Sunday, April 30, 2017

Over the Top -- Chapter XXVII -- April 30, 2017

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. Here is the last chapter of the book. 

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. 

Paignton is a seaside resort in Devon.   The American Women's War Hospital was in Oldway House, the home of Paris Eugene Singer, the son of the inventor of the sewing machine. The Cambridge Military Hospital at Aldershot closed in 1996.  Steve Brodie was famous for allegedly jumping from the Brooklyn Bridge. 

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

CHAPTER IX -- Suicide Annex  

CHAPTER X -- "The Day's Work" 
CHAPTER XI -- Over the Top CHAPTER XII -- Bombing  
CHAPTER XIII -- My First Official Bath    
CHAPTER XIV -- Picks and Shovels
CHAPTER XV -- Listening Post
CHAPTER XVI -- Battery D 238
CHAPTER XVII -- Out in Front  
CHAPTER XVIII - Staged Under Fire
CHAPTER XX -   Chats With Fritz
CHAPTER XXI -  "About Turn"
CHAPTER XXII -  Punishments and Machine-Gun Stunts
CHAPTER XXIII -  Gas Attacks and Spies
CHAPTER XXIV - The Firing Squad
CHAPTER XXV - Preparing For the Big Push 

CHAPTER XXVI - All Quiet (?) on the Western Front


FROM this first-aid post, after inoculating me with anti-tetanus serum to prevent lockjaw, I was put into an ambulance and sent to a temporary hospital behind the lines. To reach this hospital we had to go along a road about five miles in length. This road was under shell fire, for now and then a flare would light up the sky, -- a tremendous explosion, -- and then the road seemed to tremble. We did not mind, though no doubt some of us wished that a shell would hit us and end our misery. Personally, I was not particular. It was nothing but bump, jolt, rattle, and bang.

Several times the driver would turn around and give us a "Cheero, mates, we'll soon be there—" fine fellows, those ambulance drivers, a lot of them go West too.

We gradually drew out of the fire zone and pulled up in front of an immense dugout. Stretcher bearers carried me down a number of steps and placed me on a white table in a brightly lighted room.

A Sergeant of the Royal Army Medical Corps removed my bandages and cut off my tunic. Then the doctor, with his sleeves rolled up, took charge. He winked at me and I winked back, and then he asked, "How do you feel, smashed up a bit?"

I answered: "I'm all right, but I'd give a quid for a drink of Bass."

He nodded to the Sergeant who disappeared, and I'll be darned if he didn't return with a glass of ale. I could only open my mouth about a quarter of an inch, but I got away with every drop of that ale. It tasted just like Blighty, and that is heaven to Tommy.

The doctor said something to an orderly, the only word I could catch was "chloroform," then they put some kind of an arrangement over my nose and mouth and it was me for dreamland.

When I opened my eyes I was lying on a stretcher, in a low wooden building. Everywhere I looked I saw rows of Tommies on stretchers, some dead to the world, and the rest with fags in their mouths.

The main topic of their conversation was Blighty. Nearly all had a grin on their faces, except those who didn't have enough face left to grin with. I grinned with my right eye, the other was bandaged.

Stretcher-bearers came in and began to carry the Tommies outside. You could hear the chug of the engines in the waiting ambulances.

I was put into a Ford with three others and away we went for an eighteen-mile ride. Keep out of a Ford when you are wounded; insist on walking, it'll pay you.

I was on a bottom stretcher. The lad right across from me was smashed up something horrible.

Right above me was a man from the Royal Irish Rifles, while across from him was a Scotchman.

We had gone about three miles when I heard the death-rattle in the throat of the man opposite. He had gone to rest across the Great Divide. I think at the time I envied him.

The man of the Royal Irish Rifles had had his left foot blown off, the jolting of the ambulance over the rough road had loosened up the bandages on his foot, and had started it bleeding again.

This blood ran down the side of the stretcher and started dripping. I was lying on my back, too weak to move, and the dripping of this blood got me in my unbandaged right eye. I closed my eye and pretty soon could not open the lid; the blood had congealed and closed it, as if it were glued down.

An English girl dressed in khaki was driving the ambulance, while beside her on the seat was a Corporal of the R. A. M. C. They kept up a running conversation about Blighty which almost wrecked my nerves; pretty soon from the stretcher above me, the Irishman became aware of the fact that the bandage from his foot had become loose; it must have pained him horribly, because he yelled in a loud voice:

"If you don't stop this bloody death wagon and fix this damned bandage on my foot, I will get out and walk."

The girl on the seat turned around and in a sympathetic voice asked, "Poor fellow, are you very badly wounded?"

The Irishman, at this question, let out a howl of indignation and answered, "Am I very badly wounded, what bloody cheek; no, I'm not wounded, I've only been kicked by a canary bird."

