Through Adversity to the Stars

Well, in featuring our Easter series, we missed something yesterday. Yes, we missed April Fools Day, but that is not what I had in mind.

1 April 2018 was the centenary of the Royal Air Force. Almost the oldest air force in the world. Apparently, Finland’s is a  few months older, but was in a civil war at the time and had very few aircraft. Even then Britain Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were formidable air forces. Here’s a bit about how it came about.

You have no doubt noticed that Britain consolidated the Navy and Army air services in forming the RAF, something America never did. In fact, to this day, we have three full-scale air forces: The US Air Force, the Navy’s air force, and the Marine’s air force. They all are multipurpose but have different emphases. USAF is ground-based, USN mostly carrier based, and USMC again mostly carrier based but geared toward air support of ground forces. But the US services are quite a lot bigger than Britain’s, and by the time the USAF was formed, in 1948, well, the various air services were far too entrenched and had much too much history for it to happen.

Then this, where the RAF saved Britain and the free world. If they had lost, it is highly unlikely that the war would have been won.

Churchill was never known for understatement, but truly he did when he said –

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

That is part of the story, the easy part, defending one’s home. But defending oneself does not win wars. Wars are won by destroying anything that supports the enemy’s war effort. And Britain did superbly at that. That it is still controversial is appalling, wars, especially existential wars for survival, are fought with any available weapon. Bomber command did nothing that the Wehrmacht did not do at Stalingrad or the Red Army at Berlin. This is a fairly non-biased story of that.

Like the 8th United States Army Air Force, Bomber Command took horrendous casualties but saved many British and American soldiers lives. Was it as effective as they hoped? No. Giulio Douhet was wrong. Wars are not won by air campaigns, they are won by men with rifles and bayonets. But many of those soldiers lived because of the men in the bombers. And we didn’t have to fight the third round, against the Soviet Union, because those same men went on to convince the Soviets that they would be destroyed, as the Germans had been.

And it continues, we saw an example in our own time when a British Vulcan bomber strike mission launched in England struck Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, disrupting the Argentinian command and control, easing the way for the ground forces to recover the island.

And now, a hundred years from its founding, the RAF is still looking to its future, as it too welcomes the F35 Lightning II into the inventory.

One of the things that caught my eye, that F35 on display bears the markings of one of the US Marine Corp squadrons (VMF). And that too is appropriate, since US Marine Corps wings will sometimes be assigned to Britain’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which looks like it will be second only in power to an American fleet carrier. And note this, the United Kingdom is the only power that the United States trusts enough to place entire units of our military under their command. Ever, this is the first time it has happened.

Congratulations to the Royal Air Force, and here’s to many more years of keeping the peace and fighting the wars of a free people.

The title is the accepted translation of the RAF motto.

And the final installment of our Easter series will come up at noon today.

 

Remembrance Sunday

English: John McCrae Français : John McCrae

English: John McCrae Français : John McCrae (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday we celebrated Veterans’ Day which I wrote about yesterday. In the rest of the English-speaking world, it is called Remembrance Day. And is commonly marked on Sunday, hence Remembrance Sunday. In truth, it is more akin to the American Memorial Day for it marks the losses of Britain and the Commonwealth.

At eleven o’clock yesterday, 99 years ago,  the Great War ended. Truly at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. It was (and is) also the feast day of St Michael, the patron saint of the Infantry, which surely seems appropriate. It had been a horrendous experience for everyone. In truth, Europe lost an entire generation in the war, it ended the optimism of the Victorian age and ushered in the defeatist Europe (and even America) we see now. We will talk more about this in the coming days but, today is a day to remember.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

That poem was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian Army at the battlefront at Ypres in 1915, and it has come to symbolize the day. You see while some credit the United States with winning the war, which may be true, we got there very late, not going into battle until 1918. Remember the war started in 1914. Others suffered much worse than we did. Since we joined the winning side, with which we had historic ties we joined in their commemoration.

