The Bonus Marchers

World War I veterans block the steps of the Capitol during the Bonus March, July 5, 1932. Photo Credit-
World War I veterans block the steps of the Capitol during the Bonus March, July 5, 1932. Photo Credit-

1932 was a rough year in the old U.S of A.  The Great Depression was in full swing and many people were out of a job.  The unemployment rate was over 15% and climbing.  People were starving with no hope and no way out.  There had been unrest beginning in December 1931, when a small hunger march on Washington was led by the communist party.  A few weeks later a Pittsburgh priest led 12,000 men to Washington to advocate for unemployment rights.  Riots broke out at a Ford plant in Michigan and left four dead and fifty wounded.  By May 1932, tensions were high.  That was when the Bonus Expeditionary Force started arriving.

Many of those out of work were World War I veterans.  In 1924, Congress rewarded them with certificates redeemable in 1945.  Veterans up to the rank of major with at least 60 days service each received a dollar for each day of domestic service up to $500 and $1.25 for each day of overseas service up to $625. The bond that each received in 1924 would accumulate compound interest, resulting in an average payment of about $1,000 for each veteran in 1945.  This was to be paid for by a trust fund created by Congress through twenty annual installments of $112 million each.

However, in 1932 1945 seemed very far away.  Those men needed that $1,000 for their families now.  They couldn’t feed their kids with a piece of paper.  They started asking Congress to redeem their bonus certificates early.  There were approximately 3,662,374 certificates outstanding that the veterans were asking to have redeemed early, which came out to a total payment of about $3.638 billion.  The trust fund had a total of $991 million in it through eight annual installments and compounded interest.  Early redemption became known as a bonus in Congress, and was debated hotly by the legislative branch.  It was bitterly opposed by President Hoover and many senators and members of the House.  To put pressure on the government, veterans began coming to Washington.  Led by Walter Waters of Oregon, these veterans formed the self named Bonus Expeditionary Force or Bonus Army.  Men poured into Washington from all parts of the country, arriving by hopping trains, hiking and hitchhiking.  It was estimated by June, there were 20,000 veterans and their families.  They were camped out in a shantytown across the Potomac River in Anacostia Flats.  Conditions were unsanitary, shanties were built from materials dragged out of a nearby junk pile and they were dependent on donations of food from churches and private citizens.  They called this makeshift camp a “Hooverville”, but it’s official name was Camp Marks, in honor of the police captain in whose precinct they were camped.

Mounted Cavalry Photo Credit-
Mounted Cavalry Photo Credit-

Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur was convinced this was a communist conspiracy.  However, further investigation by MacArthur’s own intelligence division found that only three of the twenty-six leaders of the Bonus March were communists.  Discipline in the camps was good, and the marchers tried to make the best of their situation.  They laid out streets, dug latrines and all new members had to prove they were honorably discharged.  No panhandling, drinking or radicalism was allowed.  According to journalist and eyewitness Joseph C. Harsch, “This was not a revolutionary situation. This was a bunch of people in great distress wanting help…. These were simply veterans from World War I who were out of luck, out of money, and wanted to get their bonus — and they needed the money at that moment.”

The Marchers had some hope as the Patman Veterans Bill passed the House of Representatives on June 15, 1932.  It still needed Senate approval and would probably face a veto from President Hoover.  The bill didn’t get that far, and was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 62 -18.   By the evening of June 17, 10,000 Marchers were on the Capitol steps waiting for the outcome of the vote.  However, the Marchers weren’t giving up.  Walter Waters had the marchers sing “America” as they walked back to their camp.  The next day, a silent “Death March” began in front of the Capitol and continued until July 17, when Congress adjourned.  

Still the Marchers did not disburse.  President Hoover, Army Chief of Staff MacArthur and Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley were terrified this would lead to widespread unrest in Washington and the rest of country.  Something had to be done.  On July 28, Hoover ordered Police Chief Glassford to evict any veterans in any abandoned buildings downtown.  A small group of veterans clashed with police, and they fought with nightsticks and bricks.  Eventually shots rang out and one of the veterans lay dead, and three more were wounded.  Now things were serious.

Army Chief of Staff MacArthur assumed command and rolled five tanks and 200 US horse cavalry down the streets of Washington DC against our own citizens.  Eyewitness Fred Blacher was standing on a street corner and recalls the following scene, “By God, all of a sudden I see these cavalrymen come up the avenue and then swinging down to The Mall. I thought it was a parade,” Blacher later said.  “I asked a gentleman standing there, I said, do you know what’s going on? What holiday is this? He says, ‘It’s no parade, bud.’ He says, ‘the Army is coming in to wipe out all these bonus people down here.'”  Led by Major George S. Patton, the soldiers and tanks drove everyone off the streets.  They deployed tear gas and set fire to the shelters erected in town.

