Tag Archives: World war one

A look at the ‘Mad Minute’

A typical Tommy of the BEF’s original 1914, “The Old Contemptibles.” Not to be trifled with.

While slow, aimed, and deliberate fire was preferred– early SMLEs had magazine cut-off switches to leave the 10-rounds in the magazine as a sort of emergency reserve, forcing users to hand-feed single cartridges into the chamber as they went– the average “Tommy” was trained to deliver rapid-fire when needed, topped off by 5-shot charging clips.

As described in the British musketry regulations of the day, a trained rifleman should be able to lay down between 12 and 15 rounds in a minute, accurately.

In practice, the “Mad Minute” drill on the range became a standard of Commonwealth infantry for almost a half-century, with Australian troops still documented as carrying it out in the 1950s just before the Enfield was replaced with inch-pattern semi-auto FN FALs. Surpassing the 12-15 round minimum mark, some were able to squeeze in over 20 rounds in the same allotted time. One riflery instructor, Sergeant Alfred Snoxall, was credited with being able to deliver an amazing 38 hits on target with his Enfield in a one-minute period.

You see the Sergeant on the left, with an eye peeled for cockups? He will make sure your musketry is correct and by the book.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Remember, today is not about saving upto 20% on select merchandise

Division Cemetery, Okinawa, 1945, Photo via Marine Corps Archives

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2019: The good doctor’s fine ‘Frida

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2019: The good doctor’s fine ‘Frida

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Here we see the fourth-rate scout patrol vessel USS Elfrida at the New York Navy Yard, circa 1899, just after the Spanish-American War. A steel schooner with fine lines, she looks like a gentleman’s yacht that would be more at home on Lake Champlain if it was not for her mix of 3-pdr and 1-pdr deck guns.

Speaking of which…

Prior to the dustup with the decaying Spanish Empire, Elfrida was the personal pride of one Dr. William Seward Webb, founder of Shelburne Farms and President of the Wagner Palace Car Company of New York (that latter of which later became Pullman).

This guy:

Webb came from the best family.

His father, a Whig, held the rank of general (as did his grandfather) and was minister to Austria, Brazil and other points of interest– importantly brokering a deal with Napoleon III to get French troops out of Mexico. Webb’s older brother was the likewise meticulously groomed and well-dressed Union Brig. Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who famously earned the MOH at Gettysburg at the head of the Philadelphia Brigade on Cemetery Ridge.

When your brother has a monument at Gettysburg, your dad got the French out of Mexico, and your granddad picked up a star from Washington himself, you may come from an illustrious family.

Studying medicine in Europe, the younger Webb acquired a love of Mozart and Schutzen target rifle shooting, both of which he brought back to the U.S., usinb the latter as “Inspector General of Rifle Practice” for the Vermont militia with the state rank of colonel.

Built at a cost of $100,000 by the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company Wilmington, Delaware (the same firm built yachts for customers such as Charles Morgan, William Astor, and W. K. Vanderbilt) Elfrida was launched at the yard on 13 April 1889.

She was reportedly the “first steam yacht ever built with both a detachable stern and bow” so that Webb could use her on to pass through the narrow canals to Lake Champlain. She went just 117-feet long overall, closer to 102 at the waterline.

Finished in paneled red mahogany, “Colonel” Webb’s double stateroom was aft and three others were set aside for guests– each with its own lavatory. The crew had another trio of staterooms forward but had to share a head.

Electrically lit and steam-heated, the very modern schooner carried telegraph for use when close to line and used a triple expansion engine as an “iron mainsail” complete with a steam plant consisting of a compact Hazelton vertical water tube boiler that generated 160 pounds of steam. Her speed was about 10ish knots.

Photograph of the Webb family steam yacht Elfrida, with the crew, docked at Steam Yacht Elfrida at Quaker Smith Point at Shelburne Farms on Lake Champlain. Julie Edwards (Shelburne Farm’s archivist) writes on 06-03-2008 that the image ( depicts Elfrida I, the darker hulled vessel and the image would date c. 1888-1898. UVM photo SF1026

A favorite of the Lake Champlain Yacht Club (which still exists today) Elfrida was the commodore’s ship for the regatta off Plattsburg, New York in August 1897 attended by no less a personage as President William McKinley along with Vice President Garret Hobart in tow.

Webb also apparently packed a fairly loud “yacht gun,” as one did, to celebrate during “the season.”

When the “Splendid little war” came just the very next summer, Webb did his personal duty and sold Elfrida on 18 June 1898 to the Navy for the relatively paltry sum of $50,000. Refitted at New York Navy Yard with a single 3-pounder 47mm gun and a pair of 1-pounder 37mm pieces, she was commissioned less than two weeks later, on 30 June, and immediately put to service on coastal patrols between New York and New London.

