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World War I

German postcard map of the Western Front in Flanders, looking south and including Lille, Arras, Calais, and Ostend. In the Battle of the Yser in October, 1914, the Belgian Army held the territory south of the Yser Canal, visible between Nieuport, Dixmude, and Ypres (Ypern). Further north is Passchendaele, which British forces took at great cost in 1917.
Text:
Der Kanal
Straße von Calais
The English Channel and the Strait of Calais
Reverse:
Panorama des westlichen Kriegsschauplatzes 1914/15 Von Arras bis Ostende.
Die Panorama-Postkartenreihe umfaßt mit ihren 9 Abschnitten Nr. 400 bis 408 den gesamten westlichen Kriegsschauplatz von der Schweizer Grenze bis zur Nordseeküste.
Panorama of the western theater of operations 1914/15 from Arras to Ostend. The panoramic postcard series includes nine sections, with their No. 400-408 the entire western battlefield from the Swiss border to the North Sea coast.
Nr. 408
Wenau-Postkarte Patentamtl. gesch.

German postcard map of the Western Front in Flanders, looking south and including Lille, Arras, Calais, and Ostend. In the Battle of the Yser in October, 1914, the Belgian Army held the territory south of the Yser Canal, visible between Nieuport, Dixmude, and Ypres (Ypern). Further north is Passchendaele, which British forces took at great cost in 1917.

Image text

Der Kanal

Straße von Calais



The English Channel and the Strait of Calais



Reverse:

Panorama des westlichen Kriegsschauplatzes 1914/15 Von Arras bis Ostende.

Die Panorama-Postkartenreihe umfaßt mit ihren 9 Abschnitten Nr. 400 bis 408 den gesamten westlichen Kriegsschauplatz von der Schweizer Grenze bis zur Nordseeküste.



Panorama of the western theater of operations 1914/15 from Arras to Ostend. The panoramic postcard series includes nine sections, with their No. 400-408 the entire western battlefield from the Swiss border to the North Sea coast.



Nr. 408

Wenau-Postkarte Patentamtl. gesch.

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1914

Black and white postcard with an embossed floral border, and a calendar for 1914. Two girls play at a water trough fashioned from a log, ribbons in their hair, and toy boats floating. On the trough, a poem:
"This little card I send, and pray
That round about your path each day
The light of love may shine alway."
E. Hutchinson
806J   Copyright.   Beagles' Postcards
Reverse: Post Card and logo for Beagles' Best Postcards
Best in the World
Dear Dorris
I have great pleasure in sending you this card once more trusting to find you in good health. Your(s?) Ca???? Sills

Black and white postcard with an embossed floral border, and a calendar for 1914. Two girls play at a water trough fashioned from a log, ribbons in their hair, and toy boats floating. On the trough, a poem:
"This little card I send, and pray
That round about your path each day
The light of love may shine alway."
E. Hutchinson
806J Copyright. Beagles' Postcards © Beagles' Postcards

1915

Calendar from the French magazine Le Petit Journal with scenes including (clockwise from top left) the capture of a German battle flag by Zouaves and Chasseurs à pied, a French artillery crew manning a 75mm. field gun, a dragoon moving into position, a heavier gun firing, entrenched troops, and marines advancing. The calendar includes Roman Catholic holy days, saints days, Independence Day, and the time of sunrise and sunset. Illustration by L. Bomblec (?).
Text:
Le Petit Journal
est
Le Journal Républicain
le plus impartial et le mieux informé
le plus répandu des journaux du monde entier
Romans feuilletons des ecrivains les plus célèbres
Calendrier
1915
Le Petit Journal
is
The Republican Journal
the most impartial and well informed
the most widespread of newspapers in the world
Serialized novels of the most celebrated writers
calendar
1915

Calendar from the French magazine Le Petit Journal with scenes including (clockwise from top left) the capture of a German battle flag by Zouaves and Chasseurs à pied, a French artillery crew manning a 75mm. field gun, a dragoon moving into position, a heavier gun firing, entrenched troops, and marines advancing. The calendar includes Roman Catholic holy days, saints days, Independence Day, and the time of sunrise and sunset. Illustration by L. Bomblec (?).