The ambulance immediately stopped, and the Corporal came to the rear and fixed him up, and also washed out my right eye. I was too weak to thank him, but it was a great relief. Then I must have become unconscious, because when I regained my senses, the ambulance was at a standstill, and my stretcher was being removed from it.

It was night, lanterns were flashing here and there, and I could see stretcher-bearers hurrying to and fro. Then I was carried into a hospital train.

The inside of this train looked like heaven to me, just pure white, and we met our first Red Cross nurses; we thought they were angels. And they were.

Nice little soft bunks and clean, white sheets.

A Red Cross nurse sat beside me during the whole ride which lasted three hours. She was holding my wrist; I thought I had made a hit, and tried to tell her how I got wounded, but she would put her finger to her lips and say, "Yes, I know, but you mustn't talk now, try to go to sleep, it'll do you good, doctor's orders." Later on I learned that she was taking my pulse every few minutes, as I was very weak from the loss of blood and they expected me to snuff it, but I didn't.

From the train we went into ambulances for a short ride to the hospital ship Panama. Another palace and more angels. I don't remember the trip across the channel.

I opened my eyes; I was being carried on a stretcher through lanes of people, some cheering, some waving flags, and others crying. The flags were Union Jacks, I was in Southampton. Blighty at last. My stretcher was strewn with flowers, cigarettes, and chocolates. Tears started to run down my cheek from my good eye. I like a booby was crying, can you beat it?

Then into another hospital train, a five-hour ride to Paignton, another ambulance ride, and then I was carried into Munsey Ward of the American Women's War Hospital and put into a real bed.

This real bed was too much for my unstrung nerves and I fainted.

When I came to, a pretty Red Cross nurse was bending over me, bathing my forehead with cold water, then she left and the ward orderly placed a screen around my bed, and gave me a much-needed bath and clean pajamas. Then the screen was removed and a bowl of steaming soup was given me. It tasted delicious.

Before finishing my soup the nurse came back to ask me my name and number. She put this information down in a little book and then asked:

"Where do you come from?" I answered:

"From the big town behind the Statue of Liberty"; upon hearing this she started jumping up and down, clapping her hands, and calling out to three nurses across the ward:

"Come here, girls—at last we have got a real live Yankee with us."

They came over and besieged me with questions, until the doctor arrived. Upon learning that I was an American he almost crushed my hand in his grip of welcome. They also were Americans, and were glad to see me.

The doctor very tenderly removed my bandages and told me, after viewing my wounds, that he would have to take me to the operating theater immediately. Personally I didn't care what was done with me.

In a few minutes, four orderlies who looked like undertakers dressed in white, brought a stretcher to my bed and placing me on it carried me out of the ward, across a courtyard to the operating room or "pictures," as Tommy calls it.

I don't remember having the anaesthetic applied

When I came to I was again lying in a bed in Munsey Ward. One of the nurses had draped a large American flag over the head of the bed, and clasped in my hand was a smaller flag, and it made me feel good all over, to again see the "Stars and Stripes."

At that time I wondered when the boys in the trenches would see the emblem of the "land of the free and the home of the brave" beside them, doing its bit in this great war of civilization. My wounds were very painful, and several times at night I would dream that myriads of khaki-clothed figures would pass my bed and each would stop, bend over me, and whisper, "The best of luck, mate."

Soaked with perspiration I would awake with a cry, and the night nurse would come over and hold my hand. This awakening got to be a habit with me, until that particular nurse was transferred to another ward.

In three weeks' time, owing to the careful treatment received, I was able to sit up and get my bearings. Our ward contained seventy-five patients, ninety per cent, of which were surgical cases. At the head of each bed hung a temperature chart and diagnosis sheet. Across this sheet would be written "G. S. W." or "S. W." the former meaning Gun Shot Wound and the latter Shell Wound. The "S. W." predominated, especially among the Royal Field Artillery and Royal Engineers.

About forty different regiments were represented and many arguments ensued as to the respective fighting ability of each regiment. The rivalry was wonderful. A Jock arguing with an Irishman, then a strong Cockney accent would butt in in favor of a London Regiment. Before long a Welshman, followed by a member of a Yorkshire regiment, and, perhaps, a Canadian intrude themselves and the argument waxes loud and furious. The patients in the beds start howling for them to settle their dispute outside and the ward is in an uproar. The head sister comes along and with a wave of the hand completely routs the doughty warriors and again silence reigns supreme.

Wednesday and Sunday of each week were visiting days and were looked forward to by the men, because they meant parcels containing fruit, sweets, or fags. When a patient had a regular visitor, he was generally kept well supplied with these delicacies. Great jealousy is shown among the men as to their visitors and many word wars ensue after the visitors leave.

When a man is sent to a convalescent home, he generally turns over his steady visitor to the man in the next bed.