Tanks in the Washington streets Photo Credit-
Tanks in the Washington streets Photo Credit-

By evening on July 28, the army reached Camp Marks.  According to the testimony of MacArthur’s aide, Dwight D. Eisenhower, under orders from Hoover and Secretary of War Hurley, troops were forbidden to cross the bridge into Anacostia.  Eisenhower reported MacArthur ignored the officers bringing the orders “said he was too busy and did not want either himself or his staff bothered by people coming down and pretending to bring orders.” Eisenhower put it more bluntly during an interview with the late historian Stephen Ambrose. “I told that dumb son-of-a-bitch he had no business going down there,” he said.  He went anyway.

MacArthur gave the families 20 minutes to clear out of Camp Marks.  Then led the troops in with tear gas and fixed bayonets.  The camp was set fire and quickly burned, the flames seen from all over Washington.  The Marchers were herded into Maryland and onto National Guard trucks, which took them to Pennsylvania.  One baby died from tear gas inhalation.  “Flames rose high over the desolate Anacostia flats at midnight tonight,” read the first sentence of the “New York Times” account, “and a pitiful stream of refugee veterans of the World War walked out of their home of the past two months, going they knew not where.”  Soon it was being called the Battle of Washington.

At 11 pm that night, MacArthur held a press conference to defend his actions.  “Had the President not acted today, had he permitted this thing to go on for twenty-four hours more, he would have been faced with a grave situation which would have caused a real battle,” MacArthur told reporters. “Had he let it go on another week, I believe the institutions of our Government would have been severely threatened.”  Remember, these were American citizens peaceably protesting.  They were also veterans, mostly still in uniform, who defended this country by putting their lives on the line.

Camp Marks burned Photo Credit-
Camp Marks burned Photo Credit-

Newsreel footage of the incident played in movie theaters across the country and showed the public graphic images of violence from that night.  The public reaction damaged Hoover’s chances for reelection.  In the 1932 election, Franklin D. Roosevelt beat Hoover.  When the veterans marched on Washington again in 1933, they were not met with tear gas and bayonets.  Instead they were met with a clean camp, three meals a day and meetings with adviser Louis Howe.  The first lady made it a priority to meet with them.  A compromise was reached and the veterans were employed by the CCC , and they finally got their bonus in 1936.


Sources on request

Edwin Lutyens

15232150_375761079432647_8665729609034985544_nEdwin Lutyens was born in London in March 1869. He was named for a friend of his father, artist Edwin Henry Landseer. Lutyens studied at the Royal College of Art and graduated as an architect in 1887 before working for a year in the offices of Ernest George and Harold Peto, where he met noted architect Sir Herbert Baker.

In 1888 Edwin Lutyens set up his own offices, working for several years in fashionable Bloomsbury Square, during which time he met garden designer and leading horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll, with whom he collaborated on several commissions. His style mixed brick paths, with overflowing borders of lupins, lilies and lavender to create a mixture of the old formal style garden and the informality of a cottage garden and was to define many outdoor areas of period style houses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His popularity was increased dramatically with the endowment of Edward Hudson, founder of “Country Life” magazine, in which Lutyens could showcase many of his house designs. Hudson commissioned Lutyens to work on several projects including his home, The Deanery in Sonning and8 the nearby headquarters of Country Life in Tavistock Square.

Tavistock Square is one of several “squares” which stand on the site of the former land owned by 18th century architect and builder James Burton, who bought the land piecemeal that belonged both to the older foundlings hospital and that of the Duke of Bedford. It became known as Bloomsbury Square and the later squares grew from that. Lutyens also designed the British Medical Association’s building also in Tavistock Square which stands on Burton’s former home. Lutyens was to become well known as an architect with a keen eye for detail and the ability to reproduce substantial private homes in the styles of much earlier periods, notably the late medieval and Tudor styles. His work so impressive that many have difficulty knowing the difference. Key buildings he contributed to include Marsh Court, Overstrand Hall, the Main building of Amesbury Prep School – originally a private residence – and Le Bois de Moutiers in France. He was also hired to renovate and rejuvenate 16th Century Lindisfarne Castle into a family home.

