The King versus the Kaiser: Royal rift that meant George V and Tsar Nicholas lined up against their German cousin in World War I
The First World War saw millions of men separated from their families and sent to the front line but very few were pitted against their relations.
For the royal family, however, World War I truly was a family affair.
A new documentary has revealed how the roots of the Great War lay partly in the tangled web of Royal family relationships - in particular that of the British-hating Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and his cousins, George V and Tsar Nicholas of Russia.
Best of enemies: Kaiser Wilhelm II (L) and King Edward VII loathed each other despite being nephew and uncle
Wilhelm, the eldest of the three and with a 'withered arm' - the result of a traumatic birth, was notoriously difficult and had a strained relationship with his English mother, Victoria - 'Vicky'.
A BBC documentary, Royal Cousins at War, tells how the young Wilhelm's hatred of his parents, and all things Biritsh, in part brought about the beginning of the First World War.
Vicky was only 17 when she married Prussia’s dashing Crown Prince Friedrich, known as Fritz, in 1858.
It was a passionate love match that also fulfilled the dynastic dreams of her German father Prince Albert.
After becoming pregnant only three months later, she underwent a traumatic breech delivery.
A Caesarean – too dangerous at the time – was out of the question and the future Kaiser Wilhelm II had to be wrenched forcefully into the world. Three days later, a nursemaid noticed that his damaged left arm hung limply at his side - much to his mother's horror.
'It cuts me to the heart when I see all other children with the use of all their limbs and that mine is denied that,' she wrote in an anguished letter to her mother.
'The thought of him remaining a cripple haunts me. I long to have a child where everything is perfect about it just like everybody else.'
Family feud: George V (pictured front centre) was no more keen on Kaiser Wilhelm than his father had been
Mothers: Princess Victoria, mother of Kaiser Wilhelm (L) and Tsarina Dagmar and Queen Alexandra (R)
'This is the story of a proud mother who reacts really badly to her son's handicap,' explains Dr Karina Urbach of the University of London.
'She tries to love him and tries to be a good mother but at the end of the day, she looks at him and sees a failure.'
By contrast, Wilhelm's cousins, the future Tsar Nicholas and George V, were adored by their mothers, Alexandra and Dagmar - a pair of Danish royal sisters who married into two of Europe's most powerful dynasties.
Theirs was a shared childhood with summers spent enjoying family breaks in Denmark at the home of their grandfather, Christian IX.
Both were taught to mistrust the Prussians - later Germans - by their mothers, furious at Germany's annexation of Schleswig-Holstein, formerly a Danish possession, in 1864.
Both were also in awe of their fathers, Edward VII and Tsar Alexander III, and became fast friends as a result.
Childhood: Tsar Nicholas II and George V met during family holidays in Denmark and remained close friends
Firm friends: Tsar Nicholas II and King George V were cousins and close friends thanks to their mothers
Alexandra, pictured with Edward VII and their son Albert, hated Germany after its conquest of parts of Denmark
Peacemaker: Queen Victoria, pictured with Kaiser Wilhelm, his mother and Edward VII kept the family united
Wilhelm, however, proved less than popular with his British and Russian extended family; not least because of the treatment he meted out to his mother.
As a teenager, he wrote strange - almost sexually charged - letters to his mother Princess Victoria in which he described dreams of kissing her hands and caressing her.
'Promise to do to me as I did in my dream to you. I love you so much,' the future German monarch wrote in one epistle.
But when she replied speaking only of art and politics, the already tortured relationship continued to worsen.
And when his father died in March 1888, his behaviour towards his mother was so shocking, it damaged relations with his uncle Edward VII forever.
Upon becoming Kaiser, Wilhelm's first act was to have troops to surround the palace where his father died on the pretext of searching for for papers relating to his father's reign.
But his ire was really directed at his mother, as her furious brother was only too well aware.
At odds: In contrast to his close relationship with George V, Nicholas II found Kaiser Wilhelm difficult
Troubled: Kaiser Wilhelm (pictured aged 4 at Balmoral and later in Berlin) had an unhappy childhood
Not close: Although related twice over, Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm were not close friends
In a letter written to his sister Victoria shortly after her husband's death, Edward wrote: 'His conduct towards you is simply revolting. His manners are not those of a gentleman.'
But the family feuding came at a price: as relationships between the royal cousins waxed and waned, so did the relationships between their countries.
Aware of the dangerous possibilities, one woman did attempt to broker peace: Queen Victoria, the family matriarch.
Respected and listened to by all, even by her notoriously unstable grandson Wilhelm, the British Empress played peacemaker and ensured her family - and their respective nations - maintained good relationships.
Family: Like George V, Nicholas II was devoted to his wife, a favourite grandchild of Queen Victoria
Tragedy: George V and Nicholas II remained close after their respective enthronements and until the end
Wilhelm, in particular, adored her. But it couldn't last.
In 1901, when it became clear she was dying, the Kaiser rushed to be with her.
When she died, it was in his arms and he helped to lay out her body. At her funeral, he rode behind her casket alongside his uncle Edward VII.
But with Victoria gone, peace between the Russian, British and German branches of the family dissipated and Europe edged closer to war: George V and Tsar Nicholas on one side, and their estranged cousin, Wilhelm, on the other.
Inside Queen Victoria's family
Intimate snaps of the monarch's husband and children among 200 images to appear in new exhibition
From the invention of the telephone to the bicycle and even the steam ship, the Victorian period saw a mini revolution in the field of science and technology.
But of all the new gadgets invented during her reign, it was the camera that delighted Queen Victoria the most.
By the time she died in 1901, the UK's first modern monarch had amassed a huge collection of more than 20,000 images that included everything from favourite landscapes to early war photography and touching snaps of pets, friends and children.
Family portrait: Queen Victoria and five of her children in an intimate snap taken by Roger Fenton in 1854
The Royal Family at home: An 1857 portrait of the Royal Family taken by Leonida Caldesi in 1857
Now some of the rarely seen photos from her archive are to be included in a fascinating new exhibition that documents Queen Victoria's passion for photography and offers a glimpse of the Royals' family photo album. Although most of the photos remain in the Windsor Castle archive, 200 royal photos will appear at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, including many by early greats such as Roger Fenton, Leonida Caldesi and William Edward Kilburn.
Among them is a touching family portrait featuring Queen Victoria and five of her nine children; the Princess Royal, the Prince of Wales, Princess Alice, Princess Helena and Prince Alfred, taken in January 1852.
More show the Queen relaxing at Balmoral, spending time with her husband, Prince Albert, or posing for formal portraits during her widowhood.
Carefree childhood: Princesses Helena and Louise pictured playing in the garden by Roger Fenton in 1856
A Queen remembered: Victoria with Prince Albert in 1841 (left) and the Diamond Jubilee portrait of 1893
Not amused: Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught seems less than thrilled to be starring in this Caldesi photo
Other members of the Royal family also appear, among them Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria's seventh child, and her consort, Prince Albert, both of whom appear in official photos.
Another, more intimate snap shows Princesses Helena and Louise in matching tartan ensembles in the garden at Balmoral during a summer jaunt.
