Martin Jones

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10 Myths About "Healthy" Relationships

Each one of us carries ideas around about what a healthy relationship looks like or "should" look like. This typically comes from our upbringing, the …

Relationships

When is a pie not a pie? Mary Berry reignites food's greatest debate

When is a pie not a pie? Mary Berry's potato, leek and cheese pie is currently at the centre of a heated debate, with some viewers of last night's episode of <i>Mary Berry Everyday</i> insisting it was simply a "casserole with a lid" because it lacked the essential pastry base.<p>It’s a perennial hot topic …

Stop Wasting Everyone’s Time

Meetings and Emails Kill Hours, but You Can Identify the Worst Offenders<p>By<p>Sue Shellenbarger<p>Sue Shellenbarger<p>The Wall Street Journal<p>Biography<p>Google+<p>Sue.Shellenbarger@wsj.com<p>At the end of the day, many people wonder where all their time went.<p>New data-mining tools are helping employers answer that …

Employment

The 11 Most Important Cats Of Science

I can haz scienz?<p>[Special thanks to materials scientist Joe Spalenka for letting us use his photoshopped image of Watson And Crick Plus Chloe The Cat.]

Sydney Lewis revisited. Private Sidney Lewis made it to the papers when he was dismissed from fighting during WWI because he was only 12; the letter his mother received from the War Office in London. The youngest soldier to fight for the British during WWI was a schoolboy merely 12 years old! This said 12-year-old lad lied about his age to get into the Army and fought on the Somme. His being the youngest combatant during the First World War has already been authenticated. August, 1915 – Private Sidney Lewis signed up for the East Surreys at Kingston; he was only 12 when he did so but lied about that. He then was sent to Somme and fought on front for six weeks at 13. August 1916, a year after he entered the service, he was sent home because his real age had been revealed; his mother had contacted the War office in London. “I am directed to inform you that telegraphic instructions have been issued that he is to be at once withdrawn from the firing line and sent home for discharge. “On his arrival in this country he will be discharged from the Army forwith,” a letter addressed to his mother sent on August 23 read. He even appeared in a newsletter at that time but it is only now that his story has been substantiated. The Imperial War Museum (IWM) affirmed Private Lewis as the youngest soldier to ever fight in WWI after the organization examined family papers donated by Lewis’ only son last month. The same papers showed that Lewis, a Machine Gun Corps member, received the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. As Anthony Richards, head of IWM’s documents and sound, put it: “This is certainly the youngest First World War soldier that we hold documents for in IWM’s archives. “His story is quite phenomenal – not only did he enlist at the age of 12 and fight on the Somme at the age of 13, but he returned to service at the end of the First World War and worked in bomb disposal during the Second World War. “He was obviously a very tenacious man, and undeterred by his early experiences.”

Last post of the day. Eton boys in England ready for war. The story goes that under-age youths wishing to enlist during the war used to write the number eighteen on a piece of paper placed into the sole of their shoe. This was done in order to deceive the enrollment officer when asked if they were over 18... The British army resisted any suggestion that recruits prove their age by producing their birth certificates when enlisting. It was a scandal which provoked complaints in Parliament. The National Service League also protested, claiming that around 15% of wartime recruits were underage. The army eventually allowed underage soldiers to be reclaimed by their parents.

How 888,246 red ceramic poppies captivated Britain and brought WWI to life

LONDON—Early in August, the Tower of London was transformed into a sea of red ceramic poppies to commemorate the centenary of World War I. The art installation is called <i>Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red</i>, and it has proven astoundingly popular: More than 4 million people are expected to visit it, …

From the desert to the registry office: how one war hero left the horrors of Helmand behind

Now that the British Army has made its final departure from Afghanistan, one of the conflict's greatest heroes feels he is able to tie the knot<p>This week, as the Union flag was lowered at Britain’s Kandahar Air Base, another, altogether smaller ceremony, was taking place at Maidenhead Registry …

In Flanders fields, the largest ever WW1 excavation

Exclusive: On Remembrance Sunday, archaeologists are digging along the former frontline for First World War artefacts before a new gas pipeline is laid<p>In Flanders fields, dozens of men are digging trenches. From dawn to sunset, they force their shovels through the soil, even when the temperature …

First world war centenary brings revival in memorial restorations

We do care about our war memorials in Britain, when we remember to. They were scattered all over the landscape, like the dead they commemorate, in a brief, half-organised frenzy, and there are too many to count. The War Memorials Trust estimates there are at least 100,000 across the country – a …

Scarred by war: Battlefield landscapes from First World War 100 years on - Telegraph

Before and after

Western Front End of the first Battle of Ypres; stationary warfare now the rule. Eastern Front Poland: Violent conflicts round Plotsk. Galicia: Russians begin to recover over Carpathian Passes. Asiatic and Egyptian Theatres Mesopotamia: Turks decisively routed at Sahil. Political, etc. Great Britain: Mr. Lloyd George introduces his first War Budget.