Lutyens received one of his biggest honours, the work for which he will eternally be remembered, when commissioned by David Lloyd George on behalf of the public and the Imperial War Graves Commission to submit to the committee designs for the layout of the war cemeteries under consideration following the Great War. His work includes some of the “stones of memorial” in some of the larger war cemeteries. In addition, Lutyens was asked to put forward a design for a memorial on the Somme battleground to those killed in action during that battle, who had no known grave. The result was the iconic Thiepval Memorial. Lutyens further designed both the temporary and the later permanent Whitehall Cenotaph structures, requested initially to commemorate the 1919 victory parade, and later to provide a lasting memorial to the fallen in the Nation’s capital. He also designed similar cenotaphs and other memorials, notably several in Canada, British Columbia, Sydney, the War Memorial gardens in Dublin, the Memorial Arch in Leicester and the Tower Hill Memorial.15232335_375761236099298_3878625975552392014_n

Following his work on war memorials, in the late 1920s Lutyens designed and oversaw the famous mock-medieval Castle Drogo in Devon, England for businessman and entrepreneur Julius Drewe. During this period, he was also engaged by Sir Herbert Baker to work with him on commissions in New Delhi, most notably the India Gate, the Viceroys Palace, (now Rashtrapathi Bhavan) and Hyderabad House. In 1924, Edwin built four storey replica Palladian villa, Queen Mary’s Doll House, in 1/12th Scale. This piece was never designed with the intention of actually being a toy, merely a presentation of the standards and styles of British Architecture. It is now part of a permanent display near Windsor castle. A few years later, Lutyens was awarded the commission for the design of the new Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool. Sadly World War Two interrupted the building, and lack of funds post-war prevented the commission being completed. The Cathedral only reached crypt level, and the design was modified into the present Cathedral. In recent years, the model of the complete original was restored by Walker Art Gallery, and now rests on display in the Museum of Liverpool. Its front entrance startlingly reminiscent of the archways of the Thiepval Memorial.

Edwin Lutyens died on New Years’ Day in 1944 following several bouts of pneumonia over the preceding years, and a diagnosis of cancer. He left a reluctant widow, Lady Emily Bulwer-Lytton, with whom his marriage had failed somewhat from the beginning, despite having five surviving children. Lady Emily had proposed to Edwin, in 1895 with their wedding taking place two years later. She had then developed a disconcerting obsession with theosophy and one of its leading philosophers, to the detriment of her relationship with Lutyens. Following his death, Edwin was cremated at Golders Green, where his ashes remain interred. A memorial to him was designed and constructed by his friend and fellow architect William Curtis Green, which can be found in the crypt of St Pauls in London.

In a fitting continuation to the memorial work for which Lutyens is best known, the Bloomsbury area, in which Lutyens worked and designed several of the buildings for, became something of a peace gardens, with the laying of memorials in honour of Mahatma Ghandi, the victims of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Conscientious Objectors of the War. Nearby was also the Tavistock Clinic, a psychiatric facility, used during and after the Great War to treat victims of shell shock.15253484_375761202765968_753372940999560427_n

The peace was shattered in July 2005, at Tavistock Square, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive packed rucksack on a crowded double decker bus, onto which commuters had been forced to travel due to emergency closures on the underground trains that morning. The closures were caused by similar devices being detonated by fellow terrorist perpetrators; following their attacks, all underground services had been cancelled and passengers sent above ground to make their way to their destinations by alternative means. One of those to board the bus was the final bomber who had not yet had chance to detonate his device, intended for another underground train. In all, fifty-two innocent people were killed that morning, thirteen of whom were fatally injured as the bomb tore the bus wide open outside of Lutyens’ fine British Medical Association Building. Many passers-by were also caught up in the blast. Several medical personnel who were attending a meeting there, that morning, made their way out of the building following the explosion and dedicated their efforts to treating as many of the victims as they could.

Edwin Lutyens is not everybody’s first choice when asked to name any renowned British Architect. His name falls by the wayside when compared with such well-known and prominent fellows as Christopher Wren and Capability Brown. But with the legacy remaining from Hampton Court Bridge, the 44 memorials to the Great War found throughout Britain and Ireland, which have now been granted protected status as listed monuments and buildings, and his most prominent works around the world, Lutyens has ensured that his memory will continue in the fine examples of architecture he left us with which arguably outrank anything that his better known contemporaries could offer.


First and Last

Grave of Henry Gunther
Grave of Henry Gunther

So following on from my article on the Armistice, what led to it and how it came about, I now want to focus on the impact the procedure and its application had on the men on the ground.

As we have seen, the German forces were already in a state of confusion; their efforts were failing and they were losing ground fast. The American belligerent forces had joined the war effort on the side of the Allied Powers early in 1917 during the Spring Offensive, at a time when the Entente were still counting the cost of the futile Somme offensive of 1916. Germany had hoped to follow up the battle of the Somme with another push, knowing that preparations were being made to bring in the American forces, and hoping to gain the upper hand before that happened. Germany weren’t particularly concerned with American involvement, feeling that the latter’s Army and Navy were inferior and could quite possibly not be mobilized in time to make an effective contribution to the Allied war effort, if at all. However, they wanted to push the Allied forces as far back as they could before reinforcements could arrive.

