DO THE MATH: THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS, p. 263

The narrative has arrived at the siege of Kut.

Self knows not the exact location of Kut, but she won’t let something like that impede her reading. Onward!

There is a little problem of the food supply for the British defenders :

General Townshend advised the commanders of the relief force that his food stores would be depleted by 23 April but that he would have enough horses to provide meat until 29 April.

An attempt is made to re-supply Kut by air-drop, but — alas! — the pilots have a really bad sense of direction: “. . .  as often as not their parcels go into the Tigris or into the Turkish trenches!”

Final Tally:

  • The siege of Kut lasted four months.
  • In order to relieve 13,000 besieged troops in the city, the British suffered over 23,000 casualties.

This reminds her of another horrendous rescue operation which she read about recently in The Three-Year Swim Club: a World War II unit of Japanese American troops was sent in to rescue members of a platoon. They successfully completed their mission, suffering a terrible casualty rate, something like 50%, many times more than the number of men they ended up rescuing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Fall of the Ottomans: p. 251

Just finished reading about the siege at Gallipoli: the numbers are staggering. One simply cannot grasp the idea of almost a million men fighting on one spit of land overlooking the Dardanelles. The problem is that nothing really happened, other than a whole lot of dying, followed by a British retreat.

Next chapter is the Invasion of Mesopotamia. Again lots of strategizing and moving of armies.

Finally, finally, we’re at the siege of Kut:

The Sanussi fighters went south to occupy the oasis towns of the Western Desert, stretching from Siwa near the Libyan frontier to Farafra and Bahariya, where they were within striking distance of the Nile Valley but beyond the reach of British forces.

It is a good thing they do, because they only have “one quick-firing cannon and three machine guns” to share among “fewer than 1,200 men.”

The British go in hot pursuit, and finally corner the Sanussi at a small “coastal village” called Sidi Barrani. Here the Ottoman Army was forced to make its last stand. Self just wants to say, the British Army were not gracious in victory. A wild melee ensued, with lots of sabres engaged and horses shot out from under and officers taken prisoner (but what happened to the foot soldiers, self has no idea. There weren’t that many to begin with. It was a very one-sided battle)

It’s very surreal reading. Reminds her that while she was re-discovering the City of Light in May, just a few months ago, she was reading, of all things, Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, which taught her a lot about mules.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS, by Eugene Rogan

Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans is the first history/nonfiction self has been able to get into since May.

She’s on Chapter Five: Launching Jihad, p. 102

The Jihad does not come from the source you’d expect: It is December 8, 1914. Turkey’s Minister of War is a politician named Enver Pasha.

Rogen’s description of Enver:

Enver, an impetuous man, had made his career through bold, high-risk initiatives. A historic leader of the 1908 revolution, an architect of the 1911 Ottoman-led jihad in Libya, leader of the 1913 raid on the Sublime Porte who forced the prime minister to resign at gunpoint, and “liberator of Edirne” in the Second Balkan War, Enver believed in taking action and had little doubt in his own judgment and abilities.

Here’s a list of the other history self has read thus far in 2017:

  • Montcalm and Wolfe: The Decline and Fall of the French Empire in North America
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • SPQR
  • Rubicon
  • The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Quote of the Day: Kate Walbert

“Alexandra said that I had inherited Mum’s will, not to mention her temper, and that this could either float me in good stead or kill me. I think I’ll float.”

A Short History of Women, by Kate Walbert

Numbers 4: Exhibits, Museum of the History of Science (Oxford) and the British Museum

Self-explanatory!

DSCN9940

Oxford, England: May 2016

DSCN9897

Assyrian Gallery, British Museum, London: May 2016

DSCN9893

Another Caption from the Assyrian Gallery in the British Museum: May 2016

Generation Gap, by Joan McGavin, Hampshire Poet for 2014

DSCN0471
With the Armistice declared,
school was closed
and the children all
ran hilty-skilty
down the brae.
Mum burst into the house —

her brother’s photo
already three years
on the mantelpiece.

Newly
promoted corporal,
he holds
the swagger stick
self-consciously,
glances to the side.

And now she’s gone,
and those questions
one could ask about him
— dead on the Somme —
will need books,
the internet, research,
for any hope of answers —

and between me and my uncle
only the red hair
and my mother
forever saying
how much I reminded her of him.

— by Joan McGavin, Hampshire Poet for 2014

Vengeance Is Sweet: More From Part 2, Chapter 1 of THE THIRD REICH AT WAR

14 June 1940

The German soldiers enter Paris, which has become a surprisingly vacant city: “Instead of the usual cacophony of car horns, all that could be heard was the lowing of a herd of cattle, abandoned in the city center by refugees passing through from the countryside farther north.”

Then the ranscaking begins.

