Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Battle of Jutland 100 -- May 31, 2016

Washington Evening Star, 03-June-1916
100 years ago, on 31-May and 01-June-1916, the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet fought in the North Sea.  This was the only time the dreadnoughts of the two navies fought a large-scale battle during World War One.  People still disagree about who won and which British admiral deserved the most blame.

The Germans destroyed more British ships and killed more British sailors, but the Grand Fleet was much larger than the High Seas Fleet, so I believe that the British came out far ahead.

I believe that British Admiral David Beatty and his command made some mistakes that nearly cost the British the battle.  I support Admiral John Jellicoe, the Commander in Chief.

If you want to learn more about the battle, I recommend Robert K Massie's book Castles of Steel:

This article from the 03-June-1916 Rock Island Argus accepts the German statements that they won.  Dreadnought HMS Warspite survived to fight through World War Two and dreadnought HMS Marlborough survived World War One.  British battlecruisers HMS Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible were sunk because of magazine explosions.  Royal Navy destroyer HMS Shark sank during the battle.  German dreadnought SMS Westfalen survived the battle.  German light cruiser SMS Elbing was scuttled after being damaged in the battle.  SMS Pommern, a German pre-dreadnought, sank during the battle.  



Teuton Officials Highly Satisfied With Victory in the North Sea.


London Admiralty Denies Loss of Giant Craft -- England in Gloom

London, June 3, (11:10 a.m.) -- The admiralty received a report today to the effect that Captain Prowse, commander of the Queen Mary and the entire personnel of that battle cruiser were lost.

According to estimates here, which in the absence of official figures can only be conjectured, the British losses in men most be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000. It is similarly estimated
that the German losses were at least between 2,000 and 3,000 men.

No attempt is made here to minimize the seriousness of the British losses in ships and men and that according to present information the German fleet had the best of the action. Strong hopes are entertained, however, that later reports may minimize the seriousness of this British naval setback.

The greatest regret is felt here over the loss of the battlecruiser Queen Mary, which was one of the show ships of the British navy.

She was only completed at Jarrow in 1913. Her crew numbered about 1,000 men. The other cruisers were older vessels.

The British admiralty stated today that the battleship .Marlborough was hit by a torpedo, but was towed safely to port.

The dreadnought Warspite was damaged by gunfire, the admiralty added, but escaped torpedoes.

The German dreadnought Westfalen of 18,600 tons has been added to the steadily growing list of vessels sunk in the great naval engagement off the Jutland coast, according to a wireless dispatch from Berlin which says the German admiralty admits the loss of this warship.

Additions earlier in the day were the German cruiser Elbing, displacing between 4,000 and 5,000 tons, and the British destroyer Shark. Nearly all the men who manned the destroyer were lost.

Berlin, June 3, (by wireless from a staff correspondent of the Associated Press, via Sayville, N. Y.) -- The first naval battle on a grand scale during the present war has been attended by results which, according to the information received here, are highly satisfactory to the Germans, not only in respect of the comparative losses of the two fleets but in the fact that the Germans maintained the field after the battle. This is shown, German commentators assert, by the rescue of British survivors.

The full German high seas fleet was engaged under personal command of Vice Admiral Scheer, the energetic German commander who succeeded Admiral von Pohl. The British fleet is now estimated at approximately twice as strong in guns and ships as that under Admiral Scheer.

Battle Near Norway.

Detailed reports have not yet been received but the main engagement apparently occurred about 125 miles southwest of the southern extremity of Norway and 150 miles off the Danish coast. The battle was divided into two sections. The day engagement began at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and continued until darkness, or about 9 o'clock. This was followed by a series of separate engagements through the night.

The exact ranges and course of the day fight have not been ascertained. It is assumed the ranges of the day engagement were not extreme, possibly at a distance of about eight miles as the weather was hazy.

The German torpedo boats and destroyers were more effective than the British, accounting to a considerable extent for the successes for the Germans against an overwhelmingly superior force. It is understood the Queen Mary and the Indefatigable were both sunk in the day battle. It has not been learned when the Warspite and the other British warships went down. (The loss of the Warspite is denied officially by the British).

