Max’s next book is to be a study of 1914- the approach to the First World War, its outbreak and early campaigns up to December, when the vast European battles of movement ended, and the trench stalemate became acknowledged on both the Eastern and Western fronts.
1914: Europe’s Tragedy will feature Max’s usual blend of top-down analysis and bottom-up human experience, mostly based on research in archives around Europe. Below is a snapshot, a random sample, of a few of the hundreds of pages of notes the author has already assembled, before starting to write the epic narrative that will be published for the centenary in 2014.
GCF Harcourt Vernon papers IWM 07/63/1
(Guy) 2nd Grenadiers: 6 August: ‘This war ought to end as soon as the Russians march on Berlin say 4 to 6 months, but I hope they wont bicker over the spoils like the Balkan war. I wonder if they will send us after all. Are they commandeering horses ? If so, let ‘Child’ go, but stand out for L60 if they will give it. It is probably more than I shall get any other way’.
As entered Havre on Aug 13 Guy HV wrote: ‘Last mile ½ battalion fell out to be seized by inhabitants & dosed with water and cider. Discipline appalling’.
22 GHV wrote: ‘All day men have been gorging themselves on pears & applies. Farmer says better us than Prussian. Hear, hear !’
23 during first action Lt.Guy Harcourt-Vernon wrote (IWM 07/63/1): ‘Funny to notice how everyone ducks at the sound of a bullet. You know it is past you but down goes your head every time’.
25 Aug at Landrecies, Guy Harcourt-Vernon wrote: ‘Germans come on in masses…our fire mows them down; can’t see much except dark moving mass’.
28 August Guy Harcourt-Vernon wrote: ‘Marches are much slower now, but we cover the ground somehow’. Cut wire from fences to make entanglements and dug up potatoes from fields with a sense of guilty delight in being able without permission. On 29th Grenadiers spent two hours on a pay parade.
4 Sept Guy Harcourt Vernon heard a rumour that the neighbouring French armies had acquired new generals “‘young and full of ardour’. The generals in command before have been shot for cowardice. I wonder if that was true or not’.
archives: Staatsarchiv Bremen
Staatsarchiv Bremen 9, S 9-11
Schneider collection, 75th Inf. Regt.
cite the letters stated below with shelfmark: Staatsarchiv Bremen 9, S 9-11-5
The 75th Inf. Reg. published a paper in the field that appeared every couple of days. It was called “Hurrah”. On 13.12.14 an advertisement reads as follows: „Who provides us with a feast roast? Offers with pricing (…) requested.”
“Wer verschafft uns zu Weihnachten einen Fest-Braten. Offerte mit Preisangabe unt. ‚Liebesgabe’ (…) erbeten.“
Staatsarchiv Bremen 7,100
Henrich Walte (1867-1949), Kaufmann, Bremen
Staatsarchiv Bremen 7,11
cite the letters stated below with : Staatsarchiv Bremen 7,11
Julius Grober (born around 1870?), surgeon, “Oberstabsarzt”, Jena.
G meets a refugee from Silesia who lived close to the Russian border. He reported that the Russians were shelling German villages, but now he wanted to return and have a look for his home.
G operates on a captain who was shot through his face. Since 1899 G didn’t work as a surgeon. Nevertheless he has to treat the captain because no other surgeon is in the military hospital.
Grober, a privileged surgeon and officer normally working far from the foremost lines, travelled the area Vionville – Champley behind the front line with other officers who is on duty at different places that day. They used a fast and well-equipped Benz, 40 HP. They visited destroyed villages and churches and had a glance to the front line from hills. During the journey he collects souvenirs, e.g. shell splinters or a songbook from a destroyed church.
He notes: “It was a great insight into the war and a delightful day. I’d love to be present in the foremost lines. Admittedly everybody says that from a medical point of view it is a bad disappointment out there. But the experiences there!”
