Posts Tagged ‘WWI’

Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener

Who shall forget the iconic wartime poster depicted Kitchener with finger outstretched: “Your country wants you!” Of an Irish stock he served the British Empire like his counterpart across the Atlantic Pond who was a proconsul,- with ego as oversized as his, served his country. The five star general Douglas MacArthur like an old soldier just faded away after being fired for insubordination; while the British Field- Marshall died in harness and his glory fully restored to him in retrospect.
After many years’ experience of commanding relatively small forces in imperial campaigns,of which Khartoum deserves mention here. Kitchener had made his reputation worse by his habit of secrecy, unwillingness to explain his actions to his colleagues, and reluctance to organize and delegate.
However, since 1970, new records have opened and historians have to some extent rehabilitated Kitchener’s reputation, one historian writing that he consistently rose in ability as he was promoted. (Arthur, Sir George Life of Lord Kitchener Macmillan 1920)
At the outset of World War I, the Prime Minister, Asquith, quickly had Lord Kitchener appointed Secretary of State for War; Kitchener was by chance briefly in Britain on leave when war was declared. Against cabinet opinion, Kitchener correctly predicted a long war that would last at least three years, require huge new armies to defeat Germany, and suffer huge casualties before the end would come. Kitchener stated that the conflict would plumb the depths of manpower “to the last million.” Unlike the prediction of the German High Command his counsel was borne out to be true. It proved to be serendipitous and triggered Great Britain to step up her war efforts for a long war. His laying the groundwork for the expansion of munitions production and his central role in the raising the fighting spirit of the British army in 1914-15drew criticism. Nevertheless it provided an army capable of meeting Britain’s continental commitment. He was the right soldier for the wrong war that did not prove the cause it set out to win. Then a soldier is only called when clearing politicians’ mess is required.

Receiving a commission into the Royal Engineers in 1871 three years later at age 24, Kitchener was assigned by the Palestine Exploration Fund and he undertook mapping -survey of the Holy Land a work that was of great importance. The results of the survey were published in an eight volume series, with Kitchener’s contribution in the first three volumes (Conder and Kitchener 1881–1885).
This survey has had a lasting effect on the Middle East for several reasons:
The ordnance survey serves as the basis for the grid system used in the modern maps of Israel and Palestine.
The collection of data compiled by Conder and Kitchener are still consulted by archaeologists and geographers working in the southern Levant.
The survey itself effectively delineated and defined the political borders of the southern Levant. For instance, the modern border between Israel and Lebanon is established at the point in the upper Galilee where Conder and Kitchener’s survey stopped.
He was noted for his ruthlessness, which was evident in the way he followed Lord Roberts as Chief of Staff (1900–02) in the Second Boer War – by which time Boer forces had taken to guerrilla fighting and British forces imprisoned Boer civilians in concentration camps.
His term as Commander-in-Chief (1902–09) of the Army in India saw him quarrel with another eminent proconsul, the Viceroy Lord Curzon of Keddleston who eventually resigned. He aspired to be Viceroy of India, but the Secretary of State for India, John Morley, was not keen probably for his Tory sympathies. The cabinet was predominantly Liberal and they viewed him as Imperialist. Kitchener pushed hard for the Viceroyalty to no avail.
He was blamed for the Dardanelles Campaign and shortage of shells in the spring of 1915 – one of the events leading to the formation of a coalition government – and stripped of his control over munitions and strategy. He was criticised by Lloyd George – who may have taken credit for some of Kitchener’s achievements in the field of munitions – in his War Memoirs and by others.
He was on a mission to Russia in June 1916 to encourage continued Russian resistance to Germany, his ship, H.M.S. Hampshire struck a German mine off the Orkneys and sank; Kitchener was drowned on 5 June 1916 It was received by the British people with great dismay.
JB Priestley recalled in his book Margin Released of his meeting in 1915.

I had a close view, finding him older and greyer than the familiar pictures of him. The image I retained was of a rather bloated purplish face and glaring but somehow jellied eyes. A year later, when we heard he had been drowned, I felt no grief, for it did not seem to me that a man had lost his life: I saw only a heavy shape, its face now an idol’s going down and down into the northern sea. yet it was he – and he alone – who had raised us new soldiers out of the ground’.


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HERMANN WILHELM GOERING (German)  (1893  – 1946)

He aspired to be the Falstaff of the Nazi’s movement, swaggering genial, bon vivant, despising his colleagues anti semitic crudities and a lover of (other people’s) pictures. He was the ‘salon Nazi’ acceptable to landowners and industrialists before the take over to foreign diplomats afterwards. A Bavarian, the son of a diplomat, he was a fighter ace in the WWI whom defiant and a pugilistic streak turned into an extreme nationalist. He was wounded during Hitler’s 1923 beer-hall-putsch. As president of the Reichstag (1932) he put the final touches to the parliamentary pandemonium of the Weimar Republic. As Prussian police chief (1933) he set up the first concentration camp and stage managed the Reichstag fire trial. As creator and commander of the Luftwaffe and plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan (1936), he directed Germany’s mobilisation and initiated conscription of slave labor. A better actor than administrator, his decline began with the Battle of Britain and was completed by supply failures in Russia. He withdrew into a morphine haze, draped in his toga, Goering demonstrated that one could not be a gentleman Nazi. He was the parasite of a parasitic revolution, the big flea’s little flea. He took poison after his death sentence at Nuremburg.


