Sunday, May 1, 2016
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright.
From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:
"Mills." Name of a bomb invented by Mills. The only bomb in which Tommy has full confidence, — and he mistrusts even that
CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations
CHAPTER VIII -- The Little Wooden Cross
OUT IN FRONT
AFTER tea, Lieutenant Stores of our section came into the dugout and informed me that I was "for" a reconnoitering patrol and would carry six Mills bombs.
At 11.30 that night twelve men, our Lieutenant, and myself went out in front on a patrol in No Man's Land.
We cruised around in the dark for about two hours, just knocking about looking for trouble, on the lookout for Boche working parties to see what they were doing.
Around two in the morning we were carefully picking our way, about thirty yards in front of the German barbed wire, when we walked into a Boche covering party nearly thirty strong. Then the music started, the fiddler rendered his bill, and we paid.
Fighting in the dark with a bayonet is not very pleasant. The Germans took it on the run, but our officer was no novice at the game and didn't follow them. He gave the order "down on the ground, hug it close."
Just in time, too, because a volley skimmed over our heads. Then in low tones we were told to separate and crawl back to our trenches, each man on his own.
We could see the flashes of their rifles in the darkness, but the bullets were going over our heads.
We lost three men killed and one wounded in the arm. If it hadn't been for our officers' quick thinking the whole patrol would have probably been wiped out.
After about twenty minutes' wait we went out again and discovered that the Germans had a wiring party working on their barbed wire. We returned to our trenches unobserved with the information and our machine guns immediately got busy.
The next night four men were sent out to go over and examine the German barbed wire and see if they had cut lanes through it; if so, this presaged an early morning attack on our trenches.
Of course, I had to be one of the four selected for the job. It was just like sending a fellow to the undertaker's to order his own coffin.
At ten o'clock we started out, armed with three bombs, a bayonet, and revolver. After getting into No Man's Land we separated. Crawling four or five feet at a time, ducking star shells, with strays cracking over head, I reached their wire. I scouted along this inch by inch, scarcely breathing. I could hear them talking in their trench, my heart was pounding against my ribs. One false move or the least noise from me meant discovery and almost certain death.
After covering my sector I quietly crawled back. I had gotten about half-way, when I noticed that my revolver was missing. It was pitch dark. I turned about to see if I could find it; it couldn't be far away, because about three or four minutes previously I had felt the butt in the holster. I crawled around in circles and at last found it, then started on my way back to our trenches, as I thought.
Pretty soon I reached barbed wire, and was just going to give the password, when something told me not to. I put out my hand and touched one of the barbed wire stakes. It was iron. The British are of wood, while the German are iron. My heart stopped beating; by mistake I had crawled back to the German lines.
I turned slowly about and my tunic caught on the wire and made a loud ripping noise.
A sharp challenge rang out. I sprang to my feet, ducking low, and ran madly back toward our lines. The Germans started firing. The bullets were biting all around me, when bang! I ran smash into our wire, and a sharp challenge "'Alt, who comes there?" rang out. I gasped out the password and groping my way through the lane in the wire, tearing my hands and uniform, I tumbled into our trench and was safe, but I was a nervous wreck for an hour, until a drink of rum brought me round.
Next: CHAPTER XVIII -- Staged Under Fire
Friday, April 29, 2016
The 29-April-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.
"just a sample of preparedness at Fort Scott, California. Infantry at drill before a Selig-Tribune camera." Fort Winfield Scott was established within the Presidio of San Francisco to command the Artillery District of San Francisco. After World War II, Fort Scott became a sub-post of the Presidio. My father was stationed here. "Preparedness" became a popular term as events led towards the US entering the Great War.
"When the 'bos'un' pipes "Coal Ship" the boys get busy. Caught at Guantanamo Bay by a Pathe man." Coal burning warships were coaled (loaded with coal) by their crews.
"Fifteen automobile ambulances for service in the battle fields of Russia, the gift of the American Red Cross. Pathe." An Orthodox priest blesses the new ambulances.
"Uncle Same is make new arms and legs for the crippled soldiers in Europe. British supervisor at work. Universal." The war led to much new development in the science and art of prosthetics.
"How the Selig-Tribune gathers Chicago camera news for its semi-weekly. Editor Jack Wheeler with driver." Someone who knows more about autos could probably identify this one.
"Unloading supplies from the States of the U.S.A. field headquarters at Cascas Grande, Mexico. Mutual News." The Punitive Expedition chasing Pancho Villa established its headquarters at Casas Grandes, Mexico.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Today is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, on 23-April-1616. He wrote the plays.
I had read some of the plays before, but I read his complete works one summer while in college.
We had to memorize Richard III's opening monologue in high school. I can still recite some of it.
I played three parts in a high school production of As You Like It. I can still remember some of my lines.
Thank you, Master Shakespeare.
Friday, April 22, 2016
The 22-April-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.
"The good ship Jerome Jones taking to the water for the first time, at Bath, Maine. Pathe News." Jerome Jones, a five-masted schooner, was launched on 31-March-1916 by GG Deering.
"Raw! Raw! for Hawvahd! The crimson crew off for first spring practice, and Captain D. P. Morgan." The Crimson crew went on to win the 23-June-1916 regatta against Yale.
"The allies of Uncle Sam in the 'Mexican war.' Troops of Carranza at a noontime pause. Selig-Tribune." Venustiano Carranza was the leader of the Constitutionlists during the Mexican Revolution and President under the new constitution in 1917.
"Ambulance of Troop G, Eighth Cavalry, picking up wounded in Mexico. Caught by a Mutual camera reporter." The 8th Cavalry Regiment participated in the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa.
"The triple train wreck near Amerst, Ohio, recently in which twenty-five persons were killed. Pathe News." On 29-March-1916, three New York Central trains ran into each other in a thick fog. About 30 people died. The trains included the Twentieth Century Limited.
"'Getting Villa' American cavalry working their way into the mountains of Mexico. Hearst-Vitagraph Pictorial." Pancho Villa withdrew to the mountains to avoid pursuing US cavalry.
"HORATIO: Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
-- Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene ii
I sitting at work when a lady in the next aisle asked someone "Did you hear? The Prince died." He asked "Which Prince." She said "You know, the Prince, the singer."
Moments later, a coworker whom I have known for many years instant messaged me from Arizona. He said "Michael, James Brown, Rick James, now Prince. All my idols are dying." I said that at least JB lived to a good old age. I thought Prince took better care of himself than Rick James. This was a great shock.
Prince could sing, dance, compose, assemble and lead a band and play a number of instruments, particularly the electric guitar. He is up there with Duke Ellington as an American composer.