As the war was short and the Spanish never made it up to the Northeast, she was placed out of commission 14 September 1898, service in her first war complete.

DANFS says she was used by the Naval Militia in Connecticut and New Jersey to train seagoing militiamen from 1899 to 1908 in the days prior to the establishment of the Navy Reserve. Typical summer cruises would range a week or two and often proved eventful, with the New York Times reporting one such 1903 voyage encountering a “frightful” storm at sea.

In 1908, our 20-year-old armed patrol yacht was decommissioned and her powerplant swapped out for a new 200ihp engine powered by two boilers with an increased speed of 14 knots.

By 20 August 1909, along with the old torpedo boat USS Foote (TB-3), Elfrida was assigned to the North Carolina Naval Militia, a force she belonged to as a drill and school ship until the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917. While there, her armament was upgraded to a single 6-pounder 57mm rapid-fire mount.

USS ELFRIDA at New Bern NC circa 1909-13 as North Carolina naval militia ship. Postcard via Valentine Souvenir Co. NH 94934

North Carolina Naval Militia, Elizabeth City Detachment, 1907. BM2 Leonard K. Rutter, standing on the far left, back row, has his uniform preserved at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

In 1914, the 32 ships allocated to the 19 various Naval Militias were diverse and somewhat motley. These ranged from the old cruiser USS Boston (3,000 tons, 2×8 inch, Oregon Naval Militia) and the shallow draft monitor USS Cheyenne (3,255 tons, 2×12 inch, Washington Naval Militia) to the downright puny yacht USS Huntress (82 tons, 2×3 pdrs, Missouri NM) and everything in between. Notably, several of the ships were on the Great Lakes training reservists in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. Like Elfrida, most had a SpanAm War pedigree.

When Congress declared war on the Kaiser in April 1917, the remobilized Elfrida (SP-988) returned to the active fleet and resumed her 1898 mission of coastal patrol, rated, along with the old 100-ton ex-Spanish Navy gunboat USS Sandoval as, “suitable for harbor defense only.”

On 25 August 1917, she suffered an explosion while making the passage from Norfolk to Yorktown, Virginia, killing one and injuring two others. This likely limited her wartime career and, after a stint assigned to the 5th Naval District to patrol to take charge of a fleet of motorboats tending the submarine nets at York River Upper Barrier, she was demobilized at the end of 1917. Before the war was even out, she was decommissioned 31 March 1918 and sold 11 May 1918.

Her final fate is unknown.

As for the esteemed Dr. Webb, he passed in 1926, aged 75, but his model farm at Shelburne, Vermont, where Elfrida was often docked, is today a National Landmark non-profit institute that does research into sustainable farming techniques.

Elfrida‘s plans and those of 207 other Holling & Hollingsworth built vessels, are in the collection of the Mariners’ Museum Library in Newport News.

Specs:

Her 1914 Jane’s entry, under North Carolina’s Naval Militia

Displacement: 164 to 173 tons
Length (between perps) 101′ 6″
Length (on deck) 117′ 0″
Beam molded 18′ 0″
Depth at side 12′ 6″
Draft: 7′ 9″
Machinery (As built)
Engine triple expansion engine 10½”xl6″x24″/ 16″ 200hp, Hazelton boiler
Dia. of wheel 6′ 4″
Pitch 8′ 6″
Coal: 12 tons, as built (listed as 23 max in Navy service)
Speed: 10.5 knots as built, 14 knots after 1909.
Crew: Unk in civilian service, likely 20-25 in Naval service.
Armor: None
Armament:
(1898)
1 x 47mm 3-pounder
2 x 37mm 1-pounders
*Note, Jane‘s listed this as standard through her career
(1911)
1 x 57mm 6-pounder

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One of Lawrence of Arabia’s hoglegs surfaces

The UK’s National Army Museum recently announced they have received a historic revolver tied to an iconic British adventurer from World War I.

The revolver, which looks to be an early Smith & Wesson 1st Model Hand Ejector in .44 — the company’s first N-frame– is engraved with the name of Ashraf Bey.

Who? More in my column at Guns.com

The travels of Springfield M1903 SN#1

With the recommendation of Brig. Gen. William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance,  then-Secretary of War William H. Taft on 19 June 1903 adopted U.S. Rifle Model 1903 .30 as the standard infantry rifle of the Army.

The very first production rifle, SN#1 left the assembly line at Springfield Armory in November of the same year (100 prototype rifles never saw service outside of tests).

