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Rising Sun*
12-29-2007, 04:20 AM
The joys of military food, with Xmas pudding in the Boer war on the right in the first two photos.

http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-food/before-1950.htm

I particularly like the WWI emergency rations which require a coin to be opened, as soldiers always carry coins in the field, and not to opened without an officer's order.

Did anyone die waiting for the officer's order to save themselves with an emergency ration? I have a vision of a starving RSM shouting "Not yet, lad. Wait for the hofficer!"

32Bravo
12-29-2007, 07:29 AM
I wonder under what circumstances an emergency was declared, and did it ever happen that the officer stated it was so by his own judgement or did he await orders from above? If the order was passed, from above, was he alive to receive it? When the order was received, had the men already consumed the ration?

Are the English Toffees, those which received a public school (private fee paying school) education? :)

Rising Sun*
12-29-2007, 07:51 AM
I wonder under what circumstances an emergency was declared, and did it ever happen that the officer stated it was so by his own judgement or did he await orders from above?

Initiative is what distinguished WWI officers from OR's and NCO's. Not to mention education, breeding, sniffing snuff without crying, and knowing how to sit and jump a horse.

I'm not sure how this qualified them to know when to break out the emergency rations, but they were the upper classes so I'm sure they knew what they were doing. ;)


If the order was passed, from above, was he alive to receive it? When the order was received, had the men already consumed the ration?

If the officer was dead when the order arrived, and the men had already consumed the emergency ration without orders, who would put them on and hear the charge?


Are the English Toffees, those which received a public school (private fee paying school) education? :)
I don't think so.

You'd be struggling to fit them into the illustrated packet. You couldn't even fit an Eton collar into that packet.

Be that as it may, a generation of them died in WWI, as did the flower of France's youth, and Germany's.

Another spectacular waste, while the merchants and industrialists stayed home and made big profits, on both sides.

Not least from the emergency rations.

32Bravo
12-29-2007, 12:15 PM
I don't think so.

You'd be struggling to fit them into the illustrated packet. You couldn't even fit an Eton collar into that packet.

Be that as it may, a generation of them died in WWI, as did the flower of France's youth, and Germany's.

Another spectacular waste, while the merchants and industrialists stayed home and made big profits, on both sides.

Not least from the emergency rations.


Changed the face of British politics. However, the Aristocracy survived by marrying their daughters to the Plutocracy (rich industrialists) who wanted to marry into blueblood families so that their sons would inherit the titles.

pdf27
12-29-2007, 03:06 PM
Initiative is what distinguished WWI officers from OR's and NCO's. Not to mention education, breeding, sniffing snuff without crying, and knowing how to sit and jump a horse.
Grrr... yet another stereotype that has nothing to do with reality. The wartime officers (at least in the British/Dominion/Empire armies) were selected on a very, very meritocratic basis. Not least because they were expected to lead from the front and as such casualties were horrendous.

The middle and upper classes did provide more than their fair share of officers, but that's largely because they had the education required to make a good job of it. They were also nearly wiped out as a generation - the life expectancy of junior infantry/tank officers was the worst in the armed forces,

32Bravo
12-29-2007, 05:36 PM
Intresting portrayal of officers 'loosing it' in the book, and film of the book, Regeneration by Pat Barker.

Good point on leading from the front. I was walking through an estate belonging to the National Trust, in Kent, one day. There was some ruins of an old house, just the foundations, and an information board. The house had been built by a self-made-man in the 1890's, and was left by him to the National Trust in the 1930's. The house had fallen into such disrepair, that it had had to be demolished. I thought, at first, this was rather odd, but as I walked about the site of the house I came upon a pilar type memorial which had the rank and names of each of his sons that had been KIA'd in the Great War. Each of them had been junior officers (IIRC there were five of them).

When junior officers led from the front, they were usually in the front line, with a lot of Tommies alongside them and many many Tommies died also. I sometimes wonder which was the most fearful, to be a junior officer leading men into battle and being afraid of cocking it up, or being a Tommy who had only the maintaining of his position in the line to distract him from his fears?

Rising Sun*
12-29-2007, 05:59 PM
I sometimes wonder which was the most fearful, to be a junior officer leading men into battle and being afraid of cocking it up, or being a Tommy who had only the maintaining of his position in the line to distract him from his fears?

I don't know about the English, but I've certainly read many memoirs / statements by Australian diggers who preferred to stay in the ranks rather than accept a commission because they didn't want the responsibility for other lives, although many were happy to be NCO's. Also officers who said that they had the same fears and risks as the troops, but had the extra burden of having to lead and function as leaders under fire etc. The junior officers had it a lot harder than than the troops in battle. More was expected of them, too. A digger could stuff up occasionally without losing the respect of his mates, but an officer didn't have much latitude in that area. Lousiest ranks would be subalterns. Starts to ease off by field rank, and certainly staff rank, but then they get a different set of burdens.