Most visitors have autograph albums and bore Tommy to death by asking him to write the particulars of his wounding in same. Several Tommies try to duck this unpleasant job by telling the visitor that he cannot write, but this never phases the owner of the album; he or she, generally she, offers to write it for him and Tommy is stung into telling his experiences.

The questions asked Tommy by visitors would make a clever joke book to a military man.

Some kindly looking old lady will stop at your bed and in a sympathetic voice address you: "You poor boy, wounded by those terrible Germans. You must be suffering frightful pain. A bullet did you say? Well, tell me, I have always wanted to know, did it hurt worse going in or coming out?"

Tommy generally replies that he did not stop to figure it out when he was hit.

One very nice-looking, over enthusiastic young thing, stopped at my bed and asked, "What wounded you in the face?"

In a polite but bored tone I answered, "A rifle bullet."

With a look of disdain she passed to the next bed, first ejaculating, "Oh! only a bullet? I thought it was a shell." Why she should think a shell wound was more of a distinction beats me. I don't see a whole lot of difference myself.

The American Women's War Hospital was a heaven for wounded men. They were allowed every privilege possible conducive with the rules and military discipline. The only fault was that the men's passes were restricted. To get a pass required an act of Parliament. Tommy tried many tricks to get out, but the Commandant, an old Boer War officer, was wise to them all, and it took a new and clever ruse to make him affix his signature to the coveted slip of paper.

As soon as it would get dark many a patient climbed over the wall and went "on his own," regardless of many signs staring him in the face, "Out of bounds for patients." Generally the nurses were looking the other way when one of these night raids started. I hope this information will get none of them into trouble, but I cannot resist the temptation to let the Commandant know that occasionally we put it over on him.

One afternoon I received a note, through our underground channel, from my female visitor, asking me to attend a party at her house that night. I answered that she could expect me and to meet me at a certain place on the road well known by all patients, and some visitors, as "Over the wall." I told her I would be on hand at seven-thirty.

About seven-fifteen I sneaked my overcoat and cap out of the ward and hid it in the bushes. Then I told the nurse, a particular friend of mine, that I was going for a walk in the rose garden. She winked and I knew that everything was all right on her end.

Going out of the ward, I slipped into the bushes and made for the wall. It was dark as pitch and I was groping through the underbrush, when suddenly I stepped into space and felt myself rushing downward, a horrible bump, and blackness. When I came to, my wounded shoulder was hurting horribly. I was lying against a circular wall of bricks, dripping with moisture, and far away I could hear the trickling of water. I had in the darkness fallen into an old disused well. But why wasn't I wet? According to all rules I should have been drowned. Perhaps I was and didn't know it.

As the shock of my sudden stop gradually wore off, it came to me that I was lying on a ledge and that the least movement on my part would precipitate me to the bottom of the well.

I struck a match. In its faint glare I saw that I was lying in a circular hole about twelve feet deep,—the well had been filled in! The dripping I had heard came from a water pipe over on my right.

With my wounded shoulder it was impossible to shinny up the pipe. I could not yell for help, because the rescuer would want to know how the accident happened, and I would be haled before the Commandant on charges. I just had to grin and bear it with the forlorn hope that one of the returning night raiders would pass and I could give him our usual signal of "siss-s-s-s" which would bring him to the rescue.

Every half-hour I could hear the clock in the village strike, each stroke bringing forth a muffled volley of curses on the man who had dug the well.

After two hours, I heard two men talking in low voices. I recognized Corporal Cook, an ardent "night raider." He heard my "siss-s-s-s" and came to the edge of the hole. I explained my predicament and amid a lot of impertinent remarks, which at the time I did not resent, I was soon fished out.

Taking off our boots we sneaked into the ward. I was sitting on my bed in the dark, just starting to undress, when the man next to me, "Ginger" Phillips, whispered, '"Op it, Yank, 'ere comes the matron."

I immediately got under the covers and feigned sleep. The matron stood talking in low tones to the night nurse and I fell asleep.

When I awoke in the morning the night sister, an American, was bending over me. An awful sight met my eyes. The coverlet on the bed and the sheets were a mass of mud and green slime. She was a good sport all right and hustled to get clean clothes and sheets so that no one would get wise, but "on her own" she gave me a good tongue lashing but did not report me. One of the Canadians in the ward described her as being "A Jake of a good fellow."

Next visiting day I had an awful time explaining to my visitor why I had not met her at the appointed time and place.

And for a week every time I passed a patient he would call, "Well, well, here's the Yank. Hope you are feeling well, old top."

The surgeon in our ward was an American, a Harvard Unit man, named Frost. We nicknamed him "Jack Frost." He was loved by all. If a Tommy was to be cut up he had no objection to undergoing the operation if "Jack Frost" was to wield the knife. Their confidence in him was pathetic. He was the best sport I have ever met.

