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Scotland the Brave_a Tribute

As a “Yank” I’ve never had a horse in the race regarding the movement for Scottish Independence from the UK. Frankly, I’ve never understood the argument from the secessionists but certainly have recognized the “William Wallace” pride associated with being Scottish.

Soooo, it has seemed to me that the two countries are better off with another than they are apart and I hope that since Scotland has chosen to remain united  with the UK the concerns of independence movement can be addressed.

My wife visited Scotland a number of years ago and knowing my interest in the UK (and Highland) history she bought me a boat load of postcards.

(As a side note my wife’s ancestors fought at Culloden on the side of the Jacobites so maybe she would have voted for independence ;-)

Here’s three of my favorites that my Clan Robertson wife purchased for me:

Piper Kenneth McKay, 79th Cameron Highlanders at Waterloo, by Lockhart Bogle.

Piper Kenneth McKay, 79th Cameron Highlanders at Waterloo, by Lockhart Bogle.

Piper McKay is my favorite. The Highland Brigade (42nd, 79th, 92nd Highland Regiments) at Waterloo covered itself with glory with drums beating and the pipes belting out Scotland the Brave.

The 79th Cameron Highlanders. 1856 from the painting by Major, R. A. Wymer

The 79th Cameron Highlanders. 1856 from the painting by Major, R. A. Wymer

This post card depicts the 79th Cameron Highlanders in the uniform of the Crimean War where they gained fame as part of the Thin Red Line at the Battle of the Alma.

Highlanders, from a print by J. A. Atkinson, published by William Miller 1807

Highlanders, from a print by J. A. Atkinson, published by William Miller 1807

This postcard does not identify the regiment but since it was published by R. H. Q., Queen’s Own Highlanders (now the Seaforth and Camerons) I am assuming that the original print sought to depict the 79th in their 1807 kilt pattern.


Attila, You Are on the Wrong Side of History

Artist’s rendition of Huns crossing a river, 451 A.D.


The Huns are largely forgotten now but in the 5th Century after Christ they were the terrorists of Europe.

They didn’t strap bombs to themselves nor were they motivated by a fanatical brand of Islam but they were terrorists and briefly, empire builders.

The Huns emerged from the Eurasian Steppe and were welded together in a coalition of sorts under their most famous leader; a leader known in history as Attila THE Hun, with the emphasis on the definite article “the” as if there were no other Huns.

The Huns were a horse people and as such were renown as horse archers. Under Attila’s leadership the Huns turned their considerable talents with the bow into a loose empire that consisted not only of themselves but of also a number of subjected German tribes. By 451 they were well into Gaul (modern France).

Hun Horse Archers

Hun Horse Archers

The Roman Empire was but a shadow of it’s former self. In fact the official end of the western Roman Empire would come in 476 A.D. when the last emperor was deposed by a Germanic warlord known as Odoacer, a chieftain who had spent considerable time with the Huns.

At times, the Huns could be bought off with gold but usually it took strong military intervention to stop their depredations and ideas of conquest.

As the Huns and their German allies entered Gaul the Germans already there (Visigoths or West Goths mostly) realized they best make common cause with a man known as “Last of the Romans” or Flavius Aetius.

Aetius had spent time with the Huns and knew their tactics well. Aetius was also an able general in his own right and for twenty years he had single-handily held together what remained of the western empire.

Aetius realized that the Huns had to be stopped and so made common cause with the Visigoths who were sometimes friends and sometimes enemies of the late Roman Empire. The Visigoths realized it was in their best interest to ally with Aetius.

The two armies faced each other at the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields a battle better known as The Battle of Chalons.

The battle itself was in the Duke of Wellington’s words as he described Waterloo, “a near run thing.” It was hard fought, the outcome doubtful until the Visigoths enraged by the death of their king rallied under the king’s son and launched a devastating cavalry charge against their Ostrogothic (east Goths) cousins collapsing the Hun flank and forcing them to retreat or be destroyed.

The Huns were turned back and shortly after their great leader Attila died from a nose bleed.

With Attila dead the Hunnic Empire quickly fell apart because no leader emerged to bring back the cohesion that Attila had supplied.

Historians are divided as to the significance of the Battle of the Chalons. Some say had the Romans and Visigoths lost it just would have meant an earlier collapse of the western Roman Empire and a degree of savagery that would have exceeded previous degrees of savagery in a savage period of history.

Other historians say that The Battle of Chalons was one of the most significant battles in western history because it turned back invaders from the east who had little in common with the developing west.

