10th September, 1915 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: in New York City – Edmond O’Brien, actor.


Local journalism, 100 years ago today:  in England, the Western Times provides its readers with an update:

“Cycle accident     – On enquiry at the Royal Devon and Hospital last evening we were informed that the youth, Albert Madge, who met with a  serious accident on Wednesday through colliding, while cycling, with a taxi-cab in Queen-street, Exeter, had passed  a comfortable day.”



Crime and punishment: At the Tower of London, at 6.00AM, Ernst Waldemar Melin, a Swedish national, is executed by firing squad for the crime of spying on behalf of the German government.


2nd September 1915 (Thursday)

BORN TODAY: in the old clubhouse at Prince’s Golf Course, Sandwich Bay in Kent, England – Percy Belgrave “Laddie” Lucas, CBE, DSO and Bar, DFC. Stowe, Cambridge Golf Blue, Royal Air Force, brother-in-law of Mrs Douglas Bader, Conservative Member of Parliament, Sunday Express columnist and Walker Cup Captain. In short: so frightfully British you couldn’t make it up.


29th June 1915 (Tuesday)

BORN TODAY: Frank Slade, Australian rules footballer.



In Africa: British forces take control of Ngaundere in German Kamerun (“the battle of Ngaundere”).


The British home Front:  The Western Times appeals to its readers to play their part in protecting infantrymen and artillery men  at the front:

Millions Wanted, but They Must be the Right Kind

“… The soldier’s life depends on the integrity of the sandbag sent to him, so do not betray him by sending him bags wrongly made…They must have 1in. turnings, and must be strongly made. The Mayoress’s Depot at Exeter is open to receive any amount of sandbags, and they should be sent in without delay”. 


15th May 1915 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: in London – Hilda Schwarz (later Bernstein), journalist, author, artist, activist, communist and exile.



The Dardanelles: Senior British Admiral Sir John Fisher resigns in protest at what he perceives to be Churchill’s misplaced obsession with forcing the Dardanelles, a strategy which has so far yielded nothing but many thousands of deaths [Burg & Purcell].

The Western Front: After a 60 hour bombardment by 433 artillery pieces   firing about 100,000 shells, British General Sir Douglas Haig launches his British, Indian and Canadian  army against the German defences on the first day of the Battle of Festubert.  After 10 days and over 20,000 casualities the Allies will have gained approximately 3 kilometres. Overall losses for the Second Battle of Artois (of which this forms part) are in the order of 200,000 German, French, British, Indian and Canadian men, including over 100,000 Frenchmen [Wikipedia].



The Reuters News Agency files unconfirmed reports (from the Spanish government) of a revolutionary coup in Portugal, where all communications (railway, telegraph etc) have been cut and there are (unfounded) rumours that the ex-Premier, Afonso Costa, has been assassinated.


14th May, 1915 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: in Bergen – Olaf Sunde, Norwegian resistance fighter, lawyer and workers’ rights activist.



The politics of the arms race: The Times of London reports on the “shell crisis” facing British forces on the Western Front, thereby implicitly criticising the government for the supply chain failures:

“Need for shells: British attacks checked: Limited supply the cause: A Lesson From France… We had not sufficient high explosives to lower the enemy’s parapets to the ground … The want of an unlimited supply of high explosives was a fatal bar to our success”. [Wikipedia]


9th April, 1915 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: On the Island of Vis in the Austro-Hungarian empire (now in Croatia) – Tomislav Bradanovic Lincir, migrant, actor and lover of fruit trees.



The Western Front: The “Times” of London reports rumours that German forces are planning to use chemical weapons against the Allies:

“It has been reported that in the Argonne, where the trenches are very close, the Germans have on several occasions pumped blazing oil or pitch onto the French, but, according to the statements of our prisoners, they are preparing a more novel reception for us in front of parts of our line. They propose to asphyxiate our men if they advance by means of poisonous gas. The gas is contained under pressure in steel cylinders, and, being of a heavy nature, will spread along the ground without being dissipated quickly.”


The Middle East: Sir John Nixon arrives in Basra, in Turkish Mesopotamia (now Iraq) to take command of the original Expeditionary Force, with orders to carry on with a further advance of 60 miles up the Tigris from al-Qurnah to Erza’s tomb and al-Amara.


27th February 1915 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: In Herne Hill, Middlesex – Squadron Leader Gordon Alfred Denby, DFC, lost in the North Sea in December 1942, aged 27, when the engine of his Beaufighter X7963 failed.