If you happen to see the commemorations today across the Anglosphere you will notice nearly everyone wearing red paper poppies, that comes from the poem. I can still remember when I was in elementary school, members of the American Legion Auxiliary distributing poppies to us and explaining what they meant. Do they still do that? I hope so but, I doubt it, America has changed.

In any case, I think we would be wise to join our cousins as they remember the dead from the wars of Freedom today. We would be in good company…

FROM THE LONDON TIMES of OCT. 18, 1921

Yesterday morning General Pershing laid the Congressional Medal of Honour on the grave of the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey. The simple and beautiful ceremony seemed full of the promise of new and happier times. And what we call Nature appeared to have laid her approval on the hopes that it aroused.

That the United States should confer on an unknown British Warrior the highest military honour that can be bestowed by its Government, that jealously guarded and rarely granted Medal of Honour, which can only be won “at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty”; that Congress should pass a special Act enabling this honour to be paid to one who was not a citizen of the United States; that by the request and in the presence of the American Ambassador the medal should be laid upon the tomb by the hand of the great soldier who is now the successor of Washington, Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan as General of the Armies of the United States, and that the ceremony should take place while the eyes of all the world are turned to the coming Congress at Washington.

Here is great matter for pride and hope; and it seemed to be by something more than mere accident or the working of unalterable law that, just at the beginning of the ceremony, the sun should stream down, in its natural gold, through a window not yet painted, upon the Union Jack that was spread at the foot of the Unknown Warrior‘s grave. The ancient mystery of the great Abbey is never wholly dispelled by the light of day. Yesterday, as ever, she preserved her immemorial secrets and her ever brooding silence; yet brightness, colour, confidence were the notes of the ceremony; and, contrasting the sunshine of yesterday with the tragic gloom remembered on other occasions since August, 1914, one could not but believe that the externals matched the inner truth of the act, and that the modern history which, as the Dean of Westminster reminded us, began with the war in which the Unknown Warrior gave his life was about, through him and his like, to bring joy and peace to the world.

With the Union Jack at its foot and the wreaths bestowed about its edge, the stone that temporarily covers the Unknown Warrior’s grave near the west end of the Abbey was bare, save for a little case full of rosaries and sacred emblems that lies at its head. The space about it was shut off from the rest of the Nave by a barrier, through which passed only those who had been specially invited to seats of honour round the grave. The Nave was packed with people facing north and south, and lined with soldiers and sailors of the United States Army and Navy, among them some of General Pershing’s picked battalion, strapping fellows in khaki or blue, who seemed to have all the smartness and the immobility to which we are accustomed in British troops on such occasions.

[…]

Backed by a row of Abbey dignitaries were the Dean of Westminster, the American Ambassador, and General Pershing, standing at the gravehead, and facing up the great church.

At the invitation of the Dean, the American Ambassador then spoke as follows:

“By an Act of the Congress of the United States, approved on March 4 of the present year, the President was authorized “to bestow, with appropriate ceremonies, military and civil, a Medal of Honour upon the unknown unidentified British soldier buried in Westmister Abbey.” The purpose of Congress was declared by the Act itself, in these words: “Animated by the same spirit of comradeship in which we of the American forces fought alongside of our Allies, we desire to add whatever we can to the imperishable glory won by the deeds of our Allies and commemorated in part by this tribute to their unknown dead.”

The Congressional Medal, as it is commonly termed because it is the only medal presented “in the name of Congress,” symbolizes the highest military honour that can be bestowed by the Government of the United States. It corresponds to the Victoria Cross and can be awarded only to an American warrior who achieves distinction “at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.”

A special Act of Congress was required to permit the placing of it upon the tomb of a British soldier. The significance of this presentation, therefore, is twofold. It comprises, in addition to the highest military tribute, a message of fraternity direct from the American people, through their chosen representatives in Congress, to the people of the British Empire.