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The first year’s production saw 30,503 rifles produced in just two months, with Springfield suspending production for good in 1940 with SN#1,592,563, switching to the M1 Garand exclusively while Remington and Smith Corona spent the rest of WWII making M1903A3/A4 variants.

Good ole SN#1 floated around for about 14 years, was modified in 1905, rebarreled in 1909 (it carries the mark SA/bomb/4-09), and then issued in WWI.

The man who received it, according to legend, was Frank C. Lynaugh, of Haverhill, Ma., who carried the weapon while attached to the E Company of the 49th Infantry Regiment.

From Springfield:

Mr. Lynaugh claimed the weapon was issued to him in troop camp while in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1917 still packed in cosmoline. He carried the weapon with him to France. But while training with a Signal Unit in France, the weapon was taken away from him. Mr. Lynaugh was issued an M1917 Enfield. “I hated the darn Enfields,” said Lynaugh, “and wished I had my Springfield back.”

Fifty-six years later, while visiting the Springfield Armory, Mr. Lynaugh got his wish. He told the curator, Tom Wallace, that he carried the first M1903 rifle made. Wallace went to the storage area and retrieved the weapon. “Yes sir, that’s my old gun. I got old, but it looks the same,” said Lynaugh.

As you may have guessed, the gun was found with troops in France and shipped back to the states, where it likely sat in arsenal storage for several more years before it was transferred to the Springfield Armory from the Ordnance Office, Washington, D.C. on 8 July 1925. It is believed the original stock was probably damaged in museum fire and has since been restocked, but has been in the museum’s collection ever since.

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1916 redux

I’m not sure the origin of these layouts of 1916 military infantryman’s gear, but they are great.

French. Note this is well after the war began as the red trousers have been replaced.

The kit of a French Private Soldier in the Battle of Verdun, 1916, collection provided by Paul Bristow, Croix de Guerre Living History Group, photographed by Thom Atkinson. Note this is well after the war began as the red trousers have been replaced and the extensive grenade collection. The non-standard walking cane is great

British/Commonwealth. Note the SMLE .303 with bayonet and wirecutting accessory just off the muzzle. Also the extensive field mess kit. To the left there is the classic non-standard trench mace and the E-tool handle with pike/shovel blade.

Equipment of a British Sergeant in the Battle of the Somme, 1916. Supplied by Nigel Bristow, The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. photographed by Thom Atkinson. Note the SMLE .303 with bayonet and wire-cutting accessory just off the muzzle. Also the extensive field mess kit. To the left there is the classic non-standard trench mace and the E-tool handle with pike/shovel blade. The canvas cover on the Brodie helmet is rare.

German. Note the camoflauged Stalhelm at the top right and the rifle grenade near the muzzle of the Gew 98 Mauser.

Equipment of a German Private in the Battle of the Somme, 1916, collection provided by Paul Bristow, Croix de Guerre Living History Group, photographed by Thom Atkinson. Note the camouflaged Stalhelm at the top right and the rifle grenade near the muzzle of the Gew 98 Mauser.

 

Russian. They spent a lot of effort on this one as you can tell from the ushanka fur cap (left) Shinel greatcoat (right) Gymnastiorka selection, Bashlyk Circassian hood and gloves. Also note the M1912 "Lantern Head" Grenade. Curiously, the Russians, widely beleived by many to be backward militarily at the time, was one of the first to adopt and issue hand grenades before the War to include the M1912 and the hex-shaped design of Col. Stender-- having gained experience in field expediant ones in the 1904-05 Seige of Port Arthur. This partiular model was redesigned and lived on as the M1914/30 which was only totally withdrawn from Warsaw Pact service in the 1980s. The only thing I have to throw rocks at on this one is that I think the rifle is a 91/30 and not a Mosin 91, but close enough. Also, the Adrian helmets were only used by the Russian Expeditionary Brigade sent to the Western Front.

Equipment from the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, collection supplied by Bruce Chopping, Ian Skinner and Laura Whitehouse of the 1914-21 Society, photographed by Thom Atkinson. They spent a lot of effort on this one as you can tell from the ushanka fur cap (left) Shinel greatcoat (right) Gymnastiorka selection, Bashlyk Circassian hood and gloves. Also note the M1912 “Lantern Head” Grenade. Curiously, the Russians, widely believed by many to be backward militarily at the time, was one of the first to adopt and issue hand grenades before the War to include the M1912 and the hex-shaped design of Col. Stender– having gained experience in field expedient ones in the 1904-05 Siege of Port Arthur. This particular model was redesigned and lived on as the M1914/30 which was only totally withdrawn from Warsaw Pact service in the 1980s. The only thing I have to throw rocks at on this one is that I think the rifle is a 91/30 and not a Mosin 91 (and many images of the Women’s Battalion show them with Japanese Arisakas, but I digress), but close enough. Also, the Adrian helmets were only used by the Russian Expeditionary Brigade sent to the Western Front.