Ships Return Safely.

All the German warships except those mentioned in the official report reached Wilhelmshaven safely. Thus far nothing has been reported regarding the extent to which any of these vessels were damaged. A fuller report from Admiral Scheer is expected soon.

It is stated at the admiralty that at least 34 British capital ships were engaged and that the British torpedo flotillas were severely handled. The battleship Westfalen alone sank six torpedo boats during the night encounters.

 German personnel and material alike stood the test brilliantly and the damage sustained by the German fleet is small in comparison with the British losses. The battleship Pommern, which was sunk, was commanded by Captain Boelken.

Berlin Celebrating Victory.

Berlin is decked with flags and the achievement of the German fleet has aroused the greatest enthusiasm.  There was a remarkable demonstration in the reichstag when Rear Admiral Hebbinghaus, former naval attache to the German embassy at Washington, announced the result of the battle.

Deny Loss of Warspite.

London. June 3, (11:10 a. m.)
-- Captain William Hall, chief of the intelligence bureau authorizes the Associated Press to say:

"The German report of the loss of the Marlborough and Warspite is absolutely untrue. Both of these dreadnoughts are safe in harbor.

"The German report that the entire British battle fleet was engaged is equally untrue. A portion of the British fleet, much inferior to the total battle fleet of the Germans, engaged that fleet and drove it back into its harbor. The British control the North sea."

Six Destroyers Sunk.

A report from the Hague, as forwarded from Amsterdam to the Central News, says six German destroyers were sunk by the British and that a large cruiser severely damaged was towed into the harbor at Kiel. It is estimated 150 ships engaged in the battle.

It is not considered probable the shipwrecked British and German sailors will be interned in Holland as they have promised not to attempt to escape. The German minister at the Hague will go to Ymulden to make an investigation.

England in Gloom.

The British public, which retired last night cast down by the first news of the North sea battle as contained in the earlier British and German reports, took some comfort from the later British report published in the morning papers. This report, while it did not decrease the British losses except in destroyers, which were reduced from eleven to eight, shows the losses of the Germans were much greater than was at first estimated.

According to this latest account of the great naval engagement the German losses include two battleships, one battle cruiser, one light cruiser and six destroyers sunk; two battle cruisers damaged and three battleships hit.  Naval writers also point out that the German fleet retired as soon as the
main British fleet appeared on the scene so that there is no question about the superiority of sea power remaining in British hands. The loss of British ships is of course admittedly serious, while the loss in officers and men has cast a gloom over the whole country.

British Outnumbered!

Careful comparison of the British and German reports of the sea fight off the Danish coast seem to indicate that Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty's cruiser squadron came in contact with the German main fleet, or possibly, in the first instance, a portion of that force.

Although aware that he was opposing a stronger force than his own, the official statements make it appear, naval observers says, that Vice Admiral Beatty courageously engaged the Germans. Later presumably the whole German fleet appeared. Vice Admiral Beatty was then completely outnumbered and before Admiral Jellicoe's main fleet was able to get into action, the Germans made off.

British naval experts comment on the apparently fair and impartial nature of both the German and British official statements. It is believed the German losses were greater than was admitted in the official reports, but it is noticeable that the German communication confesses to more serious losses than were given in the British report.

Washington Evening Star, 03-June-1916

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day, 2016 -- May 30, 2016

On Memorial Day it is fitting and proper to remember the men and women who gave their lives, who continue to give their lives, to give us the country we deserve.

They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.  -- Henry Ward Beecher

I took this photo on 14-December-2007 at the National Cemetery in the Presidio. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Over the Top -- Chapter XVIII -- May 29, 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. 

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


THREE days after the incident just related our Company was relieved from the front line and carried out. We stayed in reserve billets for about two weeks when we received the welcome news that our division would go back of the line "to rest billets." We would remain in these billets for at least two months, this in order to be restored to our full strength by drafts of recruits from Blighty.

