A British Regiment Marches to War 1914

This postcard is the most expensive I’ve ever purchased at $11.00. It is unique in my limited experience and I could not let it go.

The card is not dated but given the subject matter I’d estimate the date of publication to be 1914 at the start of the Great War in Europe.

Regiment of the Prince of Wales on way to the Front

Regiment of the Prince of Wales on way to the Front

The front of the card shows a column of British soldiers in 1914 uniforms parading down what I’m assuming to be an English street. The card is partially colorized giving the card a modern look.

The card was published by Underwood and Underwood. Underwood and Underwood was an American company and an early producer and distributor of stereoscopic and other photographic images, and later was a pioneer in the field of news bureau photography. Wiki

The most interesting feature is the one-armed officer leading the column of soldiers.

The flip of the card tells the story of the one-armed officer. It reads: Regiment of the Prince of Wales on way to the Front. The Grenadier Guards to which to the Prince of Wales is attached are led by Major Trotter, who lost his left arm in the service in South Africa.

Major Trotter is Lt. Col. Edward Henry Trotter

Major Trotter is Lt. Col. Edward Henry Trotter

Although I am not absolutely certain I believe that Major Trotter is one of the four sons of Major-General Henry Trotter who died in 1905.  I believe that the Major pictured is Lt. Col. Edward Henry Trotter who commanded the 18th Bn. of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment during the early years of WW1. I do not have an explanation as to why the card says the Prince of Wales of Regiment as opposed to the King’s Liverpool Regiment on Wiki.

Trotter did have a commission in the Grenadier Guards so perhaps that explains the discrepancy or perhaps the caption simply misidentified the unit.

I do believe that Major Trotter and Lt. Col Edward Henry Trotter are the same persons given this clip from Wiki:

“After the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899, a corps of imperial volunteers from London was formed in late December 1899. The corps included infantry, mounted infantry and artillery divisions and was authorized with the name City of London Imperial Volunteers. It proceeded to South Africa in January 1900, returned in October the same year, and was disbanded in December 1900. Lieutenant Trotter was appointed Staff captain to the corps on 1 January 1900, with the temporary rank of Captain in the Army,[1] and served as such until it was disbanded. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his services in South Africa on 29 November 1900.[2] In April 1902, Trotter returned to South Africa with a detachment of men from the Guards regiments.[3]

Trotter’s regiment took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Trotter estimated that his regiment suffered 500 casualties on the first day! The British suffered 58,000 casualties during the Battle of the Somme, 1/3 of them on the first day. Trotter would later die as German artillery shell landed near his command dugout.

The card is a reverse image of the below photograph. Fascinating little piece of history and the story of a British officer who served in two wars.


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Gallipoli and the Battle of Lone Pine (Australians at War) Revisited.

Adds detail to my last post.

If It Happened Yesterday, It's History


The Cemetery of Lone Pine on the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey.

On the 28th of June 1914, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne saw the Balkans yet again erupt into bloody battle. (Only recent had the second Balkans War concluded in 1913.) Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination which triggered a declaration of  war against her. This caused nation after nation to react, Russia backed Serbia, Germany backed Austria-Hungary and declared war on France, which led to Britain declaring war on Germany on August 5th 1914.

A world away in Australia, possibly only a few took much notice of the newspaper story about the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo. No one dared to imagine that this would eventually lead to Australia joining the war effort and some 60,000 Australian losing their lives.

When a cable reached the offices of the Prime Minister and…

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Major Shaw, British 29th Infantry Division, Gallipoli, April, 1915

The beginning of Saving Private Ryan was, at least for me, twenty minutes of the most intense movie watching ever. It’s so intense and so realistic you feel compelled to turn away but cannot. The movie illustrated in full living color the hazards of an amphibious landing during the Second World War in all its horror.

The movie did what written memoirs often fail to do because the written word does not convey the horror like a picture can.

Yet, I recently read a brief account of one Major Shaw of the 29th British Infantry Division. Major Shaw recorded what the beach landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915:

About 100 yards from the beach the enemy opened fire, and bullets came thick around, slashing up the water. I didn’t see anyone actually hit in the boats, though several were; e.g. my Quatermaster-Sergeant and Sergeant-Major sitting next to me; but we were so jammed together that you couldn’t have moved, so that they must have been sitting there, dead. As soon as I felt the boat touch, I dashed over the side into three feet of water and rushed for the barbed wire entanglements on the beach; it must have been three feet high or so, because I got over it amidst a perfect storm of lead and made for cover, sand dunes on either side, and got good cover. I then found Maunsell and only two men followed me. On the right of me on the cliff was a line of Turks in a trench taking pot shots as us, ditto on the left. I looked back. There was one soldier between me and the wire, and a whole line in a row on the edge of the sands. The sea behind them was absolutely crimson, and you could hear the groans through the rattle of musketry. A few were firing. I signaled to them to advance. I shouted to the soldier behind me to signal, but he shouted back, “I am shot through the chest”. I then perceived they were all hit. A Brief History of the First World War-Eyewitness Accounts of the War to End All Wars, 1914-18