But although family photos dominate, the Queen's interest in photography wasn't limited to pictures of her husband and children.
Photos of some of the Royal palaces, among them Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, appear as do snaps documenting some of the most important events of the Victorian period.
One, by William Henry Fox Talbot, shows Nelson's Column under construction in Trafalgar Square in 1844, while another chronicles the launch of the pioneering steamship, the Great Eastern, under the watchful eye of its designer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Favourite palace: This photo, dating from the 1880s, shows the Round Tower at Windsor Castle
Pioneer: This shot of Nelson's Column was taken by William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the camera
Poignantly, another, snapped by court favourite Roger Fenton, shows the aftermath of the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.
Considered one of the first war photographers, Fenton travelled to the Crimea under the patronage of Prince Albert and returned with 350 images, among them harrowing shots showing the carnage created by the Siege of Sevastopol and the Battle of Balaclava.
His famous photo, The Valley of Death, depicting the spot where the Light Brigade met its end is part of Victoria's collection, along with others documenting events such as the Indian Mutiny from around the Empire.
Although a keen collector, Queen Victoria never took any photographs of her own, although her children all embraced the medium.
But although she chose not to get involved in creating her own images, her penchant for collecting photos, as the new exhibition makes plain, helped preserve some of the most striking depictions of the Victorian period for future generations to enjoy.
A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography opens at the Getty Center in Los Angeles on 4th February. See getty.edu for more information
Innovation: Isambard Kingdom Brunel watching the launch of the steamship, Great Eastern, in 1857
Valley of the Shadow of Death: The cannonball littered aftermath of the Charge of the Light Brigade, 1855
ROGER FENTON: THE WORLD'S FIRST WAR PHOTOGRAPHER
From the Siege of Sevastopol to the Charge of the Light Brigade, Roger Fenton's striking shots taken in the Crimea are among the first war photographs ever taken.
So who was the world's first war photographer? Born into a wealthy Lancashire family, Fenton was the fourth of seven children.
He graduated with a degree in English, maths, Greek and Latin from Oxford University in 1840 and planned to study law before giving it up in favour of fine art.
After stints in Paris, in the studio of Paul Delaroche and at the Louvre, he returned to London just in time for the Great Exhibition of 1851 where he discovered photography.
Taught by early pioneer, Gustave Le Grey, within a year, Fenton was exhibiting his work nationwide and across Europe, and in 1853, helped found what would become the Royal Photographic Society under the patronage of Prince Albert.
But it wasn't until war broke out in October 1853 between the British, Ottoman and French Empires on one side, and the Russian Empire on the other, that the photos that would define him in later years were taken.
Encouraged by Prince Albert, he travelled to the Crimea, ostensibly to create photographs that would swing public opinion in favour of the unpopular war and counteract the critical reports being sent home by The Times' William Howard Russell.
Based in the Crimea for just under 18 months, the 350 images he took are among the most enduring portraits of the Crimean War but did little to counter the negative public reaction.
Much to his annoyance, when they went on sale following his return, the prints proved just as unpopular as the war itself with the paying public.
His later career was spent travelling the length and breadth of the UK, creating stunning landscape photographs that proved far more commercially successful.
In 1859, at his home in Potter's Bar in Hertfordshire, Fenton died after a week-long illness. He was just 50 years old.
The Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter planes on Tuesday morning after violating the country's air space and ignoring 'ten warnings in the space of five minutes', army officials said. However, Russia's Ministry of Defence claims the jet was in Syrian airspace, and was shot down from the ground. Footage reportedly filmed by rebels in Syria's Turkomen Mountains, an area which has been the cause of recent tensions between Turkey and Russia, shows local fighters cheer as they uncover the body of one of the Russian pilots. The men can be seen surrounding the corpse of the pilot, wearing Russian military fatigues, shouting 'Allahu Akbar' - 'God is great'. The area is mainly populated by Turkmens - Syrians citizens, but ethnic Turks - and it has been the target of a Syrian government offensive over the past week, where President Bashar al-Assad's ground troops have been supported by Russian airstrikes. Both pilots ejected themselves from the jet and could be seen parachuting down to the ground, where one has been reported as captured by Syrian Turkmen rebels who are hunting for the second pilot.
Putin warns Turkey there will be 'serious consequences' for 'stabbing Russia in the back' by shooting down one of its jets… as video emerges of rebels chanting 'Allahu Akbar' over the body of dead pilot
President Vladimir Putin has accused Turkey of funding ISIS, and using its military to protect the terrorist organisation, after a Russian fighter jet was shot down near the Syrian border on Tuesday morning.
The two-pilot Sukhoi Su-24 jet was shot down by F-16 fighter planes just after 9am this morning, after it violated Turkish airspace and ignored nearly a dozen warnings by the military, Ankara officials said.
President Putin called Turkey's decision to down the plane a 'stab in the back' by the accomplices of ISIS, as his Defence Ministry still claims the jet was flying over Syria and never entered Turkish airspace.
This image shows the moment the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter planes near the Turkish-Syrian border, in Hatay, which has seen NATO call an 'extraordinary' meeting and Russian President Putin warn of 'serious consequences'
Conflicting stories: Turkey claims they shot the plane down as it was violating the country's airspace after the pilots ignored 'ten warnings in the space of five minutes', but Russia says the jet was in Syrian airspace
'Proof'? This image, left, accompanied by a video, right, claims to show one of the Russian pilots found dead by Turkmen rebels
'The loss we suffered today came from a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists,' President Putin said, speaking at a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi, Russia, on Thursday afternoon.
'We will never tolerate such atrocities as happened today and we hope that the international community will find the strength to join forces and fight this evil,' Putin said.
The president warned that 'today's tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations', shortly before Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled tomorrow's visit to Turkey, where the two nations were due to discuss Syria.
Putin boldly claimed that Turkey has been buying oil from ISIS, funding the terrorist group, and accused Ankara of protecting the jihadists with the country's military, Moscow-funded RT.com reports.
The Russian president's warning came as Syrian insurgents reportedly shot down rescue helicopter as it was searching for the pilots from the downed warplane.
An insurgent group in Syria's Latakia province hit the helicopter with an anti-tank missile, forcing it to make an emergency landing, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkey's decision to down the plane a 'stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists'
Flight: This map shows the route of the Russian jet (shown in red), based on data released by the Turkish government, including where it violated Turkish airspace, and the area in the Turkomen Mountains where it crashed
Footage reportedly filmed by rebels in Syria's Turkomen Mountains, an area which has been the cause of recent tensions between Turkey and Russia, emerged showing local fighters cheer as they discover the body of one of the Russian pilots.
The video, posted on Twitter by a man believed to be a Syrian-Turkmen rebel soldier, shows at least a dozen men surrounding the corpse of the pilot, dressed in Russian military fatigues, and some are heard shouting 'Allahu Akbar' – 'God is great'.
Local rebels said the pilot, who can be seen covered in bruises and burns in the video, was already deceased when he landed, and that none of the Russian pilots had been killed by Syrian fighters.