1917 saw French Commander Marshal Joffre being replaced by General Robert Nivelle; Nivelle came into the position declaring that a continued heavy bombardment of German lines along the Chemin des Dames Ridge area particularly, would be enough to drive their forces back to the Hindenburg line, and secure victory within a matter of days. Despite overwhelming opposition to the plan by both British and French Army commanders and politicians, the new French Prime Minister okayed the plan. The Battle of the Aisne was to follow. The hope was that despite rumblings that America would soon be involved in the War Effort, which many held reservations about how effective their involvement would be, that this push would be successful and negate the need for America, whose forces and inclusion could not be counted on, to get involved at all. The offensive kicked off in April 1917 and progressed for around four or five weeks – unless one is to include the later Battle of La Malmaison in October/November of the same year. The result being around half a million men from all sides became casualties of a series of sub-battles infamous for their horror, most notably Arras and Vimy Ridge. Just four miles of ground were taken, and the aftermath included the sacking of Nivelle, and the mass desertion of French soldiers.

As the Nivelle Offensive was being analysed and its strategic failures weighed, a renewal of the conflict centered around the town of Ypres, in a ridge and plain area known as Passchendaele. Now known as the Third Battle of Ypres, it was to become infamous in History alongside the retreat of Mons, the Somme, Arras and Verdun as a long drawn out arduous pointless mud filled hell which cost the lives of tens of thousands of men, many whom have no known graves, for little gain. America entered the war at some point between these offensives. Although their support was reluctant and minimal, at least in the beginning, compared to that of the Allied forces who had been stuck in the boggy ground of the Western Front for several years, it was enough to start the turning of the tide towards victory against the Germans whose forces on the ground, struggling on short rations and lack of equipment, were beginning to feel the strain. As we have seen, Wilson followed up his nation’s entry with his fourteen points solution and both sides at grass roots level at least, began to see a possible end to hostilities. It wasn’t to be until the later part of the year when this hope was realized.

Now for the figures. We all like figures, they give us perspective.
From the announcement that Germany were actively seeking peace, around September 1918, to the confirmation of the announcement of the Armistice in the dawn hours of November 11th, hostilities continued at the order of the men at the top. The fighting forces knew unofficially two days prior to the signing that the Armistice was going to happen. It wasn’t a case of if, but when. As we know, German army personnel had already begun a mass exodus from the battlefield under their own steam. My focus is on what happened next.

Following the announcement of the Armistice on the morning of November 11th 1918, to take effect from 11am, the American forces up to 1.2 million of them, based mainly around the Argonne forest as part of their contribution to the Meuse-Argonne offensive, were ordered to continue hostilities, and a large contingent were ordered “over the top”, despite knowing that in a few hours the war would be over. During this attack, they would suffer nearly 27 THOUSAND casualties, comparable to similar numbers of French who were with them in the battle that morning. Pershing would later stand at a committee convention into the conduct of American forces at war, and state that to his mind there was no way of predicting that the cease-fire would happen, or hold and therefore it was conceivable that American forces should maintain warfare until instructed otherwise.

The last official Allied casualty of the Great War was 23 year old Henry Gunther, a Baltimore book-keeper of, ironically, German descent. As a result of his heritage, like many others in his area from similar backgrounds, Gunther resisted enlistment following American entry to the War, until eventually he was drafted in late 1917. His unit arrived at the Front in September 1918. Henry had been placed in charge of equipment, specifically uniform during his training and had risen to the rank of Sergeant. Thanks to an intercepted letter, sent to one of his friends back home, bemoaning conditions in France upon his arrival, and the entreaty to avoid the draft as long as possible, Gunther was demoted to Private.

On the morning of the Armistice with just minutes left before the cease-fire, Gunther’s unit were positioned at Meuse close to a German machine gun post across a roadblock in the village of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers. The squad took cover, and prepared to wait out the end of hostilities. Gunther, however, had other ideas. Feeling morose about his demotion, he decided that he wished to end the war on a high note. In an effort to regain his self-pride, he stood up, against the advice of his friend Sergeant Ernest Powell, and charged with his bayonet towards the German roadblock. The Germans tried to wave him back, aware that the ceasefire was imminent, but Gunther would not be subdued, he started firing and the German sentries had no choice but to fire back. They opened fire with a short burst and Gunther was hit, killing him instantly. The time was 10.59 am. Gunther’s actions have remained a mystery. His comrades and family speculated that Gunther was trying to redeem himself, particularly with regard to his German heritage; not wanting to be accused of sympathizing with the enemy. His rank was post-humously reinstated.