BRITISH SHIPS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR

© IWM (SP )<p>previous<p>next<p>Object <i>associations</i><p><i>Related</i> content<p>First World War<p>From ambulance drivers to translators, women served Britain in a variety of …

Last post Goodnight all.

World War One time capsule discovered in Germany

Mementos left by German soldiers including newspapers and coins are found in the walls of a historic castle<p>A hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, builders renovating a historic castle in Germany’s Ruhr valley have found a time capsule that appears to have been left in memory of …

Unseen World War One photos uncovered in Ulster archives

A startling collection of previously unseen photographs has provided a fresh perspective of life and death in the trenches during World War One.<p>Belfast man George Hackney, who was an amateur photographer in the years before the outbreak of war, took his camera with him when he was sent off to fight …

Remembrance Day

Western Frontiers and the Eastern Frontiers As soon as the military situation on Western Front passed from its mobile and 'Home by Christmas' status, and undertook the reality of the static nature of trench warfare from the North Sea to the Swiss border, the minds of some British politicians and commanders, and their Allies, began to dwell on other alternative alignments to the fighting effort. The question to be answered, was, 'Would not the deployment, or even re-deployment, of large numbers of troops to the existing Eastern Front, or other Fronts in the East, give a better option for a stalemate ending 'Breakthrough'* than persisting with maximum effort on the Western Front'. * N.B: In Great War terms a 'Break-through' was the main objective of infantry tactics. It was accepted that was virtually impossible to turn the flank of the enemy on the Western Front because the belligerents were locked in a continuous and parallel network of trenches. Therefore, the only option for decisive victory was a direct attack on a limited segment of the enemy Front Line defences by a large enough number of infantry, liberally backed by artillery. This would allow the artillery and infantry to smash through the Front- line and permit the cavalry to follow through the breach and deploy behind the enemy lines. The enemy communications would be disrupted and the isolated enemy soldiers trapped in their front line would be 'mopped-up' piecemeal, or taken captive. In fact, such were the problems encountered in executing a 'Break-through' attack on a sufficient scale, and at the same time co-ordinating the 'Follow-through', that a full scale 'Break-through' was only achieved once on the Western Front. And this was the German Spring Offensive in March/April 1918. Even here the 'Break-through' did not have sufficient momentum to cause the Allies' Front to completely collapse in the manner anticipated. Westerners, Easterners and Waverers The British proponents of the strategy of concentrating the major effort on the Western Front were called the 'Westerners'. Those who favoured initiating, or enhancing, effort on the existing and/or potential Fronts in the East - i.e. the flanks of the Great Powers - were called 'Easterners'. There were also supporters of both options amongst the French politicians and commanders. However, the main French raison d'etre was always focused on the repossession of its territory in mainland France that was occupied by the Germans: everything was secondary to this. The Italian hierarchy, always uncertain about the stability of their own Home Front, were almost universally 'Westerners' in outlook and inclination. Westerners The principal British 'Westerners' were the military High Command as exemplified by General/Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force and General Sir William Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Throughout their long joint tenure in command they consistently supported each other against the 'Easterners'. They fought a constant battle to keep the emphasis on the supply of men and material to the Western Front and to derail any attempt at diversification to other Fronts. The French 'Westerners' were much better supported throughout the War. This was largely due to the singular power that the French Commanders-in-Chief exercised over the French State in the conduct of the War, particularly in the early years. The prime such Commander was General Joseph Joffre who was adamant in concentrating all resources into the battle for the recovery of French territory in Mainland France i.e. The Western Front. However, in January 1916, public opinion had forced a reluctant, and less, dominant Joffre to send forces eastwards to Salonika (Greece) to support the British. In the later years of the War, the French President, Georges Clemenceau, was also a fervent supporter of the 'Westerners' from both his vantage point as a newspaper proprietor (L'Homme libre [The Free Man] cum L'Homme Enchainé [The Man in Chains]) and, after November 1917, as Prime Minister of France. Easterners Prime amongst the British 'Easterners' was Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty (Navy Minister). It was his energy and persuasive powers that led Sir Herbert Asquith's Government - rather by the nose it must said - into the ill-fated Dardanelles Campaign in 1915. In its early form, The Dardannelles Campaign was seen as an attempt by the Asquith Government to open the Dardanelles Straits to free, unhindered, passage by the Royal Navy. This in turn would neutralise Germany's