Friday, March 23, 2012

Battle of Loos Part One

Background information: An explanation and overview of trench warfare in WWI.

Trench warfare refers the the tactic of of digging trenches along a battle line which opposes the trenches dug by the enemy. On signal, the soldiers of one side would come up out of their trenches and charge toward the enemy's line and attempt to gain ground by overrunning or overwhelming the enemy. The point was to gain ground and push the enemy back. Both sides would then dig new trenches. The area of ground between the opposing lines was known as "no man's land."

The idea of the trenches was to protect soldiers from small arms fire and machine gun fire. Chemical weapons were used. Chlorine gas was a favorite. The trenches were protected by barbed wire. It was miserable in the trenches when it rained. It rained a lot.

Trench warfare resulted in long stalemates and infrequent real gains. Sometimes when a trench was breeched by a charge, the enemy would counter attack the next day and drive the opposition back into their original trenches.

The usual procedure for an attack would be for the attacking side to open fire with artillery early in the morning, with the object being to soften up and shell-shock the enemy soldiers in their trenches. Artillery also cut the enemy's barbed wire, or so it was hoped.

Then the chlorine gas was released over the "no man's land" and over the enemy trenches.

Then the attackers, wearing gas masks which didn't allow for good vision or adequate breathing for a running man, would (with bravery I cannot begin to imagine) come up out of their trenches and charge through the chlorine gas over no man's land into the face of the enemy's machine guns. Failure was the result most often encountered. Sheer fatigue would set in. Men would throw off their gas masks in frustration and be killed or disabled by their own gas. As often as not, the wind would change directions and blow the gas back at the attackers anyway. This happened during the Battle of Loos.

How effective was this trench warfare? How dangerous was it? During the the fighting for Loos, a series of British charges began on September 25, 1915, and ended 3 days later. The British gained the enemy trenches and were very close to a breakthrough. They would have prevailed had replacements for their dead been available. That battle ended on September 28, with the British falling back to their original positions. They didn't have enough artillery ammunition. They had no reinforcements to replace the men devastated by machine gun fire on their flank. Due to lack of ammunition, their artillery failed to cut the enemy wire and failed to silence the machine guns. 140 tons of chlorine gas had been released and not all of it, by far, was being breathed by the enemy. The Scots broke through by sheer determination and force of numbers, but were being decimated.

During that single 3-day charge and retreat, the British took 20,000 casualties.

The unspeakable losses of trench warfare begat modern armor. Tanks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Engineering Marvel

[Click on picture to enlarge]

1. Can anyone tell us what body of water the bridge in this picture crosses?

2. Does anyone know what year it (the bridge, not the body of water) was first opened to traffic?

a) 1993
b) 1981
c) 1965
d. 1887

3. What is the name of the city in the foreground?

4. Who can tell us what happened to the bridge this one replaced?

5. (Extra credit) What war does the memorial that sits atop the law (not in picture) commemorate?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Speaking of St. David...

I was going to do a sarcastic post (I have become somewhat sarcastic compared to my previous tolerant self, due, mostly, from too much reading the comments of the amazing Mail Online of late) but I'm not going to because I rather like Mr. Cameron. He seems an affable enough chap. Some of you may have been under the impression he was on an official visit (can't say "state" visit, of course) to talk about Afghanistan, Iran, and the Falklands. No, not the Falklands.

How surprised you must be to learn that he really ended up in Dayton, watching a couple college basketball games and forcing down some vile toxin-loaded hot dogs (you'll not want to enlarge the above pic) while wondering why he chose to visit during the annual national college basketball tournament.

Afterwards, they flew back to Washington on a gigantic airplane (petrol being practically free in the colonies right now) and then on to an extravagant (even for Democrats) state dinner at the White house, featuring American and British celebrities and entertainment and, in an odd (even for politicians) attempt to blend American and British cuisine with a main entree called "Bison Wellington." It is to cringe. Yet, much money was spent and much liquor was consumed and much flattery was bandied about, so everything turned out considerably more than okie-dokey. It gave them a chance to act and eat like us common folk do. They are our servants, you know.

And then on to New York (and I'm sure they didn't walk from Washington to there, either) sans the Obamas, to the newly-constructed/still-under-construction memorial at Ground Zero to place flowers on the carved-in-granite name of the British 9/11 fatality. White roses. Touching. And I mean that with as much sincerity as I can muster.

You'll be tickled to learn that I have been busy rounding up a few pictures of the PM's visit. I see the cherry blossoms are in, well, blossom, in Washington now. I really thought they didn't blossom until April. Must be Obama's unusual warmth. Or something. Global warming, that's it. Anyway, I DID steal you a few pictures so you could savor the visit for yourselves. As usual, I forgot to also steal the captions that go with the pictures and have accordingly added my own, as best as I can remember. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

St. David

I just remembered today was St. David's day. I'm sorry I didn't remember in time to blog about him before you all went to sleep. Really.

Gwnewch y pethau bychain.


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