There were two soldiers. One was British. The other was American. They fought under different flags, but upon the same vast battlefield. Their incentives and ideals were identical. They were patriot warriors sworn to the defence and preservation of the countries which they loved beyond their own lives. Each realized that the downfall of his own free land would presage the destruction of all liberty. Both were conscious of the blessings that had flowed from the English Magna Charta and the American Constitution. Well they knew that the obliteration of either would involve the extinguishment of the other. So with consciences as clear as their eyes and with hearts as clean as their hands they could stand and did stand shoulder to shoulder in common battle for their common race and common cause.There was nothing singular, nothing peculiar, about them. They typified millions so like to themselves as to constitute a mighty host of undistinguishable fighting men of hardy stock. A tribute to either is a tribute to all.

Though different in rank, these two soldiers were as one in patriotism, in fidelity, in honour,and in courage. They were comrades in the roar of battle. They are comrades in the peace of this sacred place.

One, the soldier of the Empire, made the supreme sacrifice, and, to the glory of the country whose faith he kept, he lies at rest in this hallowed ground enshrined in grateful memory. The other, equally noble and equally beloved, is by my side. Both live and will ever live in the hearts of their countrymen.

What more fitting than that this soldier of the great Republic should place this rare and precious token of appreciation and affection of a hundred millions of kinsmen upon the tomb of his comrade, the soldier of the mighty Empire! Proudly and reverently, by authority of the Congress and the President, I call upon the General of the Armies of the United States, fifth only in line as the successor of Washington, Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, to bestow the Medal of Honour upon this typical British soldier who, though, alas! in common with thousands of others, “unknown and unidentified,” shall never be “unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.”

Then General Pershing said:

One cannot enter here and not feel an overpowering emotion in recalling the important events in the history of Great Britain that have shaped the progress of the nations. Distinguished men and women are here enshrined who, through the centuries, have unselfishly given their services and their lives to make that record glorious. As they pass in memory before us there is none whose deeds are more worthy, and none whose devotion inspires our admiration more, than this Unknown Warrior. He will always remain the symbol of the tremendous sacrifice by his people in the world’s greatest conflict.

It was he who, without hesitation, bared his breast against tyranny and injustice. It was he who suffered in the dark days of misfortune and disaster, but always with admirable loyalty and fortitude. Gathering new strength from the very force of his determination, he felt the flush of success without unseemly arrogance. In the moment of his victory, alas! we saw him fall in making the supreme gift to humanity. His was ever the courage of right, the confidence of justice. Mankind will continue to share his triumph, and with the passing years will come to strew fresh laurels over his grave.

As we solemnly gather about this sepulchre, the hearts of the American people join in this tribute to their English-speaking kinsman. Let us profit by the occasion, and under its inspiration pledge anew our trust in the God of our fathers, that He may guide and direct our faltering footsteps into paths of permanent peace. Let us resolve together, in friendship and in confidence, to maintain toward all peoples that Christian spirit that underlies the character of both nations.
And now, in this holy sanctuary, in the name of the President and the people of the United States, I place upon his tomb. the Medal of Honour conferred upon him by special Act of the American Congress, in commemoration of the sacrifices of our British comrade and his fellow-countrymen,and as a slight token of our gratitude and affection toward this people.

On the conclusion of his speech the Congressional Medal of Honour was handed by Admiral Niblack to General Pershing, who, stooping down, laid it on the grave, above the breast of the unknown hero beneath. Shining there, with its long ribbon of watered blue silk, it lay, a symbol of the past, a pledge for the future.

And General Pershing stood at the salute to his fallen comrade.

Which is entirely appropriate as well. As most of my American readers will be aware, the recipient of the Medal of Honor is entitled to be saluted first by all American service members.

[It should also be noted that on Armistice Day that year, by order of the King, the American Unknown Soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross. ]

There is considerably more, here is the link to the entire article from the Times, it is very moving.

After all the speeches and the award, the congregation joined in singing

All across the English Speaking World, people today will be remembering those incredibly brave soldiers of Freedom, from all over the world, who fought that war. In Canada and the United Kingdom especially there is a hymn associated with it.