ally, Turkey; keep the undecided Balkan nations out of the war; open up free passage to Britain's eastern ally, Russia; and create another front in the East to divert German resources from the Western Front and the existing Eastern Front. However, although it cost Churchill his job, the disastrous outcome of the Dardanelles Campaign had little discouraging effect on the efforts of the other pro-Easterners. In early 1915, when David Lloyd George was Finance Minister and later Minister of War in Asquith's Government, he became a noted 'Easterner' and supporter of the Mesopotamian and Salonika Expeditions in1914/15. Once the true implications of the British losses on the Somme in 1916 became evident, Lloyd George was determined that the profligacy of the British generals on the Western Front should be reined in. He felt than any new troops that became available should be used more efficaciously on other Fronts under more able commanders. When he became Prime Minister in December 1916, Lloyd George became even more unequivocal in his support for the 'Easterners'. As indicated earlier, Lloyd George's attitude regarding the East and West controversy was largely due to his antipathy towards the views and actions of the arch 'Westerners' Haig and Robertson. Lloyd George felt they were squandering the lives of young British volunteers and conscripts on the Western Front with their policy of 'ceaseless attrition' or, as Haig preferred to call it, 'wearing down of the enemy', for very little discernible territorial gain. Lloyd George was of the view that other approaches in different theatres of war in the East should be found to turn the enemies' flank in places where he was more vulnerable than the Western Front. Indeed, he was proved right to some extent by General Allenby's astounding success in Palestine and Syria in1917-18, when progress on the Western Front was very slow indeed. Another important 'Easterner' was Andrew Bonar Law. Although he never held a post that was central to the conduct of the War, as the leader of a minority party he had great influence on both the Asquith and Lloyd George Governments. There were also outspoken French 'Easterners' of whom Generals Serrail and Franchet D'Esperay were probably the most vocal. Both considered that there should be a diversionary attack on the Balkans Front. Also, a large French naval and military Force - over 80,000 men - was sent to the Dardanelles as part of the Dardanelles Campaign. The principal reason for the despatch of this large contingent, when France was sorely pressed on the Western Front in 1915, was the determination of the French Government not to be left out of the division of the spoils of the Ottoman Empire in the expectation of a successful conclusion of the Dardanelles Campaign. The French had particular interest in Syria, Lebanon and part of Iraq. Waverers The 'Waverers' were those individuals who supported the Western Front exclusively and then, at a later date, also backed action on the Eastern Front as an important factor in winning the War. A few made several reversals, or vacillated between the two options. Perhaps, the first of the really prominent British 'Waverers' was The First Sea Lord, Admiral John Fisher who, after initially supporting Churchill over the Dardanelles Campaign in its early conceptual phase, did a complete volte face and thereafter vociferously condemned it, and its architect, Churchill. Fisher's principal 'Eastener' idea was to use the Baltic Sea as an invasion route, with the Royal Navy in the van. In the end, Fisher resigned in May 1915 over this dispute. The next military figure to support the 'Easterners' was Field Marshal Horatio Kitchener of Khartoum, the Minister for War, who until his death at sea in June 1916, vacillated between the two policies and the carrying out of the Gallipoli, Salonika and Mesopotomia Expeditions. From the British political side, the first of the British wartime Prime Ministers, Sir Herbert Henry Asquith, also veered between the two policies. Postscriptum Such was the overwhelming effect of the war on the Western Front that those closely caught up in the conduct of it could truly not see much beyond its limited horizons. Certainly, there was no doubt that the Germans had to be defeated on the Western Front since they occupied vast areas of France and Belgium; there was no hope of any peace in Europe until they were expelled or evacuated these occupied territories of their own will. The latter was unlikely to happen unless they were defeated on the Western Front battlefield or were given their ostensibly unacceptable demands in a Peace Agreement. In times of war, the concept of attacking the enemy from his rear, or where his defences are weakest, is well proven in history. Had the 'Easterners'' Dardanelles Campaign been properly and forcibly executed in almost any of its phases, success for the Allies was a distinct possibility. In that event, it is quite possible that Turkey and the adjacent Balkan countries would have been forced out of the war; a definite reverse for the Central Powers. Unfortunately, the strategic possibilities, limited though they were, were squandered by incompetent leadership and planning by the British, allied with long operational delays that allowed the Turks to reinforce, or deploy, at the critical moment. A clear illustration of what might have been was the almost faultless, and casualty-free, withdrawal of the entire forces of the Allies in December/January 1916, from the same beaches they had so disastrously invaded 9 months earlier.