The area is mainly populated by Turkmens - Syrians citizens, but ethnic Turks - and is the target of a current Syrian government offensive, where President Bashar al-Assad's ground troops are supported by Russian airstrikes.
The Turkish army said the pilots of the Russian jet had been warned 'ten times in the space of five minutes' before the plane was shot down.
Both pilots ejected themselves from the jet and could be seen parachuting down to the ground, where one has been reported dead and the other captured by Syrian Turkmen rebels.
The Turkomen Mountains is controlled by several insurgent groups, who are not allied with ISIS, including al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, and the 2nd Coastal Division that consists of local Turkmen fighters.
Footage reportedly filmed in Syria's Turkomen Mountains shows local fighters cheer as they discover the body of one of the Russian pilots
At least a dozen men surround the corpse of the pilot, dressed in Russian military fatigues, and some are heard shouting 'Allahu Akbar'
Hit: Video footage shows the plane coming down engulfed in flames after being shot by Turkish fighter jets
Filmed: The incident was caught on camera and has been broadcast on Turkish local TV and online
Just hours before the Russian jet was shot down, Ankara called for a U.N Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmen areas in Syria, which have forced some 1,700 civilians to flee their homes in the last three days, according to Turkish officials.
It followed a summoning of Moscow's ambassador on Friday, when Ankara demanded an immediate end to the Russian military operation near the Syrian border saying the Russian actions did not 'constitute a fight against terrorism' but the bombing of civilians.
Ambassador Andrey Karlov was warned during the meeting that the Russian operations could lead to serious consequences, the ministry said.
Turkish officials said the Russian plane was first warned that it was within ten miles of the Turkish border, and the aircraft then crossed over Turkish territory, adding that a second plane had also approached the border and been warned.
'The data we have is very clear. There were two planes approaching our border, we warned them as they were getting too close,' a senior Turkish official said.
'We warned them to avoid entering Turkish airspace before they did, and we warned them many times. Our findings show clearly that Turkish airspace was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly,' the official said.
NATO allies will hold an 'extraordinary' meeting later today at Ankara's request to discuss Tuesday morning's incident, an alliance official said.
'At the request of Turkey, the North Atlantic Council will hold an extraordinary meeting at 4pm. The aim of this extraordinary NAC is for Turkey to inform Allies about the downing of a Russian airplane,' the official said.
The North Atlantic Council consists of ambassadors from the 28 NATO member states.
One of the pilots can be seen parachuting down after ejecting from the plane, as the wreckage burns
This image released by the Turkish Army reportedly shows the flight radar tracking the movement of the downed Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet, showing where it entered Turkish air space and where it went down
A Turkish military statement, issued before it was confirmed that the jet was Russian, said the plane entered Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province.
'On Nov. 24, 2015 at around 09.20am, a plane whose nationality is not known violated the Turkish airspace despite several warnings (ten times within five minutes) in the area of Yayladagi, Hatary.
'Two F-16 planes on aerial patrol duty in the area intervened against the plane in question in accordance with the rules of engagement at 09.24am.'
The Turkish Army later released a radar analysis image which they say tracks the movement of the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet, showing where it entered Turkish air space, and where it went down.
'This isn't an action against any specific country. Our F-16s took the necessary steps to defend Turkey's sovereign territory,' a Turkish official told news agencies on condition of anonymity.
Russia's Defence Ministry said in a statement that they are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet.
'The Ministry of Defence would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight.'
The statement also claimed that the Sukhoi-24 had been shot down from the ground at the altitude of 6,000metres(3.73m).
DOWNING OF RUSSIAN JET ADDS TO 'TOXIC COCKTAIL' IN THE REGION, EXPERTS SAY
Turkey shooting down a Russian jet on Tuesday morning is just proof of the 'toxic cocktail' of dangers in the region which could erupt into crisis with devastating effect, an expert has warned.
Middle East expert Shashank Joshi, from the Royal United Services Institute, said the skies over Syria and Turkey are an 'incredibly crowded airspace', with planes from both nations and members of the US-led coalition against IS - including the UK - operating.
Turkey, a Nato member, has already complained about Russian incursions into its skies and last month the alliance condemned the 'unacceptable violations of Turkish airspace by Russian combat aircraft'.
Mr Joshi said: 'The situation is dangerous because Russia is quite probably deliberately probing Turkish airspace both for military reasons and political reasons.'
The Russians will be testing the military responses of the Nato member, but also carrying out the same 'psychological intimidation' tactics used in the Baltic and North Atlantic, he suggested.
The combination of the crowded airspace, Russian probing tactics and the diplomatic tensions create a 'real toxic cocktail that can easily erupt into crisis', he warned.
Ankara will be 'furious' at the incursion and Russia can expect Nato to strike a 'tough' note, but behind the scenes there will be intense diplomatic efforts to calm tensions.
But if Moscow responds in a provocative way, there is a risk of the crisis escalating.
Mr Joshi warned: 'These things always proceed in a very unpredictable fashion. We have seen how conflicts can begin when there are large alliances.'
Ejected: The two pilots of the Russian Sukhoi-24 jet can be seen parachuting down after the plane was hit
Russia's Ministry of Defence claims the jet was in Syrian airspace, and was shot down from the ground
Vladimir Putin's spokesman called the downing of the Su-24 warplane a 'very serious incident' but declined to comment further until more facts emerged.
'It is just impossible to say something without having full information,' said Dmitry Peskov.
Russia's government-run TV Zvezda claimed the warplane had been in Syrian airspace the entire time, which allegedly could be proven by 'control systems', a ministry spokesman said.
'It's the kind of thing we're been warning about,' said Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network think-tank in London.
'And it's a direct military engagement between a NATO country and Russia, so I think it's a serious incident in anybody's book.'
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has spoken with the chief of military staff and the foreign minister about the developments on the Syrian border, the prime minister's office said in a statement, without mentioning the downed jet.
He has ordered the foreign ministry to consult with NATO, the United Nations and related countries on the latest developments, his office said.
Last month, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that had also violated Turkey's airspace.
Turkey and Russia have long been at loggerheads over the Syrian conflict, with Ankara seeking Assad's overthrow while Moscow does everything to keep him in power.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to visit Turkey on Wednesday to discuss Syria, in a trip arranged before this incident.Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is meanwhile expected to visit Russia for talks with Putin in late December.
Russia's participation in the Syrian peace process talks in Vienna, the co-operation on the UN Security Council resolution and meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Nato leaders provided signs of a renewed diplomatic engagement between Moscow and the West in recent weeks.
French President Francois Hollande will meet Mr Putin on Thursday and Russia has offered co-operation in the fight against IS following the atrocities in Paris and the downing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt.
Russian pilots operating out of the Latakia air base in Syria have a small escape kit to help them on the ground if they are forced to eject from their jet.
In the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer, the escape kit is located in a small compartment underneath the ejector seat.
The escape kit contains an inflatable raft, in case the aircraft is brought down over water. There is also a radio beacon which will relay the pilot's location to any potential rescue aircraft.
The pilot also has a radio, signal flares, a machete and a knife. It is likely the pilot will have a sidearm to defend himself.
