Friday 16 December 2016

1916 Illustrated – a German Perspective

Note equal prominence given to the
German (L) and Austro-Hungarian (R) eagles
As we come to the end of the year that is the 100th Anniversary of the battles of Verdun, the Somme and Jutland, of the siege of Kut, of the Brusilov Offensive and of the smashing of Rumania, I found it interesting to see how it was viewed from a German perspective. This was through an illustrated part-work that was published regularly through the conflict, and re-issues in bound copies. (See also my blog “WW1, a German View – the Last Years of Cavalry” posted on January 2nd 2015). There are many drawings, and not a few photographs, but they are printed in the text and the quality is poor.

What is most striking from these illustrations is how alien, how remote that world seems. It is admittedly a hundred years ago, but WW2 is three quarters of that time away and yet the feeling of remoteness is nothing like so strong. The “feel” of WW2 has some familiarity for us –  a world of radar and radio, of aircraft carriers, of armoured forces, of strategic bombing, of air transport, of the arrival of the jet engine, of penicillin, of the Manhattan Project, all developments that have their lineal descendants today.  But the WW1 era feels so radically different – to a large extent more a hangover of the 19th Century than the start of the 20th – that it’s hard to believe that a mere 25 years separated 1914 with its horsed cavalry, its strutting rulers and generals in operetta-style uniforms, its horse-drawn transport, its infantry tactics that were essentially Napoleonic, its infantry walking over vast distances, its wood and linen aircraft, from a later war in which technology would be the deciding factor.  Some of the illustrations below provide examples:

Austro-Hungarian forces advancing in the Balkans -
a scene reminiscent of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow

Constructing a dug-out - a scene drawn from imagination rather than reality.
The overall "feel" is 19th Century however - it could be an illustration for Zola's Germinal
A Turkish ambulance - it would not be out of place at Gettysburg 50 years earlier

Austro-Hungarian troops advancing against Italy in the Dolomites
Russian infantry
Russian Cavalry - in what's virtually Napoleonic uniform

Rumanian cavalry trooper - note his lance. His son may be trapped and facing tanks,
and praying for air-supply, a quarter-century later in the mechanized hell of Stalingrad

Death in 1916 of A-H Emperor Franz-Josef - reigning since 1848!

An over-optimistic view of what Zeppelins were achieving against enemy naval forces
But the real air war was getting serious. Aces here of 1916 -
and those marked with a cross were already dead by year's end 

The British attack at the Somme presented - generously - in heroic terms

French grenade thrower - uncertain whether it's a crossbow or some even more
complicated contraption. Note shopping-basket for transporting grenades.

And a view of the German and British maneuvers at the Battle of Jutland

 Download a free copy of Britannia’s Eventide by clicking the cover image below

To thank subscribers to the Dawlish Chronicles mailing list, a free, downloadable, copy of a new short story, Britannia's Eventide has been sent to them as an e-mail attachment.

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