The Canadian Corps, a force of 100,000 soldiers by late 1916, fought for the entire war on the Western Front, along a static trench system that ran 700 kilometres from Switzerland to the North Sea. There was no easy solution to overcoming the power of defending armies properly situated on ideal terrain and protected by barbed wire, machine guns, artillery, and backed by reinforcements. But as the war progressed, armies on both sides introduced new weapons and tactics in the attempt to break the stalemate. Canadians were at the forefront of this evolution, earning a reputation as shock troops whose innovative, combined-arms approach to battle helped break the conundrum of the trenches. Western Front Bogs Down, 1914 While the generals who led the fighting armies of 1914 had envisioned a manoeuvre war, where cavalry and fast-marching infantry would aggressively sweep around the flanks of enemy forces and destroy them from favourable positions, the firepower of modern weapons — rapid-firing rifles, machine guns, and artillery — killed tens of thousands in the first months of the war. This heavy, unexpected death toll brought the war of movement to a halt on the Western Front at the end of 1914. The Germans occupied most of Belgium and northeastern France and they chose the best ground to defend, usually ridges that offered views of the enemy positions, good fields of fire, and allowed for reinforcements to dig into the reverse-slopes of hills that were largely protected from artillery shellfire. There was no easy solution to overcoming the power of the defenders properly situated on ideal terrain and protected by barbed wire, machine guns, artillery, and backed by reinforcements. Still, throughout the war all armies evolved and introduced new weapons and tactics in the attempt to break the stalemate. Stalemate Once attacks had been reduced to frontal assaults against prepared positions, both sides dug trenches to protect against bullets and shells. Over time, the trenches were thickened with secondary and tertiary lines. The Western Front stagnated as vast armies faced off against each other in underground fortresses and across seemingly empty battlefields. To go above ground invited mass death. The popular memory of the war is that of battlefield commanders stymied by the stalemate and unable to imagine battle plans other than to hurl the infantry forward against enemy lines, which were protected by barbed wire and swept by machine gun and rifle fire. The horrendous casualties seemed to reveal bankrupt tactics and immoral generals. But while the front remained stalemated for much of the war, there was constant innovation in weapons and tactics to break the riddle of the trenches. Canada’s Fighting Force, 1914-1915 Canada's First Contingent of more than 31,000 soldiers went overseas in October of 1914 and then trained on Salisbury Plain in southern England for four months. This first group of Dominion citizen soldiers was largely British-born, and most had professional soldiering backgrounds or militia experience. They were anxious to fight on the Western Front but were lucky that the British held them back to miss the killing battles of late 1914. Instead, the Canadians marched, fired their Canadian-manufactured Ross rifles at targets, and practiced bayonet fighting against straw-filled dummies. And they did it during one of the most miserable winters in British history, when it rained 89 out of 120 days. The parade grounds were reduced to a muddy bog, but the Canadians kept up their spirits with beer, song, and camaraderie. The Canadian Division, about 18,000 strong, was finally sent to the Western Front in February 1915. (The remaining 13,000 members of the First Contingent stayed in Britain as reinforcements.) Commanded by Lieutenant General E.A.H. Alderson, a British professional soldier, the division consisted of three infantry brigades, each of four battalions that were 1,000 strong. Most of the infantry battalions and artillery batteries were commanded by Canadians, although many of the important staff officers (who oversaw logistics, training, or planning) were British professionals. The division consisted of about 12,000 infantrymen drawn from across the country and from all classes. The decision was made in Ottawa early in the war to avoid the historic militia names, like the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada or the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, and give the battalions bland numbers, such as the 4th or 10th Battalion. This was done to avoid competition and bitter rivalries between newly-formed overseas battalions whose members had been drawn from multiple militia units. There were also several thousand artillerymen who manned 54 18-pounder field artillery guns, four 60-pounders, and 18 4.5-inch howitzers, which fired a plunging, heavier shell. Rounding out the division were engineers, medical units, and transport formations. Ross Rifle The Canadian infantryman was armed with the Ross rifle. During the South African War (1899-1902), Canada tried to arm its soldiers with the British Lee-Enfield rifle but was denied due to shortages. The Liberal government, in 1902, decided to press forward with a Canadian