Close by, French forces had not been informed of the Armistice, nor had their German counterparts. French army messenger, 40 year old former shepherd Augustin Trebuchon, who had enlisted as hostilities broke out was around halfway between the villages of Sedan and Charleville-Mezieres. Rain had been falling all morning, and the river was flooded. A unit of French were crossing a hastily constructed plank bridge across the river, and several were lost when they fell off and drowned. Heavy fog had prevented their scout planes from taking off that morning to monitor the German position on the other side of the river. At 10.30 the fog cleared and the now-airborne spotters were able to communicate positions to the attacking French, and the accompanying artillery, to prevent them hitting their own men.

Their commander was felt to have used his men in continuing hostilities in order to force the signatures of the Armistice committee. It wasn’t until 6pm that night that the confirmation of the ceasefire was received and action ceased. 91 French soldiers died during the action in that area that day. Trebuchon was the last. He was found near the railway line with a deep fatal wound in his right side. In his hand was the message for the French troops to muster for food at 11.30. French Officers quietly withdrew their men, following the cease fire and left their dead without honour. All the French men who died that day had their date of death changed to the 10th November. It is thought the French commanders were embarrassed to have ordered their men to continue fighting despite knowing the Armistice had been signed. Trebuchon’s unit were discreetly left out of the victory parade through Paris in 1919.

An equally auspicious end had met the first men to be killed as a result of the Great War. I had to word this carefully as War hadn’t officially been declared when 21-year-old Corporal Jules-Andre Peugeot was one of two men shot and killed on the morning of August 2nd 1914. Peugeot, a former teacher, was a regular soldier in the French army as Europe descended into war, having been called up the previous year to serve his period of compulsory military service. Despite formal declaration of war still being two days away, Peugeot and a small contingent of men were based in a billet in a house in the town of Joncherey for defensive purposes, knowing a formal declaration of war was imminent and German forces were advancing. At around 9.30 the owner’s daughter rushed in to tell them a German cavalry unit had entered the town. Peugeot and his comrades, eating breakfast, stood up and made ready to head off the Germans.

They proceeded through town until they confronted Leutnant Albert Mayer, and his men, and ordered their surrender, and arrest. Mayer had already attacked and wounded a French sentry on the outskirts of town that morning, with his sabre. Upon being stopped by Peugeot and his men, he pulled out his revolver and shot Peugeot in the shoulder. Peugeot attempted to fire back but missed, his comrades also retaliated and Mayer was hit in the head and stomach, killing him. Peugeot stumbled back to the house where he died shortly afterwards on the front steps.

The first British soldier to die in the Great War was underage, and killed in the same area as the last. 17-year-old John Parr was a regular soldier, who joined the army in 1912 aged just fifteen, giving his age as 18 years and one month. John was the youngest child of eleven born to milkman Edward Parr and his wife Alice in Finchley, London. Several of his siblings did not live past four years of age. After leaving school and working as first a butcher’s boy, then a golf-caddy, it is felt John enlisted to see a little adventure and to get the benefits of the basic things that the Army offered – regular pay, and two square meals a day. As war broke out, John was sent to France where he was given the job of reconnaissance cyclist. Just a few weeks later, on 21st August 1914, as the British Expeditionary Force encountered German troops at Mons, Parr and a fellow cyclist were sent from their position alongside the canal at Bettignies, outside of Mons, to scout and find the enemy position. They crossed over the border into Belgium, and to look for a German force positioned near Obourg. During this mission they encountered a German Cavalry force, and Parr instructed his comrade to return as fast as possible to report, while he held them off. He never returned.

Although details remain sketchy it is thought that Parr was killed during an ensuing exchange of fire although it isn’t clear who exactly was responsible. The following few days saw the notorious “retreat from Mons”, and it could be that Parr was a casualty of this action, however one would presume if he had still been alive in the two days prior to the retreat, he would have made attempts to return to his unit, or at least notify them of his whereabouts. Parr’s body remained where it fell. It wasn’t until Alice Parr pressed Army command for details of her son, having not heard from him, that it was discovered he was still missing, and initially had been assumed captured. He is now buried in the St Symphorien Military Cemetery. Close by is the grave of Lieutenant Maurice Dease VC, who along with Private Sidney Godley VC, defended the retreat just two days later on the 23rd August, of British troops, resulting in their award of the Victoria Cross for gallantry. Dease was killed in his efforts, becoming the first VC recipient of the war. Godley was taken prisoner and was notified while captive that he too had been awarded the highest medal of honour.

Another poignant grave that faces that of Parr, just fifteen feet away is that of George Edwin Ellison. Ellison was a former regular soldier, who had left the Army in 1912 upon his marriage to Hannah, and subsequent birth of James a year later. He was working as a coal miner when he was recalled for service as hostilities broke out. Ellison saw the retreat of Mons, and participated in several of the major battles of the war, including First Ypres, Armentieres, La Bassee, Loos and Cambrai. 1918 saw Ellison back in Mons in the days leading up to the Armistice. On the morning of the eleventh November, Ellison’s unit were tasked like many others with following the German retreat, until the ceasefire became official, at which point they were to stand to, consolidate their positions and await further instructions. At 9.30, Ellison and his squad were in receipt of information that a German force were in nearby woods. They took up a scouting mission, and advanced to the woods. Moments later shots rang out. Ellison was dead.

