How Powerful Was The Kaiser?

Christopher Clark, author of The Sleepwalkers, is known for taking a soft line on Germany’s role in the outbreak of war in 1914 – however this is an interesting review of John Rohl’s 3 volume meisterwerk on Wilhlem II:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n08/christopher-clark/how-powerful-was-the-kaiser

Advertisements

Review – Eugene Rogan: ‘The Fall of the Ottomans – The Great War in the Middle East’ – Basic Civitas (2014)

Looking on the Amazon website – http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Fall-Ottomans-Great-Middle/dp/046502307X – this book has garnered universal positive reviews. I have only uncovered one negative review so far – Ephraim Karsh’s review in the TLS.

The book tells the story of the Ottoman Empire from the 1870s through to the late 1920s, and its involvement in the First World War. Many potential readers, like me, will be familiar with parts of this story – Gallipoli in particular, also the Mesopotamia campaign – and very much less familiar with others, e.g. the catastrophic Ottoman Third Army campaign in Eastern Anatolia in 1915, the direct precursor to the ‘final solution’ of the long-running disparate aspirations of the Armenians and the Ottomans. What Rogan succeeds in doing is pulling a number of disparate strands together and making a coherent story, including a number of interesting Ottoman personal accounts. In addition, the book has the advantage of being highly readable.

Karsh criticises the start and the finish of the book. In terms of the start he believes Rogan trots out a trite account of the Ottomans’ being drawn into war as the victims of European machinations. Rather, I found that he emphasizes throughout the unwise aggrandizement of the Young Turk triumvirate. In terms of the end he suggests that Rogan presents a traditional view of France and Britain simply carving up the Middle East map when the reality was much more complex. Again, my own view is that Rogan presents a good deal of that complexity well. Karsh has little to say about the bulk of the book.

It is unfortunate that so many good books on Gallipoli are current – see Peter Hart’s recent offering – and Rogan’s coverage will seem less than truly expert. That the campaign was utterly ill-conceived is evident to us all, but in terms of imperial arrogance based on racism, Rogan’s account reminds us that at Basra, on the Suez Canal, and in the Caucasus, the Ottoman army had been soundly beaten everywhere to date.

My recommendation is ‘read it’. It presents a concise and coherent account of what was a substantial part of the Great War that gets little attention. It also reminds us that despite Turkish Islamicisation of their history of the  Great War, the Ottomans had a multi-ethnic and multi-faith army. Any book covering such a wide remit will have its faults – these are far outweighed by its virtues.

Olympic Gold medalist – Lieutenant-Colonel Arnold Nugent Strode-Jackson

Arnold Nugent Strode-Jackson (5 April 1891 – 13 November 1972) served as CO 13th King’s Royal Rifle Corps from 7 October 1917 to 23 August 1918. His uncle, Clement Jackson had founded the Amateur Athletic Association. “Jackers” had been head of athletics at Malvern and rowed, played football, and captained at hockey for Brasenose College, winning the mile race for Oxford against Cambridge three times as President of the Oxford University Athletic Club. A private entry, not chosen for the British team, and cutting short a fishing holiday in Norway, he was gold medallist at 1500 metres at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. In a close finish against the strong American runners, “Jackers” won by .1 of a second – at the time, it was widely acclaimed as being “the greatest race ever run”.  He was quoted as saying: “On the whole, I think I prefer golf, hockey, boxing and hiking to athletics.” In 1913 he visited America with the combined Oxford and Cambridge team.

Arnold_Jackson

Jackson was commissioned 8 October 1914 into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. In December 1914, he was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant. On 1 July 1916, he was promoted to Captain. He was made an Acting Major by the time of his first DSO on 4 June 1917, and in August 1917, Acting Lieutenant-Colonel. He was made a full Lieutenant-Colonel in May 1918, and Acting Brigadier in October 1918.During his time serving with 13th KRRC a: “‘Grand Athletic Meeting’ was organised. Strode-Jackson ran in the mile handicap, and according to the record, ‘did not appear to take the race seriously until the bell sounded for the last lap, when he got into a raking stride and gave us an idea of his record performance in the Olympic Games’. He won, ‘but like the good sport he was, he allowed the first prize to go to a small Welshman with plenty of pluck, but much shorter legs’”. He was awarded the DSO with three bars – one of only 7 to do so (he was also mentioned in despatches 6 times). The first bar to his DSO was awarded prior to his formal elevation but indicates why this took place:  “During lengthy operations, when he assumed command of the battalion and, although wounded on two separate occasions, was able to carry out most valuable work. By his skill and courage he offered a splendid example to all ranks with him”. The second award was as CO for “powers of command”. The London Gazette citation reads: “His battalion was subjected to an intense bombardment throughout a whole day, which caused many casualties and cut off all communication by wire with the front-line companies. He handled the situation with such skill and initiative that when the enemy attacked towards evening the casualties caused by the bombardment had been evacuated and replaced by reinforcements and communication with the front line had been re-established. It was entirely due to his powers of command and the splendid spirit with which he inspired his men that the attack on the greater part of the front was repulsed, and that the enemy, though they had penetrated into parts of the front line, were counter-attacked and held at bay until the arrival of reinforcements. By his skilful dispositions he materially assisted the counter-attack which drove the enemy back with heavy losses and completely re-established the position”. The last award was “for conspicuous gallantry and brilliant leadership. During an attack by our troops Lt-Col Jackson advanced with the leading wave of his battalion, and was among the first to reach the railway embankment. The machine-gun fire against them was intense, but the gallant leading of this officer gave such impetus to the assault that the enemy¹s main line of resistance was broken. He was subsequently wounded during the work of consolidation.” The three entries give something of the measure of the man.

strode jackson

Some sources suggest he was promoted Acting Brigadier-General in October 1918, but there is no London Gazette entry to confirm this.