Russian pilots are equipped with a small escape kit in a compartment underneath their ejector seat
Among the basic equipment in the escape kit is a machette, pictured, and a small supply of water
| || |
DOWNFALL OF EUROPEAN ROYALTY One hundred years ago
Then World War One
France had been the major power in Europe for most of the Early Modern Era: Louis XIV, in the seventeenth century, and Napoleon I in the nineteenth, had extended French power over most of Europe through skillful diplomacy and military prowess. The Treaty of Vienna in 1815 confirmed France as a European power broker. By the early 1850s, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck started a system of alliances designed to assert Prussian dominance over Central Europe. Bismarck's diplomatic maneuvering, and France's maladroit response to such crises as the Ems Dispatch and the Hohenzollern Candidature led to the French declaration of war in 1870. France's subsequent defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, including the loss of its army and the capture of its emperor at Sedan, the loss of territory, including Alsace-Lorraine, and the payment of heavy indemnities, left the French seething and placed the reacquisition of lost territory as a primary goal at the end of the 19th century; the defeat also ended French preeminence in Europe. Following German Unification, Bismarck attempted to isolate France diplomatically by befriending Austria–Hungary, Russia, Britain, and Italy.
Sometime after 1870, the European powers began acquiring settlements in Africa, with colonialism on that continent hitting its peak between 1895 and 1905. However, colonial disputes were only a minor cause of World War I, as most had been settled by 1914. Economicrivalry was not only a source for some of the colonial conflicts but also a minor cause for the start of World War I. For France the rivalry was mostly with the rapidly industrializing Germany, which had seized the coal-rich region of Alsace-Lorraine in 1870, and later struggled with France over mineral-rich Morocco.
France was bound by treaty to defend Russia, which was in turn bound by treaty to defend Serbia. Austria–Hungary had declared war on Serbia due to the Black Hand's assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which acted as the immediate cause of the war. France was brought into the war by a German declaration of war on August 3, 1914.
Organization during the war
In January 1914, the French Army had 47 divisions, composed of 777,000 French soldiers and 47,000 colonial troops. The French army was organized into 21 regional corps, along with attached cavalry andfield artillery. Most of these troops were deployed in the French interior, the bulk of those along the eastern frontier as part of Plan XVII.
In June 1915, the Allied countries met in the first inter-Allied conference. Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, Serbia, and Russia were all represented, and agreed to coordinate their attacks. However, such attempts were frustrated by strategic enemy maneuvers.
In the spring of 1917, after the failed Nivelle Offensive, there was a series of mutinies in the French army. The mutinies started on April 17, the day after the failed Nivelle Offensive, and ended on June 30. Over 35,000 soldiers were involved with 68 out of 112 divisions affected, but fewer than 3,000 men were punished. Of the 68 divisions affected by mutinies, 5 had been “profoundly affected”’ 6 had been “very seriously affected”, 15 had been “seriously affected”, 25 were affected by “repeated incidents” and 17 had been affected by “one incident only”, according to statistics compiled by French military historian Guy Pedroncini.
By 1918, towards the end of the war, the composition and structure of the French army had changed. Forty percent of all French soldiers on the Western Front were operating artillery and 850,000 of the French troops were infantrymen in 1918, compared to 1.5 million in 1915. Causes for the drop in infantry include increased machine gun, armored car, and tank usage, as well as the increasing significance of the French air force, the Armée de l'Air.
At the end of the war on November 11, 1918, the French had called up 8,317,000 men, including 475,000 colonial troops. France suffered over 4.2 million casualties, with 1.3 million dead.
Commanders in Chief
A photograph of Joseph Joffre, Commander-in-Chief for most of the war, taken before 1918.
Joseph Joffre was Commander-in-Chief, a position he had held since 1911. While serving in this position, Joffre was responsible for development of the Plan XVII blueprint for the invasion of Germany, which proved unsuccessful. Joffre was thought to be the 'Savior of France' due to his serenity and a refusal to admit defeat, valuable at the beginning of the war, along with his regrouping of retreating allied forces at the Battle of the Marne. Joffre was effectively relieved of his duties on December 13, 1916, following the Battle of Verdun and other losses. Due to his popularity, it was not presented to the public as a dismissal when he was promoted to Marshal of France on the same day.
Robert Nivelle, who began the war as a regimental colonel, was appointed Commander-in-Chief. However, after the failure of the Nivelle Offensive in April 1917, and theFrench army mutinies, he was removed from his position and given a post in North Africa.
On May 15, 1917, Philippe Pétain was made Commander-in-Chief, and restored the fighting capability of the French troops by improving front line living conditions, and preferring defensive operations. In the Third Battle of the Aisne, fought in May 1918, French positions collapsed due to Pétain's alien tactic of "tactical defense", and the consequence for Pétain was subordination to the Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch.
Soldiers of the 87th Regiment, 6th Division at Côte 304 (Hill 304), northwest ofVerdun, in 1916
Germany marched through neutral Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan to invade France, and by August 23 had reached the French border town of Maubeuge, whose true significance lay within its forts. Maubeuge was a major railway junction and was consequently a protected city. It had 15 forts and gun batteries, totaling 435 guns, along with a permanent garrison of 35,000 troops, a number enhanced by the British Expeditionary Force.The BEF and the French Fifth Army retreated on August 23, and the town was besieged by German heavy artillery starting on August 25. The fortress was surrendered on September 7 by General Fournier, who was later court-martialed, but exonerated, for the capitulation.
The Battle of Guise, launched on August 29, was an attempt by the Fifth Army to capture Guise, they succeeded, but later withdrew on August 30. This delayed the German Second Army's invasion of France, but also hurt Lanrezac's already damaged reputation. The First Battle of the Marne was fought between September 6 and September 12. It started when retreating French forces (the Fifth and Sixth armies), stopped south of the Marne River. Victory seemed close, the First German Army was given orders to surround Paris, unaware the French government had already fled to Bordeaux. The First Battle of the Marne was a French victory, but was a bloody one: 250,000 French soldiers died, with similar numbers believed for the Germans, and over 12,700 for the British. The German retreat after the First Battle of the Marne halted at the Aisne River, and the Allies soon caught up, starting the First Battle of the Aisne on September 12. It lasted until September 28, it was indecisive, partially due to machine guns beating back infantry sent to capture enemy positions. In the Battle of Le Cateau, fought on August 26–27, the French Sixth Army prevented the British from being outflanked. The first major Allied attack against German forces since the incarnation of trench warfare on the Western Front, the First Battle of Champagne, lasting from December 20, 1914, until March 17, 1915; it was a German victory, due in part to their machine gun battalions and the well-entrenched German forces.
The indecisive Second Battle of Ypres, from April 22 – May 25, was the site of the first German chlorine gas attack and the only major German offensive on the Western Front in 1915. Ypres was devastated after the battle. The Second Battle of Artois, from May 9 – June 18, the most important part of the Allied spring offensive of 1915, was successful for the Germans, allowing them to advance rather than retreat as the Allies had planned, and Artois would not be in Allied hands again until 1917. The Second Battle of Champagne, from September 25 – November 6, was a general failure, with the French only advancing about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi), and not capturing the German's second line. France suffered over 140,000 casualties, while the Germans suffered over 80,000.