1916

Children dressed as Allied soldiers run to bring the New Year, 1916. France carries the 1, the United Kingdom (in a kilt) and Belgium - his national roundel on his hat - the 9, Serbia and Russia the 1 of the decade, and Italy the 6. Japan, bearing a flag, hurries to catch up. A folding calendar card for 1916 by G. Bertrand.
Reverse: the calendar for 1916
Inside:
With best wishes for a happy Christmas with love from Wallis

Children dressed as Allied soldiers run to bring the New Year, 1916. France carries the 1, the United Kingdom (in a kilt) and Belgium - his national roundel on his hat - the 9, Serbia and Russia the 1 of the decade, and Italy the 6. Japan, bearing a flag, hurries to catch up. A folding calendar card for 1916 by G. Bertrand.
Reverse: the calendar for 1916
Inside:
With best wishes for a happy Christmas with love from Wallis

1917

1917 Wedgwood Calendar Tile with the U.S. Navy Yard in Boston
Text:
Section of United States Navy Yard, Boston
Reverse:
1917 Calendar
Jones, McDuffee & Stratton Co.
Crockery, China, & Glass Merchants
33 Franklin St., Boston, U.S.A.

1917 Wedgwood Calendar Tile with the United States Navy Yard in Boston on the face, and the 1917 calendar on the reverse.

1918

1918 YMCA folding calendar card of two child French and American soldiers dancing beneath a ball of mistletoe and the words "With much Love", by Ray or R.A.Y.
The back cover is a 1918 calendar and the YMCA logo and "Devambez. Gr. Paris". The months are in English and French.
On the inside, two toy soldiers - French and American - holding hands beneath the words 'Best Wishes from "Over Here"' and "1918". Hand written is, "Best Love and Wishes to Little Sister from Big Brother."

1918 YMCA folding calendar card of two child French and American soldiers dancing beneath a ball of mistletoe and the words "With much Love", by Ray or R.A.Y.

Monday, February 22, 1915

"Calais, a town with 66,627 inhab., including St. Pierre-lès-Calais (p. 5), and a fortress of the first class, derives its chief importance from its harbour and its traffic with England, to which it is the nearest port on the French coast. The chalk cliffs and castle of Dover, 21 M. distant, are visible in clear weather. About 300,000 travellers pass through the town annually; and in addition there is a brisk trade in timber, coal, etc. Calais contains 1500 English residents, chiefly engaged in its tuile-manufactories (p. 5).

Calais played a prominent part in the early wars between France and England. Its harbour was the rendezvous for the fleet of the Dauphin Louis, who aid had been invited by the discontented English barons against King John. In 1346-47, after the battle of Crécy, Edward III starved it into surrender after a desperate resistance of eleven months. He consented to spare the town on condition that six noble citizens should place themselves, clad in their shirts and with halters around their necks, at his absolute disposal; and it was only by the urgent intercession of his queen, Philippa of Hainault, that he was induced to spare the lives of the unfortunate men, at whose head was the patriotic Eustache de St. Pierre. Calais remained in the hands of the English until 1558, when the Duke of Guise with 30,000 men succeeded in expelling the small English garrison (500 men) after a siege of seven days. In 1560 Mary Stuart set sail from Calais to assume the Scottish crown; and in 1814 Louis XVIII landed here on his return to his kingdom. The Spaniards made themselves masters of Calais in 1596, but the treaty of Vervins in 1598 restored it permanently to France." *