US Infantryman (Doughboy), arrival in France, 1917. Equipment provided by: Lee Martin, historical adviser, collector and living historian, photographed by Thom Atkinson. Note the cleanest campaign hat ever! Also keep in mind that, while the "Regulars" showed up in France with M1903 Springfields, most of the new Yanks came over with Enfields. The dominoes are a nice touch

US Infantryman (Doughboy), arrival in France, 1917. Equipment provided by: Lee Martin, historical adviser, collector and living historian, photographed by Thom Atkinson. Note the cleanest campaign hat ever! Also keep in mind that, while the “Regulars” showed up in France with M1903 Springfields, most of the new Yanks came over with Enfields. The dominoes are a nice touch

If anyone knows the source, please let me know so I can link back. Thanks

Update: Apparently they showed up on Imgur last week. Original is here. Photos updated with sources. More info here.

Men Of Iron

don tro

Men of Iron by Don Troiani : Doughboys assault German positions in the Bois de Mort Mare during the Battle of St. Mihiel.

Battle of St. Mihiel, the Bois de Frière, Sept. 12, 1918

The 3/358th Infantry, 90th Division, was designated the assault unit for the American attack on the morning of September 12. As they were moving forward toward their jump-off positions before dawn, the unit was caught by German counter-battery fire. Major Allen, battalion commander, was wounded and evacuated while unconscious to an aid station in the rear. Regaining his senses, Allen removed his medical tag and sought to rejoin his unit, which had already advanced through the Bois de Frière. Allen gathered a group of men separated from their units and led them forward. They discovered a group of Germans bypassed by the first wave of American troops emerging from their dugout. Allen led his men in desperate hand-to-hand combat with the Germans. After emptying his pistol and despite his wounds, Allen fought with his fists, losing several teeth and suffering another serious wound.

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Allen and his men are shown engaging the Germans in the trench. On the morning of September 12, American troops wore raincoats to protect against the rain. Allen is using his .45-caliber pistol which was standard issue for American officers. American tactical doctrine required the assault battalions to advance as quickly as possible toward their first objective line. Follow-on battalions were given the task of mopping up German strongpoints bypassed by the leading troops. The American early morning artillery barrage drove many German units into the protection of their dugoutsand many were passed over by the first wave of American troops. During the St. Mihiel offensive several American support units engaged in desperate battles to clean out small groups of Germans scattered throughout the woods.

Allen would rise to command the American 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily in World War II. Criticized for lax discipline, Allen was relieved of his command by General Dwight Eisenhower. Allen was then assigned to command the 104th Infantry Division and he led them through the Battle of the Bulge and Germany’s surrender in May 1945.

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An American attack in the Seicheprey region, in a watercolor by the artist-correspondent Harvey Dunn.

Last of the Crown Princes Dies

At the beginning of World War One in 1914 there sat three Royal families. The Romanovs on the seat of Imperial Russia in St. Petersburg, the Hohenzollerns on the throne of Imperial Germany in Berlin, and the Hapsburgs on the combined KuK throne of Austria and Hungary.

In 1914 they ruled most of the world. It should be remembered that Russia held 1/6th of the Worlds land mass including what is now Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, most of Poland, the Caucasus, et al.

In Austria most of what is now central Europe and the Balkans were unified under the old Hapsburg throne, the last holdout of the millennium old Holy Roman Empire. It was an Austrian archduke’s death, Franz Ferdinand, that ignited the entire WWI thing after all.

By 1918 all of these empires had been swept away. The Tsar and his family lay buried in a shallow grave in the forests of the Ural mountains, executed by the Bolsheviks. The Kaiser of Germany, with his mustache still perfect was in exile in Holland. The Hapsburgs of Austria had been banished from their country as well.

Little Archduke Otto, not yet four when he was crowned and only six when his family throne was dissolved, fled Austria for a life of exile. In nearly a hundred years on the run he was offered  the throne of Spain by Franco (which he turned down), was given a death sentence by Hitler (who was Austrian and was found unfit to serve in the Imperial Austrian Army in 1914 it should be remembered), and had a hand in the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Poor homeless Otto finally passed quietly away July 4, 2011 at age 98…since he was titularly on the rolls of the Imperial Army in World War One he may be considered Austria last WWI veteran…he was still in exile in Germany when he died.

Truly the end of an era.