The Gallipoli Landings was the result of a good idea that was badly managed.  The idea was to launch an amphibious landing with British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian and French troops on the Dardanelles in the hopes of taking Turkey out of the war and aiding Czarist Russia.

Men of the 11th battalion and 1st Field Company, Australian Engineers, assembled on the forecastle of HMS London at sea off Lemnos, 24 April 1915. The next morning they would leave the London to land on North Beach, Gallipoli. Australian War Memorial A02468. http://www.nma.gov.au/online_features/defining_moments/featured/gallipoli_landing

Men of the 11th battalion and 1st Field Company, Australian Engineers, assembled on the forecastle of HMS London at sea off Lemnos, 24 April 1915. The next morning they would leave the London to land on North Beach, Gallipoli. Australian War Memorial A02468. http://www.nma.gov.au/online_features/defining_moments/featured/gallipoli_landing

Everything went wrong and thousands of Allied soldiers lost their lives in a fruitless attempt to even get off the beach. Major Shaw’s account was only the beginning of the horror.

Eventually, defeat was admitted and the remaining forces were withdrawn. The clip below illustrates how the well-intentioned flanking movement turned into the slaughter of trench warfare.



The 54th Massachusetts and the Assault on Battery Wagner

Memorial to Col. Robert Shaw and the 54th Mass. in Boston

Memorial to Col. Robert Shaw and the 54th Mass. in Boston

Today in American Civil War History the 54th Regiment of  Massachusetts Infantry, a regiment of free blacks assaulted Battery Wagner. Battery Wagner was situated on a small island that guarded the approaches from the sea-side of Charleston SC. The regiment was the lead regiment in Strong’s Brigade and thus would take the bulk of the casualties. The assault was frontal made because of a marshy creek on one side and the sea on the  other. The approach was narrow and only one regiment at a time could fit in the space.

54th Massachusetts storming the works of Battery Wagner

54th Massachusetts storming the works of Battery Wagner http://www.masshist.org/online/54thregiment/essay.php?entry_id=528

The garrison of the fort was formidable consisting of Confederate Infantry from South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Infantry strength was around 1000 muskets.

As if that was not bad enough the Confederates garrisoned the fort with numerous cannon, some of very high-caliber and deployed to cover the landward approach on Morris Island (most of which is under water today). A further battery of four 12lb howitzers covered the ground the assault would have to be made over.

The 54th Massachusetts was an “experimental unit.”  What this meant is that the white establishment of the north (for the most part) didn’t believe that “colored” soldiers of any race possessed the fighting qualities of white soldiers. This was the prevailing view even though many West Point trained army officers were well aware of the colonial soldiers of England and France and their fine fighting reputations.

The 54th had to overcome prejudice from their own side as well as living under the threat of execution by Confederate forces should they be captured. The threat of execution also applied to the white officers that led the 54th. Ironically, as manpower became a huge issue in the Confederacy the Confederate Congress authorized the establishment of black regiments in the Confederate Army although few were raised. There are surviving pictures of Black Confederate soldiers however.

The 54th went to war with the expectation that they would only be used as a labor battalion. It took political pressure from the Colonel of 54th, Robert Gould Shaw, whose family were powerful Boston aristocrats to get the 54th into action.

Eventually, the 54th was sent to assist the Union Army engaged in coastal operations along the South Carolina Coast. It was the intent of the Union Navy to seal off all the coastal Confederate ports with a blockade to prevent the Confederates from obtaining supply and armaments from Europe but primarily from Great Britain. The Union Army assigned to SC was part of the Navy’s larger ambitions to close the ports and Battery Wagner stood in the way.

The 54th made the assault on July 18th, 1863. They lost about 50% of their strength including Colonel Shaw and many of the white officers. The white regiments also suffered severely in the operation and after. The fort never fell and was abandoned later in the war as Charleston became outflanked on the landward side.