32Bravo
12-29-2007, 06:13 PM
I don't know about the English, but I've certainly read many memoirs / statements by Australian diggers who preferred to stay in the ranks rather than accept a commission because they didn't want the responsibility for other lives, although many were happy to be NCO's. Also officers who said that they had the same fears and risks as the troops, but had the extra burden of having to lead and function as leaders under fire etc. The junior officers had it a lot harder than than the troops in battle. More was expected of them, too. A digger could stuff up occasionally without losing the respect of his mates, but an officer didn't have much latitude in that area. Lousiest ranks would be subalterns. Starts to ease off by field rank, and certainly staff rank, but then they get a different set of burdens.


That's interesting. I would suppose, that the soldiery wouldn't want the responsibility. Not after having seen their pals killed and hearing others blaming the officers (who were merely carrying out orders). I would imagine that it was the same for most OR's in most armies. In my experience, it was usually the junior NCO's that led the blokes and were, therefore, responsible for making the 'life or death' decisions. Having said that, I'm sure many OR's, in the major conflicts, were given field commisions, and that those that were, were generally of the type that would be good officers. I wonder if anyone has any stats on that?

pdf27
12-29-2007, 07:13 PM
My understanding of WW1 infantry tactics is that the officers would be the first over the top with a "follow me", and also wouldn't be carrying a rifle. That makes you about the most obvious target possible.

Rising Sun*
12-30-2007, 01:26 AM
My understanding of WW1 infantry tactics is that the officers would be the first over the top with a "follow me", and also wouldn't be carrying a rifle. That makes you about the most obvious target possible.

There's an unreferenced statement in the section on Pozieres here http://www.diggerz.org/~anzacs/_the_battles.htm that the fighting there was so bad that the life expectancy of a young officer was no more than 24 hours.

Edit: And the link won't work, and I don't know why.

32Bravo
12-30-2007, 06:58 AM
My understanding of WW1 infantry tactics is that the officers would be the first over the top with a "follow me", and also wouldn't be carrying a rifle. That makes you about the most obvious target possible.

THey often went over the top with swagger canes, umbrellas and footballs (no one is contesting their courage and sense of bravado). However, not all of the attacking force, even of the same platoon emerged from the exact same position. The German machine gunners that did much of the killing waited for the troops to enter a killing zone which had been previously fixed (D.F.). This consisted of two or more guns on the flanks of their unit, firing accross the front on interlocking arcs. The enemy troops, in this case the Tommies, advanced into the killing zone and were decimated by enfilading fire.

At the Somme, many troops were killed very near to their own positions simply because they had to que to get through the narrow lanes opened in their own barbed wire. Naturally, the first waves, which included the young platoon commanders were shot to pieces. In one position troops had been ordered that they should head towards a particular tree, as that was the direction of the enemy trenches. Those that had survived transition through their own wire, complied with this order only to be shot up once again, as this was one of the German D.F. reference points as explained above.

When the machine gunners saw massed bodies of troops heading towards them, they didn't discriminate between the ranks of the men they killed, they just attempted to kill all that they could - which was lot.

pdf27
12-30-2007, 08:45 AM
True, but the machine guns weren't the only ones firing. Riflemen are going to pick their targets (at least to an extent), and so obvious officers are going to make themselves targets - if only because they "look different".

32Bravo
12-30-2007, 09:00 AM
I wouldn't disagree with that per se. However, during the first day of the Somme offensive, most of the platoon commander casualties were sustained within yards of their own trenches. This was, of course, because they were among the first troops out of the trenches and trying to negotiate ther wire. At those ranges of several hundred yards in places, they were just a part of the mass and the Germans were blasting away at the centre of the visible mass (I know that you know what I mean by that).

32Bravo
12-30-2007, 09:24 AM
Something which does occur to me, was that, if I remember correctly, it was pretty much SOP that an officer accompanied every patrol into no-mans-land. This in itself would result in a higher casualty rate among young platoon commanders.

My reading is a little rusty. However, I have visited some areas of the Somme battlefield, and much of what I am saying is what I learned from those visits. One of the things I made a point of doing in each area I visited, was to walk accross to the German positons and take a look at the British positons from the German soldiers point of view.

Gracie
01-08-2008, 01:56 PM
Changed the face of British politics. However, the Aristocracy survived by marrying their daughters to the Plutocracy (rich industrialists) who wanted to marry into blueblood families so that their sons would inherit the titles.

This had been happening since the late 1800s from my understanding. There is a novel (The Buccaneers) written by Edith Wharton in the 1930's about rich American's marrying off their daughters to titled Englishmen in attempts to gain some respect and legitimacy abroad.

32Bravo
01-08-2008, 05:01 PM
This had been happening since the late 1800s from my understanding. There is a novel (The Buccaneers) written by Edith Wharton in the 1930's about rich American's marrying off their daughters to titled Englishmen in attempts to gain some respect and legitimacy abroad.

Yes, it had been happening since the late 19th century. However, it happened much more so after WW1. I wasn't even considering the American element,there were plenty of British industrialists that were after titels. The landed gentry found themselves going bankrupt as much of their income was lost due to their men going off to the war. No one was working the land to any extent and their sons were being killed in droves, thus, the families were not only becomeing financially bankrutpt, but also the bloodline was.