Society and culture: In England’s west country, the “Western Times” reports on the behaviour of three youths in Exeter…

…Bertie Webber, of 32, Combe Street, Walter Swanston, Market Street, and Alfred Beer, 5, Friars Walk, admitted playing football in the public street on Friday last. They expressed regret, and were ordered to pay 1s each.”



…and nearby, in central Dorset, four battalions of the Royal Naval Division are marching, wearing pith helmets in the pouring rain, across the downs to Shillingstone Station on the first stage of their journey by train to Gallipoli, where many will die in the coming months.


15th February 1915 (Monday)

BORN TODAY: in Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad – Claudia Vera Cumberbatch, later Claudia Jones, political activist and black nationalist deported from the USA during the McCarthy era; asylum seeker in 1950s Britain; founder of the “West Indian Gazette”; and considered to be the “Mother of Notting Hill Carnival”.



Eastern Front: German troops capture Plozk on the Vistula River [Burg & Purcell].

Balkan Front: In Rome, Sidney Sonnino, the Italian foreign minister, officially informs the Austro-Hungarian government in Vienna that its military action in the Balkans has violated the “Triple Alliance” between Italy, Austria and Germany. Although Italy is still officially a neutral state in the war this declaration is effectively an invitation for the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Britain) to come up up with a better offer to buy Italy’s support against the Triple Alliance. [Mark Thompson: “The White War – Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919″].

Colonial unrest: In Singapore, Indian soldiers mutiny in response to rumours that they are to be sent to Turkey to fight against fellow muslims (the Singapore or “Sepoy” mutiny).



5th February, 1915 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: in New York City – Robert Hofstader, Nobel prize winning nuclear physicist.



In the Ottoman Empire: the Philadelphia “Saturday Evening Post” publishes a Turkish proclamation announcing and justifying the deportation of Armenians from the Empire.


On the Home Front: in London, Lancelot Dickinson Chapman is exposed in the Daily Mirror newspaper under the headline “Bogus VC Hero” after he spent several months “invent[ing] a persona for himself as a battlefield hero” . Later in the month he is sentenced to 10 months hard labour for his deception. [Great War London, blog].


30th January 1915 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: in Kensington, London – Brigadier John Dennis (“Jack”) Profumo, 5th Baron Profumo in the nobility of Sardinia, educated at Harrow and Oxford, Secretary of State for the British War Office from 1960-1963 (when he resigned after a scandal involving Christine Keeler, a model with “connections” to a Soviet diplomat); and later a volunteer East End toilet cleaner while retaining his membership of the Boodles (gentleman’s) club in London’s St James. “His friend, social reform campaigner  Lord Longford said he ‘felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I’ve known in my lifetime’ ”. [Wikipedia].



War at Sea: German U-boat SM U-20 sinks two British cargo vessels in the English Channel/ La Manche, while SM U-21 sinks another three in the Irish Sea. All twenty one crewmen from the vessel “Oriole” are drowned. The crewmen from the other four vessels are thankfully all rescued by nearby ships.


War of Words: The British “Spectator” magazine publishes a review of a newly published book “What’s Wrong with Germany?”, but also goes on to offer its own diagnosis:

“We believe that, if the inquiry is to be pushed to the ultimate point, what is wrong with the Germans is their dreadful, their slavish devotion to Logic— to the “Absolute” and to Abstractions. When English- men create an Abstraction they do not call upon all mankind to enthrone it. They treat it as some- thing which is ” there or thereabouts,” as something useful, no doubt, but not to be pressed too far. When the Germans create an Abstraction they fall down and worship it. They not only treat it with intellectual servility, but regard it as a living thing. When their Abstraction is once established, they will not place any limits on its authority. They follow it ruth- lessly, relentlessly, remorselessly, and to the bitter end. The result is what we see in the world to-day—the earth reeking with blood, Belgium, Poland, and some of the fairest parts of France drinking the cup of suffering to the dregs, and millions of men by land and sea locked in a death struggle. Truly did Mme. de Steel use the words which we have placed as a motto to this article—” Thinking calms men of other nations; it inflames the Germans.” They are maddened by an Abstraction, but they adore it. Frankenstein had to obey the monster he created, but he loathed and feared it. Germany, the new Frankenstein, worships her creations, and is willing to follow them through blood and fire, no matter what the consequence to herself or to the rest of mankind.” [Spectator, 30th January 1915].



US influence in Europe: Colonel Edward House, US President Wilson’s special adviser on foreign affairs, sails for Europe in pursuit of peace talks after holding bilateral discussions with the German and British ambassadors in Washington. [Burg & Purcell].