One Saturday morning the Commandant and some "high up" officers were inspecting the ward, when one of the patients who had been wounded in the head by a bit of shrapnel, fell on the floor in a fit. They brought him round, and then looked for the ward orderly to carry the patient back to his bed at the other end of the ward. The orderly was nowhere to be found -— like our policemen, they never are when needed. The officers were at a loss how to get Palmer into his bed. Dr. Frost was fidgeting around in a nervous manner, when suddenly with a muffled "damn" and a few other qualifying adjectives, he stooped down and took the man in his arms like a baby, -— he was no feather either, -— and staggered down the ward with him, put him in bed, and undressed him. A low murmur of approval came from the patients. Dr. Frost got very red and as soon as he had finished undressing Palmer, hurriedly left the ward.

The wound in my face had almost healed and I was a horrible-looking sight—the left cheek twisted into a knot, the eye pulled down, and my mouth pointing in a north by northwest direction. I was very down-hearted and could imagine myself during the rest of my life being shunned by all on account of the repulsive scar.

Dr. Frost arranged for me to go to the Cambridge Military Hospital at Aldershot for a special operation to try and make the scar presentable.

I arrived at the hospital and got an awful shock. The food was poor and the discipline abnormally strict. No patient was allowed to sit on his bed, and smoking was permitted only at certain designated hours. The face specialist did nothing for me except to look at the wound. I made application for a transfer back to Paignton, offering to pay my transportation. This offer was accepted, and after two weeks' absence, once again I arrived in Munsey Ward, all hope gone.

The next day after my return, Dr. Frost stopped at my bed and said:''Well, Empey, if you want me to try and see what I can do with that scar, I'll do it, but you are taking an awful chance."

I answered: "Well, Doctor, Steve Brodie took a chance; he hails from New York and so do I."

Two days after the undertaker squad carried me to the operating room or "pictures," as we called them because of the funny films we see under ether, and the operation was performed. It was a wonderful piece of surgery and a marvelous success. From now on that doctor can have my shirt.

More than once some poor soldier has been brought into the ward in a dying condition, resulting from loss of blood and exhaustion caused by his long journey from the trenches. After an examination the doctor announces that the only thing that will save him is a transfusion of blood. Where is the blood to come from? He does not have to wait long for an answer, -- several Tommies immediately volunteer their blood for their mate. Three or four are accepted; a blood test is made, and next day the transfusion takes place and there is another pale face in the ward.

Whenever bone is needed for some special operation, there are always men willing to give some, -- a leg if necessary to save some mangled mate from being crippled for life. More than one man will go through life with another man's blood running through his veins, or a piece of his rib or his shinbone in his own anatomy. Sometimes he never even knows the name of his benefactor.

The spirit of sacrifice is wonderful.

For all the suffering caused this war is a blessing to England -- it has made new men of her sons; has welded all classes into one glorious whole.

And I can't help saying that the doctors, sisters, and nurses in the English hospitals, are angels on earth. I love them all and can never repay the care and kindness shown to me. For the rest of my life the Red Cross will be to me the symbol of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

After four months in the hospital, I went before an examining board and was discharged from the service of his Britannic Majesty as "physically unfit for further war service."

After my discharge I engaged passage on the American liner, New York, and after a stormy trip across the Atlantic, one momentous day, in the haze of early dawn I saw the Statue of Liberty looming over the port rail, and I wondered if ever again I would go '' over the top with the best of luck and give them hell."

And even then, though it may seem strange, I was really sorry not to be back in the trenches with my mates. War is not a pink tea but in a worthwhile cause like ours, mud, rats, cooties, shells, wounds, or death itself, are far outweighed by the deep sense of satisfaction felt by the man who does his bit.

There is one thing which my experience taught me that might help the boy who may have to go. It is this -- anticipation is far worse than realization. In civil life a man stands in awe of the man above him, wonders how he could ever fill his job. When the time comes he rises to the occasion, is up and at it, and is surprised to find how much more easily than he anticipated he fills his responsibilities. It is really so "out there."

He has nerve for the hardships; the interest of the work grips him; he finds relief in the fun and comradeship of the trenches and wins that best sort of happiness that comes with duty done.

Next:  Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches, Part One

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Thank You, New Orleans -- April 29, 2017
The City of New Orleans has begun to remove monuments to treason and white supremacy.  Sadly, the workers had to do it in the middle of the night wearing bulletproof vests because of threats from neo Confederates. The first to go was the so-called Liberty Monument, dedicated to the 1874 Battle of Canal Street, where 5000 members of the White League attacked a much smaller group of men from the integrated police department and militia. 

I am looking forward to the removal of the statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee and PGT Beauregard.  I have mixed feelings about General Beauregard.  He was a native of New Orleans and he probably did as much good for the Union cause as he did for the Confederate. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ella Fitzgerald 100 -- April 25, 2017

Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, was born 100 years ago today, 25-April-1917.  I grew up hearing her sing on the radio and television.  When I had enough money to buy albums, I bought her American Songbooks.

