Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Aurel Sercu

1916 and "All Quiet on the Western Front"

Recommended Posts

A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy

My grandfather began writing his diary of the First World War (based mainly on contemporaneous pocket diaries, letters home and personal recollection) in early 1919,even before the Treaty of Versailles was signed. He wrote the very last words of his diary on 30 March 1928, just over 6 months before the novel by Remarque was published in newspaper form.

Reading his diary, I get the impression that he wrote the earlier part, up to the date when he was wounded in September 1916, when events were more fresh in his mind, rather than the work being spread evenly over the 9 years which he took to write the whole thing. If I am right, his account of 1916 would have been written much closer to 1919 than 1928, so quite a considerable period before Remarque's novel appeared.

Anyway, the point is that, in giving an account of a raid that his unit (the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers) were involved in at Blairville on 29th June 1916 (very possibly as a bluff for the main attack on the Somme two days later) he comments, after describing the raid, and recording that, 2/3rds of the 50 officers and men supplied by the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers became casualties:

 

The newspapers in Britain used to report such operations:" All quiet on the Western Front. Our troops raided the enemy’s trenches, inflicting considerable loss and damage on the enemy. Our troops got back safely and had few casualties."

Consequently the people at home imagined a raid was a mere nothing – a kind of joy ride over to the Boche for the evening.

 

So it would seem that my grandfather associated the phrase with 1916, but did not consider that it reflected the reality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chasemuseum
13 hours ago, Andrew Upton said:

I believe this is the one you're thinking of, but the original caption is rather different

Sorry Andrew, in my bedraggled memory I had merged elements of two separate cartoons.  

image.png.5b60bced03a0562b526f5eef7316e867.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marilyne
On 30/07/2020 at 15:52, Fattyowls said:

Say it's from one of the really mad people on the internet.

 

"who would've noticed another madman around here?" 

 

Sorry, could not resist... 

 

Just read this very interesting thread here while eating my cereals... 

Everything's been said... we all know the book is playing during the whole war (you did it... will probably read it again during my leave) and 1916 is, of course, more focused on the Somme and Verdun. To say that 1916 was quieter in the Ypres region. Well yes, because there was no major action taking place but I always caution towards the "quiet". There were trench raids and localised actions that had its victims of course. 

But I find the approach of Aurel quite interesting, looking at the dates of death. I'll have a similar approach in a couple weeks when down there, see what proportion 1916 there is. 

 

For now, other challenge awaits: get Boyfriend out of bed!!!! 

 

M.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aurel Sercu

Lancashire Fusilier and Mayline, thanks for your reply

 

So "The newspapers in Britain used to report such operations:" All quiet on the Western Front.  (...)" That's interesting. And it looks like  the link 1916 and "All quiet ..." does not really refer to the novel exclusively. Though of course it is possible that later, when the novel and movie were beter known, the link was made. Or better: that authors and experts and guides etc. in my area somehow borrowed thefamous  novel's (English) title from there, not knowing or forgetting or thinking it was irrelevant that Remarque did not specifically refer to that year 1916.

 

Marilyne, I continued my specific little piece of research regarding the number (percentage) of 1916 graves in local cemeteries (most north of Ypres). The year 1916 was 12 months, which is about 1/4 of the war. (I am very much aware that thinking that on the average one quarter of the graves could or should  be 1916 is a little ridiculous ... Besides: what is the difference between 1915 and 1916 ? Yes, one year, but what about the difference between the last week of December 1915 and the first week of January 1916 ? Only one or two weeks ...

 

Also : some cemeteries I looked at are very small (Colne Valley Cem. Boezinge: total 47 graves, identified 43, but Tyne Cot Cem. Passendale : total 11.968 graves, but ID only 3606, which means that 70% of the graves are Unknowns.

 

Also : some cemeteries were not even begun until the summer of 1917. But some of them were enlarged post Armistice

 

Anyway, here are the results of the Boezinge one-person jury ...(between brackets the total number casualties and the number of IDs, and then the % of 1916 graves)

 

- Bleuet Farm Cemetery, Elverdinge (452 - 452) - 1916 : 0%

- Solferino Farm Cem., Brielen (304 - ID 302) - 1916 : 0%

- Buffs Road, St.-Jan (289 - ID 203) - 1916 : 0%

- Duhallow A.D.S. Cem. (1602 - ID1372) - 1916 : 1%

- Artillery Wood Cem. Boezinge (1307 - ID 803) - 1916 : 3.1%

- Bard Cottage Cem. Ypres Boezinge (1645 - ID 1607) - 1916 : 6.2%

- Colne Valley Cem. Boezinge (47 - ID 43) - 1916 : 27,9%

- Divisional Collecting Post and Ext. St.-Jan (765 - ID 255) - 1916 : 5.9%

- New Irish Farm Cem (4751 - ID 1451) - 1916 : 4%

- Bedford House Cem. Zillebeke, south of Ypres (5210 - ID 2198) - 1916 : 17%

- Essex Farm Cem. (1206 - ID 1102) - 1916 : 72,8%

- Tyne Cot Cem. Passendale (11968 - 3606 ID) - 1916 : 0.7%

 

Please do not criticize or give destructive comment. Also because I think I can anticipate. Like for that small Boezinge Cem. Colne Calley. Or for Tyne Cot Cem., with a staggering low 0.7%  1916 graves... (Comment : "There are over 8300 Unknowns, and who knows, a vast majority of these may be 1916. They (may) come from elsewhere in the Salient and being 1916 (or 1915) these remains were impossible to identify (regiment and year and time of death).