rifle. Designed by Sir Charles Ross, the rifle went through numerous adaptations and evolutions. Constant tinkering eventually lengthened the barrel considerably, and the Ross was considered a very accurate sniping rifle. Unfortunately, the Canadian rifle was later found to be far less robust than the Lee-Enfield, which more consistently fired the mass-produced, and often poor quality small arms ammunition issued during the war. The Ross would fail as a battlefield weapon. The Trenches Like all soldiers new to the front, the Canadians found the trenches bewildering. The soldiers’ enthusiasm for battle was soon dampened as they lived underground, stood in glue-like mud, stared into mud-filled sandbags that lined the trenches, and watched with disgust the tens of thousands of rats who fattened on unburied corpses. Most trying of all was to see comrades killed by bullets through the head or by shrapnel bursts that shredded their bodies, and be unable to strike back at their tormentors. Canadian infantrymen who tried to climb above the trenches and fire at the enemy only made themselves targets, and there was little to hit as the enemy opposite crouched for safety in his own trenches. The Canadians suffered 278 casualties in March 1915. Battle of Second Ypres, April 1915 The first major Canadian engagement was the Battle of Second Ypres in the Belgian salient, a bulge in the front lines to the east of the city of Ypres. The Allies — British, French, and Canadian troops — held the lines there and were attacked by German forces that sought to create a diversion as they transferred fighting divisions to the Eastern Front, where the Germans were fighting the Russians. The Germans marshalled their forces in March 1915, and their attack would follow the first unleashing of chlorine gas. The gas — transported to the front as a liquid in large metal canisters before it was released — required a stiff wind to blow it over the Allied lines. The long wait for the proper wind left the Germans uneasy, but the weather conditions cooperated on 22 April and the Germans unleashed their chemical pestilence. The 6 km-wide death cloud swept through French lines to the north and west of the Canadian Division. Behind it, German infantrymen, wearing their customary field grey uniforms and clutching their Mauser rifles, advanced tentatively into the gap where the French forces had fled or suffocated. Chlorine attacks the lungs and closes down respiratory pathways, leaving the afflicted suffocating to death on their own fluids. Having avoided the worst of the gas, the Canadians held their ground and fired into the German troops. Later on the 22nd, they launched their first attack of the war in a two-battalion bayonet charge on Kitcheners’ Wood, where the Germans were dug in. The Canadians fought almost non-stop for four days, facing a second lethal chlorine attack on the 24th with no gas masks other than wetted cloths. The four Colt machine guns per battalion, a two-man crew weapon, were invaluable in holding off the attack, but the Canadians were still pushed back by the relentless enemy pressure and heavy artillery bombardments. But the Canadians’ resilience in battle purchased time for the British and French to rush forward reinforcements. The chlorine gas had shocked the Canadians (and the world), but it had been conventional bullets and shells that had killed or wounded the bulk of the 6,000 Canadians lost during the battle. While the Canadians made a name for themselves at Ypres, the Ross rifle had failed during the fighting, jamming frequently when used in a rapid-fire role. But the Minister of Militia and Defence, Sam Hughes, who was desperate to control the Canadian forces in the field from Ottawa, remained a fierce champion of the rifle that he saw as a symbol of Canadian military pride. Hughes refused to allow the Ross to be replaced by the Lee-Enfield. It took almost a year and many additional examples of the rifle’s failure before the Canadians were armed with the Lee-Enfield. During that time, the relationship between Hughes and Alderson was irreparably damaged. Trench Warfare, 1915 The Canadians engaged in another major battle, at Festubert, France, in May 1915, where they were slaughtered in horrific numbers in frontal assaults against dug in enemy troops. After suffering 2,500 casualties at Festubert, the Canadians settled into the boredom, banality, and brutality of trench warfare. With no other major battles to fight in 1915, the Canadians began to experiment with new weapons, including grenades. Made of jam tins filled with nails and gun powder, these highly unstable explosive weapons required the thrower to light a fuse and hurl the grenade into the enemy lines. There were many cases of these bombs detonating prematurely and blowing off hands. Within a few months, however, the Mills No. 5 grenade was being manufactured in England, and it proved a much more stable and deadly device. The grenade, usually called a bomb during the war, could be thrown up to 35 metres or, with minor modifications, launched from a rifle to a distance of some 200 metres. The artillery shelling never stopped, and frontline soldiers grew frustrated with their inability to strike back at