We saw her in person once, at the Marin Civic Center.  I don't remember what songs she sang, but I remember her trading licks with Joe Pass.

I love her stuff with Chick Webb, who became her legal guardian.  

Ella developed her talent for scat singing while working with Dizzy Gillespie, 

I bought copies of the songbooks for my fiancee.  We had some of the songs played at our wedding reception. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Summer of Love 50 -- Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights -- April 23, 2017

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters by artist Deborah Aschheim.  "The Zeitgeist" is part of a larger series for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.  The posters in The Zeitgeist represent people involved in the Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam on 15-April-1967.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a poet and publisher who founded City Lights Books. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Railroad Inspection Car -- April 21, 2017

Scientific American, 03-December-1904
The Olds Motor Works produced this railroad inspection car.  I suppose "O.M.W.R.R." stands for Olds Motor Works Railroad. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sells-Floto Circus Special -- April 19, 2017

San Francisco Call, 28-April-1912

The Sells-Floto Circus visited San Francisco in May, 1912.  It purchased a full-page ad in the San Francisco Call.  "If Laughing Makes You Sick, Take a Doctor With You."  Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

1939 Lagonda Rapide V-12 Drophead Coupe -- April 17, 2017

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos.   WO Bentley designed the beautiful 1939 Lagonda Rapide V-12 Drophead Coupe and its powerful 4,480 cc engine. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter, 2017 -- April 16, 2017

Vintage Graphic Design and Poster Art

Happy Easter, everyone. Here is the cover of the 01-April-1961 New Yorker, with a cartoon by Pete Arno. 

Wilbur Wright 150 -- April 16, 2017
Wilbur Wright, who with his brother Orville, built the first airplane capable of fully controlled flight, was born 150 years ago today, 16-April-1867.  The two brothers grew up in Ohio and showed a great talent for mechanics, building a printing press and building and selling bicycles.  They became interested in flying machines and approached their work using scientific methods.  They build a wind tunnel and test airfoil sections and realized that a propeller was a rotating wing.  They build gliders to test their mechanism for three-axis control.  On 17-December-1903, they flew the heavier than air Wright Flyer under control, taking off and landing without external assistance. 

The brothers worked to improve their flying machines and build a business.  Wilbur toured Europe and made many demonstration flights.  Wilbur died of typhoid on 30-May-1912. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Vigil -- April 15, 2017

Happy Easter, everyone.  We went to Easter Vigil at Good Shepherd.  Here is a fuzzy shot of Father Lu with the Easter candle freshly lit from the fire before we all processed in. 

Classics Illustrated -- April 15, 2017

Classics Illustrated adapted literary classics.  I always thought their illustrations were stiff, but I enjoyed some of their issues.  I first read The Prisoner of Zenda  and The Count of Monte Christo.  in Classics Illustrated.  I wish I could have found this issue, which featured The Octopus by Frank Norris, a San Francisco author. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Black Mask -- April 13, 2017
Race Williams, created by Carroll John Daly, is considered by many to be the first hard-boiled detective. He was known for shooting first. "My conscience is clear; I never shot anybody that didn't need to die."  Here is the cover of the December, 1925 Black Mask

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Richmond Lots -- April 11, 2017

San Francisco Call, 03-April-1895
I grew up in San Francisco's Richmond District.  Prices are higher now.  The "California-street cars" were a steam line that went to Presidio Avenue, where riders could transfer to a cable car heading downtown.  The "Sutro electric-cars" ran on Clement Street and Euclid Street to Presidio Avenue. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Battle of Arras -- April 9, 2017

Philadelphia Ledger, 10-April-1917
100 years ago today, on 09-April-1917, British troops launched an offensive against the German line of trenches near Arras in France.  The Battle of Arras lasted until 16-May-1917.  Despite good initial British gains, based on lessons learned in the Battle of the Somme, the situation soon developed into a stalemate.  April, 1917 became known as Bloody April.  The map is from the 10-April-1917 Philadelphia Ledger.  The article is from the 09-April-1917 Butte Daily Post.  

British Smash German Lines on New Front 
Teuton Positions Penetrated on Ten-Mile Stretch, From Arras to Lens.
Military Operations of Still Greater Importance Are Expected.

London, April 9.—The British early this morning attacked the German wide front from a point south of Arras to the south of Lena, thus opening what is believed here to be a general spring offensive. The move has been looked forward to eagerly for some days. The offensive of the British flying corps in the latter part of the last week, the attack on Zeebrugge Saturday night and the activity of the French in Belgium, as shown in yesterday's official statement from Paris, were considered a prelude to important military operations.

The British commander, General Haig, whose reports are always moderate, says the German line has been broken everywhere and that progress was made in the direction of Cambrai. The extension of the attack northward to Lena doubtless was intended to give the British more elbow room for their operations from Arras to the point of juncture with the French around St. Quentin.

