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deano

The Old Contemtibles

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pinevista

Thanks for the feedback - much appreciated

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War13Memorial

Allan Mallinson says

"the force which the Kaiser would in August 1914 dismiss (allegedly)

as Britain's contemptible little army"

"There is no hard evidence that in August 1914 the Kaiser actually called the BEF a 'contemptible little army'

After the war the Kaiser is reported as saying it would not have been that the BEF was contemptible, but

that it was contemptibly little

Billy

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pinevista

Thanks - Well that about raps it up - Thanks to everyone - as usual past history is as clear as mud. I have another question - My grandfather's war journal is in "Army Book 152 Correspondence Book (Field Service), which is roughly 6x9 inches. Most soldiers used pocket diaries which were much smaller. How common was it for soldiers to use Army book 152?

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sotonmate

RFA

Reading the thread which Siege Gunner has introduced here,where it mentions the reading of a message to the troops sounds like the message I encountered during my forays into some 1914 War Diaries.

What I will send you is a photo of a plaque on a wall in Southampton Docks honouring the Old Contemptibles who passed through the gates in 1914.

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Guest

" Ploughing match at Pembridge. Afterwards a dinner was held at the New Inn Pembridge, when thre was a good attendance. Sir James Rankine, Bart., M.P., (President of the Society), occupied the chair and was supported by the Rev C. P. Lee, Messrs Russell, Yeld, Rogers, Turner, Bright, Bach and others.

The Chairman-submitted the usual loyal toasts, which were received with enthusiam.

Mr Bray gave " The Bishop and Clergy of the Dioscese and Ministers of all Denominations, " in suitable terms.

Mr Yeld followed with " The Army, Navy, and Reserve Forces, " which was received with much patriotism.

The Chairman was called upon for a reply, and he said that he had been a volunteer for 20 years. As they all knew he left off as the senior major of the Hertfordshire Battalion. The order had now been issued for the Militia to do garrison duty in various parts of the country, and some significance must be attached to this. Their Continental neighbours had said that England had got a small army, but he wished them to know that they had rather more soldiers than appeared on the face of it. If they took the Regulars, the Indian Army, the Militia, the Volunteers, and the Yeomanry, they would find that they had over half-a-million men, and therefore it was not such a contemptible little army after all (hear, hear, and applause)
" etc etc Hereford Times - Saturday 11 November 1899

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pinevista

That puts things into perspective. Thanks

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Guest

The article quoted in post # 11 continues

" Then they had their Colonies to rely on, and he thought their loyalty was unquestioned, as evidenced very much of late. But their Navy was the first line of defense, and on these grounds they had no reason to fear hostile attacks from any European power. So long as they were ready to spend 26 million on behalf of the British Navy, it did not matter about other nations having designs upon them (hear hear). With regard to the Transvaal, he thought that the Boers would soon recognise that the English Army was more than 3,000 strong. There was no doubt that the Boers held them in contempt because of the miserable peace which was made after Majuba hill, and also on account of that most unfortunate affair, the Jameson Raid, which was ill conceived. They would have a better opinion of the English in the long run, and he felt sure that this war, which for the time was a curse, would ultimately take the form of a blessing (hear, hear, and applause) "

Mike

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Guest

Western Daily Press - Saturday 31 October 1925

" The Contemptibles "

Ex-Kaiser denies using the phrase. The following letter has been addressed to the Editor of 'The Nation and the Athenaeum,' by Mr Arthur Ponsonby, MP, respecting the phrase " The Contemptible Little Army "

" Sir,-Arising out of the correspondence in 'The Nation' last August with regard to the origin of the phrase " the Contemptible Little Army " I invited the assistance of a German ex-General and writer on war history to have a special search made for the phrase which was said in this country to be an extract from one of the ex-Kaiser's speeches during the war. There would be little difficulty in looking up all the Imperial utterances and discovering the sentence of which this was supposed to be a translation. All endeavours, however, to find any passage in the speeches in any way remotely resembling the expression in question failed. Not content with having had the archives and the Press files ransacked, my friend succeeded in getting a request for information into the precincts of Doorn. The ex-Kaiser has written the following marginal note on the paper referring to the point in question.

" Ich habe eine solche Rede niemals gehalten, sondern stats in Gehentheil den hohen Werth der Brit. Armee betont und vor ihrer Unterschatzung oft schon im Frienen gewarnt.-W "

( Translation I have never delivered such a speech, but on the contrary continually emphasised the high value of the British Army, and often, indeed, in peace time gave warning against under-estimating it. )

" I was wrong therefore in believing the phrase was a mistranslation. It was a pure fabrication.-Yours, etc, Arthur Ponsonby."