The Kaiser and his wife are visiting a military hospital in Metz, Grober is there too. Wilhelm II. issued bay leafs to those wounded, the Kaiserin pictures of Wilhelm. Both asked in a detailled way how the wounded were feeling and where they are coming from. The Kaiser also visited wounded French officers.
Staatsarchiv Bremen 7,97/2
Wilhelm Kaisen (WK) (1887-1979), social democrat, later maior of the city of Bremen (1945-1965). Letters to and from Helene Kaisen, nee Schweida (HS) (1889-1973), since 1916 Wilhelm’s wife.
In 1914 W worked as plasterer and is heavily engaged in the German Sozialdemokratische Partei (Social Democrats) – he was a civilian, called to the colours in August 1914.
cite the letters stated below with shelfmark: Staatsarchiv Bremen 7,97/2-2
WK to HS, Alsterdorf 21.6.1914
(After reporting that a close friend had to go to the hospital)
“Also I shall take part in military training at Munsterlager (mil. training site); for 14 days from 30 July – 13 August. So everything adds up to bungle one’s delight.” (Kaisen’s rank is NCO).
HS to Wk, Bremen 22.6.14
„Dear Willi, what I have feared occurs. You have to do military training for 14 days. But, dear Willi, it is just 14 days and they will pass by. August 2nd and 9th are Sundays. Is it possible to meet then?”
Remart to the letters 28.6.-7.7.14
In their letters written at the time FF was murdered at Sarajevo Wk and HS discussed political issues of the working class and papers on mass strike – they do not even mention the incidents on the Balkans. Even in the letters during mid July they concentrate on party politics, the labour movement, conferences and political speeches in the working class milieu – I wasn’t able to find anything on the political problems emerging at the horizon.
WK to HS, Alsterdorf, 1.7.1914
„Today it was quite hot again. Nights are that warm and mild; one does not like to go to sleep. Hopefully we have got nice weather on our next summer evening, please bring the celestial map then.”
WK to HS, Alsterdorf, 3.7.14
„One week only and we will meet again. Because of my impatience I can’t await the moment, too. Life seems so rich in substance and nice when my heart goes out to you.”
WK to HS, 26.7.14
„My dear Helene! At this moment at which I am writing the impending spectre of world war stands within grasp (“steht das drohende Gespenst des Weltkrieges in greifbarer Nähe“). ‘War’, these characters (…) contain such a dreadful ocean of blood and horror that we shudder to think.”
(WK hopes that the International will gather in Europe and oppose war.)
“At every moment war can break out and we have less hope for détente. Because of that it will do good to provide you with some information regarding my military relationship. I will have to report for duty on 3rd day of mobilisation. You will hear of mobilisation in Bremen just as well as I will do here. It will be declared everywhere. Of course you have to take the chance to come. – Well, on Thursday I shall begin my military training. (…) It is not impossible that they immediately keep us at the colours. (…) And this much is certain; at the colours it will get round to insurgency, to rebellion. This will happen once the homicidal aeroplanes send perdition from above.”
WKto HS, 31.7.14
W reports that some workers have already been called to the colours. W envisages the same.
“Of course I would have liked to see you once and ask you to come to Hamburg already next week.”
cite the letters stated below with shelfmark: Staatsarchiv Bremen 7,97/2-3
(W is in the army now, NCO at the staff of 16. Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiment (field artillery), 18. Division
WK to HS, 5.8.14
To say it straight, my dear, I am embarrassed because of all our latest moves in the last week, newspapers – Reichstag (parliament) – public.” “We are compelled to take it as it is.” “England declared war on us. If this is true severe times will come.“
WK to HS, Taarstedt, 16.8.14 (close to Schleswig)
“Almost 14 days I am soldier again and still I am in the dark. Today I am terribly bored. This miserable waiting for upcoming misery makes me totally nervous.”
WK to HS, Taarstedt, 16.8.