Referring to the attack on the front between Arras and Lens, the statement says:

The Statement.

"We are making satisfactory progress at all points."

The statement, which is timed 11:25 a. m., is as follows:

"We attacked at 5:30 o'clock this morning on a wide front from south of Arras to south of Lens. Our troops have everywhere penetrated the enemy's lines and are making satisfactory progress at all points.

"In the direction of Cambrai we stormed the villages of Hermies and Boursies and have penetrated into Havrincourt wood.

"In the direction of St, Quentin we captured Fresnoy Le Petit and advanced our lines southeast of De

"No estimate of the prisoners taken can yet be given but considerable numbers are reported captured.


The fighting from Lens to Arras is approximately 10 miles in length and lies directly north of the field of the retreat which the Germans have been conducting for the past several weeks. 

The fact that the line has been penetrated by the British all along this wide front indicates that the movement there is a general offensive.  That it is proving a successful drive is indicated by the statement that "satisfactory progress" is being made "at all points." 

An entire new phase of operations on the western front is opened up in this new battle of the Lens-Arras line.  The field of attack represents the greatest danger point for the Germans, as in the recent fighting at a sharp salient was driving into the German line southeast of Arras. 

In the Lens region into which the British are driving is a rich coal field which the Germans have been exploiting since their occupation of this territory early in the war. 

Aerial Activity.

The opening of the new offensive had been foreshadowed in the intense aerial activity of the past two or three days in which hundreds of airplanes have been engaged on both sides.  This work, as the British statements have indicated, has given General Haig's staff photographic reproductions of the German positions for long distances behind the fighting line. 

Further south, the British have continued their progress in the field of the German retreat, the advance report at Hermies and Boursies being particularly important.  Boursies is directly on the road from Bapaume to Cambrai, about eight miles from the latter place.  Hermies lies just to the south of Boursies. 

In their drive toward St. Quentin the capture of Fresnoy Le Petit puts the British with two and a half miles of St. Quentin's outskirts.

17 Entente Airplanes Shot Down By Teutons

Berlin, April 9 (via London) -- Seventeen entente airplanes were brought down yesterday on the western front, the war office announces.

The statement says that the battle of Arras, begun this morning after several hours of strong fire, continues.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Two Derelict Vessels -- April 7, 2017

San Francisco Call, 03-April-1895

The drawing is from the 03-March-1897 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. The Matson Navigation Company is still in business. 

How the Archer arid Annie Johnson Were Rebuilt and Reflagged. 

The only iron sailing vessels on this coast flying the American flag are derelicts, rejuvenated after terrible ordeals of storm and disaster. One, the bark Archer, was baptized into her new national faith by water; and the other, barkentine Annie Johnson, by fire. Both were English and lost their colors and registry while floating for months lost waifs alone on the ocean.

The Archer was built in Sunderland in 1876 and was of 855 tons net burden. She was abandoned in a fierce gale off Cape Flattery about two years ago in a wrecked condition. For months she. drifted a dismantled hulk and was finally found and towed into Puget Sound. 

The Annie Johnson, as the Ida Iredale, was built in England in 1874 and was of 998 tons burden. She was abandoned on fire in the South Pacific about fifteen years ago. Her cargo of coal burned for months as she drifted, consuming everything combustible on board. When picked up ten months after she was literally an empty iron tank, lifting herself high above the surface of the water, inhabited by hundreds of sea birds, which had found the drifting hulk an excellent roosting place.  The metal plates above the water line had been warped by the fierce heat into a beautiful wavy surface, but otherwise the hull was uninjured. The vessel, was bought by an American firm, repaired and with a new flag at her masthead took a new name and number in the commerce of the great republic. She is now owned by W. Matson and Co. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Killed the First Day of the Somme -- Alfred Ratcliffe -- April 5, 2017

On 01-July-2016, I missed the opportunity to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  More British soldiers died on that day than on any other day in history.  I thought to make up for it, I would write about some of the poets who died that day.  There were a lot.

I can't find much information about Alfred Victor Ratcliffe except that he went to Cambridge, was a friend of Rupert Brooke and was in the West Yorkshire Regiment.

The image is from the movie The Battle of the Somme.

June Song

It's sweet to love, ah, very sweet
But then, God knows,
The thorn climbs swift to tear the hand
That loves the rose
But if the heart's dear blood shall touch
The gathering flower,
It will but make a redder rose
A rosier hour. 

 This is the last entry of this series.  Many poets died in the war.  I may write about them later. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Our Film Capital is Air-Minded -- April 3, 2017

The International Photographer, June, 1930
This article, from the June, 1930 International Photographer, talks about the popularity of aviation in Southern California.  The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Machine Operators were having a convention in the area. 

