War and Conflict

Operation Teutonic Sword
09 March 2017

In the Cold War battle for hearts and minds there was documentary film making. In this struggle a small British distributor of left-wing films tried to play its part by showing documentaries made in socialist countries as a counterpoint to Western interpretations of those places behind the iron curtain as menacing and dangerous. Its motto was ‘See the other side of the world’. These were films that often shone a light back on the West and its own misdemeanours. Many of the films it distributed came from East Germany – home of some skilled documentary makers – and one these films in particular led to a legal and political kerfuffle that raised questions of libel, censorship and diplomatic niceties in Cold War Britain.

At all Times Loyal to America: Internment During WWII
24 February 2017

The latest POTUS recently signed the 13776th Executive Order - his twelfth since taking office. Last Sunday, however, marked the 75th anniversary of an earlier order – no. 9066 – which was issued by FDR in 1942. Harmless as this anonymous directive may sound, it gave the US military the authority to designate zones from which ‘any or all people may be excluded’. With this power, the government were able to enact a policy of interning and relocating thousands of its citizens.

Christmas on the Front Line
16 December 2016

It’s difficult to imagine what Christmas day was like in 1914 for soldiers on the front lines in France, Belgium and Germany. We know that the horrors of war didn’t stop, that fighting continued in many parts and that the unofficial truces were opportunities to bury the dead. But we’ve also heard stories of carols sung across the trenches and football games, and we know that during that Christmas – and Christmases for years afterward – soldiers received a small but very special gift.

A date which will live in infamy
07 December 2016

President Roosevelt famously declared December 7th 1941 ‘a date which will live in infamy’. As war raged across Europe, and America - the ‘giant’ - slept on, imperialist forces in Japan plotted a devastating strike on Pearl Harbor. Today marks the 77th anniversary of the deadly attack on that sleepy Hawaiian naval base, an event that would ultimately turn the tide of the Second World War.

Cement, Chemicals, Bricks and Beer: Women in Industry During the First World War
18 October 2016

When we think of the role of women on the Home Front during the First World War, the images which spring to mind are inevitably those of fresh-faced city girls perched precariously on fence posts, wellies on and pitchfork in hand. Think harder and you might also have a vague recollection of countless rows of twenty-somethings handling and packing shell cases in London munitions factories; but what other jobs did women do during the First World War?

The Wipers Times
12 October 2016

Last week I had the opportunity of seeing Ian Hislop’s and Nick Newman’s stage play based upon the true story of The Wipers Times, currently showing at the Watermill Theatre, near Newbury, 22 September – 29 October 2016. I also attended an afternoon discussion session where the co-writers were interviewed about their work and answered questions from the audience. The Wipers Times was a trench journal published by British soldiers fighting on the Ypres Salient during the First World War. It became the most famous example of trench journalism in the English-speaking world.

Spectacle of the First World War: A special guest blog by Elizabeth Mantz
07 October 2016

One of the reasons I like the Adam Matthew resources so much is the visual richness contained within each one. The historical value and depth of the primary source content is complemented and augmented by a wealth of accompanying vivid images, many in colour.

Smiles from the Somme
29 June 2016

On 1st July 1916 the first day of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest campaigns of the First World War, began. Over 141 days, 1.2 million soldiers on both sides of the conflict were injured or killed, in what Captain Blackadder famously referred to as ‘another gargantuan effort to move [Field Marshal Haig’s] drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin.’ 1st July 1916 has gone down on record as the single worst day in the history of the British army; in just one day, the army suffered 60,000 casualties. Desperate to keep the true horrors of the war from civilian eyes, the propaganda machine swung into overdrive.

‘My Dear Old Basil’: Letters from a Shell-Shocked Soldier
04 December 2015

The 4th December marks the anniversary of the publication of a paper entitled ‘The Repression of War Experience’, presented to the Royal School of Medicine in 1917 by W. H. Rivers. Rivers was a psychiatrist and neurologist, mostly known for his work with soldiers suffering from shell-shock, both during and following World War I. His paper advocated the best course of treatment for sufferers of shell-shock was for them to face their painful memories, rather than adopting an ‘ostrich-like policy of attempting to banish them from the mind.’

20 November 2015

Before the close of the Nuremberg trials in October 1946, the Mass Observation team sent out a number of directives asking the public’s opinion on the trials of the Nazi war criminals. The primary response was that they were a waste of time, a waste of tax payer’s money and the verdict a foregone conclusion. The thought process was that these men were guilty, and would be found so, and that the simplest, and cheapest option, would have been to shoot them on the spot (though some had some more brutal ideas).

Armistice Day 1937: a special Guest Blog by Fiona Courage
10 November 2015

I cannot buy a poppy, for I have not got a penny. Not so rich. 11 o’clock, what an unearthly silence. My thoughts are upon my little children in school, their heads will be bowed in reverence to our beloved dead. It is all very sad for the relatives of the fallen, for it seems a pity to keep on reopening an old wound, causing a heartache. I don’t think any body really wishes to remember the war and its horrors. I am thinking about my child’s wet feet, hoping that her leaking shoe will not soak her foot. Wet feet mean bronchitis for her, unless I can stop it with my favourite medicine.

AJEX: British Jewry and Wartime Commemoration
06 November 2015

At the stroke of 11am this Sunday, individuals across Britain, including present day soldiers, veterans and their families, will observe a minute silence to remember the sacrifices of members of the British armed forces and of civilians in times of war. Among them will be members of AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, which, as its name suggests, is made up of British-Jewish men and women who once served in the British Armed Forces. With a current membership of approximately 4,000 people, AJEX has a long and interesting history spanning over ninety years.

Do your duty as workingmen
10 April 2015

Six days from today shall mark the ninety eighth anniversary of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s return to Russia after more than a decade of exile abroad.

Warrior Sportsmen: Rugby Football & the Great War
20 March 2015

If, like me, you have been avidly watching the rugby of both the men’s and women’s Six Nations tournaments over the last few weeks, you will no doubt be feeling the tension rise as we approach the grand finales tomorrow. Whether you have been supporting the English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French or Italians, I think you will agree that it has been a cracking spectacle with the players taking centre stage.

China fights in Britain
22 January 2015

In the British popular memory of the Second World War, China is largely absent. Japan had invaded and annexed Chinese Manchuria eight years before Nazi Germany marched into Poland, so in one sense the war began on Chinese soil. But perhaps it is because of this that we forget about them – they only became our allies because their war with Japan happened, after 1941, to coincide with ours.

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