Canadian forces were given similar orders to those of the British; maintain advance to the rear of retreating Germans, try not to engage in any further hostilities and be ready to stand to and consolidate positions upon the official ceasefire. As a precautionary measure, due to the possible delays in their own subsequent withdrawal, they were also told to pay attention to possible billets for the next few days as their position was open with little available shelter.

The 28th Battalion were also in the region of Mons, and were tasked that morning with two objectives, to secure the village of Havre and to reach the Canal du Centre. Havre was taken without any engagement of the retreating Germans, and with a small amount of retaliatory machine gun fire, and a bit of a dash the canal was achieved and the Canadian forces positioned themselves and awaited the cease fire. They could see German troops making their retreat through the woods and over the hill at the far side of the canal, but allowed them to continue their retreat unheeded, paying attention to their commanders’ instructions not to involve themselves with anything but the most necessary action.

It is therefore not quite understood why 25-year-old Saskatchewan Private George Lawrence Price made the decision to cross the canal, knowing German soldiers were still in the area making their retreat. It is thought he may have been following up on the advisory to secure accommodation and seeing a row of houses at the far side of the canal, took a patrol including comrade Private Arthur Goodmurphy and two or three others to scout the road and see if they were suitable billets. It was recorded that they crossed under a small amount of fire and when they entered the first house, expected to find the Germans responsible. There was however only the home-owner and his family. The Germans had left by the back door as they entered the front. The same thing happened in the next house; the homeowner however motioned them to be very careful. Price disregarded this advice and as the patrol left the house, one shot rang out. It hit Price in the area of his heart, and he half turned, and down he went caught by Goodmurphy who dragged him back into the house. Despite several people rushing to his immediate assistance, including a young lady from across the road, who ignored pleas for her own safety from ensuing bullets. Private Price’s death is recorded at 10.58 on the 11th November. He lays in the same cemetery as the graves of Ellison, Dease and Parr.

Despite advance notice of the cease-fire, and the opportunity to end hostilities as early as three days prior to the Armistice, the Allied commanders made the decision to continue engaging the enemy and advancing as far as possible in the face of their retreat. Different force commanders were given varying levels of advisory instructions with regard to how heavy their engagement of action was to be, with the consensus that it should be only what was deemed absolutely necessary. Some however appear to have taken the independent and somewhat cavalier approach of ending the conflict with a high note, even using their troops to force rapid agreement to the Armistice Agreement in the face of possible reluctance.

In the few days prior to the official Armistice, and despite knowing the terms had been agreed, over ELEVEN THOUSAND Allied troops became casualties of continued engagement with the enemy. Around 3000 of them were killed on the morning of the Armistice. It has been suggested that several hundred more became casualties in areas such as Africa where news of the cease fire didn’t reach for several days afterwards. Certainly, several “casualties” appear to have been recorded on the Western Front in the hours after the cease fire. This is also attributed to “delay in notification”. The outrage over the prolonged hostile action, unnecessarily, at the cost of several thousand lives, continues to this day.

We shall remember them.


Peace Treaties

Foch and the signatories of the Armistace outside the Compiegne Carriage
Foch and the signatories of the Armistace outside the Compiegne Carriage

In honour of Armistice, today I am writing about an important part of the Great War…. The Road to the Armistice, The reason why this topic is often considered reactionary is that although the Armistice was a pre-arranged agreement, first approached at the beginning of 1918 with President Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” for achieving peace in Europe, it did nothing to prevent further casualties as the conflict continued until after the Politicians and the Leaders had finished hashing out their terms and conditions, and a Treaty was signed. During this period of negotiation, tens of thousands of the world’s young men continued to be slaughtered.

The contents of the final draft of the treaty were largely proposed by Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Ferdinand Foch and included the end of hostilities, with subsequent and immediate withdrawal of German troops to behind their own borders, the release and exchange of prisoners from both sides, the preservation of infrastructure including the allowance of access to ensure rebuilding could commence as soon as possible, a demand for reparation costs, the removal of German naval forces, particularly the submarines that had blighted the waters around Europe and their heavy artillery weapons etc, and the conditions for the application of the armistice.

As Wilson drew up the proposition, the war continued. In late September 1918, Paul Von Hindenberg (Supreme Commander of the German Army), Chancellor von Hertling and Kaiser Wilhelm II, met in Spa, Belgium at the Imperial Headquarters where Hindenberg announced that the German forces were fighting a hopeless battle, and this was confirmed by his deputy, General Erich Ludendorff, also at the meeting, that he didn’t expect the German troops to be able to keep up their line for more than another couple of months. The outcome being that Germany should consider Wilson’s proposals for an Armistice. As the notion was considered, hostilities continued.