Tuesday, February 22, 1916

"Bombardments by the German heavy artillery, during February 21st and the night of the 21st-22nd, preceded the charge of the shock divisions. Nowhere before, on any front, in any battle, had anything like it been seen. The Germans aimed to create a 'zone of death,' within which no troops could survive. An avalanche of steel and iron, of shrapnel and poisonous gas shells, fell on our woods, ravines, trenches, and shelters, destroying everything, transforming the sector into a charnel field, defiling the air, spreading flames into the heart of the town, damaging even the bridges and Meuse villages as far as Genicourt and Troyon. Heavy explosions shook our forts and wreathed them in smoke. It would be impossible to describe an action of the kind. I believe it has never been equalled in violence, and it concentrated the devastating fire of more than two million shells in the narrow triangle of land between Brabant-on-Meuse, Ornes, and Verdun." *

Tuesday, February 22, 1916

"yesterday we heard that 4 fortresses of Verdun were taken. There has been a lot of shooting . . . Maybe this is the end of Verdun and peace will come soon . . . the barbed wire on the other side of the card is French. You can see dead patrols" *

Thursday, February 22, 1917

"My brain is so pitifully confused by the war and my own single part in it. All those people I have left in England have talked me nearly to death. The people I have seen out here so far have made me feel that there is no hope for the race of men. All that is wise and tender in them is hidden by the obsession of war. They strut and shout and guzzle and try to forget their distress in dreary gabble about England (and the War!). It is all dull and hopeless and ugly and small.

. . . But spring in this cursed
year of victory will be but a green flag waving a signal for devilish slaughter to begin. The agony of armies will be on every breeze; their blood will stain the flowers. The foulness of battle will cut off all kindliness from the hearts of men." *

Friday, February 22, 1918

"On 6 February [1918], we returned to Lécluse, and on the 22nd, we were accommodated for four days in the cratered field left of the Dury-Hendecourt road, to do digging work in the front line. Viewing the position, which faced the ruined village of Bullecourt, I realized that part of the huge push which was expected up and down the whole Western Front would take place here.

Everywhere there was feverish building, dugouts were constructed, and new roads laid. The cratered field was plastered with little signs stuck in the middle of nowhere, with ciphered letters and numbers, presumably for the disposition of artillery and command posts. Our aeroplanes were up all the time, to keep the enemy from getting a look. To keep everyone synchronized, on the dot of noon every day a black ball was lowered from the observation balloons, which disappeared at ten past twelve." *

* Quotation contexts and sources

At the End

During the four and half years of the Great War from the summer of 1914 to November 11, 1918, over eight million combatants and six million civilians died. In battle, they were killed by new and increasingly powerful weapons, 70% by artillery fire, and in higher percentages than in Europe's wars of the previous century. Civilians died from starvation, from being shelled and bombed, and from genocidal operations against ethnic minorities.

In the war and its aftermath, the empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Turkey were destroyed, and new nations were born and reborn.

New technologies were invented and young ones advanced rapidly - the airplane, poison gas, the machine gun, the tank, flame-throwers, submarines. Industrial production of the technologies, of shells, of bullets, of barbed wire, grew to unprecedented levels.

Societies changed. Women entered the wage labor market to free men up for combat and to meet the production demands of the war. Passports, identity cards, and increased border controls became increasingly common.

When the war itself ended, related wars continued: in Russia, Civil War between the new Bolshevik government and its enemies, both foreign and domestic; in Turkey, war by Greece to seize islands in the Aegean Sea and parts of the mainland of Turkey itself; in Ireland, war for independence from Great Britain.

At the Beginning

On Sunday, June 28, 1914, in the city of Sarajevo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of Austria-Hungary, a team of seven conspirators with grenades, pistols and cyanide capsules/tablets, joined the crowds that had turned out to see Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophie von Hohenberg. A failed assassination attempt - a grenade that slightly wounded spectators and two in the royal couple's entourage - altered some plans and led to other events. A planned visit to City Hall went ahead, but a decision to visit the victims in hospital necessitating a changed route, a failure to inform the drivers of the change, the lead driver's attempt to back to correct the mistake - put the Archduke's stopped car in front of the most determined of the assassins, the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. He stepped forward, averted his eyes, and fired twice, shooting the Archduke through the throat and his wife through the groin. The couple was dead within an hour. The gun, the bombs, the cyanide Princip took, and some of the conspirators would be traced to Serbia.