“On Hitler’s personal orders, the private railway carriage of the French commander in the First World War, Marshall Foch, in which the Armistice of 11 November 1918 had been signed, was tracked down to a museum and, after the museum walls had been been broken down by a German demolition team, it was moved out and towed back to the spot it had occupied in the forest of Compiegne on the signing of the Armistice . . .  Taking the very same seat occupied by Foch in 1918, Hitler posed for photographs, then departed, contemptuously leaving the rest of the delegation, including Hess, Goring, Ribbentrop and the military leaders, to read out the terms and receive the signatures of the dejected French.”

Self truly appreciates Evans’s wide range of vocabulary. Take that word “dejected.” It is perfect.

Which brings to mind other types of emotional states, all beginning with the letter “d”:

  • disconsolate
  • depressed
  • distraught
  • disappointed
  • distracted
  • discombobulated
  • desperate
  • dissembling
  • damaged
  • desultory
  • diffident

Why, any and all of the above could be applied to the French at the moment of the signing of the Armistice, June 1940.

The relative ease with which Germany accomplished “the greatest military encirclement in history” led the Reich to attempt the invasion of the Soviet Union, the following year.

Hitler was so gleeful that he confided to Albert Speer, his architect, “that he had often thought of having the city razed to the ground.”

And now it is another June, 75 years later, and self is in Ireland, and it’s a beautiful summer day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Richard J. Evans’s THE THIRD REICH AT WAR: History Repeating Itself (Forevermore)

Part 2 (“The Fortunes of War”), Chapter 1, Section IV:  The Third Reich at War, by Richard J. Evans

French intelligence altogether failed to predict how the German invasion would take place. Some preparations were noticed, but nobody put all the information together into a coherent picture, and the generals still assumed that the now obsolete captured plans were the operative ones.

As for German tactical advantages at the time of the German invasion of Belgium and France:

Altogether, 93 French and and 10 British divisions faced a total of 93 German divisions. The French had 647 fighters, 242 bombers and 60 reconnaisance planes, making a total of nearly 2,000 combat aircraft altogether; the German air force had around 3,578 combat planes operational at this time, but when the Belgian and Dutch air forces were thrown into the balance this was not enough in itself to overwhelm its opponents.

Finally:

Since the stalemate of French warfare in 1914-1918, the arrival of air power and tanks had shifted the advantage in warfare from defence to attack, a development which few on the Allied side had followed to its logical conclusion.

Here’s a link to a review of Evans’s newest book, a collection of essays on the Third Reich.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition, June 21-22, 2014

It is the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War, as self was being constantly reminded when she was in the UK, a few weeks ago.

Those kinds of commemorations seem to get lost in the welter of American politics — Are we going back into Iraq?  What should/can we do about Putin?  — but the Review section of the June 21-22, 2014 Wall Street Journal is entirely devoted to articles about the Great War.  On p. C3, at the bottom right corner, is a tiny article by Amanda Foreman on “The Poets of Devastation.”

All the familiar names are there:  Rupert Brooke (gorgeous), Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon.

After a few mentions of these poets’ iconic works, Foreman delivers the meat and potatoes:

“. . .  the war poets’ greatest contribution wasn’t their rediscovery that war is truest hell, but their reinvention of poetry as a democratic mode of expression.”

She mentions the “broadening of the canon” with works like Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

“. . .  there is no other war in history,” Foreman writes, “. . . with the exception of the Trojan War, whose poetry has so shaped a nation.”

(Self thinks the Vietnam War definitely served a similar function for American literature.  Think Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War.  Think Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake.  Think Michael Herr’s Dispatches.  Think Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  Think Robert Stone)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Poem from TAKING MESOPOTAMIA, by Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis’s collection, Taking Mesopotamia (Oxford Poets, 2014), is such a powerful book.

It is part memoir, part excerpts from family history, part interview, everything written out in the tersest of poetry.  From the Preface, self learned that Jenny’s father, Second Lieutenant T. C. Lewis, participated “in the Mesopotamian campaign of World War I as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, the South Wales Borders, now the Royal Regiment of Wales.”

The Hawthornden reunion with two of her fellow writers (who self hasn’t seen since June 2012, but who remained in touch) in Hawthornden was at the British Museum, April 27, when Joan and self caught Jenny’s passionate and altogether mesmerizing reading (She’s the ex-girlfriend of Michael Palin, and self kept looking around the theatre on the off-chance she’d get to see this Monty Python regular in the flesh. But no dice.)

Here’s the poem “October 1916”:

Two lots of mail from home with some letters
for me, at last, giving news from Glamorgan.
Mother unwell for the past few weeks, although
she puts on a brave face as usual. Sister Betty is
still on her drive to collect wool for the knitting
of balaclavas: I said they’ll be back to front no doubt!
Here we are stuck in the desert while their lives
keep on almost as usual there in dear old Wales
except it’s now a place where there are no young
men and people tell each other no news is good news.

Self makes a promise: Next time she is in London, she will make it a point to visit the Imperial War Museum.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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