Everyone was happy and contented at these tidings; all you could hear around the billets was whistling and singing. The day after the receipt of the order we hiked for five days, making an average of about twelve kilos per day until we arrived at the small town of 0'_____.

It took us about three days to get settled and from then on our cushy time started. We would parade from 8.45 in the morning until 12 noon. Then except for an occasional billet or brigade guard we were on our own. For the first four or five afternoons I spent my time in bringing up to date my neglected correspondence.

Tommy loves to be amused, and being a Yank, they turned to me for something new in this line. I taught them how to pitch horseshoes, and this game made a great hit for about ten days. Then Tommy turned to America for a new diversion. I was up in the air until a happy thought came to me. Why not write a sketch and break Tommy in as an actor?

One evening after "Lights out," when you are not supposed to talk, I imparted my scheme in whispers to the section. They eagerly accepted the idea of forming a Stock Company and could hardly wait until the morning for further details.

After parade, the next afternoon I was almost mobbed. Everyone in the section wanted a part in the proposed sketch. When I informed them that it would take at least ten days of hard work to write the plot, they were bitterly disappointed. I immediately got busy, made a desk out of biscuit tins in the corner of the billet, and put up a sign "Empey and Wallace Theatrical Co." About twenty of the section, upon reading this sign, immediately applied for the position of office boy. I accepted the twenty applicants, and sent them on scouting parties throughout the deserted French village. These parties were to search all the attics for discarded civilian clothes, and anything that we could use in the props of our proposed Company.

About five that night they returned covered with grime and dust, but loaded down with a miscellaneous assortment of everything under the sun. They must have thought that I was going to start a department store, judging from the different things they brought back from their pillage.

After eight days' constant writing I completed a two-act farce comedy which I called The Diamond Palace Saloon. Upon the suggestion of one of the boys in the section I sent a proof of the program to a printing house in London. Then I assigned the different parts and started rehearsing. David Belasco would have thrown up his hands in despair at the material which I had to use. Just imagine trying to teach a Tommy, with a strong cockney accent, to impersonate a Bowery Tough or a Southern Negro.

Adjacent to our billet was an open field. We got busy at one end of it and constructed a stage. We secured the lumber for the stage by demolishing an old wooden shack in the rear of our billet.

The first scene was supposed to represent a street on the Bowery in New York. While the scene of the second act was the interior of the Diamond Palace Saloon, also on the Bowery.

In the play I took the part of Abe Switch, a farmer, who had come from Pumpkinville Center, Tennessee, to make his first visit to New York.

In the first scene Abe Switch meets the proprietor of the Diamond Palace Saloon, a ramshackle affair which to the owner was a financial loss.

The proprietor's name was Tom Twistem, his bartender being named Fillem Up.

After meeting Abe, Tom and Fillem Up persuaded him to buy the place, praising it to the skies and telling wondrous tales of the money taken over the bar.

While they are talking, an old Jew named Ikey Cohenstein comes along, and Abe engages him for cashier. After engaging Ikey they meet an old Southern Negro called Sambo, and upon the suggestion of Ikey he is engaged as porter. Then the three of them, arm in arm, leave to take possession of this wonderful palace which Abe had just paid $6,000 for. (Curtain.)

In the second act the curtain rises on the interior of the Diamond Palace Saloon, and the audience gets its first shock. The saloon looks like a pigpen, two tramps lying drunk on the floor, and the bartender in a dirty shirt with his sleeves rolled up, asleep with his head on the bar.

Enter Abe, Sambo, and Ikey, and the fun commences.

One of the characters in the second act was named Broadway Kate, and I had an awful job to break in one of the Tommies to act and talk like a woman.

Another character was Alkali Ike, an Arizona cow-boy, who just before the close of the play comes into the saloon and wrecks it with his revolver.

e had eleven three-hour rehearsals before I thought it advisable to present the sketch to the public.