The 54th example was a success in the sense that it proved to skeptical white officers that black soldiers were every bit as competent and brave as white soldiers. Shortly after  the assault the North officially enrolled black soldiers (many liberated slaves) into the army. They were designated US Colored Troops and uniformed like any other US Regular Infantry. About 180,000 would eventually serve the Union cause. Sadly, US Colored troops were only paid $10.00 a month (for a pvt) as opposed to the $13.00 a month white soldiers received thus reflecting the continued prejudice against black soldiers.

The movie “Glory” starring Matthew Broderick (as Shaw), Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman tells the story well of the 54th Massachusetts. I watched in last night.

Below is a brief documentary from Discerning History that tells the story of the 54th role in the assault.

Other links of interest

Massachusetts Historical Society  (excellent website with many pictures of the actual soldiers who served)

54th Massachusetts Infantry (brief but to the point)

54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. B. (an excellent re-enactment website)




Vintage War Comics

I’m not really a comic collector but when I see one from my youth and it’s not above $5.00 at a rummage sale or second-hand shop I’ll consider purchasing.

Such was the case with these three pictured below. Two were published by Marvel Comics Group in the early 70s but they represent the type of thing I would have read as a ten-year-old in the early 60s. The last one was published by DC Comics in the late 70s.

The first is one from the series title Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, early 1970s.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, early 1970s.

Sgt. Fury and his men always had an impossible mission and if memory serves me the mission was always against the Nazis. That much was made clear by the prominence of the swastika pasted on every piece of equipment large enough to display one.

In this particular issue the commandos are tasked with taking out “Rommel’s super tank” a fictional Panzer VII-IV and helping the poor Brits survive the Desert Fox.

Frankly, these kind of comics were silly. The German enemies were always Nazis and always idiots. Our allies, like the British usually received little attention and one was left with the impression that the US almost single-handily won WW2.

Having said that though the comics made no pretense of being accurate. They were meant as entertainment for ten-year-olds at a time and place when most of the male population consisted of veterans of WW2. The caricatures and stereotypes of America’s enemies would have represented the same sort of thing our fathers and mothers would have been exposed to in the 40s.

The second one is titled War is Hell. I do not remember the series from the 60s but it looks typical of the war comics of the period. The cover art work was designed to sell the comic and they usually portrayed “our guys” in some desperate situation leaving the viewer to wonder would they survive and destroy the bad guys once and for all.

War is Hell by Marvel Comics early 70s

War is Hell by Marvel Comics early 70s

The War is Hell series differed from a comic like Sgt. Fury in that the issue usually had three or four stories with a variable cast of characters.

In this case two stories featured the war against the Nazis in WW2, one story from WW1 featuring a fearsome German Fokker that was standing in the way of the “yank big offensive.” Another story featured the relationship between a Confederate cavalryman and his beloved horse.

The war comics competed with the super hero type comics but really were largely about the same thing less a super power or two.

This last one titled Men of War is unusual since it featured a black American hero named “Gravediggers” in WW2. The enemy is once again the Nazi’s and the hero nearly dies accomplishing his mission again against impossible odds.

Men of War, Gravediggers series, late 70s

Men of War, Gravediggers series, late 70s

I suppose that by 1978 and five years after the last US troops were withdrawn from Vietnam it was time to recognize the enormous contribution American blacks made to America’s war efforts from the time of Civil War through Vietnam.

I was twenty by 1973 and had grown out of war comics around the time I was 12 or 13. My favorites were Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, Captain Johnny Cloud (an American Indian) and his P-51 Mustang which at times looked like a horse and The Haunted Tank, the story of a M3 Stuart tank guarded by the ghost of Jeb Stuart.

But alas, I have yet to find a favorite in a rummage sale or second-hand store. My guess is that the 60s vintage comics are rare and well out of the range I’d be willing to pay for the trip down memory lane.


Let Them Be

With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds. Abraham Lincoln

I made a decision sometime ago to separate my interests in history from my interests in politics and faith. I dropped political topics from my blog completely and transferred faith topics to my other blog.

There are times however when history and politics become intertwined to the point it’s difficult to separate the two. Such is the case I believe with the brouhaha over the Stars and Bars Battle Flag that flies over the Statehouse in South Carolina.

I was born in and have lived most of my life in Wisconsin. Wisconsin became a State in 1848. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 Wisconsin answered Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers and supplied 91, 379 volunteers for service; most being assigned to the over 50 infantry regiments Wisconsin raised during the course of the war.

Some units, like the Iron Brigade which consisted of the 2nd, 6th, 7th Wisconsin and 19th Indiana (the 24th Michigan became part of the brigade after Antietam) were immortalized. The brigade was nearly annihilated in the Antietam Campaign and devastated a second time at Gettysburg in the Union cause.