Take a moment today to thank God for our gallant allies in that greatest alliance of the free ever seen, the British Commonwealth and the United States.

That service in Westminster Abbey ended with this

For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon

242 Years of Teufel Hunden

Official emblem of Officers in the United Stat...

Image via Wikipedia

242 years today ago in a Philadelphia tavern, a paragon of excellence was born: The United States Marine Corps.

They gave good service in the Revolution, of course, but first became famous when they came off a Navy flotilla led by USS Enterprise by command of President Jefferson, himself,and stormed all the way to Tripoli.

Next they helped the Army get ashore at Vera Cruz; thereby leading to the famous couplet “From the halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli”. These were the first of what Leckie called “America’s Planetary Soldiers”. They served in the Civil War and the Spanish-American war.

“Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”

In the First World War at Belleau Wood they were so brave (Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever) that it is now the “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“. They collected the Teufel Hunden moniker from the Kaiser himself.

And so it went, China in the 30’s, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, all the way across the Pacific, raising the flag on Iwo Jima, when the going was tough, the cry was heard: “Send in the Marines”.

Bringing out their dead and wounded all the way from the Yalu in “frozen Chosen”, the amphibious landing and all that followed at Danang. The Maya Guez, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

And just this week, from Marine Times.

 Marines providing artillery support to U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in Raqqa fired so many consecutive rounds they burned out the barrels of two M777 155 mm howitzers.

The story was told directly to Army Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, by a Marine Corps battery commander.

“Every minute of every hour we were putting some kind of fire on ISIS in Raqqa, whether it was mortars, artillery, rockets, [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems], Hellfires, armed drones, you name it,” Troxell told reporters on Monday. Troxell had visited Raqqa a couple weeks ago for a period of four hours.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, commander for the Raqqa campaign, Gen. Rojda Felat, knew she had to aggressively keep pressure on ISIS in Raqqa, which meant coalition support in terms of ISR, drones and artillery also had to be aggressive, Troxell explained to reporters.

Reminds me of something a Marine once said.

“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

Eagle, Globe and Anchor, a reminder to the world that the world we live in was built by the United States led by the United States Marine Corps.

Personally, I will be quite pleased if and when I walk on heavens streets, to know that they are guarded by United States Marines.

Happy Birthday to the Corps

 

1a_1

Semper Fidelis

Lafayette, nous voilà!

Crowds cheer US general John Pershing in Paris in 1917 as it is announced that America will join the conflict Photo: GETTY

Today is an anniversary, for a hundred years ago today, 6 April 1917, the United States declared war on Imperial Germany. This marked our entrance into what was called until at least 1940, The Great War. But more it marks the beginning of what has come to be called the American century.

The title of the piece is what General Pershing is supposed to have said later that summer when amidst the adoring French crowd, he stood at Marquis de Lafayette’s grave. More likely it was his aide Charles E. Stanton. It marks the point when the Republic for the first time raised its standard for the freedom of other people rather than directly for Americans.

Winston Churchill said that the Great War and World War II constituted another Thirty Years war. He has a point, but others contend that the two wars and the Cold War constitute what they like to call “The Long War”. That too has merit, for all of these conflicts, spanning around 75 years, constitute an almost constant conflict to keep Europe free. One could argue that it still continues.

For those of us that read history, two (or more) wars this close together tend to be interesting. We can trace the junior leaders of one, as the senior commanders of the next. General Marshal was on Pershing’s staff, General Patton led the first armored force in American history, General MacArthur commanded an Infantry Division. One of the pictures I’ve carried in my mind for years is one I cannot find, it showed MacArthur and Patton standing erect in no man’s land conferring with each other. One can almost hear Bill Mauldin yelling back from World War Two, telling then to lie down, they’re likely to draw fire and get somebody hurt! We saw the same thing with Captain Grant and Colonel Lee (and many others) in the Mexican War.