The Archduke was not popular in Austria-Hungary, and the reaction to his death was muted. But Austria-Hungary was a multi-ethnic, polyglot nation with populations that wanted to leave the empire. Princip had acted to advance his vision of a union of South Slavs that included Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Vienna, the capital, government officials feared the rise of Serbia, which had been victorious and doubled its size in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.

Initial concerns in other European capitals of an Austro-Hungarian response to the assassination lessened as July passed. In Petersburg, the Russian capital, government officials felt they must support Serbia if Austria-Hungary acted. The French and Russian governments communicated their support of their alliance and mutual commitment to aid the other in the event of war. The government of Great Britain, the third member of the Triple Entente with Russia and France, heard little that alarmed it. In Berlin, capital of the German Empire, which was allied with Austria-Hungary and Italy in the Triple Alliance, there was support for a quick and limited military action by Austria-Hungary.

Fears

Defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and humiliated in 1908 when it failed its Balkan ally Serbia, and did not prevent Austria-Hungary's incorporation of Slavic Bosnia-Herzegovina, many government officials in Russia felt the country must act in the next crisis when it inevitably arose. Many in the French government wanted to restore the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine it had lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, but feared a Germany that had a population half again as large as that of France, and worked to strengthen its ties with Russia, in part by financing its ally's rapid recovery from the 1905 war. Having seen the creation and rise of the Balkan states of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece, that had all wrested land and nationhood from the Ottoman Empire, and had come close to eliminating Turkey in Europe, Austria-Hungary feared losing its peoples and territories to these nations and to nations that did not yet exist. Great Britain, with the most powerful fleet in the world, and rule over one quarter of the world's population, but with a small army that was not structured for a European land war, was troubled by Germany's expansion and strengthening of its fleet. Many in the German military thought that war with Russia was inevitable, and that, with the recovery of Russia from the war and revolution of 1915, it should come sooner rather than when Russia had become even stronger. The military also feared a two-front war, facing France to the west, and Russia to the east. The military plan to address this, the Schlieffen Plan, aimed for a rapid defeat of France so that troops could be transported by rail across Germany to face the slowly-mobilizing Russians.

Austria-Hungary's Demands, Mobilization, and War

When Austria-Hungary's response to evidence that Serbia had played a role in the assassination came, there was little time for governments to react. Austria-Hungary submitted demands of Serbia that included unconditional acceptance within 24 hours. As European governments learned of the response, and hurried to react, Serbia accepted all by one of Austria-Hungary's demands, that which most impinged upon its sovereignty. The ambassador receiving the response left immediately for Vienna. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and on the next day bombarded Belgrade, its capital.

Russia mobilized its army in support of Serbia, but with a mobilization plan that activated troops facing not only Austria-Hungary but also Germany. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia and invaded Luxemburg to begin its assault on France. France ordered general mobilization effective August 2, and began executing its plan to attack Germany along their border, through Alsace and Lorraine. On August 3, Germany declared war on France, and requested passage of its troops through Belgium to attack France along its northern border. Belgium, defending the neutrality that France, Germany, and Great Britain had pledged to support, refused. On August 4, Germany invaded Belgium. In Great Britain, where there was significant opposition to the war, the invasion of Belgium shifted the opinion of the public and the government. Britain declared war on Germany.

Across Europe, millions of men were in motion, on trains, horseback, and on foot. France and Britain were bringing troops and laborers from its colonies and the British Commonwealth, France from Algeria, Senegal, and Dahomey, Britain from Egypt and India. Generals had not assembled armies this large before, and had not put them into motion, nor led them into battle. Most generals, most soldiers, most civilians thought the war would end in months, that their their army would be in Berlin, in Paris, in Petersburg, by Christmas, before 1915. Only a few saw this war would be different, and would not end for years.