Armageddon

Some of the approximately 7000 Turkish prisoners that were taken on the first day of operations; another 18,000 would be captured in the following two days.

September 19 1918, MegiddoBritish operations in Palestine and Transjordan were largely put on hold by the needs of the Western Front and the summer heat, but by September Allenby was ready for another offensive.  His plan was to break through the Turkish positions along the coast and then send his mounted troops far into the Turkish rear.  Secrecy was of the utmost importance, to make sure the Turks did not fall back before the British could break through, or reinforce the coastal area.  The British attempted to convince the Turks that the attack would fall across the Jordan, towards Amman, as it had done in the spring.  They kept some of their best troops in the Jordan Valley, marched troops around in the area to create dust clouds, and spread as many rumors as possible among the Arab population.  The Germans and Turks were fooled by these deceptions, despite the defection of an Indian sergeant just two days before the planned attack who told the Turks that the attack would come near the coast.

The British attacked with heavy artillery support at 4:30 AM on September 19.  In most places, they quickly overran the Turkish defenses.  Some of the stiffest resistance came on the right of the Allied attack, near Bidye.  Assisting here was the small French contingent in Palestine, which included a regiment of Armenians who had been rescued from Musadagh by the French Navy in 1915.  The Turks launched their only counterattack of the day here, and the town was not taken until 3AM the next day.

Once the Turkish lines were taken, British cavalry, camelry, and armored cars proceeded into the open country beyond as soon as 7AM, heading north for distant objectives or east to help outflank any remaining points of Turkish resistance.  They were largely able to secure water and fodder during their advance, something that had stymied major cavalry operations in earlier actions in Palestine. They captured multiple Turkish Corps and even Army HQs.  The commander of XXII Corps forced its commander, Refet Bey, to try to escape on foot; Cyril Falls writes that “so far as it is known, he spoke no English, but he moved always by night and answered challenges by saluting and riding on at a walk.  He finally reached Tyre, 75 miles to the north,” early in October.  On the first day, the cavalry advanced well over twenty miles, and by dawn the next morning had taken Tul Karm and Megiddo.  The latter gives its name to the battle as a whole, the first battle in recorded history (in 1457 BC), and the term Armageddon in Christian eschatology.

Also in the wee hours of the 20th, the British cavalry reached the outskirts of Nazareth, more than 40 miles from their starting positions.  Nazareth was the Turkish headquarters in Palestine, and the overall commander, Liman von Sanders, was apparently forced to flee the city in his pajamas.  It may have been only then that Liman von Sanders realized the full scope of the disaster in progress, as he had only had limited contact with his disintegrating armies on the 19th.

Today in 1917: Károlyi Party Advocates for Peace in Hungary
Today in 1916: Belgian Offensive Captures Tabora
Today in 1915: Mussolini’s First Battle
Today in 1914: The Deadly Routine on the Aisne

Sources include: Cyril Falls, Armageddon 1918; David Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall.

Indian soldiers in Palestine, from a contemporary colorized postcard. Facing manpower problems, in 1918 the British had to draw heavily on the subcontinent’s resources. All but one division of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force had three-fourths of its British troops replaced with Indian soldiers. The Indianized EEF broke through the last Ottoman defenses in Palestine in September 1918, captured Damascus on October 1, and had gone 300 miles from its starting positions when the Ottomans asked for an armistice on October 31.

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“Night and day that telephone was working, receiving news from the front, effecting co-operation with neighboring regiments or sending back requests for barrages, counter-battery work, food supplies, ammunition, ambulances, air service. Soldiers in the line never fully realize how much their lives, and victory depend on the alertness and intelligence of those in command.”

1918, France, Awesome Father Duffy serving with the Rainbow DivisionFather Duffy’s Story: A Tale of Humor and Heroism, of Life and Death With the Fighting Sixty-Ninth – Photos: 2 famous WW1 photos taken September 19, 1918 in Essey-lès-Nancy, Meuthe et Moselle, France.  Lt. Col. Garrett, the Rainbow Division signal officer, tests a German telephone captured from the enemy during the Saint-Mihiel Offensive  – U.S. Army Signal Corps 

“Every man gets atta, dal and vegetables, as much as he wants. and other things: four annas worth of ghee, and fruit of every kind; three ounces of sugar, and of cigarettes as many as he likes; eight ounces of wheat, two onces of wine. But don’t you think that, simply because it is to be had, Ram Carup Singh eats or drinks these things. Not at all.”

WW1, England, Ram Carup Singh, a British Indian soldier’s letter home to India – Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, 1914–18 – Photo WW1 Indian Soldiers preparing a meal. From the British Library awesome Flickr

Why Do People Put Locks On Bridges To Declare Their Love?

The first “love locks” bridge was not in Paris, which has the most famous example, but in Serbia! Specifically in a town called Vrnjačka Banja. Shortly before the World War I, a young man and woman fell in love in Vrnjačka Banja. They would meet every night at the Most Ljubavi bridge. But the man went into the military, and while abroad, he met and fell in love with someone else. The young woman died of heartbreak, or so the story goes. Superstitious local women began going to the bridge, writing the names of themselves and their lovers on padlocks, and locking them to the bridge, in the hope that it would bind their paramours to home.

The tradition was slowly forgotten after World War I. Until a Serbian poet, Desanka Maksimović, heard the story and wrote a poem about it. The tradition was revived but only in Vrnjačka Banja.

So how did love lock bridges become a worldwide phenomenon? It probably comes from a single Italian writer named Federico Moccia. He wrote a book, published in 2006, called I Want You. It featured a couple who put a love lock on a lamp post on Rome’s 2100-year-old Ponte Milvio bridge. The book took off, and a movie was made, and the rest as they say is history!

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This nasty looking weapon is described in the original IWM accession register of 1917 as a ‘Casse Boche’ with the suggestion that it was used by the French in the 2nd Battle of Champagne in 1917. It is constructed from a naturally gnarled piece of wood, weighted with lead and fitted with iron spikes. It is too long to make an effective club if the leather hand grip is held. It may well be that it was intended primarily as an officer’s walking stick.

Holy shit.

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Gruson-Hotchkiss Revolverkanone

Designed by Benjamin B. Hotchkiss of Hotchkiss&Cie. and manufactured by Gruson c.1885~1893.
37mm explosive shell, hand-cranked rotary machine canon with five rifled barrel, feeding from a ten-round hopper magazine, here seen mounted on a field carriage.

Originally manufactured as a light naval gun to fight off torpedo boat, the Hotchkiss revolving cannon is a design based on the Gatling machine gun but with a few internal improvement. One specific difference meant to improve accuracy is the way barrels lock into place when fired, even when continuously working the crank.
This particular example is a license-built German model. After sometimes being used as field guns in colonial warfare, most Gruson-Hotchkiss cannons were retired from naval service and used in WW1 as anti-aircraft guns. The shells they fired were allegedly called “flaming onions” by Allied pilots (New York Times 3rd.02.1918), however it’s hard to say if the projectiles used in these accounts were tracer rounds or 37mm flares, as these guns were used both to protect observation balloons and illuminate the battlefield.