The Battle of the Somme, fought along a 30 kilometres (19 mi) front from north of the Somme River between Arras and Albert. It was fought between July 1 and November 18 and involved over 2 million men. The French suffered 200,000 casualties. Little territory was gained, only 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) at the deepest points.
The German population responded to the outbreak of war in 1914 with a complex mix of emotions, in a similar way to the populations in other countries of Europe; notions of overt enthusiasm known as the Spirit of 1914 have been challenged by more recent scholarship. The German government, dominated by the Junkers, thought of the war as a way to end Germany's disputes with rivals France, Russia and Britain. The beginning of war was presented in authoritarian Germany as the chance for the nation to secure "our place under the sun," as the Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bulow had put it, which was readily supported by prevalent nationalism among the public. The Kaiser and the German establishment hoped the war would unite the public behind the monarchy, and lessen the threat posed by the dramatic growth of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which had been the most vocal critic of the Kaiser in the Reichstag before the war. Despite its membership in the Second International, the Social Democratic Party of Germany ended its differences with the Imperial government and abandoned its principles of internationalism to support the war effort.
It soon became apparent that Germany was not prepared for a war lasting more than a few months. At first, little was done to regulate the economy for a wartime footing, and the German war economy would remain badly organized throughout the war. Germany depended on imports of food and raw materials, which were stopped by the British blockade of Germany. Food prices were first limited, then rationing was introduced. The winter of 1916/17 was called "turnip winter" because the potato harvest was poor and people ate animal feed especially vile tasting turnips. During the war from August 1914 to mid-1919, the excess deaths over peacetime caused by malnutrition and high rates of exhaustion and disease and despair came to about 474,000 civilians.
German soldiers on the way to the front in 1914. A message on the freight car spells out "Trip to Paris"; early in the war, all sides expected the conflict to be a short one.
The German army opened the war on the Western Front with a modified version of the Schlieffen Plan, designed to quickly attack France through neutral Belgium before turning southwards to encircle the French army on the German border. The Belgians fought back, and sabotaged their rail system to delay the Germans. The Germans did not expect this and were delayed, and responded with systematic reprisals on civilians, killing nearly 6,000 Belgian noncombatants, including women and children, and burning 25,000 houses and buildings. The plan called for the right flank of the German advance to converge on Paris and initially, the Germans were very successful, particularly in the Battle of the Frontiers (14–24 August). By 12 September, the French with assistance from the British forces halted the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (5–12 September). The last days of this battle signified the end of mobile warfare in the west. The French offensive into Germany launched on 7 August with the Battle of Mulhouse had limited success.
In the east, only one Field Army defended East Prussia and when Russia attacked in this region it diverted German forces intended for the Western Front. Germany defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the First Battle of Tannenberg (17 August – 2 September), but this diversion exacerbated problems of insufficient speed of advance from rail-heads not foreseen by the German General Staff. The Central Powers were thereby denied a quick victory and forced to fight a war on two fronts. The German army had fought its way into a good defensive position inside France and had permanently incapacitated 230,000 more French and British troops than it had lost itself. Despite this, communications problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of obtaining an early victory.
1916 was characterized by two great battles on the Western front, at Verdun and Somme. They each lasted most of the year, achieved minimal gains, and drained away the best soldiers of both sides. Verdun became the iconic symbol of the murderous power of modern defensive weapons, with 280,000 German casualties, and 315,000 French. At Somme, there were over 600,000 German casualties, against over 400,000 British, and nearly 200,000 French. At Verdun, the Germans attacked what they considered to be a weak French salient which nevertheless the French would defend for reasons of national pride. The Somme was part of a multinational plan of the Allies to attack on different fronts simultaneously. German experts are divided in their interpretation of the Somme. Some say it was a standoff, but most see it as a British victory and argue it marked the point at which German morale began a permanent decline and the strategic initiative was lost, along with irreplaceable veterans and confidence.
Hundreds of rare images charting one German soldier's experiences of the First World War have been made public for the first time.
The rare glimpse into life in the trenches reveals Walter Koessler's journey from the smiles and hopes of signing up to fight, to the stark the reality of war.
The poignant album begins with Walter smiling and 'playing at war' with his friends to dead soldiers lying buried in muddy trenches.
German officer Walter Koessler's rare collection of photos that have been preserved by his descendants show his devastation of the First World War
The unique set of images provide a glimpse into what daily life in the trenches was like for a German officer
Pictures such as this one of German soldiers playing cards together next to their trenches 'garden' give an insight into the reality of the boredom, as well as the violence, of warfare
He also records for posterity the devastation that was wrought on Europe.
Walter took almost 1,000 photos while serving in the Reserve Artillery Battalion and as an aerial photographer. While beautifully preserved by Walter's descendants, the unique window into the war has been hidden in a cupboard for almost a century. However, Walter's great grandson Dean Putney has now launched an ambitious project to share the images and hopes to turn them into a book. Software developer Mr Putney only discovered the album's existence during a Thanks Giving visit to his mother in 2011. He said the day before he was due to return to his home in San Francisco, California, she 'casually' pulled it out to show him. Mr Putney told Mail Online: 'I thought "this is incredible". 'There were hundreds of photos over a century old. 'I am in publishing and spend a lot of time looking at stuff like this. I immediately knew it was something really special that lots of people needed to see.
The albums and negatives have been preserved immaculately by Walter's family but they have only now been made public by his great-grandson Dean Putney
Mr Putney now wants to turn the images into a photo book and is raising money to kickstart the project while sharing images of his great grandfather and friends online
Mr Putney feels a connection to his ancestor. He is one year younger than Walter (pictured left and right with friends) was when he was conscripted into the war
The software developer said early photos seem to show the men playing at war and the first sets in the album show them having fun. Pictured, two soldiers wrestle in the snow
The smiling early portraits, such as this one left, are gradually replaced by images of devastation and dead soldiers (right). 'Not only did lots of people need to see it, it was something that I needed to spread and share.
'I hope people can get in touch with that understanding - how different life was back then.' Mr Putney said he immediately felt a connection to the pictures of his great-grandfather. At 23, he is just one year younger than his ancestor was when he was conscripted into the war. But they also look strikingly similar. Mr Putney said the album is a 'real treasure' and especially important because it tells the personal story of a German, when most of the photographs that remain are from the Allies' side. The negatives have also been kept and among the collection is a box of more than 100 3D stereographs from the war. Mr Putney, who is currently sharing the images through the Walter Koessler Project Tumblr blog and on Boing Boing, has spent the past two years researching the images. He has even visited France so he can compare some of the photos with how the sites look today.
