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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

No Man's Land By: John Toland


Guest WallyMoon

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Sorry Wally, you were doing what? when you found it, you'd best sit down and read it before you get too carried away doing what you were doing when you found it....

Jonny

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Guest WallyMoon

I was cleaning out my closet, throwing away a bunch of junk on the shelves that I didn't need. I had some old books on the shelves.

Wally

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I have it.

In my opinion . . . .

The sub-title is a better description of the content, for it is The Story of 1918.

A long book - my hardback runs to 600pp, but the length is necessary to allow Toland (a Pulitzer winner, though not for this book) to address the full sweep of events. Always very refreshing to read an American take on events.

Many rarely seen photos, some quite quirky. Indeed, I wrote to IWM shortly after I first read it in order to query the composition of one very odd shot of British prisoners post-21 March.

Written and researched 35 years ago, now, with the inevitable limitations, but a work of scholarship nevertheless. Well referenced, about 30 pages of notes, bibliography, sources and photo credits.

. . . . . it's a good 'un.

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Wally

I have this in hard back, got it some time ago,I feel it's well worth the time - i remember it as a good read..

regards

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Stoppage

That bunch of prisoners do look a bit rum. One appears to be an Australian, but the others..? Can you recall if the IWM could shed any light?

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Hello Paul,

I am recollecting a two-letter exchange from about 30 years ago, so I need to have a bit of a think. I will get back on this thread, and will explain a bit more for the wider forum followers, if there is any interest.

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Coming back to that odd photograph - and some others.

I cannot post a scan, sorry, but the photo is credited as IWM Q 35278 if anybody is able to post it.

It shows three British soldiers, lined up to face the camera. They appear to have been made to wear ridiculous headgear, presumably to humiliate them.

The man on the left wears a peasants straw hat - it may be that Paul (post #7) saw this as an Australian slouch with the brim unclipped, but it isn't.

The centre man presents a bizarre image. He seems to be lightly wounded with his left thumb bandaged and splinted, but he is wearing a peaked cap which is not a uniform cap. It is the sort of cap worn (again) by French peasants when dressed in their once-familiar blue denim working suits. His cheeks are very bulbous, almost as if they have been padded out. There are no signs of facial injury or beating.

The man on the right wears an oversized bowler hat.

In the background are a few Germans, looking towards the scene, not obviously combat troops, soft hats, and no signs of them being armed.

I can only suggest that the hats have been taken from a looted house, and these three men have been forced to wear them to provide a "good" propaganda photo. This would contravene the Geneva Conventions nowadays, but if my memory serves me well, the convention provisions relating to the treatment of PoWs were only promulgated after the Great War.

Other odd photographs in Toland's book are two separate shots of male soldiers dancing. The caption to one states that the shot was taken at a recuperation centre at Ostend, but the other shows German soldiers paired with Russians, all tripping the light fantastic.

There is also a shot of a type of which I have heard elsewhere - dead Highlanders with kilts lifted to expose genitals. Only depraved people would have taken photographs like this, and I have some hesitation in mentioning it. This photo is not captioned, but is credited to the US National Archives; I am not going to give the reference - I don't want to make it unnecessarily easy to trace. I cannot think why the publishers saw fit to include it in the book.

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I've just had a look at the photograph of three captured British soldiers in my copy of 'No Man's Land' and the one with the broad-brimmed hat doesn't look Australian: no Rising Sun badges on his collar; shiny buttons, rather than the black or bronze used by the AIF; no reinforced waistband with buckle; and the lower pockets on his tunic aren't the patch type seen on AIF tunics. Also, his jacket has the rifle patch padding seen on British Army tunics, but not AIF jackets.

Gareth

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I agree Gareth - I was just taking a stab at why Paul may have thought one was a Digger. Are you clever enough to be able to scan and post this particular photo?

Well done in the cricket by the way ! grrr.

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Yes, you are right, I thought it was a slouch hat so made a swift guess he was Australian. I think your analysis of the photo is spot on.

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I agree Gareth - I was just taking a stab at why Paul may have thought one was a Digger. Are you clever enough to be able to scan and post this particular photo?

Well done in the cricket by the way ! grrr.

I've tried to attach a rough scan of the photo (which isn't the clearest in its original state) but it's said to be too big to upload. I'll try again tomorrow.

Sadly, the cricket will drone on again and again; one can avoid other sports if not interested, but it's much harder with cricket.

Gareth

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Yes, odd, the middle one looks like a train drivers hat.

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Stoppage Drill

Alas, I've given up trying to reduce the photo to make it small enough to attach, despite considerable angst while trying to download picture reduction software to replace the function that disappeared with my old PC (most refused to work, or suggested procedures to make the job incomprehensible) plus an ISP outage. It was nearly as exasperating as being forced to watch cricket - though not as boring!

If you send me a PM with your email address, I'll send you a copy.

Sigh

Gareth

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Thanks Gareth, more than I could manage to do !

Paul asked in post #13 what, if any, feedback I had from IWM. As I said, I am recollecting a decades old, very brief, correspondence.

I do recall that my correspondent was unable to throw any real light on the picture, though I think he was able to locate it reasonably well. He pointed out that both sides had a penchant for taking photographs of prisoners who seemed to personify a particular stereotype.

Certainly pic 34 in Toland, "Young German Prisoners" may be thought to be an example of this. They are three handsome lads, but the inference hardly needs stating - Germany was scraping the manpower barrel. It makes me feel a little bit better to compare the photos of the three British prisoners with the three German ones - the British captors at least seemed to have been protecting the dignity of their prisoners. In the background behind the three young Germans is an armed sentry holding back what looks like an inquisitive bunch including an Aussie and Poilus. (IWM Q 6877)

It has occurred to me, having just contributed to the "Is this a myth" thread elsewhere, that the Germans themselves, at this particular time, were having some disciplinary difficulties, one manifestation of which was dressing themselves up in bizarre clothes and headgear, so maybe the Germans who prepared their "hat" photo were just including the three prisoners in the fun - as they saw it !

A week or so ago, in yet another thread, somebody posted a photo of a Fritz lighting a Tommy's fag. The point of the thread was to ask who was the captor, and who the prisoner. Toland has this pic (number 31) which is credited as IWM Q11538, with a caption that - if accurate - shows that the German is the prisoner. Tommy has no equipment on (a point mentioned in the thread) not because he is a prisoner, but because he is lightly wounded, with a field dressing on his neck. In the full photo, a stretcher can be seen on the ground, and a pile of three or four MG08/15s.

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Stoppage

Thanks for coming back to this topic, much appreciated. Having looked at the photo again, see above, I really must order those new glasses, it clearly isn't an Australian slouch hat! The fag-lighting photo is currently in use on the cover of the IWM's new book, a 'Photographic Narrative of the Great War'.

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maybe the Germans who prepared their "hat" photo were just including the three prisoners in the fun - as they saw it !

That well-known german sense of humour.

Do we assume the pic dates from the Spring, 1918 Offensives? Ther trees have no leaves, but it doesn't look as if it's horribly cold, so I'm sort of guessing.

regarding the chap in the centre's cheeks, I see what you mean, but I wonder if it's just his facial expression that gives that effect. He has a slightly (dare I say?) gormless look about him.

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The chap in the centre looks to me as if he has some swelling of his parotid salivary glands. Maybe an infection.

Edit: looked it up and dehydration can be a cause.

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