Why Our Film Capital is Air-Minded
Delegates to the I. A. T. S. E. Take Notice) 
Written for The International Photographer by WILLIAM WAGNER, 
Curtis Wright Flying Service 

In no section of the country has aviation development been more marked than in Southern California.

So often has this statement been made that it seems unnecessary to repeat it again here, but in spite of the wide publicity given aeronautical progress in this section, the great majority has not yet been fully appraised of the rapid strides made here.

With pride California points to the fact that this state is easily the leader in number of pilots, mechanics and licensed aircraft, but with greater pride does Los Angeles County remind the rest of the world that more than two-thirds of the state's aviation activity is concentrated in this area.

Of the state's 2076 licensed pilots, 1461 licensed mechanics and 1476 licensed aircraft, approximately 70 per cent are in Los Angeles County.

By no means has this section's rapid growth been wholly in the actual opertion of aircraft, for last year a total of $5,500,000 in aeronautical products were produced in the county. At the present time there are 18 airplane and 11 aircraft engine manufacturing companies engaged in business here.

In the transportation of passengers, mail and express by air, Southern California has fully contributed its share in developing this phase of the industry. Every day 19 scheduled commercial runs are made in and out of Los Angeles. The planes used on these airlines are flown 21,000 miles daily, bringing into and taking out of this section a steady stream of rapidly growing air commerce.

Due to climatic conditions principally we have been able to accomplish much which would not be possible to undertake in any other section of the country.

Particularly has this advantage been shown in the development of our splendid airports and in the training of students. In this line have our own organizations -- Curtiss-Wright Flying Service and Grand Central Air Terminal -- been unusually active.

Of the county's 67 airports and landing fields, none is better equipped or more active than Grand Central, which is ideally situated with relation to downtown Los Angeles. Due to a great extent to the operation from this field of T. A. T.-Maddux Air Lines, this airport now handles approximately one-fourth of all scheduled air transport operation in the country.

This modern air terminal, owned by the Curtiss-Wright Airports Corps., is also the headquarters in Southern California of Curtiss-Wright Flying Service, the world's oldest flying organization, which operates 42 bases throughout the country.

During 1929, Los Angeles county's five leading airports spent in excess of $1,500,000 each on new developments. Grand Central during February of this year celebrated the opening of its new $150,000 terminal station on the airport.

At Los Angeles Airport, the municipal field, Curtis-Wright Flying Service conducts its flying school, which holds the government's highest approved rating. This school has just been approved by federal immigration authorities as an institution of learning for alien students, placing it on the same level with leading universities and colleges. This is the first aviation school in the country to receive this sanction.

In Los Angeles County there are now more than 1600 registered aviation students, with every indication pointing to a rapid increase in this number during the summer months. Due to its excellent climatic conditions and geographical location, Southern California bids fair to become an international aviation training ground.

Already a steady flow of aviation students are coming to this section for advanced flight training from Central and South America, Mexico and Canada, as well as from Japan and China across the Pacific.

One of the most novel and successful experiments in stimulating the use of air travel was recently put into effect by Curtiss-Wright Flying Service at Grand Central Air Terminal.

This new idea, credited to the fertile brain of Major C. C. Moseley, vice-president and general manager in the west for Curtiss-Wright, is now the much-talked of "Penny-a-Pound" flights.

Knowing that once people have made an initial flight in an airplane they are almost certain to be won over to this newest and most rapid method of transportation, Curtiss-Wright put into effect new low rates of "penny-a-pound" for men and a flat $1 for women and children for short scenic flights.

During a single month nearly 5000 persons were carried at these novel low rates, without the slightest mishap of any nature, nor a single report of air-sickness.

Due principally to the interest shown by Col. Charles A. Lindbergh during his and Mrs. Lindbergh's recent visit to Southern California, glider flying has shown rapid progress during the past few months. Today the county boasts more than a dozen glider clubs, composed of from 10 to 30 active members in each club.

Not only is this section favored with a semi-tropical climate, which makes flying and student training throughout the year possible, but high winds that prevail in other states are almost unknown. Records of the local weather bureau reveal that the highest wind ever recorded here was 48 miles per hour, and that in January forty-seven years ago.

Aviation in Southern California is now represented in all of its phases by four of the dominant groups in the industry -- Curtiss-Wright, Western Air Express, United Aircraft and Detroit Aircraft. In addition there are a great many smaller concerns who are doing their share to see that this state maintains its impressive leadership of America's Fastest Growing Industry.

The International Photographer, June, 1930

Sunday, April 2, 2017

President Urges War to "Rescue Humanity" -- April 2, 2017

Washington Herald, 03-April-1917

100 years ago today, on 02-April-1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against the Empire of Germany.  

President Urges War to "Rescue Humanity"
In Address to Joint Session of Congress, Mr. Wilson Declares for Immediate Entry into Strife.
Sets Forth Plan for Financing Entente Allies and Flays Perfidy of the German Government. 