the enemy. Snipers on both sides lay still and camouflaged, shooting anyone who was foolish enough to expose himself. The Ross rifle remained a favourite for many Canadian snipers, who usually fired only one or two bullets in their ambushes, and it was all the deadlier with telescopic sights. Patrolling and Raiding At night, intelligence-gathering patrols skulked into no man’s land — the unheld ground between the opposing frontline trenches that could stretch to several hundred metres wide — to spy on the German trenches, test enemy fortifications, and snip paths through the barbed wire. By early December, the Canadians, in following the lead of a few other British units, planned a more aggressive raid on the enemy lines. In the early hours of 17 November 1915, at Petite Douve farm on Belgium soil, the Canadians launched their attack. In a hit-and-run operation, a number of Germans were killed and prisoners snatched. The high command liked the aggressive nature of raids and demanded more. And so began a new level of low-intensity warfare that saw battle patrols or raids launched night after night against the enemy lines. These operations could involve a few scouts or several hundred soldiers. Larger raids were supported by artillery, machine gunners, and complex medical arrangements. The Germans launched their own night-time operations, but the Canadians acquired a reputation for being fierce and effective raiders, and these minor battles honed tactics. At the same time, they also increased the number of casualties to attackers and defenders. There was no danger of peace breaking out at the front. Learning to Fight The raids taught the Canadians the importance of coordinating infantry operations with the artillery in preparing for assaults on the enemy lines. It was suicidal to advance until the deep rows of barbed wire protecting enemy trenches were cleared by high explosive fire. But clearing wire with shells was ineffective, as most buried themselves in the ground before exploding. It took until late 1916 for more sensitive fuses (primarily the 106 fuse) to be developed and longer for them to be manufactured in large numbers. The new fuses allowed shells to explode upon even a grazing impact with the wire. The evolution of artillery throughout the war introduced new and larger calibre guns, more shells, reliable fuses, and refined tactics and technological advances to locate enemy guns. Mortars were also introduced early in the war, but they were bulky weapons and their crews ran through their ammunition too quickly. The Germans favoured mortars, however, and Canadian soldiers soon learned to fear the bombs filled with high explosives that were fired along a high arc and dropped into their trenches. As the fighting gathered in intensity, additional firepower was required at the front. The heavy, water-cooled Vickers machine gun formally replaced the Colt machine gun in the summer of 1916 and proved capable of spitting out hundreds of bullets a minute. The Vickers, with its five-man crew, was often grouped in independent machine-gun companies (and later battalions) to augment their firepower. It was devastating in laying down defensive fire and firing indirectly on enemy lines, sending thousands of bullets to spray the enemy trenches and rear areas. The infantry were also issued a light automatic rifle, the Lewis machine gun, in the summer of 1915. It had a 47-round circular clip and was not as powerful or effective as the heavy Vickers machine gun in providing continuous fire, but the Lewis helped the infantry fight its way forward, and more were added to infantry companies and platoons throughout the war. Battle of the Somme, 1916 By the summer of 1916, the long-awaited French and British offensive was launched against the German lines around the River Somme in northern France. It was to have been a French-led operation, but the Germans spoiled that when they attacked the French at Verdun, in February, at the southern end of the French front. The fighting at Verdun continued throughout much of the year. The British contributed more forces to the Somme fighting because the French were being bled white to the south, and the British Expeditionary Force’s commander-in-chief, Sir Douglas Haig, relied heavily on firepower to pave a way to victory. But in the face of million-shell bombardments, the resourceful German defenders just burrowed deeper for protection, in dugouts some 50 metres below the surface. When the pre-battle bombardment stopped to allow the attacking infantry to cross no man’s land, the surviving defenders, ears ringing and often suffering from concussion, raced up the dugout stairs to man their guns and shoot down the vulnerable infantry. The supposed breakthrough on the Somme, behind a steamroller of shellfire, never materialized, and the fighting from 1 July to mid-November 1916 revealed that the advantages afforded to the defenders — deep dugouts, barbed wire, and trench systems in depth — were still difficult to overcome. Canadians on the Somme The first day of the Somme offensive was a disaster. On 1 July, the British surged forward into the mouth of the waiting German guns and suffered almost 60,000 casualties. As part of the