My amateur opinion is that both camps have something say but one thing is clear, the Battle of Chalons was a battle between civilizations, one far more destructive than the other, one far more vicious than the other, one more motivated than the other (looting, raping, killing, etc. as a way of life) to achieve their goals.

At some point Aetius and his Romans and their Visigoth allies had to decide whether or not to risk their entire way of life in a single battle. They could not afford to try and negotiate with a leader whose ultimate goal was to carve out his place in history and no amount of telling him he was on the wrong side of history would stop him. Romans and West Goths had to fight or disappear from history.

Whatever the considerable faults of the west there comes a point where nations have to decide if their way of life and values are worth protecting from those who would take them away. Putin’s Russia and his dreams for a renewed Soviet Empire is an obvious example but another is the Islamic threat of ISIS, now a state within two states. The brutality of ISIS is well-known and they are not going to listen to lectures on how they are on the wrong side of history.

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1st Royal Scots Pipes and Drums 1890s

Here’s another postcard that caught my eye at the antique shop.

Royal Scots front

It’s a print of the Pipe and Drum contingent of the 1st Royal Scots, the oldest regiment in the British Army.

The publisher was Valentine and Sons. Valentine and Sons were Victorian era publishers of postcards and grew to be Scotland’s largest.

The uniforms of the Scots on this postcard are 1890s vintage although the postcard was mailed much later as indicated by the air mail stamp on the back side.

Royal Scots back

I cannot date the card but clearly it was sent from an American tourist who is just leaving Scotland for London and then on to a ship for the trip home.

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To Hell with Kaiser Bill!

I’m reading, The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War by Richard Rubin.

Rubin had this great idea to interview living American veterans of World War One. Frankly, it was a race against the clock since all survivors of the Great War were well over 100 years old by the time Rubin got  to interview them.

The book is about more than the elderly doughboys and really shows a by-gone time that was the US in 1917-18.

For instance, Rubin has a chapter on Tin-Pan Alley, a certain section in Manhattan where publishers cranked out music and I mean cranked out! Rubin maintains that back in WW1 days music was more than entertainment, although it certainly was that. Rubin says that music publishers were a lot like journalists because they documented events in their songs and they also editorialized in those same songs.

That’s where it got very interesting to me.

After the US entered the war (and somewhat before) the Tin Pan Alley publishers published a gazillion songs that were designed to pump up morale both at home and at the front. Rubin says most were junk but quite a few were quite good and serve to give a glimpse into that by-gone era that seems innocent (it wasn’t) compared to now.

One of the favorite themes of the songs was bashing Kaiser William II of Germany. The general idea was now that the US was in the war the doughboys would kick the Kaiser’s butt across the Rhine and naturally go all the way to Berlin.

Picture is scanned from Liberty's Victorious Conflict and under the heading, "The Guilty Lord's of War."

Picture is scanned from Liberty’s Victorious Conflict and under the heading, “The Guilty Lord’s of War.”

What is interesting about some of these songs is the characterization of Kaiser Bill. Here’s a sampling of song titles from Rubin’s book:

We’re Going to Hang the Kaiser Under the Linden Tree

The USA Will Lay the Kaiser Away

We’re Out for the Scalp of Mister Kaiser Man

The Kaiser Wanted More Territory so We Gave Him Hell

I’d Like to See the Kaiser with a Lily in His Hand

It’s useful in war to personify and demonize the enemy but I admit this took me a little by surprise until I thought about it for a while.

Why did Americans suddenly (it seems) vilify the Kaiser and Germans in general?

I’m not an expert but I think of some possible explanations that made the US so anti-Kaiser and anti-German.

1. I think Kaiser Bill was an easy guy for Americans to dislike. By and large Americans don’t like royalty (except for the fascination with the British Royals which strikes me as odd). The Kaiser just looks arrogant and just the kind of guy one would think would love to snatch up Europe-kind of  a Snidely Whiplash character with that thin mustache. The Kaiser just looks like the perfect villain.

2.  America was also pro-French back then. Perhaps it was the vague memory that the French saved our bacon during the War for Independence (simply because it weakened the British and certainly not because they were in love with American ideas of liberty). The pro-French attitude resulted in quite a few Americans volunteering to fight for France, some in the French Foreign Legion and others in the famous Lafayette Escadrille. Newspapers would have made a big deal out of our pre-war involvement on the side of the French. (See the movie Fly Boys, good flying scenes, poor history.)