War Office View

A correspondent made enquiries at the War Office yesterday and was told that it was very probable that the original of the order to which Sir Neill Malcolm referred was lost or had been stored to such an extent that it would be unprofitable to spend the time that would be entailed recovering it. There was a feeling, however, said an official, that there was a possibility of mis-interpretation of the exact relation in which the ex-Kaiser applied the word ' contemptible. ' " It is just possible " said the official, " that he meant it in its numerical sense, and one could scarcely imagine that he would use the word 'contemptibles' when referring to the five thousand men at Mons, but rather to the fewness of their number as compared with the sixty-five thousand men whose march the little army of five-thousand stayed. " The official added that Mr Ponsonby's contribution, with the original of the ex-Kaiser's speech, would have an enlightening influence on the controversy.

Mike

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charlesmessenger

I must admit that I have always thought that the Kaiser was speaking of a contemptibly little army.According to Allan Mallinson in his recently published book on 1914, the Kaiser is supposed to have included it in an order dated 19 August 1914 to make the destruction of the BEF a priority, but at the time von Moltke was certain that the BEF had not begun to disembark. The order itself was reproduced in a 1923 book called Source Records of the Great War Vol II. However, the order states that the Kaiser's HQ was at Aix-la-Chapelle, when it was still at Koblenz. Mallinson's conclusion is that basis for the remark was a rumour 'doubtless containing a grain of truth' and that what he actually wrote or said was blown up by the British propaganda machine.

Charles M

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Sepoy

I have just come across this interesting recruiting leaflet

post-55476-0-80530500-1384463894_thumb.j

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sotonmate

RFA

Reading the thread which Siege Gunner has introduced here,where it mentions the reading of a message to the troops sounds like the message I encountered during my forays into some 1914 War Diaries.

What I will send you is a photo of a plaque on a wall in Southampton Docks honouring the Old Contemptibles who passed through the gates in 1914.

Sepoy

This is the leaflet I saw in a 1914 War Diary !

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Sepoy

Sepoy

This is the leaflet I saw in a 1914 War Diary !

I have a number of recruiting leaflets, including this, but like yourself I could not find where I stored the scans!

Sepoy

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Guest

The Old Contemptibles

" A thorough investigation of the authenticity of this order, "issued by the Kaiser," was undertaken in 1925 with the assistance of a German General, who had the archives in Berlin carefully searched, and of a British General, Sir F. Maurice, who was able to throw a good deal of light on the subject.

While the Kaiser's proverbially foolish indiscretion might account for any preposterous utterance, it was known that he did not issue orders of his own volition; they were prepared for him by his Staff, which was certainly not so ignorant of its business as to tell the German Generals to concentrate their energies upon the extermination of an army when they could not tell them where that army was. Their ignorance of the whereabouts of the British Army was proved by a telegram sent by the German Chief of the Staff to Von Kluck on August 20th (the day after the issue of the supposed order): "Disembarkation of English at Boulogne must be reckoned with. The opinion here, however, is that large disembarkations have not yet taken place."

It was further discovered that German Headquarters were never at Aix la Chapelle. Headquarters moved from Berlin about August 15th. and went to Coblenz, later to Luxemburg, from whence they moved to Charleville on September 27th.

A careful search in the archives proved fruitless. No such order or anything like it could be discovered. Not content with this, however, the German General had inquiries made of the ex-Kaiser himself at Doorn. In, a marginal note the ex-Kaiser declared he had never used such an expression, adding: "On the contrary, I continually emphasized the high value of the British Army, and often, indeed, in peace-time gave warning against underestimating it."

General Sir F. Maurice had the German newspaper files searched for the alleged speech or order of the Kaiser, but without success. In an article exposing the fabrication (Daily News, November 6, 1925), he remarks that G.H.Q. hit on the idea of using routine orders to issue statements which it was believed would encourage and inspirit our men." Most of these took the form of casting ridicule on the German Army.... These efforts were seen to be absurd by the men in the trenches, and were soon dropped."

We may laugh now at this lie and some may be inclined to give some credit to the officer who concocted it, although he made a careless mistake about the whereabouts of the German G.H.Q. There can be no doubt as to its immense success, nevertheless there are many who will share the opinion of a gentleman who wrote to the Press (Nation and Athenaeum, August 8, 1925), who, having heard that doubt was cast on the authenticity of the well-known and almost hackneyed phrase, remarked on "its extreme seriousness to our national honour or to that of the British officer originally responsible," were it proved to be an invention. "

Source:Falsehood in War -Time, Propaganda Lies of the First World War, Arthur Ponsonby MP, (1928, George Allen and Unwin)

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