The whole Brigade was crazy to witness the first performance. This performance was scheduled for Friday night and everyone was full of anticipation; when bang! orders came through that the Brigade would move at two that afternoon. Cursing and blinding was the order of things upon the receipt of this order, but we moved.

That night we reached the little village of S_____ and again went into rest billets. We were to be there two weeks. Our Company immediately got busy and scoured the village for a suitable place in which to present our production. Then we received another shock.

A rival company was already established in the village. They called themselves "The Bow Bells," and put on a sketch entitled Blighty—What Hopes? They were the Divisional Concert Party.

We hoped they all would be soon in Blighty to give us a chance.

This company charged an admission of a franc per head, and that night our company went en masse to see their performance. It really was good.

I had a sinking sensation when I thought of running my sketch in opposition to it.

In one of their scenes they had a soubrette called Flossie. The soldier that took this part was clever and made a fine appearing and chic girl. We immediately fell in love with her until two days after, while we were on a march, we passed Flossie with her sleeves rolled up and the sweat pouring from her face unloading shells from a motor lorry.

As our section passed her I yelled out: "Hello, Flossie, Blighty—What Hopes ?'' Her reply made our love die out instantly.

"Ah, go to hell!"

This brought quite a laugh from the marching column directed at me, and I instantly made up my mind that our sketch should immediately run in opposition to Blighty—What Hopes?

When we returned to our billet from the march, Curley Wallace, my theatrical partner, came running over to me and said he had found a swanky place in which to produce our show.

After taking off my equipment, and followed by the rest of the section, I went over to the building he had picked out. It was a monstrous barn with a platform at one end which would make an ideal stage. The section got right on the job, and before night had that place rigged out in apple-pie order.

The next day was Sunday and after church parade we put all our time on a dress rehearsal, and it went fine.

I made four or five large signs announcing that our company would open up that evening at the King George the Fifth Theatre, on the corner of Ammo Street and Sandbag Terrace. General admission was one half franc. First ten rows in orchestra one franc, and boxes two francs. By this time our printed programs had returned from London, and I further announced that on the night of the first performance a program would be given free of charge to men holding tickets costing a franc or over.

We had an orchestra of seven men and seven different instruments. This orchestra was excellent, while they were not playing.

The performance was scheduled to start at 6 P.M.

At 5.15 there was a mob in front of our one entrance and it looked like a big night. We had two boxes each accommodating four people, and these we immediately sold out. Then a brilliant idea came to Ikey Cohenstein. Why not use the rafters overhead, call them boxes, and charge two francs for a seat on them? The only difficulty was how were the men to reach these boxes, but to Ikey this was a mere detail.

He got long ropes and tied one end around each rafter and then tied a lot of knots in the ropes. These ropes would take the place of stairways.

We figured out that the rafters would seat about forty men and sold that number of tickets accordingly.

When the ticket-holders for the boxes got a glimpse of the rafters and were informed that they had to use the rope stairway, there was a howl of indignation, but we had their money and told them that if they did not like it they could write to the management later and their money would be refunded; but under these conditions they would not be allowed to witness the performance that night.

After a little grousing they accepted the situation with the promise that if the show was rotten they certainly would let us know about it during the performance.

Everything went lovely and it was a howling success, until Alkali Ike appeared on the scene with his revolver loaded with blank cartridges. Behind the bar on a shelf was a long line of bottles. Alkali Ike was supposed to start on the left of this line and break six of the bottles by firing at them with his revolver. Behind these bottles a piece of painted canvas was supposed to represent the back of the bar, at each shot from Alkali's pistol a man behind the scenes would hit one of the bottles with his entrenching tool handle and smash it, to give the impression that Alkali was a good shot.

Alkali Ike started in and aimed at the right of the line of bottles instead of the left, and the poor boob behind the scenes started breaking the bottles on the left, and then the box-holders turned loose; but outside of this little fiasco the performance was a huge success, and we decided to run it for a week. New troops were constantly coming through, and for six performances we had the "S. R. O." sign suspended outside.