3. This is where it gets a little tricky. Officially the US was neutral until April, 1917. However, being neutral didn’t mean unwilling to sell munitions to both sides. However, the British had the Germans bottled up in their ports tighter than a drum which meant selling to the Central Powers wasn’t going to happen. This led to the Germans sinking passenger liners (suspected of carrying munitions). Hence, the Lusitania incident in 1915 and what was called unrestricted submarine warfare. The Lusitania carried about 120 Americans and most went down with the ship. This created a huge out cry in the US and we nearly went to war then and there. The Kaiser, as head of state, naturally got the blame and that on top of the German invasion of little Belgium in 1914 seemed to sum up the impression that Kaiser Bill was indeed King of the German Huns.

4. Early in the war the British managed to cut  the cables on the ocean floor that led to communications with the Central Powers. This meant of course that the only news that got into American newspapers had a British\French spin to it thereby enabling the British  and French to easily win the propaganda war and create a strong pro-allied sentiment.

5. Britain was our largest trading partner anyway and since the east coast of the US benefited the most from that and that’s where all the big newspapers were it makes sense that the Kaiser and Germans in general would be easily demonized.

Whatever the reasons Kaiser Bill was the man Americans loved to hate in 1917-18.

Here’s a couple of personal stories regarding the Kaiser and WW1.

On my dad’s side I’m mostly Pommern (Pomeranian) German, an area that is now largely in Poland but back then a Prussian State within Germany.  My dad told me (without being able to verify) that as a little boy he remembers uncles who didn’t want to fight in WW1,  not because of loyalty to the Kaiser but because they felt strongly they’d be fighting relatives. From what I know my grand-father’s numerous brothers who were of draft age didn’t have to go. One was drafted but let go because of epilepsy. This contradicts my dad’s memory that he had at least one uncle who did serve and was gassed, dying in a V.A. Hospital in the 1930’s from the gas. On the other hand my dad grew up in “little Germany” on Milwaukee’s north side and was in a blended family. It’s possible he was remembering relatives from another side of his new family.

I would not be surprised in the least if the family didn’t think all that much of the Kaiser. After all, they left and had they stayed all would have served in the Prussian Army in some capacity-a fact that was undoubtedly unpopular and may have contributed to family immigrating in the 1870s as Bismarck unified the German States.

Om my mom’s side I’m German-Polish Pommern, again then part of Prussia. In fact, my Polish great-grandfather served two years in a Prussian Infantry Regiment in the 1890’s just prior to coming to the States. My mom told me more than once one of her memories is of her grand-mothers cursing the Kaiser. My mom was born in 1930 so the memory was probably 1940ish which is a long time after a war to curse a Kaiser. Clearly the guy was not popular even among German-Americans for quite a long time!

World War I changed America in general but German America in particular. But that’s a story for another time.




USS Saratoga (CV-3) WW2 postcard

Another interesting postcard that got scooped up from the antique store is a postcard of the USS Saratoga, postmarked 11/24/1942. It was sent from San Diego, CA.

USS Saratoga CV-3

USS Saratoga CV-3

According to the Wiki article on the ship the Saratoga would not have been at San Diego at the time of the postmark. She would have been on a cruise toward Nouméa, New Caledonia and then on to the E. Solomon Campaign in early 1943.

The Saratoga was a Lexington Class Aircraft Carrier (converted from a Battle Cruiser) and one of the four  pre-WW2 carriers. The other three being the Enterprise and Ranger and Lexington. The Lexington was scuttled after the Battle of the Coral Sea where she suffered damage that could not be repaired.

The Saratoga would see extensive action in the Pacific War and be torpedoed twice and kamikazed/bombed once.

Her air complement by 1945 was 53 F6F Hellcat fighters and 17 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.  After the kamikaze attack during the Iwo Jima Campaign the Saratoga returned to the US for repairs for the final time. By then she had been replaced by more modern carriers and was obsolete. She was used thereafter as a training ship and ended up being used in the Bikini A-bomb tests where she was eventually sunk after two tries.

The postcard appears to be of pre-WW2 vintage as the planes above the Saratoga look like bi-planes. Wiki notes that the Saratoga carried 18 Grumman F2F-1 and 18 Boeing F4B-4 fighters, plus an additional nine F2Fs in reserve. Offensive punch was provided by 20 Vought SBU Corsair dive bombers with 10 spare aircraft and 18 Great Lakes BG torpedo bombers in 1936, all bi-planes.

 Vought SBU-1 Chttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vought_SBU_Corsairorsair

Vought SBU-1 Chttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vought_SBU_Corsairorsair

The the back of the postcard is intriguing.

