Thursday 3 July 2014

100 Years on and why it still matters...

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary
assassinated in Bosnia by Serb nationalists 28th June 1914

The 28th June 2014 marked a hundred years since the event that 'sparked' the First World War-a devastating and World changing event that decimated entire countries and, some would argue, an entire generation (the 'lost generation'). The event in question is of course the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand who, at the time, was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Franz was targeted by Bosnian Serb nationalists as a way of showing their frustration with their Austrian rulers.  The Bosnian Serbs no longer wanted to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire-they yearned for their freedom and had the desire to create a 'greater Serbia' with Austria-Hungary's neighbour Serbia.  
Today (3rd July) marks a hundred years since Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were laid to rest in a private ceremony in Austria.  The official ceremony that took place in Sarajevo (where the archduke was shot) on the 28th June to mark 100 years since the assassination was marred with controversy with the notable absence of many Serb and Bosnian officials.  It would seem that even a hundred years on there are still debates to be had over who or what was to blame for the outbreak of war in 1914.  And rightly so in my opinion-historians have been debating this very thing for decades and historiography proves that opinions have changed over the years.  The question of who or what was to blame for the events that followed the 'July Crisis' (the term given to the period from when Franz was shot to the first declaration of war by Austria) go way beyond the event of the 28th June 1914-they include, but are not limited to; the naval race between Britain and Germany, the Moroccan Crises, imperialism, the war plans of various European nations, the complicated alliance system, German aggression and the infamous 'blank cheque', the personality of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and nationalism.  The debate of who exactly was to blame for war in 1914 will rage on further, especially in light of the centenary this August (when Britain entered the war) and has already been on the lips of many British politicians with the left being accused of shying away from the blame game. You may not think it particularly matters who or what was to blame for the war-but there is no doubt that it is a topic that will recur over the next four years as the world contemplates a hundred years since the event in question.
Please let me know your thoughts on the subject. 

Friday 9 May 2014

Great Wyrley High School Centenary Blog

I am excited to introduce to you a new blog that I have put together as part of my new role at school.  Great Wyrley High School are going to be commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War in many different ways-and this blog is going to be highlighting all the wonderful things we're going to be doing.  The first whole school event is taking place on 27th June-Eat like a Tommy Day! The canteen will be serving tasty morsels to the students similar to what would have been served to the soldiers in the trenches.  See the post below to get a sense of some of the food that will be on offer.  Head over to visit Histatic's sister blog-GWHS First World War Centenary Commemorations-and tell me what you think.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Did Tommies eat rats???

Whenever we think about Tommies in the trenches of the First World War, we think about mud, trench foot and a questionable diet.  Is it true that Tommies survived on rock hard biscuits and the occasional rat to satisfy their ever-increasing hunger?  Or was their diet a little better than what we think? I have been looking into this recently in anticipation of launching an 'Eat like a Tommy' day at the school I teach at in Walsall, Staffordshire.
Baldrick from Ben Elton's 'Blackadder' memorably described the best food available to the men in the trenches as 'rat-au-van'.  But despite popular belief the average British soldier's diet at the Front was nutritious and plentiful, even if it was perhaps a little repetitive.  Dishes like chips and egg and curry were popularised during the conflict and soldiers could chow done on things like potato pie and mutton broth.
Food available to the men fighting in France and Belgium was very often far superior and in greater quantity than what was available at home.  For example, "a working class family of two adults and at least one child in Britain would eat 3lb 6oz of beef or mutton a week, along with 19lb 8oz of bread and just over 25lb of potatoes between them, each soldier would receive 8lb 12oz and the same weight in bread. He also had 1lb 5oz of bacon and 3lb 8oz of vegetables" Source
As the war went on more and more food was prepared closer to the front lines to cater for the increase in soldiers serving on the Western front.  As thousands of soldiers from India joined the ranks of the British Army curry was prepared and became more widely available to soldiers.  Of course, the usual dishes still reigned supreme-like 'bully' beef and 'Maconochie' and not everyone was a fan of these trench staples.  One soldier regarded 'Maconochie' as a 'war crime' whilst the French referred to 'bully' as 'monkey'.  But, as soldiers were paid in local currency they were able to supplement their rations with local food bought from cafes and restaurants.
As for rats being trapped, roasted and eaten in desperation because the only alternative was rock hard biscuits-it looks like it could be more of a myth than a reality....
Great Wyrley High School in Walsall, Staffordshire are hosting their 'Eat like a Tommy' day on 27th June 2014.  On the menu will be delights such as; beef tea, curried cod, fish pie, potato pie and milk biscuit pudding.