Because the one and only barber of the village has left to France as a soldier, his unexperienced wife had to cut the hair and beards of the local garrison and village inhabitants.
Wilhelm reports to Helene that military service is boring, he has to feed horses three times a day – that’s all.
Wk to HS, Taarstedt, 21.8.14
„Now the world war is really on hand. Now America will be sucked into the whirlpool and soon neutrality of some states will vanish. Well, it is Imperialism, my dear.”
WK to HS, Renaix, 10.9.14
W asks for the future of his unit. “Wildest rumours are spread. Some claim that we should march fast to Paris, others we should go to the west coast of France and then shipped to England.” “This war will be the last in Europe. It even dawns on officers: ‘For that long one had designs on war and now when you see the harsh truth you turn away shivering’. These words spoken by an officer branded themselves on my memory and I know that others think the same.” “At this moment someone came rushing in with the message that France requested peace. You can not imagine how eager this message was received. Oh these madmen. They do not know what it’s all about, they don’t know that a struggle for existence broke out that will be carried out to the last farthing (“bis zum letzten Pfennig”).”
WK to HS 2.9.14, Belgium
„After a few days it stinks abominably at those places where struggle has occurred. Still I have that smell in my nose which emanated from dead Belgians which lay around on the fields and were not interred for 3 days in this heat.
Notes WK, 2.10.14, France
„I have the impression as if infantry assaults should achieve not so much success as
record-breaking courage (“Tapferkeits-Rekorde“). After all I’ve seen assaults which arouse head-shaking because they were conducted thoughtless. Even English officers apprehend an assault over 600-800 metres on a well-prepared position as wastage of human material (“Verschwendung von Menschenmaterial”). Minor mobility of the infantry. Too much luggage.”
WK to HS, 5.10.14, Roye
“My brother really hit the jackpot, he has a bullet wound on his left hand.” “I observed very often how an assault takes place. Initially we shoot a village for one day, everything is ruined. Then infantry approaches with fixed bayonets (…). Then a murderous fight develops. I saw a contingent of Bavarians, they shuffled off skirts and waistcoats and fought with sleeves rolled up. They inverted bayonets and cut loose with the stock. Then enemy artillery fire commences and an irredeemable bundle of smoke and fire develops. Who escapes without injury is blessed by luckiness.“
Kaisen mentions the tremendous losses of the infantry regiments employed in his area. Without recruits they would have ceased to exist. A young lieutenant arrived a few days ago, “’Rumms’” a shell hit somewhere, a splinter struck his back “and soon he was a corpse” („gleich darauf war er eine Leiche”).
Kaisen notes that they ran out of artillery ammunition still manufactured during peacetime – the wartime production is of low quality.
WK to HS; 25.10.14, Salente
WK visited the trenches and noted many dead lying around there. But in general the surrounding seemed empty to him. “Apart from that nothing alive is visible. No one seems to be here. Only the incessant shooting, howling and hissing of the bullets, the grumbling and singing of the shells reminds of battle.”
cite the letters stated below with shelfmark: Staatsarchiv Bremen 7,97/2-17
Letters of Helene to Wilhelm. Since August Helene worked in the German Red Cross in Bremen. She took care for women whose husbands are in the field or who fell poor (or got even poorer) due to rising costs for food.
HS to WK, Bremen 18.8.14
„I can imagine (…) that this dreadful uncertainity lets you suffer torments. For me it is the same. (…) But even we, the civil population, do not know anything. News on any skirmishes arrive sparsely. As there was over-excitement here in Bremen in the first days of mobilization now ease sets in. Once all the troops debouched there will be dead silence here. Bremen soon will be a women’s city (“Bremen wird bald eine Frauenstadt sein“). In the first days of the troop transports there was an activity as Bremen probably has rarely seen. Above all on Wednesday. Then some very fantastically assessed minds discovered five aeroplanes in the sky.” – These planes were shot by troops – but never really existed, as Helene pointed out.