The recipient is Mrs. Ellie P. Fallis, Fallbrook, Calif. Box 751. The writer is a gal named Jewel. She writes:

Tues AM 11-24-42

Dear “Mom” I’ve just said “goodbye” to Roy on the telephone. He left about noon for another flight “down under.” Monte is out at his ranch running the tractor. He will be in Wed. taking another round of new fever shots. In about two weeks he goes on a long trip. We have a fine thing this AM. An artist “Lietta” designer and illustrator of children’s books 2 PM. Very fine ______? station. Now I go to another “air-minded” lecture. Yours, Jewel

USS Saratoga back


The message is fascinating and Pearl’s use of quotation marks suggests attempts at communicating without getting sensored-in other words a type of code she hopes Ellie understands.

My best guess is that Roy is her husband and she refers to Ellie as “mom” in quotes for that reason. Roy appears to be stationed in Australia with “down under” being code for it. I cannot surmise much about Monte other than assuming he too is on service and about to get more shots, probably for malaria or dengue fever and host of other tropical diseases before he ships out. Whoever Monte is he has a ranch and drives a tractor.

“Lietta”  is Helen Dowd an artist who branched out into illustrating a number of children’s books between 1936-1954. My guess she was at the San Diego Naval Base to either lecture or do an exhibit for service personnel and/or their wives.

Jewel notes that she needs to go to an “air-minded” lecture perhaps having something to do with the Navy explaining what a pilot does and what she could expect as a pilot’s wife. Whatever the case the postcard is intriguing and speaks of wartime San Diego and the people connected with the Saratoga either directly or indirectly.

USS Saratoga (CV-3) Aircraft on the flight deck, preparing for launching, circa 1929-30. Planes in the foreground are Boeing F3B-1 fighters. In the background are fifteen Martin T4M-1 torpedo planes, of Torpedo Squadron Two (VT-2B). Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Admiral William V. Pratt. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Saratoga (CV-3)
Aircraft on the flight deck, preparing for launching, circa 1929-30.
Planes in the foreground are Boeing F3B-1 fighters. In the background are fifteen Martin T4M-1 torpedo planes, of Torpedo Squadron Two (VT-2B).
Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Admiral William V. Pratt.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.




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Spirit of Paul Jones Postcard

The Spirit of Paul Jones is a recent find from an antique store.  The colorized postcards sell for a bit more than I’d like but then again they are old and somewhat unique.

Spiritof PaulJones front

This one is postmarked August 29th, 1919. The sender is a gal named Pearl and the recipient is Miss Nancy Austin at 519 Court St., Pekin, IL. It was sent from Lucas, KY a resort area in southern Kentucky. I could find nothing on the INET regarding Lucas, KY that connected with the US Navy.

The message is in pencil and in places hard to read so this is my best shot:

“Dear Nancy, your letter [re} was glad to hear from you. ______? ______? said he would write me a letter____? _____? he is so busy he didn’t get time to do anything. I think he will _____? if they get a book keeper he doesn’t like to grind and keep books too. He said that (someone’s name, perhaps female?) that was all between them. Love to all, Pearl”

The uniforms of the sailors on the card appear to be World War One although it is unclear what they are shooting at and with what kind of cannon. It appears to be a deck gun (no turret) of some sort and so has an earlier pre-World War One feel to it although a dead link to an eBay poster/print  identifies the card as 1918.

The publisher of the post card was E.G. Renesch of Chicago. A little research turned up the fact that Renesch did many military type prints for World War One. My guess is the postcard is a miniature rendition of a larger print. Perhaps it caught Pearl’s eye for some reason at the resort and off it went to Miss Nancy.

Interesting and maybe a bit radical for the time are a number of  Renesch prints celebrating America’s black soldiers, called “colored” at the time. Below is an example of a print featuring black soldiers engaged with German soldiers in hand-to-hand combat (the uniforms of the Germans are early war but accuracy was not what E.G. was after).



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Why Americans Should Thank King George I


Another reblog from my other blog

Originally posted on Church, State, Faith and Culture:

There is an interesting article at Townhall.com by Michael Barone titled, Three Hundred Years Later Americans Owe a Debt to King George I.

To most Americans George I would be even more obscure than George III who was King of England during the War for Independence. Yet without a George I there would not have been a George III to turn the world upside down-the song the British Army played as they surrendered at Yorktown.

The Georges were Hanoverian Germans and they secured the British throne through the back door so-to-speak.

As Barone points out the previous monarch was a gal by the name of Queen Anne.

Back in those days government and religion were mixed together in an unsavory soup whereby loyalty to the state was often determined by one’s religion. The union of England, Scotland and Ireland…

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