A formal request for negotiations for a ceasefire was proposed, to be sent to the Entente-Cordiale powers, with the idea that to save face for the German Military, the matter could be placed squarely on the shoulders of Parliament, in the belief that they were the processors of the War, and therefore should be the ones to negotiate a treaty. Von Hertling was replaced as Chancellor just four days later, by Prince Maximillian of Baden, who was famed for his liberal persuasions. Based on President Wilson’s recent speech and his proposal of the “Fourteen Points”, after agreement from the Kaiser, a formal request was sent to Wilson to open negotiations on October 5th.

In a response, Wilson outlined that pre-conditions were the immediate withdrawal of troops, the cessation of hostile submarine activity against Allied shipping naval submarines, and the abdication of the Kaiser. Surrender rather than peace treaties were the order of the day. The German Reich were horrified at the notion their Kaiser should have to step down. Negotiations were terminated and Von Ludendorff had a sudden complete change of opinion regarding the “lost cause” of the Army situation. His ground troops however were reluctant to change their minds, having been led to believe the war was all but over and they were going home. As Ludendorff demanded a return to hostilities towards the end of October, the soldiers began deserting in large numbers.

Ludendorff was replaced by Wilhelm Groener, and the Imperial Government continued with the negotiations. Further delay was caused by the Allied Powers, who although were initially enthusiastic with Wilson’s proposals, they considered them only in terms of undermining the morale of the enemy. As far as a peace treaty was concerned, they felt the proposals lacked merit; some of them were considered even to be unworkable. This would later be borne out when the follow-up Treaty of Versailles put together based on the expansion and consolidation of the fourteen points, took six months to sign, and failed to be ratified by the American Government following the introduction of the League of Nations.

In the last days of October, German Sailors revolted at the Port of Wilhelmshaven; their antipathy to their leaders spread like a virus over the next few days across the whole country. As Wilson sent a final note regarding negotiations to the German leaders, forcing the dispatch of a German Parliamentary delegation headed up by Matthias Erzberger headed for a railway carriage in the Compiegne Forest of France, to meet with Foch’s committee, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated his throne and Germany was declared a Republic by its people. Just a few days later, the negotiations complete and signed, only reluctantly following the validation via newspaper that the Kaiser had abdicated, and the signatures confirmed by Foch, an announcement was made at 5am on the morning of 11 November 1918 that on the stroke of 11am, hostilities would cease and the war would be over.

The Treaty of Versailles followed some weeks later and took further months to negotiate and agree; Peace was not actually confirmed until 10th January 1920.


The Great War, Cause and Effect

Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, and their three children (from left), Prince Ernst von Hohenberg, Princess Sophie, and Maximilian, Duke of Hohenburg, in 1910

On this, the 102nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, I thought I would offer a quick synopsis of the political climate and so forth that led to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife the Duchess Sophia, and the ensuing declaration of war. I also wanted to add a few details as to the aftermath, when the guns finally fell silent over four years later.

Following a series of deaths in his family, including his son Crown Prince Rudolf in 1889 in a double murder/suicide, and the execution of his brother Maximillian in Mexico after his failed attempts at establishing a monarchy with Napoleon III, the accession to the throne of Austria-Hungary fell to Archduke Franz-Josef’s youngest brother Karl Ludwig. More posts on these events at a later date.

Karl Ludwig died suddenly of typhoid fever in 1896, leaving the now elderly Franz Josef to name Karl’s son Franz Ferdinand as the heir apparent to the thrones of both Austria and Hungary. Franz Josef had been made dual monarch of both nations following the compromise of 1867. A separate compromise was signed between Hungary and Bosnia-Slavonia.
In 1878, Austria-Hungary formerly annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, with agreement officially following by both the Germans and the Russians in 1881. However, the Russians went back on the deal following the accession to the throne of Tsar Nicholas II. In 1903 a coup in Serbia led to a new anti-Austrian government in Belgrade. Following a revolt in the Ottoman Empire in 1908, it became apparent that the Turkish might seek to regain Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a deal therefore was struck between Austria-Hungary and the Russians whereby they would support the continued annexation in return for support from Austria for Russian access through the Dardanelles Straits into the Mediterranean. Austria-Hungary agreed and announced the deal, causing a mass internal furore. Russia was forced to drop the Dardenelles bid and await a conference to question the Bosnia annexation. The conference did not happen, and Russia and Serbia were forced to accept the annexation.