The battle flag of the Wisconsin 12th Infantry Regiment. Union Regiments usually carried two flags. One was the National Flag as illustrated here and the other was regimental. The regimental flag was of standard design and featured an American bald eagle as the central feature. Confederate units usually carried only one flag and they were often diverse. The Stars and Bars that we know today as being “Confederate” was actually the battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia and was most common in that army. Confederate units often recorded battle honors in a similar manner as shown on the flag of the 12th Wisconsin.

My own ancestors immigrated to the US after the Civil War as far as I can tell although my family’s surname is found in a couple of Wisconsin units.

Two of my wife’s ancestors on the other hand appear in the roles of Union Regiments; one serving twice-the first time in the Kentucky Cavalry (Union) and the second time in a Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. The other ancestor of hers served in a New York Infantry Regiment until being invalided home with some disease.

Over 12,00 Wisconsin volunteers would never come home. The number represents a little over 13% of those enlisted. The stats for the other Union States are not much different and the stats for the southern states are worse percentage wise.

So why did they fight?

Perhaps the biggest reason was simply loyalty to their state and a sometimes vague allegiance to the Union as well as a general distaste for slavery. I am certain that had I been around in 1861-65 I too would have found myself in Union blue rather than Confederate Gray or Butternut. What my primary motive to enlist would have been had I been around then I have no idea, but loyalty to Wisconsin seemed to be the norm for most.

Whatever their particular motivation to enlist their sacrifices helped win the war, preserve the Union and free the slaves. Freeing the slaves was the major outcome of the Civil War and the butcher’s bill was paid by the lives of thousands of Union soldiers, black and white.

President Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address laid out his attitude for when the war was over by saying, “With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.” Lincoln’s words were about healing when the north had just paid a terrible price in blood for an eventual outcome that would end slavery.

The words were made by the nation’s first Republican President. It was the Republican Party which was abolitionist and not the Democrats although today you would think it’s the other way around. In fact, many northern Democrats led by the likes of failed General George McClellan were anxious to make peace with the south presumably securing the institution of slavery in the process. When General Sherman took the City of Atlanta in 1864 the north realized that the north could and would prevail and McClellan and his failed party went down to defeat in the fall elections.

During Reconstruction and then the Jim Crow days it was the Democrats who were the party of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan during it’s hay day even had chapters, sometimes significant chapters in northern states like Ohio and Indiana. In fact the Democrats perpetrated segregationist policies until President Johnson, a Democrat famously said, “I’ll have those n*ggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”

Cynical and insensitive does not begin to describe that attitude.

Today the Democrats are the party of the far left and they follow Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals as if they invented them. The manufactured crisis over the Stars and Bars is a case in point.

Some evil loser is shown with the battle flag after he guns down nine Christians who are black and the left mounts a full press cultural purge of all things southern including the flag that many of their ancestors fought under.

Make no mistake my readers. I think South Carolina has been a bit tardy in removing the battle flag from the Statehouse. The motives which it put it in the first place were segregationist. South Carolina had a Democratic Governor from 1876 to 1975. The battle flag began to be flown over the statehouse in the 1950s-60s under Democrat Governors and now has been petitioned to be removed from the statehouse by a Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Gee whiz Democrats what took you so long?

I think South Carolina should fly their State Flag over their statehouse. It’s a flag all South Carolinians could appreciate as the Palmetto Tree symbol dates back to the War of Independence when a new nation was forged-a nation that yes, became exceptional and inspiration for millions of immigrants including my own.

South Carolina State Flag

South Carolina State Fl


Yeah, maybe it’s late but it’s being done so the left needs to shut up and desist with a further southern culture purge. There have been cries to remove the battle flag from Confederate graves, museums and other places of historical significance.  Just for once have some common sense and get off the pc band wagon that has more in common with a communist state than it does with a people who just want to heal from the nation’s past and at the same time not ignore our  history.

If there is any malice going on here it’s the loony Marxist left that doesn’t let any crisis go to waste as they push their agenda of identity politics.

Lincoln’s attitude should rule the day. It was the attitude of the people of the Charleston Church who forgave the sociopath who murdered their fellow Christians. They rightly identified the murderer as the perpetrator and the evil within him. They recognized the man’s need for redemption and Jesus Christ as of primary importance.

Like northern soldiers, most southern soldiers had more loyalty to their individual states than they did to any central government. Let them be, with no malice toward them or their descendants. Their blood stains the same fields as our ancestors. Let them honor their dead as we do likewise. The Civil War is over. Let them be.