So many things come from the Great War. Phrases such as “Over the Top”, which referred to mounting an attack out of the trenches, and the western revulsion towards chemical weapons. This was when the Marines got their sobriquet of Devil Dogs, bestowed by the Emperor of Germany, Kaiser Bill, himself, which is why we often write it Teufel Hunden. It is also when Belleau Wood lost its name, it is now  “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“, in honor of the 5th and 6th Regiments of Marines. You can read about it here, even if a then obscure Army Artillery captain thought the damned Marines got entirely too much publicity, That captain was Harry Truman.

Here is the first glimmering of American air power, first in the Lafayette Escadrille, and later in the Air Service, which would grow and in 1948 turn into the United States Air Force.

This is when the First Infantry Division became the “Rock of the Marne”. And on and on. And yet we don’t really study this war much. We were heavily involved but not for all that long, and our casualties were pretty low by the standards of the other participants. It also fits between the two biggest wars in American history, our Civil War and World War II, in both of which we had a much more major role, although one tends to think we were decisive in winning the first war as well.

But the results were decisive, indeed. When we entered the war, Britain was nearly starving, and the financial center of the world had moved from London to New York. France was worn out, Russia was making a separate peace. We didn’t win the peace though, the European allies forced through a victor’s peace on Germany, which would nearly guarantee the rematch. The solution of the end of the Ottoman Empire in the middle east has repercussions to this day, China was unhappy that Japan got some territory from it at Versaille.

This war marks the point where America assumed the leadership of what we call the Free World and started Europe on the downward slope we still see today. It may be a causal factor, because of the casualties that the Europeans incurred, especially in the young leaders.

As early as the fall of 1914, Germany simply couldn’t afford to lose, but they couldn’t win either. France and Britain weren’t in much better shape, only America was left to influence the outcome, just as in 1941, although it is close to risible to claim that Britain and France were actually fighting for democracy, although they were probably closer to it than Germany was. But, you know, both did become much more democratic because of the war, even if it was an unintended consequence.

A hundred years ago, today, we can see the first vague outline of the world we live in today, the one that America built on the shoulders of the British Empire.

Today was the day that Congress sent the word, and that word changed the world.

Very good article here in the £ Telegraph

 

Jutland

jutlandA hundred years ago Tuesday, the British Grand Fleet fought the Imperial German High Seas fleet off the coast of Denmark.

It was a quite incredible battle, the largest sea battle involving steel ships until then, and one of the costliest with a combined casualty count of 8645 killed, 1181 wounded, and the loss of 25 ships (in tonnage most British). Tactically the British perhaps lost, but in hindsight, it was a victory on the scale of Trafalgar itself.

Why? Because the German fleet never sortied again. If they had successfully caused the disruption of the Grand Fleet, Britain would have been driven from the war, or starved, by the combination of the U-boats and the surface navy. Without Britain, and it’s corollary the non-entrance of the United States, the Germans simply win. This was the only day that Britain could have lost the war. In the century since Trafalgar the Royal Navy had perhaps grown a bit complacent, there were problems all through the fleet, the kind of things that creep in unnoticed in peacetime. But they didn’t lose. Like our Admiral Spruance at Midway, Jellicoe’s job was to “rock ’em and sock ’em, but don’t lose your shirt”. It might have been possible in both cases to have won more complete victories, but it would have exposed irreplaceable assets to avoidable risk, for little gain.

The First Sea Lord said recently in a speech at The Maritime Museum in London

In all the reams of Jutland related reading material that have passed across my desk in the last few days, one fact that caught my eye was that no fewer than 8 future First Sea Lords were serving with the Grand Fleet during the Battle of Jutland.

For you, that’s an interesting historical fact. But for me, just 2 months into my own tenure at First Sea Lord, it adds to the poignancy of this centenary, as I consider my responsibilities, both to the nation and to our sailors and marines today.

Undoubtedly the most striking characteristic of the Battle of Jutland is the sheer scale of loss.