Towards the end of the album, Walter's images increasingly begin to show the stark realities of the First World War
Mr Putney said the images, such as this one of men carrying heavy artillery and a German soldier posing, are a 'real treasure'
The relaxed early images in the album reflect the initial ease the German Army had in moving across Europe before the stalemate of the trenches
Walter Koessler's early pictures show his friends relaxing together and posing for his photographs
Others pictures in the vast collection show the heavy artillery at the disposal of the German Army
None of the pictures are annotated so Mr Putney said one of the only clues to the time of year is if there is snow on the ground. Walter survived the war and went to have a hugely successful career in Hollywood as an art director. He moved to Los Angeles soon after the Armistice where he worked on the Charlie Chan films and worked for Universal Studios. The family believe he was also the set designer for the classic World War One film, All Quiet On The Western Front. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the start of the war and Mr Putney said the images are a crucial reminder of what life was like for soldiers on both sides of the devastating conflict. Walter had trained as an architect before being conscripted into the German Army. As an aerial photographer, he was one of the first to chart battlefields and help create maps from the air, in biplanes and hot-air balloons. At the beginning of the album, the photographs of him and his friends look like a picture postcard to be sent home. But with every page turned, the reality of the war kicks in and Mr Putney said by 1918 his great-grandfather was a staunch pacifist.
Mr Putney has spent the past two years researching the images and has even travelled to France to compare them to the actual sites
Because Walter was not an official photographer, his images show a different side to the First World War
Mr Putney said the personal images 'humanize a terrible war' and how life was for those fighting on both sides
He hopes the project will help people get in touch with First World War and is aptly timed as the 100 anniversary next year. Mr Putney said: 'I think that his album and his photos are humazing of this really terrible war. 'He tells a brilliant story. The first pictures are of him and his friends going off to war. 'At the beginning of the album they are almost playing at war - they are swimming in lakes and taking photos. They are almost glamour shots. 'When you reach the middle of the album the aerial shots. 'There are pictures of a crashed airplane. 'Towards the end of the album you really see his understanding of what they are doing. 'He stops taking photos of his friends. It is pretty much taking photos of destroyed churches, of dead men in the trenches, blown up tanks. 'It's scary stuff. The smiling faces disappear.'
The poignant images also put faces to just some of the hundreds of thousands of forgotten people who died in the war
Erzherzogin Elisabeth Franziska und Herzoherzogin Hedwig von Österreich, Arch Duchess of Austria
Desolate Waste on Chemin des Dames Battlefield, France
Repairing Field Telephone Lines During a Gas Attack at the Front
German Tanker Armed with Flamethrower
A crewman from A7V 506 at San Quentin, March 21, 1918, the opening day of the Kaiser's Battle. Serving dismounted in a shock troop, he is armed with a Kar 98AZ and a ring-shaped portable flamethrower that is not the Wex M.1917. It may be an experimental model manufactured by the L. von Bremen Company specifically for the use of tank crewmen.
The flamethrower has been fitted with a cloth cover and is disconnected from the lance. Although A7V tanks were originally intended to carry flamethrowers on board, the idea was abandoned as too dangerous. Instead, infantry patrols carried the devices, which the dismounted tankers used when serving as shock troops.
WWI American Field Service. WWI American ambulance drivers serving with the American Field Service stationed in the Toul Sector of the Western Front, France.
WWI American Sailor 1918 photograph depicting an American sailor posing in front of his country's flag
WWI French Machine Gun Crew, detail from a WWI photograph depicting French machine gunners at the front.
German Model 1916 Portable Flamethrower
Captured Kleif M.1916, distinguishable form the 1917 model by the three metal legs and external propellant line on the left side.
The igniter is live; however, the ball valve of the lance is in the "open position. It's likely that the flamethrower is therefore empty. The rubber hose is sleeved in linen and wrapped in steel wire to prevent folding or kinking.
German Flamethrower Regiment Grenadier
Grenadier of the 12th Company, Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment. He wears the M1915 blouse with regulation black shoulder straps piped in red and the death's-head sleeve badge awarded July 28, 1916.
Equipment includes M1916 steel helmet, M1916 metal gas-mask container in the "alert" position, M1916 and M1917 stick grenades (Stielhandgranaten) and Kar 98AZ carbine.
Joseph Chambers Wounded at the Battle of the Somme. Killed 16th August 1917. 9th Battalion. Royal Irish Fusiliers. His cousin John was killed at the Battle of the Somme
Flamethrower Pioneer of Assault Battalion Rohr
On the left is a Gefreiter of Infantry Regiment No. 382. His companion is an Unteroffizier of the flamethrower platoon of Assault Battalion Rohr.
This photo is a mystery. The flamethrower platoon of Assault Battalion Rohr was awarded a Guard Pioneer Pickelhaube on June 6, 1916, a helmet that featured a Brunswick death's-head badge on the front. Assault Battalion Rohr became Assault Battalion No. 5 in December of 1916, five months after the flamethrower platoon was awarded the Prussian death's head-sleeve badge.
This Unteroffizier wears an M1915 blouse (Bluse) with field-gray shoulder straps that feature red piping and a red number "5." If still a member of the flamethrower platoon, he should also be wearing the death's head sleeve badge. However, he displays an unauthorized Brunswick death's head on his cap instead.
He may have transferred into the Assault Battalion proper before being awarded the death's-head sleeve badge but retained his Brunswick badge as a matter of pride.
German Flamethrower Pioneer
Pionier of the 6th Company, Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment. He wears the M1907/10 service jacket and the M1908 peaked cap.
This photo was likely taken between April 20, 1916, when the flamethrower regiment was established, and July 28, 1916, when the death's head sleeve badge was awarded.
Fallen German Flamethrower Pioneer
Pionier Kurt Böhme, 2nd Company of the Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment (Garde-Reserve-Pionier-Regiment), who died in hospital on July 18, 1916, of wounds received at Verdun. He was twenty years old.He wears the M1907/10 service jacket and is equipped with a pioneer shovel and Kar 98ZA carbine. Flamethrower pioneers were issued carbines instead of rifles.
WWI German Landsturm Soldier in Namur, Belgium 1914
I acquired this photograph of a WWI German Landstrum soldier about 7 or 8 years ago. However, back then I did not know that was what he was. I only knew that I had never seen any WWI headgear like what he was wearing. It was only a few months ago that I found out that he is a Landsturmmann, and that the most distinguishing feature about the uniform of a Landsturm soldier is his oilcloth cap (Wachstuchmütze) with it's white or yellow metal Landwehr Cross. Naturally, however, due to the havoc of war and various shortages, not all Landsturm soldiers are readily identifiable in their photographs by this characteristic cap. They can appear wearing an amazing variety of headgear.
The Landsturm ("Land Storm") soldiers were the Reservists of the German Army, which was basically comprised of older (sometimes quite elderly) men and youths. Although they served a vital military purpose in the army, sadly they were frequently issued old and out-dated uniforms, equipment, and weapons. Nevertheless, they came through magnificently on numerous occasions. Equally sad, many of the books written on the history of WWI and on WWI German uniforms ignore these unsung heroes.
Secret WWI diary written by Englishwoman, known as 'The Outlander', behind enemy lines in Germany is unearthed in dusty loft
Annie Droege, an Englishwoman, moved to Germany in the early 1900s where she wrote her account of life in WWI. Her husband Arthur had an English mother and German father
As an Englishwoman in Germany during the First World War, and with her husband interned in a prison camp, she was known as 'The Outlander'.
She was shunned by old friends and viewed with suspicion in the garrison town she called home.