President Wilson last night demanded that the United States recognize the state of war which Germany has thrust upon the nation and exert all of its powers to bring the government of Germany to terms and end the war.

Before the Congress, in joint session, the President bitterly but dispassionately arraigned the German government for its "warfare against mankind," and urged the representatives of the people to act at once to put an end to the destruction of "men, women and children" in the submaine zone.

In calm silence, but with determined faces, the Senators and Representatives listened as the President told them:


 "I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of a belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a state of defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all of its resources to bring the government of Germany to terms and end the war."

Brought face to face with the fateful plunge into the maelstrom of the struggle which for three years has convulsed the world, the Congress immediately took, calmly but enthusiastically, the first steps toward declaring the existence of war and making ready for its prosecution.


A joint resolution, worded almost exactly in the President's phraseology, was introduced in both the House and Senate immediately after his speech was concluded. Congress leaders called the proper committees together for this morning, to take up the resolution for immediate action.

The leaders declared last night that both houses would be prompt in making the declaration recommended by the President. and in providing legislation to mobilize the man power, money power. and all the resources of the nation for the coming struggle. The spirit in Congress was calm but determined, and it evidenced itself in a wild outburst of enthusiasm when the President in the course of his address declared:

"We will not choose the path of submission."


For minutes the Congress, and the spectators who jammed every foot of space in the House galleries, cheered and applauded this statement. Cheers greeted the President's review of the long line of  German violations of American rights, and his declaration that the government which followed such
methods "we can never have as a friend."

"We enter this war only where we are cdearly forced into, and because there are no other means of defending our rights," he asserted, and Congress and the galleries once more voiced theit approval.

The lawmakers of the nation sat in attentive and determined silence as the President laid down a program of war legislation which must be enacted to enable the United States to take its place among the enemies of Germany effectively.


The President urged the utmsost practical co-opration with the entente powers, and the extension to them of the nation's liberal financial resources.  He declared the material resources of the nation must be organized and mobilized for military purposes. He urged the complete equipment of the navy to combat submarines. And he declared for an immediate army of 500,000 men to be raised on the principle of universal liability to service, and subsequent armies as soon as they are needed. Finally he demanded "adequate credits" for the government to finance the war measures. He promised detailed drafts of legislation and estimates of expenditures from the departnets in charge of war preparation, to carry out his recommendations.

The Presidnt made it clear that the war the United Staets is about to embark on was not a war of conquest, but one for "the rights of mankind."

He pointed to the democratization of Russia and declared the new Russia was a fit partner for a "League of Honor."  He declared that the war was against the Prussian autocracy and not against the German people. 

"We are the sincere friends of the German people," said the President.  "We have borne this present government through all these bitter months because of that friendship -- exercising a patience and forbearance which otherwise have been impossible."


He declared that the United States proposed to fight for "the ultimate peace of the world, and for the liberation of its people, the German peoples included." And he placed the entrance of the United States into the war on the broad humanitarian basis that "the world must be made safe for democracy."

Cheers resounded in the crowded chamber as the President declared that one of the convincing arguments that the Prussian autocracy could not be the friend of the United States was the fact that "since the outset of the war it has filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government with spies, and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot."  The President again and again emphasized the fact that the United States was in no way responsible for the present state of war, and he was roundly cheered at tack attack on the German submarine policy.


All the pomp and ceremony of government was assembled in the hall of  the House to hear the President make his history-making address.  The diplomats representing the entente powers, taking advantage of an ancient privilege of the House. for the first time in years sat on the floor of the House.  Beside the volatile Frenchman, Jusserand, sat the phlegmatic Britisher, Sir Cecil Spring Rice. Russian Ambassador Bakhmeteff was not present.  But Senor Riano, the Spanish Ambassador, and a group of South and Central American diplomats, headed by Senor Calderon, the Bolivian Minister, sat with the representatives of the American people.  Ignacio Bonillas, the newly-named Mexican Ambassador, rushed to the Capitol, as he arrived in Washington during the evening, and was in time to hear President Wilson relate Germany's efforts to embroil Mexico and Japan with the United States.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Scott Joplin 100 Years -- April 1, 2017
One hundred years ago today, on 01-April-1917, the father of ragtime, Scott Joplin, died at the age of 49.  Joplin had played piano at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  In 1894 he settled in Sedalia, Missouri, home of the Maple Leaf Club, and taught piano. I could not find a reference to his passing in any contemporary newspapers that are online.

In 1899, he published his first ragtime composition, "Original Rags."
"Maple Leaf Rag," also published in 1899, was Scott Joplin's most famous and influential composition.  I once put together a mix tape made up entirely of recordings of this tune.

In 1911, Joplin published Treemonisha, an opera.  Joplin was able to produce it once, in 1913.  Since 1975, it has been staged several times.