is seen during a sequence of street fighting. The rifle is one of several erroneous weapons that have been included as it certainly never saw action during the Great War. It was developed in 1900 and while a fascinating design it was never adopted by any nation. The distinctive operating rod can clearly be see on the side of the rifle.

Bergmann M1915 n.A

Another light machine gun, the Bergmann M1915 n.A, is briefly seen as a something explodes in the distance. It is seen again towards the end of the trailer. 

Steyr M1912

The Steyr M1912 is seen for the first time in the new trailer, this Austro-Hungarian service pistol is seen as the anachronous desert armoured train passes and a bi-plane explodes above. The M1912 had an internal box magazine in its grip and was fed with stripper clips. 

Standschutze Hellriegel

Another interesting inclusion is the Austro-Hungarian Standschutze Hellriegel submachine gun was developed during 1915. Its distinctive receiver and large drum magazine can clearly be seen. The soldier carrying it is killed by the armoured train  

The rest of the trailer is made up of some set-piece scenes showing aerial and naval battles. While it’s inevitable that there will be inaccuracies and liberties taken, some improbable accessories attached to weapons but I have to say I’m looking forward to getting the chance to open up with a Standschutze Hellriegel!

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Map Monday

This map, from the start of the First World War, is one of the best of our satirical and cartoon maps in the collection.

Despite its initial appearances it has a serious message to convey. Germany looks towards France while Austria, dressed as a clown, clings on desperately while watching horrified as the brown bear of Russia grabs at ankles and talons. Britain prepares to stride across the channel to sort out the mess, ‘Business as usual’ with the Empire in support.

European Revue, Kill that Eagle, Published by Geographia in 1914 and drawn by J. Amshewitz. C1 (407). Learn more about our Map Collection.