battle, close to 700 members of the 800-strong Royal Newfoundland Regiment were killed or wounded in an attack at Beaumont Hamel. The Canadians had fought the costly Battle of Mount Sorrel, in the Ypres salient, in June, so they were excluded from the slaughter of 1 July, but they served on the Somme from September onwards. In a series of battles, the Canadian Corps, now three divisions strong (a fourth would arrive in October), succeeded in capturing a few key positions, especially the ruined village of Courcelette on September 15th. But the cost was appalling; more than 24,000 Canadians were killed and wounded. The British had attempted to break the enemy’s line by introducing the tank at Courcelette, but the tanks could be knocked out by shellfire and often broke down on the cratered battlefield. The front lines shifted only a few kilometres at the cost of over a million casualties to the British, French, Dominion, and German forces. Reforms In the aftermath of the Somme and Verdun battles, both sides studied the lessons of combat. More shells and guns had not brought victory and neither had the introduction of tanks, more airplanes, exploding underground mines, and a heavier reliance on new chemical weapons. The challenge of the attacker was to cut the enemy’s barbed wire or create enough paths through which the infantry could advance; kill or suppress enemy defenders, especially machine-gun teams; suppress or destroy enemy artillery guns further behind the lines; and defend newly won territory against the enemy’s rapid counterattacks that often drove the weakened attackers from their newly won trenches. The Somme had proven there were no easy answers to the stalemate on the Western Front. The Canadian Corps, now four divisions strong and under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Julian Byng, ushered in new reforms after the wreckage of the Somme. The command of infantry platoons and sections was increasingly decentralized, and information and battle plans were shared with lower ranks. Junior officers had been shot down in sickening numbers on the Somme, and their deaths had led to confusion on the battlefield; now, senior NCOs and privates were instructed to keep moving forward to objectives, using their platoon’s firepower of rifles, grenades, and Lewis guns to fight and manoeuvre on the battlefield. The artillery, too, honed its tactics and employed scientific principles to better locate hidden enemy guns. A specialized Canadian Corps Counter Battery Office was established in early 1917 under command of a former professor of engineering at McGill, Andrew McNaughton, who would rise to command the Canadian army during the Second World War. The Office employed sophisticated methods of tracking the sound of hidden enemy guns firing shells and then triangulating back to the gun position. It also used flash-spotting, which was based on a similar method of multiple observation sites locating the gun-muzzle flash and triangulating its location. These tactics allowed the Canadian artillery to find and then smother enemy positions in high explosives and poison gas. The creeping barrage was also refined since it was first used on the Somme. This new tactic involved hundreds of guns laying down a slow-moving wall of shellfire to tear through the enemy trench system, either killing defenders or forcing them into their dugouts. On the Somme, artillery bombardments had often stopped at zero hour (the moment the infantry began to leave the trenches) thereby signalling the start of the Allied attack. In the winter of 1916-17, the infantry instead rehearsed following closely behind the rolling artillery barrage. This tactic would keep the enemy pinned down and prevent the attackers from being caught in the open before reaching the German lines. The Canadian and British forces expected to lose soldiers to friendly fire as they “leaned into the barrage,” but it was better than the wholesale slaughter of forces caught in no man’s land. Battle of Vimy Ridge The attacking Canadians used these new tactics to deliver victory at Vimy Ridge on 9–12 April 1917. The formidable 7 km-long ridge had been held by the Germans from the start of the war and the defenders there had repulsed several Allied attacks. But Byng’s Boys had planned thoroughly, and the 100,000-strong Canadian Corps surged forward on 9 April, all four divisions in the attack, with 15,000 men in the first waves of the assault. The infantry followed the creeping barrage up the ridge and drove the enemy back in countless small battles. Grenades, rifle fire, and machine guns knocked out enemy strong points. There were several official accounts of infantrymen using their bayonets to drive the enemy back or force his surrender; he 17-inch blade of the bayonet was an original weapon from 1914 and continued to find a role on the battlefield. For one of the first times in the war on the Western Front, the attackers decisively dislodged the enemy from a fortified position. The challenge remained of how to turn a single victory into a series of victorious campaigns. Hill 70 and Passchendaele While the successful weapons and tactics contributing to victory were in place, they were difficult to replicate