 

I must say though that the high number of 1916 graves (72%) in Essex Farm Cemetery, 72%, was a surprise. Maybe the explanation is that in 1916 the numberr of medical aid posts in the area was scarce (or non existant), and that the wounded men were (mostly) taken to the Medical station that was there nearby. (I happen to know that Plot III has many burials of 38th Welsh Division, who fell in the autumn of ... 1916.

 

Anyway I think it can be said that on the whole in "my" cemeteries 1916 is rather lowly represented. (Which is / was not new to me.)

 

And now I will check Lyssenthoek Cemetery Poperinge. Near a Casualty Clearing Station far behind the lines, and with not many Unknowns. Maybe this will lead to more solid conclusions...

 

Aurel

 

 

Anyway, here are

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aurel Sercu

I've just been to Lijssenthoek Cemetery. Thinking that this must be a cemetery which gives a good view. The Unknowns are not that many, "0nly" 663 out of 10786 casualties (= 6.1%). And : ID casualties throughout the war.

It looks like I should have started with Lijssenthoek, and spared myself (and you) the piece of research of my previous posting!

 

1916 : 1886 casualties, of a total of IDs of 10,123. This is 18,6%

I think this is more or less "normal" ? A bit below what could be "expected" ?

 

And then I also split up 1916 in the first and second half of the year:

 

- First half (Jan.-June 1916) : 1304, which is 12,9% of the total of IDs

- Second half (July-Dec. 1916) : 582, which is 5.7% of the total of IDs.

 

Conclusion ? Well, if (if !) 1916 was all Quiet on the Western (Ypres) Front, then maybe only the second half of the year ?

 

I think Marilyne has finished her cereals by now, and Boy friend is out of bed. Time for me to read (at last, at 1:30 pm) my ... morning paper.  :-)

 

Aurel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Aurel,

 

First half of 1916 was not quiet.  The big event was Verdun, of course, a long way away from Ypres.

 

But Verdun spawned quite a few lesser battles along the entire front, rather like the Teeth of the Hydra.

 

One of the fiercest of these was Mt Sorrel , early June 1916.

 

That’s in the Ypres sector, isn’t it ?

 

Canadians would be sad to see June 1916 in Belgium described as quiet : they lost an awful lot of their people there and then.

 

I’ve just tried to use the CWGC website to enter date of death and country , to find out how many soldiers are commemorated in Belgium for the first half of the year 1916, but either I’m too inept to understand the site, or something very valuable has been removed from its facilities .

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aurel Sercu

Phil,

 

Yes, I was aware of that (Mt. Sorrel and the Canadians) ... But I meant in general, and specifically for the Ypres Sector (and also the area north of Ypres). I had already contacted an expert of the IFFMuseum Research Centre, and the reply was : Yes, 1916 was relatively quiet, but not for the whole Ypres Salient, and it certainly was not the soldiers' opinion that it was "quiet".

 

As to the CWGc website. Yes, this is discussed in a different Topic, where I and others pointed out that working with a range of dates turned out to be impossible right now. So I had to do it manually, arranging the names by Date of Death, and then scrolling down and won several pages and counting and counting and counting the men fallen between 1 Jan. 1916 and 31 Dec. 1916. (Well, that's what I did for Lijssenthoek Cemetery and other cemeteries. But I am afraid I will not use the same primitive 'technique' (or lack of it) for the Canadians first half of 1916 in Belgium.  :-)

 

Aurel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aurel Sercu

Phil,

It was not easy, and it was time consuming. And I cannot guarantee my arithmetics are 100% correct.

 

Canadians - Army - commemorated in Belgium - WWI

1st half of 1916 : 1123

2nd half : 4582.

 

Oh no ! I forgot to count the men fallen in June 1916 ! (But I won't do that today. Duty (= wife) calling.  :-(

 

Aurel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Aurel,

 

Thanks for making this effort.

 

Whatever happens, placate your wife !

 

I’m astonished to see so many more Canadian dead in Belgium,  in the second half of 1916, when it was their June fight that cost them so many lives.

 

The second half of 1916 surely cost Canada more lives.....but in France, where they perished in thousands fighting in the Somme Offensive, at Regina Trench and Mouquet Farm.

 

You win my respect and gratitude for the labour of  love you perform.

 

Let’s hope that your wife feels the same !

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marilyne

Aurel's forray into statistics is very interesting. Will definitely analyse those numbers! 

But quickly coming back to the titel of this thread... the wording of the title is something I've always found interesting in the different languages. 

 

"Im Westen nichts Neues". 

The French version really does a literary translation: "A l'ouest, rien de nouveau". The Dutch version "Van het westelijk front geen nieuws" is even more precise about the Western front and the fact that there is no news. Only the British title is a bit less precise with "All Quiet on the Western Front". And as we have seen earlier in this topic, "All quiet" does not mean "nothing to report"... 

I could even go to the Spanish version "Sin novedad en el frente " , which translates to "without novelty on the front" ... another version. 

I'm sure some linguist has already made a study of that. 

 

m.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...