Now, the secret diary penned behind enemy lines by Annie Droege, originally from Stockport, Cheshire, has been uncovered and lovingly transformed into a book.
The Diary Of Annie’s War only came to light when retired engineer Mark Rigg, 66, was sifting through a dusty box left for decades in a loft.
Mr Rigg, also of Stockport, is delighted the chronicle has now gone on sale to the public.
He said: ‘I was having a clear-out when I came across these two battered old books covered in dust that belonged to my great aunt Annie Droege.
‘When I opened them up I was stunned, because there was my great Aunt Annie’s feelings and thoughts about life in Germany during World War One.
‘And accompanying it was a photograph album from more than a century ago. The images turned out to be taken before the war had started as Annie and her husband Arthur had moved to Germany from Stockport just over a 100 years ago.
‘I was absolutely amazed at the historical content of the diary - she was keeping some very detailed facts and figures and her words provide a fascinating insight to life inside Germany during the Great War.
‘I’ve seen movies based on real-life stories and the Diary Of Anne Frank from World War Two was an international publishing sensation, so I knew the diary deserved a wider audience.
‘Straightaway I felt compelled to share her insights with people of all nations - the book will be published in the UK initially and then I would hope to bring it out in Germany and move it to other nations after that.
The secret diary penned behind enemy lines by Annie Droege, originally from Stockport, Cheshire, has been uncovered and lovingly transformed into a book. She is pictured, left, with her husband Arthur and Winnie, a friend of the family
Her diary chronicles the horrors of war and has mixed in with it every day life, details of shortages, the prices of food and the tragedies that were all around on a daily basis
‘I did at one point think it would make for a great dramatisation, but with the 100th anniversary of the conflict approaching I felt it was more important to give Annie’s voice a wider audience without any embellishment.
‘Her diary chronicles the horrors of war and has mixed in with it every day life, details of shortages, the prices of food and the tragedies that were all around on a daily basis. ‘It also reveals her anguish when their country home is placed under siege in the dead of night by a mob of villagers who cut the phone lines and terrorise the family.
‘I am delighted that after nearly a century, Annie’s diary has now been published and it shows just what hardships previous generations faced.
The Diary Of Annie's War only came to light when retired engineer Mark Rigg, 66 - Annie's great nephew - was sifting through a dusty box left for decades in a loft
‘It is dedicated to the memory of the 16.5million lives lost in the Great War - including 5.7million Allied soldiers and 4million troops with the Central Powers. It is estimated that 6.8million civilians of all countries died.
‘The figures are frightening, but the horror of modern warfare was even more terrifying for those caught up in the conflict.
‘Arthur was the love of her life and they had married in 1900 in Shaw Heath, Stockport, and moved to Germany a decade later when his inheritance materialised.
‘She vowed from the outset only to return home with Arthur, so it is also a fantastic love story about how one woman never gave up on her man.
The house and lands in Woltershausen, Lower Saxony, where Annie lived with Arthur, who had been left an inheritance
‘She was in the unique position of being an Englishwoman in a German garrison town, with friends fighting for the Kaiser but also had family members in the trenches along the Western Front.
‘We should never forget the sacrifices made by servicemen from previous generation nor those currently risking life and limb in foreign fields on our behalf.’
Annie was born in Stockport, Cheshire in 1874 and died in 1940, but it is her time placed under virtual house arrest when her German husband Arthur was interned by the authorities that provides the backdrop to her dramatic diary.
The house and lands were in Woltershausen, Lower Saxony, while the couple had another house in the garrison town of Hildesheim.
This was where Annie spent most of her time chronicling life behind enemy lines. They also had a house in Kvnigswinter and another by the salt springs in Bad Salzdetfurth.
On November 6, 1914, Arthur was interned in Ruhleben, Berlin, where many people with British connections were held at the former racetrack turned prison camp.
Annie was in the unique position of being an Englishwoman in a German garrison town, with friends fighting for the Kaiser but also had family members in the trenches along the Western Front. Above, German and British troops meeting in no-man's land during the Christmas Truce of 1914
Mr Rigg (pictured), also of Stockport, is delighted the chronicle has now gone on sale to the public
The reason for his internment was that his mother was English - though his father was German.
He was released on or around February 6, 1917.
When the conflict began, Annie became known as ‘The Outlander’ and was shunned by many old friends and others who knew she was English.
She did on many occasions have the option of returning to England but said repeatedly: ‘When we leave, we leave together’.
The final entry from the diary reveals the date when the couple both ventured back home to Britain in 1917.
'I FELT AFRAID WHEN WE WERE TAKEN FOR SPIES': DIARY EXTRACTS
Annie spent much of her time chronicling her life from her home (above) in the garrison town of Hildesheim
Below are some of Annie's accounts of life in war-time Germany...
Wednesday, August 5, 1914
Wednesday, September 9, 1914
Friday, November 6, 1914
At 1.15pm we went into the dining room and I noticed how very quickly the dinner was served. They scarcely waited until we had finished the soup when the next course was on the table. Just as we finished the meal the waiter came and told Arthur he was wanted in the hall. I thought at once that it was the police. Arthur came back in a few minutes and said that he must go away. We went upstairs and hurriedly packed a few things for his internment. I must go twice a day to report myself morning and afternoon. I must be in my dwelling no later than 8pm and I must not leave before 7am. I must not go more than two-and-a-quarter miles away from home.
Sunday, December 20, 1914
Tuesday, January 5, 1915
Annie is seen here with a man known as 'Uncle' George in Roder-Hof, 1913
Saturday, January 30, 1915
Friday, February 12, 1915
Tuesday, March 30, 1915
Thursday, April 15, 1915
Friday, April 16, 1915
Thursday, July 1, 1915
Monday, November 8, 1915
Thursday, December 16, 1915
Friday, February 25, 1916
Tuesday, April 11, 1916
New Year’s Day, January 1, 1917
Gentlemen of the skies: German flew behind enemy lines to deliver letter from Brit he shot down
In the skies above northern France they were the deadliest of enemies. Yet there still remained time for chivalry among the First World War flying aces.
When a British plane was shot down in 1916 the German pilot followed the stricken aircraft and landed nearby to check the two-man crew had survived.
He then braved French and British fire to cross enemy lines and drop a letter to Allied forces telling them the pair were alive.
Blast! Oswald Boelke takes a picture of Formilli's crashed aircraft in January 1916 after shooting it down
Sorry about that, old bean: The amazing tale of chivalry in the air in the First World War shows just how gentlemanly combatants were, even in the grim battle
Chivalry: German Ace Oswald Boelke risked his life to deliver the letter of the man he shot down
The astonishing tale of gentlemanly conduct in the heat of battle emerged yesterday when the letter and photographs of the incident were put up for auction.
It was on January 5, 1916, that the British single-engine biplane, crewed by pilot Lieutenant William Somervill and observer Lieutenant Geoffrey Formilli, took off on a reconnaissance flight from Lille.
Unfortunately, they encountered legendary flier Oswald Boelcke – known as the father of the German fighter air force and the aviator who trained the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen – roaming the skies in his Fokker E IV fighter.