HS to WK, 29.9.14, Bremen
Helene desparately tries to find those villages and places Wilhelm mentions in his letters to point out where his regiment is currently staying. But Wilhelm seems to be not accustomed to French place names and does mistakes in writing. That makes it harder for Helene to find these places on her map.
H tried to get on a charity transport to the front in order to be able to meet W there but:
“Once again I forgot that I’m just a woman” – an officer told her that only males were allowed on these transports.
HS to WK, Bremen, 26.12.14 (christmas)
The mood of the people especially today is heavily depressive. Even those otherwise happy anticipation of children has been curbed a little.”
Collections of contemporary published accounts
Gustaf F. Steffen, Krieg und Kultur. Sozialpsychologische Dokumente und Beobachtungen vom Weltkrieg 1914, Jena 1915
(written in Stockholm 1914 by the Swedish writer Steffen)
p 16 „Probably never a war was universally foreseen and predicted in its characteristics like the contemporary awful world conflict.” („Wahrscheinlich ist niemals ein Krieg so allgemein vorausgesehen und in seinen großen Zügen so genau vorausgesagt worden wie der gegenwärtige schreckliche Weltkonflikt.“)
Steffen refers to the works of Bernhardi, Germany And The Next War; Frobenius, Des Deutschen Reiches Schicksalsstunde; Kjellén, Großmächte der Gegenwart
Schlachten des Weltkrieges, Vol. 6: Von Nancy bis zum Camp des Romains 1914, Oldenburg i.O.: Stalling 2nd ed. 1928.
pp 22-23 On 25 August 14 the HQ of the Bavarian 3rd Army Corps close to Nancy was surprised by an aeroplane circling over their heads and finally dropping a luminous item. While puzzling over the meaning of this obviously not dangerous projectile the HQ was shot by artillery – it was marked by flares.
pp 43-44 (The losses among officers were tremendous during the first months of the war). In the night from September 2nd to Sept. 3rd the Bavarian 21st Inf. Reg. lost lieutenant-colonel Dietl, senior lieutenant Graf von Lösch and lieutenant Federer with many of the rank and file.
Schlachten des Weltkrieges, Vol. 10: Ypern 1914, Oldenburg i.O., Berlin: Stalling 1926.
p 69 246th Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment lost 70 % of its fighting soldiers during the combat for Polygon Wood on 24. Oct.
Dietrich Mahnke, Kriegstaten und Schicksale des Res.-Inf.-Regiments 75 1914/18. Bremen 1932.
p 17 In Belgium on 17.8.14 the 1st Company of the freshly arrived 75. Reserve Inf. Reg. in the morning saw movements and shadows in the fog in front of their trenches. They shot, only after a few minutes realizing that the ‘enemy’ were cows and returning German posts.
p 20 The 75th had to march immense distances with less sleep and breaks. Thus the columns were no longer ordered as the weaker soldiers marched slower. The marching orders of the superior authorities were inconsistent, thus the route grew longer than necessary due to changing directions and destinations.
p 29 Disorder among the columns increased by other troops marching on the same road with different speed – thus they lost connection, different units mixed up.
p 59 The 75th IR was deployed in Beuvraignes in Oct 1914. There was a factory producing a liqueur called “Mélina”. The soldiers looted the stocks of that liqueur although a post should take care for the bottles. The local Abbé Masse created it and advertised the liqueur with the bible. One advertisement reads: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” (Judges 14:18)
Abschiedsfeier für das Ersatzbataillon des Inf.-Rgts. 75, Bremen 1914.
On Friday, 18.9.1914, the Ersatzbataillon of 75th Inf. Reg. was sayed goodbye in Bremen’s “Unser Lieben Frauen” church. In his sermon pastor Groscurth said:
„It is a cruel deed that you are ordered to do, as certainly as it has to be done for the salvation of your people. But you can be phenomenal preachers of ideals amidst death and doom if you keep your conscience clean of cruel deeds even confronting the enemy. (…) It is such a dark path that everybody of you has to walk and nobody knows if he returns home.”