He was a member of the British delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, and was awarded the CBE for his work there. Having a law degree from Oxford, he was called to the Bar at Middle Temple. He went on to be a member of the British Olympic Council in 1920, but emigrated to the United States in 1921, where he worked in industry and as a Justice of the Peace in Connecticut. During World War II, he was a Colonel on the staff of the Governor of Kentucky, and Administration Officer of the Inspection Board of U.K. and Canada in New York and Ottawa, in charge of Inspectors and anti-sabotage precautions.

 

From Private to Lieutenant-Colonel to Ambassador, Columbia – Gilbert Mackereth

Gilbert “‘Ert” Mackereth was born in 1892 in Salford, the son of a banker. He went to Manchester Grammar School and University where he became a good racquet sportsman. On graduation he became a insurance building surveyor. He enlisted in the 21st Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, on 19 November 1914. He went to the Western Front almost a year later on 14 November 1915. As a private, he was one of the first cadets at No.6 Officer Cadet Battalion, Balliol College, Oxford, starting on 15 March 1916, for four months. He was commissioned on 6 July 1916 into the 3rd Lancashire Fusiliers. Posted to the 17th Battalion (a bantam unit), he gained a reputation for patrolling. In early 1917 he became acting-Adjutant, but saw action in front of Gricourt with his old X Company, a patrol of which had become cut off, when he won the MC. He became Adjutant on 1 May 1917, but as a temporary Captain he was badly wounded in the left thigh placing matting to cross wire during the battalion’s raid at Canal Wood, Cambrai, on 21 August 1917. He was treated at the High Street Military Hospital, Manchester, where he spent 5 months, only returning to France on 15 June 1918.  He became a temporary Major on 21 June and acting Lieutenant-Colonel on 26 August, at the age of 26. He had been commissioned for 25 months, of which had been away wounded for 10. He served as CO until April 1919, after a spell as 2 i/c from 13 September to 29 October.

Gilbert Mackereth

After the war he joined the Diplomatic Service, and was knighted 1952. He married in 1921. He was variously consul at Addis Abbaba, Damascus, in East Africa, Ankara, again at Damascus, (where he became unpopular with certain prominent figures for his views), Morocco, as Consul General in Java, and as Ambassador to Columbia. He died in Spain, where he had been living in 1962. He was nearly evicted from his grave due to unpaid taxes, saved by WFA member Terry Dean’s campaign in 2010. His ashes were returned for burial in England in 2011, making him the first repatriation of a WW1 soldier’s remains since the Unknown Soldier.

Lt-Col Edgar Mobbs – ‘I will begin as private and if I am any good I will work my way up’.

A week or two ago in this blog, I discussed the citizen CO George Gater, promoted brigadier-general on the strength of his enormous organisational skills.

Another citizen CO who demonstrated dynamic leadership with very different origins at every stage of his military career was Edgar Robert Mobbs. Born in Northampton in 1882, the son of the managing director of an engineering works, Mobbs attended a grammar school, Bedford Modern. He played rugby there aged eight-and-a-half, but a knee injury kept him out of the game until after he left, and he joined Northampton Rugby Football Club in 1904, captaining the following year. After playing for East Midlands, the Barbarians, and Toulouse, he played for England on seven occasions, captaining his country against the Australians in 1910. His leadership skills may have been nutured on the playing field, but had no debt to the public school ethos. He retired from rugby in 1913, ‘Boy’s Own’ magazine declaring him a ‘sporting hero’, and on the outbreak of war his organisational skills were engaged as director of The Pytchley Motor Car Company. He enlisted in the Northamptonshire Regiment on 14 September 1914, stories conflicting as to the circumstances. Some suggest that he was viewed at the age of 32 as too old for a commission; but after his death Lord Downe described him as ‘the most modest man I ever knew in my life’. He noted how: ‘When I started the campaign for Kitchener’s army he was asked if he could help. He at once produced 400 men and was offered a commission; but he said “No thank you, I am not a trained soldier. I know nothing about it. I will begin as private and if I am any good I will work my way up”’.

mobbs

In terms of working his way up, Mobbs began Monday 14 September as a private and finished it as sergeant of ‘D’ company. Eighteen days later he was a lieutenant. His charisma indeed allowed him to raise his own company of 264 men as ‘D’ Company, 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment (400 serving in it in all). This included many rugby players, including E.R. Butcher, captain of Devon, and H. Willett, captain of Bedford; and inevitably became known as ‘Mobbs’ Own’ or ‘Mobbs’ Sportsmen’. The Northampton ‘Saints’ scrum-half, G.H. Percival turned up at the recruiting office and when told he was too short, retorted ‘My Captain said to come and join up, so here I am’ – he clearly viewed Mobbs as a higher authority than the War Office. Arriving on the Western Front in September 1915 in time for the Battle of Loos, Mobbs had his first brief taste of command when Lieutenant-Colonel A. Parkin was killed there. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 23 April 1916, the journey from lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel being two months shorter than George Gater’s. Wounded twice, Mobbs received the DSO for his performance as CO in 1916. He was killed on 29 July 1917, in Shrewsbury Forest, Ypres, his death demonstrating his character. Hearing that most of his officers were casualties, he left his headquarters to lead the battalion, and finding it held up by a machine gun, ordered a lieutenant and a party of men to work round one flank, whilst he worked round the other flank with his runner. He was shot in the neck and fell into a shell hole, where he wrote a note describing the situation for his runner to take back. He died there alone. Earl Spencer described him on the day of the notification of his death as ‘a most admirable organiser, a patriotic man, a born soldier’.