Boelcke sprayed the British plane, a BE2c reconnaissance aircraft, with hundreds of rounds from his machine-guns, forcing it to crash land.
The German ace wrote about what happened when he landed and approached his two enemy airmen.
‘I went straight up to the Englishmen, shook hands with them and told them I was delighted to have brought them down alive,’ he wrote.
‘I had a long talk with the pilot, who spoke German well. When he heard my name he said with a grin, “We all know about you!”
‘I then saw to it that they were both taken in a car to the hospital where I visited the observer today and brought him some English papers and photos of his wrecked machine.’
Lieutenant Formilli then wrote a letter to a Captain Babington of the Royal Flying Corps that Boelcke dropped over the British lines.
The letter said: ‘Just a line to say that Somervill & I are alright. We had a scrap with a Fokker. Willy got a graze on the side of his head & I got one through the shoulder half way through.
‘We had most of our controls shot through & had to land & crashed very badly. 'I am in Hospital now & Willy is in Germany. Will you let my people know please, yours G Formilli. PS. It was Boelcke who brought us down.’The letter was later forwarded to Formilli’s mother by a soldier, C F Murphy, who watched it being dropped by the German pilot.
Dropping a line: The chivalrous German visited the British observer Lt Geoffrey Formilli in hospital, and then incredibly undertook a perilous mission to drop a note from Formilli over his Squadron's HQ to let them know he was alive
Good news: The auction also contains the letter from Formilli's grateful Squadron commander to his parents confirming his survival
He wrote: ‘The German machine very sportingly held on through heavy shell fire from us and the French and was chased by several of our machines and had to run a hot gauntlet on its errand but it escaped all right.
‘The news has given us all great pleasure and I rejoice to be able to send it to you.’
The archive of letters and several photos taken by Boelcke – who downed 40 enemy planes before dying, aged 25, after a mid-air collision with another German plane later in 1916 – is being sold by Formilli’s family through Mullock’s of Ludlow, Shropshire, later this month. It is expected to make a four-figure sum.
Caught on camera: A picture of Formilli's aircraft taken by Oswald Boelke in January 1916
Richard Westwood-Brookes, from the saleroom said: ‘This is an extraordinary tale that made headlines at the time.
‘Pilots at this time were quite gentlemanly even though they were trying to shoot each other down.’
A fresh insight into life in the trenches in World War One has been discovered in a series of amazing sketches and drawings found in a soldier's diary hidden away for 90 years.
Lieutenant Kenneth Wootton's 120-page journal vividly brings to life the horror of major WWI battles, and even includes detailed ink drawings of tanks and battle movements.
Lt Wootton, who was awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, kept a diary from 1915 until 1917, when he was sent home to England after being injured in an explosion.
Startling discovery: A soldier's-eye view of the horrors of WWI caught in sketches in an intimate diary. Here Lt Wootton's eerily beautiful watercolour shows a French-built Renault FT17 tank - the first 'modern tank to be built - on the battlefield
Now the diary and Wootton's incredible pictures have been found by his great granddaughter, who inherited a mass of old books and papers and discovered the diary lying inside.
Hero: Lt Wootton was awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty
The journal presents a story of life on the front line of the trenches, and the never-before seen glimpse into life for the 1/21 Battn London Regt Tank Corps will excite military history buffs.
As a tank operator, Wootton experienced the full horror of trench warfare, and fought in the Third Battle of Ypres - one of the most notorious clashes of the war.
Lt Wootton even describes the Christmas truce between the British and German soldiers in December 1916 - where both sides stopped firing at each other to enjoy a festive dinner.
In a poignant picture from the book a British 'Tommy' can be seen doing the unthinkable: staring out over the trenches without fear of being shot.
The diary entry for Christmas day reads:
'Christmas Day 1916, Ypres: Distance between the line was 100 yards. Had an excellent Christmas dinner in a dug out, turkey, Christmas pudding, mine pies, fruit and champagne. Both sides stopped. Did patrol from midnight till 3am and felt very merry.'
The diary is expected to fetch more than £3,000 when it is auctioned off at the end of September.
Auctioneer Charles Hanson said: 'The diary and Wootton's heroic tales provide a fascinating insight in to the realism of terror in the trenches during WWI.
Untouched for more than 90 years: The soldier's great granddaughter inherited a mass of old books and papers and discovered the diary lying inside. Here he depicts the British Mark IV tank as it plows across no-man's land
'His story is poignant, and even jovial at point as he recounts the good humour that saw the British boys through the war.
'It is a tale of survival and success in the British army.
'We hope the diary will be purchased by a national institution and made available for the public to enjoy the adventure Wootton had through WWI.'
In excerpts from the diary Lt Wootton mentions fellow soldiers, including a driver known only as Fagg. Wootton recalled the bloody reality as his tank broke enemy lines at the 1917 Third Battle of Ypres, in Belgium.
He wrote: 'My driver Fagg could be seen anxiously peering through the half open window in July 1917 at the Third Battle of Ypres. I lit a cigarette as my mouth became quite dry, I lit another, it tasted rotten but I smoked it somehow as we got nearer the lines of burning shells.
Lt Wootton depicts Christmas Day in the same year when the two sides declared a temporary truce
'We escaped with nothing more than lumps of earth falling around us. The German front line had been smashed almost out of recognition as we passed through shell holes and most were filled with filthy water and bodies.
'Up the hill Fagg and I felt we were in for it as the Germans still held Westhoek and Gelncorse wood. I was kept busy dodging from side to side on my tank as a great many shells fell around us. I should have got inside but I hate being boxed up in the stifling heat of a tank. I felt safer in the open.
'Captain Crew, our section commander dashed madly about to try and get our tank up to an impossible speed. He imagined a tank could behave like a new motor car. Heavens, how heart breaking it was to guide a tank over the frightful ground. Long lines of mules followed us carrying shells and stumbling over the broken ground.'
On the eve of another engagement Wootton wrote: 'My crew had made some hot cocoa. The gunners and I were waiting anxiously for the opening of the barrage.
'Suddenly there was a tremendous noise and a blinding flash. Every gun on a ten mile front had opened fire.
'This was the start of the barrage. We jumped up to watch the burst of the shells, it was a most wonderful sight. The ground seemed to burst like a golden rain.'
In another extract Wootten writes about the care he tries to give a British wounded soldier while he deals with the horror of driving his 40 tonne tank over a dead German.
Detailed: Lieutenant Kenneth Wootton's incredible diary includes poignant ink drawings
He wrote: 'I found one of our own infantry lying wounded with a bad gash in his head, I gave him some water and told him the stretcher bearers were coming up, I hope it was true.
'The awful mud made it a hopeless mess. Our tank fell in a crater and we fitted the unhitching beam. By the 10th try Fagg crawled out exhausted in trying to work the clutch and brake. He revived himself with some whisky.
'A poor lonely German without boots or socks and shot through both legs kept us company. He spoke little English and told us his comrades had removed his boots and socks when he was wounded and so left him.
'At a dressing station and on foot I was given a tin of peaches all of which I ate before falling asleep.'