consistently. Each battle was different since terrain, weather, and enemy strength and morale could influence the outcome. The Canadians fought aggressively over the summer and fall of 1917 at Hill 70 and Passchendaele, where they beat the Germans in battle but at a terrible cost in lives. At the August 1917 Battle of Hill 70, near Vimy Ridge, in northern France, the Canadians employed their infantry, artillery, and machine gunners to attack and hold an enemy position and set up a sweeping field of bullet and shell fire to tear apart the counterattacking enemy forces. The Germans were chewed up in the fighting. However, at Passchendaele, in October and November 1917, incessant shellfire mixed with rain reduced the battlefield east of Ypres, Belgium, to a bog of mud and unburied corpses. The Canadian Corps, now under command of Canadian-born Sir Arthur Currie, had to find new ways to win in the mud. Relying heavily on the creeping barrage and counter-battery fire to suppress enemy defences and guns, the Canadians in four methodical attacks — on 26 and 30 October and 6 and 10 November — clawed their way out of the mud and up the ridge. The victory cost another 16,000 casualties, but the Canadians solidified their reputation as an elite fighting force. German Offensives The final year of the Great War saw further advances in warfighting. The Germans knocked the Russians from the conflict in early 1918 and imposed a harsh peace. The victory in the east allowed the Germans to transfer dozens of divisions to the Western Front for a final assault against the Allies. The Kaiser’s armies sought to drive France or Britain from the war before the full strength of the United States (which had entered the war in April 1917) could be brought to bear. On 21 March, 1918, behind hurricane bombardments of high explosives, shrapnel, and poison gas, rapid-moving German infantry units surged forward, attacking through the soft spots in the Allied lines. By fighting and manoeuvring around strong points as opposed to trying to bash through them, they made deep advances into the British, and, later, French lines. In the confusion and chaos of battle, Allied soldiers found themselves behind enemy lines and thousands surrendered. But after a week or so of defeats, the British eventually slowed the German advance through a resilient defence. The Germans had nearly found a way to break through the trenches, but the casualties had been horrendous, as infantry pushed beyond their artillery’s range and then faced Allied guns and defences without heavy supporting firepower. This desperate offensive, which ran for about three months, cost the Germans around 800,000 casualties. Combined-Arms Warfare and the Hundred Days The Allies counterattacked east of Paris, in July 1918, at the Second Battle of the Marne and then in northern France, on 8 August, at Amiens. In that operation, the Canadian and Australian Corps spearheaded a larger British and French attack. The battle was planned in secrecy and was the culmination of almost four years of tactical reforms. The weapons and tactics had been in place since 1917, but now they were welded together in a combined-arms approach that saw the infantry advance behind creeping barrages, tanks and armoured cars thrusting forward, fighter planes shooting up ground targets and reporting back to headquarters on advances or enemy targets, and machine guns and mortar fire, along with chemical agents, further harassing enemy positions. The front was blown open on the 8th, but the deep Allied advance of 13 km outdistanced its artillery and logistical lines, and the Germans were able to rush reinforcements to the front. The Battle of Amiens, fought intensely from 8-11 August, and then over several more days, was the start of the Hundred Days campaign, a series of relentless hammer blows against the German lines by all of the Allied forces on the Western Front. The elite Canadian Corps, its fighting divisions brought up to strength with conscripted soldiers, was thrown into several battles, breaking the enemy positions at Arras, the Hindenburg Line, Cambrai, and finally, on the last day of the war, 11 November, capturing Mons, Belgium. The Canadian Corps beat the enemy with a honed, combined-arms approach to battle, using all the weapons at their disposal. These offensive weapons, wielded by determined soldiers and commanded by efficient leaders, overcame the power of the defensive weapons, fortifications, and defenders on the Western Front. The Canadians had earned their reputation as shock troops, and they were widely recognized as one of the most effective fighting formations within the British Expeditionary Force. But the tremendous fighting during the Hundred Days had also inflicted more than 45,000 casualties on the Canadian Corps. The German army was decisively beaten in the field, but it had come at a withering cost.

Photo: Canadian soldiers at the Battle of the Somme, 1916 Canada's Soldiers

“A Red Cross train of wounded arrived in Nottingham last night from Southampton and Dover. The convoy consisted of 111 cot cases, 9 sitting cases, and 25 mental cases.” ‘Nottingham Evening Post’, 28th November 1918.

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