„Es ist ein grausames Werk, das ihr auszurichten befohlen seid, so gewiß es für das Heil eures Volkes geschehen muß. Aber was könnt ihr mitten in dem Tod und Verderben (…) doch für gewaltige Prediger von Idealen sein, (…) wenn ihr euer Gewissen rein haltet von jeder gemeinen Tat, auch dem Feinde gegenüber“. „Es ist (…) doch für den einzelnen von euch ein so dunkler Weg, den er gehen muß, und keiner weiß, ob und wie er wieder heimkehrt.“
Alexander Markgraf Pallavicini B 1600
This collection contains two diaries of two Pallavacinis.
1) Alexander Oswald Pallavicini (1853-1933) (diary B 1600/7), served at AH High Command (“Armeeoberkommando”, AOK) and was Geheimer Rat (Privy Council) and member of Hungarian Oberhaus (Upper House). In AOK he was orderly and served in the automobile section.
2) His son Alexander Koloman Maria Pallavicini (*1890) (diary of Serbian campaign, B 1600/6). He commanded 16 cars of a corps headquarter and probably served here as orderly (this is uncertain but the diary gives this impression).
(Information on both biographies from “Gotha Gräflicher Taschenkalender 115 (1942), pp 389-390”).
B 1600/6: Alexander Koloman Maria Pallavicini, “The Serbian Campaign 1914”
The Austro-Hungarians drove their few and precious cars with reckless abandon on the rough Balkan roads. Staff officer Alexander Pallavacini wrote despairingly on 6 August: ‘If we go on like this our cars will soon be wrecked. People seem to think an automobile is indestructible’ (Vienna Archive B 1600/6: Alexander Koloman Maria Pallavicini, “The Serbian Campaign 1914” 6.8.14)
Bosnia’s roads were hopelessly clogged with soldiers and supply wagons of the army advancing to the border, which made it hard to move rations to the men. ‘It is hard to believe this chaotic logjam will ever break’, wrote Pallavacini after a day trying to drive through it. It took me over nine hours to cover 40 km’.
Absurdly yet characteristically, on 10 August one formation advanced across the pontoon bridge spanning the Drina near Batar led by its band, playing martial airs. A Serbian shell fell in its midst, killing some of the bandsmen, blasting others into the water, as their music abruptly ceased. Alexander Pallavacini wrote:
“The whole horizon is filled with pillars of smoke which mark our troops’ advance. New fires keep appearing: the ubiquitous straw stacks seem to be deployed for that purpose. Heavy firing from enemy artillery. The whole spectacle resembled a splendid field exercise’ (Pallavacini MS)
Recouly, Raymond Les Heures Tragiques d’Avant-Guerre Paris 1922
Jules Cambon described Kaiser getting news of Sarajevo at Kiel (Recouly p.20), a picket boat approached, the emperor attempted to wave it away, but instead it approached the royal yacht. Admiral Muller, aboard the craft, placed a piece of paper in his cigarette case and threw it up to the Hohenzollern’s deck, where a sailor caught it, and took it to the emperor. Wilhelm took it, read the message it contained, turned pale and murmured: ‘Everything has to start again !’. Then he gave orders to abandon the regatta.
Ambassadors were then very important people- Cambon saw Jagow, the Secretary of State, almost daily in July.
On 26 July, Cambon warned Jagow the British would not this time remain neutral, as they had in 1870. Jagow shrugged (Recouly p.23): ‘you have your information and we have ours, which are completely opposed. We are confident of British neutrality’. Cambon always thereafter believed that herein lay the great tragedy of the crisis- that if the Germans had known Britain would fight, they would not have dared to risk a war.