Admirals and Ordinary Seaman perished alike.

Never before had either navy lost so men on a single day.

When the battle cruiser Invincible was torn apart by an explosion she took less than 90 seconds to sink, taking over 1000 men with her.

Losses on this scale are difficult to comprehend. Nothing in our modern experience compares.

So it is important that in this centenary year, the focus be on remembrance.

But museums are designed to start conversations and encourage questions; and this exhibition is an important opportunity to reflect on the wider significance of Jutland.

Wider significance
Terrible as the losses were, the stakes in 1916 could not have been higher.

Without command of the seas, Britain’s maritime trade, the lifeblood of the war effort, would be in danger and Britain herself would be left open to the risk of starvation or even invasion.

Admiral Jellicoe understood the enormity of his responsibility.

He knew that the superiority of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet had to be protected at all costs.

And this was the strongest adversary that Britain had faced in a century. The long, calm lee of Trafalgar, as Andrew Gordon so poignantly captured it, was very much over.

Certainly the sudden and spectacular loss of several capital ships, with almost all hands, was disastrous.

There were serious questions about the performance of gunnery, signals, armour and shells.

And there was a profound debate over the balance between regulation and initiative in the culture of the Royal Navy.

As many of you know, historians, academics and naval officers still exchange broadsides on these issues today.

Perhaps, with the benefit of what we would today call better situational awareness, Jellicoe could have inflicted a crushing defeat worthy of Trafalgar.

But in repelling, rather than sinking, the German High Seas Fleet, he had done enough.

As painful and surprising as Britain’s losses had been, in truth, they did little to dent the Royal Navy’s superiority.

The very next day the Grand Fleet was back at sea and ready to do battle again, and within in a month the losses in ships had been made good.

The High Seas Fleet had failed to break the superiority of the Royal Navy and command of the sea remained with Britain.

Royal Navy today
Much has changed in a century.

But the fundamentals remain the same:

Britain is still an island nation and a global maritime trading power.

We are still dependent on the sea for security and prosperity and the nation still looks to the Royal Navy to protect its interests at home and around the world. […]

Conclusion
Over the next week, this centenary will be marked in Scapa Flow, in the Firth of Forth, in our dockyard towns and at sea off the coast of Denmark.

But it also right that that the Battle of Jutland is remembered in London too, alongside so many other reminders of our island story here in the National Maritime Museum.

We will never forget those who fought and died in the North Sea a century ago.

But in a conflict otherwise remembered principally for the trenches of the Western Front, Jutland also serves as a necessary reminder of the enduring significance of sea power to our defence and to our prosperity.

Thank you.

From the MOD. via Think Defence

The reason this battle is arguably comparable to Trafalgar is this: without Trafalgar, the British may not have had control of the sea, with all of its consequences through the nineteenth century. Jutland ensured that the English-speaking people would continue that control throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. If Jellicoe had lost, that control would have passed to Imperial Germany, at least in the Atlantic, and possibly Imperial Japan in the Pacific. there is no telling exactly how it would have ben different, but the world would be an entirely different place, without the Anglo-Saxons controlling the seas.

For me, it was as was said earlier by another First Sea Lord, the Earl St. Vincent, and has so often proved to be true.

I DO NOT SAY, MY LORDS, THAT THE FRENCH WILL NOT COME.

I SAY ONLY THEY WILL NOT COME BY SEA.

The Marker is All that Remains, Until We Look Further

This showed up in my inbox yesterday as they do periodically. I’m always moved, but something about this one struck me as special, Maybe because of the linked blogs military connection, or because he’s a good writer or just something about the guy himself. I don’t know, but I want to share. From WeaponMan.

This small, but beautifully worked, marker was nailed, Christlike, to a cross that marked the end of a man’s world and the beginning of the Commonwealth War Graves Commisison’s responsibility for caring for his last remains. When his daughter, who somehow received the temporary cross, presumably when Richard de Rupe Roche’s grave was marked with a permanent stone by the Commission after the war, passed away, the marker which had been on the cross came into the white-gloved hands of the curators of the Imperial War Museum in London, who handle and preserve the century-old marker with care, perhaps even reverence.