Next: CHAPTER XIX -- On His Own

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Classic Movie Ice Cream Social Blogathon -- May 20, 2016

Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins.

Fritzi at Movies Silently is hosting the Classic Movie Ice Cream Social Blogathon   (http://moviessilently.com/2016/05/20/the-classic-movie-ice-cream-social-is-here/).  Fritzi wants to focus "on classic movie-themed cheer. I’m supplying the ice cream (in digital form) and you’ll bring the cheer."

I wrote about my long-time interest in pre-cinema and my attempts to reproduce some of the early moving picture devices:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Erik Satie 150 --- May 17, 2016

Erik Satie, gymnopedist and phonometrician, was born 150 years ago, on 17-May-1869.  He influenced many trends in 20th Century music.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Joe DiMaggio Hitting Streak 75 Years -- May 15, 2016

Seventy-five years ago today, New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio had a hit against the White Sox to begin his 56 game hit streak, a Major League record which may never be broken.  In 1933, while playing for the San Francisco Seals, he hit in 61 straight games. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sholem Aleichem 100 Years -- May 13, 2016

Sholem Aleichem, one of the great Yiddish writers, died 100 years ago today, on 13-May-1916.  I didn't know much about him until I was introduced to Isaac Bashevis Singer's work in college.  Then I worked backwards to Aleichem.

When he was introduced to Mark Twain as the Jewish Mark Twain, Twain said "Please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day, 2016 -- May 8, 2016

I'm grateful for my mother and my wife and my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. All excellent mothers.

I took the photo at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica on 05-October-2008, during the school's 40th anniversary celebration.

Friday, May 6, 2016

News of the Week May 6, 1916 -- May 6, 2016

The 06-May-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.  I am sad to report that this is the last "News of the Week as Shown in Films" that I have been able to find.  I wonder by the editors of Motography decided to drop the feature.  I'm going to miss it. 

"Here is a fully equipped camera reporter in Mexico -- a daring Mutual sharpshooter and his Yaqui bodyguard."  The Yaqui resisted the central government and tried to remain independent.

"Pearl White, the Pathe star, dons painter's gard to help on the Motion Picture Exposition sign.  Pathe News."  Pearl White was the first serial queen.  As a stunt, she climbed the scaffolding to put up signs for the exposition at Madison Square Garden. 

"Australia believes in preparedness.  The launching of her new fighter, the Brisbane, at Sidney.  Pathe News."  HMAS Brisbane was a light cruiser which was lauunched on 30-September-1915.  She served in the Pacific and the Mediterranean during World War One.  She was scrapped in 1936.

"Women police n the making.  School girl cops who help keep order in New York City.  Universal Weekly."  The Home Defense League was formed to train auxiliary officers to support the New York Police Department.  Perhaps this had something to do with that. 

"The wood in 'Home Run' Baker's bat is the most dependable of any whiffed by the N.Y. Yankees.  Selig-Tribune News."  Frank Baker was the third baseman in the "$100,000 Infield" of the Philadelphia Athletics.  He received the nickname "Home Run" by hitting two key home runs against the New York Giants, against Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson, in the 1911 World Series.  After one of the fire sales that are still traditional with the Oakland Athletics, he went to the New York Yankees.  I guess "whiffed" didn't mean "struck out" then. 

"Home again! U.S. Dreadnaught 'New York' returning from five month's practice in Cuban waters -- Mutual News."  USS New York (BB-34) had been commissioned on 15-May-1914.  She patrolled with the British Grand Fleet during World War One.  She served in the Atlantic and the Pacific during World War Two.  After the war, she was one of the ships used in the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Cinco de Mayo, 2016 -- May 5, 2016

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín led the Mexican army which defeated the French invaders at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. "The national arms have been covered with glory" General Zaragoza wrote in a letter to President Benito Juárez. Some people credit this defeat with preventing French interference in the US Civil War.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day, 2016 -- May 1, 2016

Today is International Workers' Day.  FDR knew that workers need to organize to get justice.