Cambon said after the war (Recouly p.25): ‘We were extraordinarily fortunate that Britain’s Liberal party was then in government. Had it been in opposition, it would perhaps have delayed British intervention’.
Dedijer, Vladimir The Road To Sarajevo McGibbon & Kee 1967
Evening before killing in spa town of Ilidze, Dr.Josip Sunaric, a leader of Bosnian parl was presented to her- he had urged cancelling visit. Now Duchess Sophie said: ‘My dear Dr.Sunaric, you are wrong after all. Things do not always turn out the way you say they will. Wherever we have been everyone, down to the last Serb, has greeted us with such great friendliness, politeness and true warmth, that we are very happy with our visit’. Sunaric answered: ‘You Highness, I pray to God that when I have the honour of meeting you again tomorrow night, you can repeat those words. A great burden will be lifted from me’ (Dedijer p.10).
Bosnia and Herzegovina ruled on colonial principles. Occupied by Austria in 1878, endorsed under terms Congress of Berlin. Troops went in, Serbs hostile, Catholis greeted as saviours, Moslems in ferment. Took 200,000 troops three months to pacify. Fatal decision for the empire. F-JS TITLES ON DEDIJER P.69
Franz Josef had employed most savage repression to try to hold Italy.
Most of populations had negligible political rights. When FJ visited Zagreb in 1895, Croat students publicly burnt Magyar flag.
Even in 1914 oppressive taxation of peasants. Deliberately fostered divisions Moslems, Serbs and Croats.
June 11 1903 Serbs officers killed tyrannical Alexander & Queen Draga, led by Apis- Egyptian bull god. Dragutin Dimitrijevic then Lt. of 25. ruler found in a wardrobe. Riddled with bullets. 1903 revolt in Macedonia against Ottoman rule.
Paul Tuffnau 27 from Bordeaux wine family, a teacher. Now an officer leading a company into Alsace Lorraine. Searchlights look for planes in clouds. 25 August raining. Constant stream of stretcher-bearers towards rear. Quickly ordered retreat, amid refugees in big carts pulled by oxen, families some laughing, some crying. Villagers press wine, cider, chocolate on soldiers- ‘very different from the people of Lorraine’ (P & W p.24). as two British soldiers passed, whole column cheered. Fury at retreat. Major Brun shouted: ‘To think we have been preparing for the war for forty years, and now this !’. 6 Sept at village of Barcy near Marne. In beetroot field. Watches other companies: ‘Their march forward is magnificent but too fast, too close together….We advance with them, but my artillerymen are way behind. Finally here comes Chamoutin, all upset: ‘Poor Maire…A bullet in the heart’….Some men try to crawl to the rear, hiding in the beetroot. I go over and threaten them with my gun. They claim they are wounded or helping a casualty. Bullets whistle by non-stop, from all directions. It is quite a job to get the men to stand up’ (P & W p.26). His machine-gunners refuse to budge, even under threats. ‘The charge falters, stops. Mulleret, the flag-bearer, is on his back on the other side of the road, his head lying on a sack. Behind a haystack, I come across the flag, a few men and a colonel, shaking like a leaf, his tunic undone, his right arm in a sling, shirt covered in blood.
I am bandaging Mulleret, who is wounded below the left shoulder. His eyes are closed, his face still has some colour. ‘If that you Tuffra ?’. he takes my hand, squeezes it tightly. ‘You won’t leave me ?…Unfasten my belt, under the shirt…I have some gold in my belt. Leave that. But take my pistol’. Again they charged, into a storm of fire. Shells. ‘Halt ! Turn around ! Forward !’, I keep shouting, and these brave soldiers do turn around. I notice Dumesnil who is holding the flag. A sergeant close to me breaks into the Marseillaise and everyone joins in. But amid the incredible din Valmy’s song is drowned out’.
One by one they crawled to the rear, and Tuffrau falls asleep on the ground as sun sets, in trench.
Highest casualtie of war, 250k on each side.