Name plate from temporary grave marker of (409) Corporal Richard de Rupe Roche who served during the First World War on the Western Front with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles (16th Battalion, The London Regiment). Corporal de Rupe Roche died on active service on 8 January 1915 (aged 34). He was the elder son of Captain Richard Roche RN and Maria Jane Roche, and husband of Ethel Roche of Culver Cottage, Fletcher Road, Horsell, Woking. He is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension. (Information derived from the Commonwealth War Graves ‘Debt of Honour’ database). The cross belonged to his daughter Miss Barbara Roche who died in 1981; Miss Roche’s only memory of her father was waving goodbye to him as he left by train when she was only five years old.

Multiply that by several million, translate it into all the languages of the European continent, and behold the human picture of First World War.

The IWM does not say it, but Barbara, born 1913, was Richard’s and his wife Ethel’s only child. When Richard died, he left a substantial estate (for the time) of £2,365 15s 6d. (For those not old enough to recall pre-decimalization English money, those figures denote two thousand, three hundred sixty-five pounds, fifteen shillings and sixpence… people would usually say two thousand, three hundred sixty-five pounds, fifteen and six. Don’t get us started on guineas.

Says the IWM of this little artifact:

Name plate from a temporary grave marker of (409) Corporal Richard de Rupe Roche who served during the First World War on the Western Front with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles (16th Battalion, The London Regiment). Corporal de Rupe Roche died on active service on 8 January 1915 (aged 34). He was the elder son of Captain Richard Roche RN and Maria Jane Roche, and husband of Ethel Roche of Culver Cottage, Fletcher Road, Horsell, Woking. He is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension. (Information derived from the Commonwealth War Graves ‘Debt of Honour’ database). The cross belonged to his daughter Miss Barbara Roche who died in 1981 and was a close friend of the donor’s sister, to whom she left all her personal property. Miss Roche’s only memory of her father was waving goodbye to him as he left by train when she was only five years old. Several photographs and two letters of condolence were acquired with the marker (see correspondence file). One photograph shows a simple wood cross with the grave marker fixed to it at Houplines Military Cemetery and the others show Miss Barbara Roche as a young girl with her mother Ethel and a separate photograph of Corporal Roche.

For all their effort, the IWM has missed some details of Richard Roche the father and Richard de Rupe Roche. Fortunately, amateur historians memorializing Isle of Wight notables have unearthed them, and historians far away in western America have found more. These details reflect well on the men and their family. Captain Roche served in a ship in support of the British force that occupied the north end of San Juan Island in Washington (while American Marines occupied the south end, and diplomats wrangled over the border). Roche père did considerable exploration there; some terrain features are named after him to this day. He passed on in 1888 in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, so at least he did not live to see his son go to war — either time.

In World War I, Corporal Roche received a Mention in Dispatches, a significant valor award. It turns out he was already a veteran who fought and was wounded in the Boer War.

Private 4766 Richard de Rupe Roche served with 50 Company (2nd Hampshire) 17 Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War. He was ‘Wounded Dangerously on 28 Mar 1901 at Rondal’, and awarded the Queen’s South Africa (QSA) Medal with Clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Rhodesia, South Africa 1901.

He would have been just 20 in that war. He was well enough on his return to England for sport:

Richard de Rupe Roche is believed to have played for Wakefield Rugby Football Club in the inaugural season of 1901/2.

via The Marker is All that Remains, Until We Look Further | WeaponsMan

Keep reading, including the comments. Here is the reason, we have Memorial Day, and why it is so special, and why Britain and the Commonwealth have Remembrance Day. Hognose’s last sentence, although obvious, is one we must never forget.

“In war, the best fall; it has to have a dysgenic effect on a nation.”

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