In 1914, on June 28th, members of Serbian supported Bosnian gang, Young Bosnia, who were linked to the pro-Slavic secret group The Unification of Death, also known as the Black Hand Gang were armed and tasked with isolating the Austro-Hungarian Heir Franz Ferdinand, who was on a Public relations trip to Bosnia to strengthen relations between the two, and to assassinate him. On their way to visit with the Governor one of the gang members, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, had attempted to bomb the archduke’s car, with a grenade, but his aim was shocking and he missed. The grenade had instead hit the following car, exploding and injuring the occupants. When the Archduke and his wife Sophie reached the Governors house, Franz Ferdinand greeted him by shouting angrily “So this is how you welcome your guests – with bombs!”

Gavrilo Princip, cell, headshot

After recovering from their shock for a short while, the Royal couple insisted on delaying the rest of their official itinary and instead visiting the injured at the local hospital. Nobody informed the driver who continued with the regimen he had been given. Upon realising the change, he was forced to try and turn the car around in the street, forcing the following vehicles to reverse. Several of them subsequently stalled, leaving the Royal couple stuck across the road until they could move. They were sitting ducks. Across the street Bosnian-Serb national, Gavrilo Princip, another member of Young Bosnia was sitting at a pavement café when he saw the confusion amongst the traffic. Realising who was sitting in the middle of the jam, he took his chance strolled up to the car and shot first Sophie, in the stomach and then Franz Ferdinand in the neck. Count Harrach was standing on the running board of the car and received a blood splatter to the face from the shot through the Archduke’s neck. Sophie, not realising what was happening, her own wounds apparently not registering straight away nor those of her husband, saw the Count take his handkerchief and wipe his face. She questioned him and then slumped into her husband’s lap.

The aftermath of the assassination Photo Credit, originally from Serbian archives

The archduke, assuring the count in an ever weakening voice that he was OK, leaned over his wife and begged her to stay alive for the sake of their children. It was too late. They both succumbed to their wounds en route to medical help. Aged 50 and 46, respectively, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie left three children orphaned aged 13, 12 and 10. Their deaths leaving no legitimate direct heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was the catalyst which led to the issue of unanswerable demands of Serbia, and in turn caused the outbreak of the Great War just a few weeks later.

Following over four bloody, bitter years fighting in the mud of Flanders, and the dry heat of Gallipoli, a war that stagnated just a few months in, but didn’t end by Christmas as everybody said, turned into a stalemate of trenches and death that only ended with the signing of the armistice of November 1918. Neither side surrendered officially. But peace was agreed and a treaty was proposed to confirm the terms.

Originally the council hammering out the terms of the treaty on behalf of the Allied Powers, were one from each of the five major powers in the Alliance. Japan dropped out of the running, leaving Britain, with David Lloyd George as representative, America with Woodrow Wilson, France with Georges Clemenceau and Italy’s Vittorio Emanuele Orlando who attended only the meetings to which Italian terms were discussed. France’s intent was to make Germany as weak as possible. Britain wanted to monitor Germany but looked to the bigger picture of how reparations would affect their own economy and so wanted to keep reparations to a minimum. Wilson issued a statement of 14 points which covered trade and other issues and were incorporated into the treaty.

The German government under Philipp Scheidemann could not agree on the terms of the agreement. Scheidemann resigned rather than sign it. A new government was formed and Head Gustav Bauer agreed to sign if three clauses, articles 227, 230 and the soon to be famous 231 were removed. The Allied ‘Big Three’ sent word back that they would invade if the treaty was not signed. Bauer reluctantly agreed to send delegates to sign the treaty. On June 28th, 1919 the terms of that peace were signed in a railway carriage at the Palace of Versailles. Article 231 was the admission of war guilt. Despite other treaties being signed with the other powers, Germany alone was to accept the blame for the war, and make reparations to France particularly to the sum of £6.6 Billion in 1919 terms, or £284 billion in 2015 terms. Her trade would be limited, and overseen by the Allied Powers, she was to disarm and cede territories taken in previous conflict. Her Navy was to be handed over and her standing army was to be fixed at 100,000 troops. She was also to abide by a demilitarized zone along the Rhine in an effort to protect its French border.

The Treaty was in reality unworkable. Several attempts were made within the League of Nations, and various plans notably the Locarno treaties, the Dawes plan and the Young plan, over the following years to attempt to reach a renegotiated middle ground when the terms were not met. America failed to ratify the Versailles treaty, when several of the senators refused to vote yes. As Germany made modest attempts over the next five to ten years to adhere to the Treaty of Versailles, a young Austrian-German watched with increasing anger as his country bowed humiliated to the world. Germany slid into financial ruin, trade and industry shut down and mass unemployment ensued. As Germany’s inflation rose to an all-time high and its morale hit an all-time low, Adolf Hitler began to plan……….