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FRIEDRICH EBERT (German) (1871  –  1925)

Ebert was the first President of Germany’s Weimar Republic, so called after the constitution adopted by the National Assembly of 1919 at Weimar, which lasted until the advent of Hitler in 1933. Trained as a saddler, Ebert succeeded Bebel as leader of the social Democrats in 1913. After the outbreak of the WWI he was instrumental in obtaining socialist support for the Kaiser’s government. He strongly opposed social revolution and the proclamation of the Republic, but on November 10, 1918 he was elected Co-chairman of the Council of People’s Representatives by the worker’s and soldier’s councils. On that day he also concluded the famous alliance with the High Command to preserve law and order and to fight Bolshevism. This alliance became the Weimar Republic’s cornerstone. In January 1919 he was elected president of Germany which he remained until 1925. The worker’s and soldier’s councils were defeated and all extremists coups drowned in blood.
In 1923 executive power was transferred by Ebert to the War Minister to cope with growing extremism on the Left and Right, vast currency inflation, French occupation of the Ruhr and separation in South and West. That the Weimar Republic survived was largely due to his merit while vitriolic attacks from the Right were his reward.


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To those who in the dark days following the WW1 hero-happy public he was a guerrilla genius, the Galahad of World War I. To his military superiors he was a popinjay. To the Arabs he was Sheikh Dinamit, the spirit of the wind who led them to victory over the detested Turk. To Biographer Richard Aldington he was a cad and a bounder—sado-masochistic, hemi-homosexual, selfpublicizing charlatan whose actual role in the Arab revolt was small and whose subsequent career as a technician in the R.A.F. was merely a theatrical gesture of humility. To Winston Churchill he was “one of the greatest beings alive in our time,” a man of vast abilities who could write (Seven Pillars of Wisdom) as well as he could fight. He was a genuine soldier-scholar notwithstanding all accusations of his self-publicity.
Such men are the stuff of legends, and since his death in 1935 the legend of Lawrence has inspired scores of books. Produced by Sam Spiegel and directed by David Lean, the men who made The Bridge on the River Kwai the best war picture of the ’50s, Lawrence of Arabia is a cinema colossus that takes four hours (including intermission) to see, took 15 months to film, cost more than $10 million, employed 1,500 camels and horses, 5,000 extras, six famous performers (Alec Guinness. Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy) and it made a star out of a comparatively obscure young man (Peter O’Toole)
The script, written with considerable address by Playwright Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons), foreshortens but does not falsify the story as Lawrence told it. Sent to Arabia to scout the forces rising in revolt against Constantinople, Lieutenant Lawrence (O’Toole) impetuously leads a party of picked men across a notoriously impassable waste that is known as “the sun’s anvil,” and seizes the seaward-sighted cannon of Aqaba from the rear. Stunned, the Turkish garrison surrenders. Startled, General Allenby (Hawkins) offers the young hothead guns and gold, and before long Lawrence and his Arabs are blowing up Turkish trains and garrisons from Medina to Damascus. Then Allenby strikes north from Aqaba, and Lawrence leads 3,000 tribesmen in triumph to Damascus.

Lean is a gifted director who works with confidence at epic elevation, and in Lawrence he also works with a sensitivity to form and color that he has never shown before—it is as if the desert, like a gigantic strap of white-hot steel, had burned away a northern mist that has always obscured his vision. Time and again the grand rectangular frame of the Panavision screen stands open like the door of a tremendous furnace, and the spectator stares with all his eyes into the molten shimmer of whitegolden sands, into blank incandescent infinity as if into the eye of God. It is a mind-battering experience, an encounter with an absolute, and after it too much of the film seems merely human.
The actors, however, survive the encounter. Guinness as Prince Feisal is finely serpentine, and Quinn is magnificent as the venal and violent Sheikh Auda abu Tayi, a great black hairy camel of a man who sucks up gold as a camel sucks up water, and then spews it out with a roar of patriarchal pride: “I am a river to my people!” But it is O’Toole who continually dominates the screen, and he dominates it with professional skill, Irish charm and smashing good looks. They are the looks of a healthy young lion: large strong animal mouth, blazing blue eyes, big graceful head overgrown with a golden mane. (Lawrence by comparison was something of a mouse: his coloring was drab, and he stood scarcely 5 ft. 5 in.—a full head shorter than O’Toole.) In his performance, O’Toole catches the noble seriousness of Lawrence and his cheap theatricality, his godlike arrogance and his gibbering self-doubt; his headlong courage, girlish psychasthenia, Celtic wit, humorless egotism, compulsive chastity, sensuous pleasure in pain. But there is something he does not catch, and that something is an answer to the fundamental enigma of Lawrence, a clue to the essential nature of the beast, a glimpse of the secret spring that made him tick.

But then the script does not catch it either. People who knew Lawrence did not catch it. Lawrence himself did not seem to know what it was. Perhaps it did not exist.

(ack: TIME Magazine, Jan. 4, 1963)
So the only way we can justice to the film is not to rely heavily on historic accuracy but enjoy the film on its merits. A book when transformed into film is sure to disappoint many; by the same token biopics also fall foul with who look more than necessary into lives as lived. Something is lost in translation
“The film, which seemed nostalgic upon its release, looks prescient now, as the debate over Western influence in Arabia is written daily in blood”. —Richard Corliss

This film made number 5 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 and number 3 on the British Film Institute list. Lots of great directors have since named it as an influence. Lean showed everybody what to do with a wide screen by filling it with desert. In this vast, hot, shimmering space we feel, with Lawrence, alien and alone.

Trivia: In 2001, Lawrence’s revised 1922 proof of Seven Pillars of Wisdom was sold for nearly a million dollars by Christies in New York.

From the creators of “The Bridge on the River Kwai”
Director: David Lean
T.E. Lawrence: Peter O’Toole
Prince Feisal: Alec Guiness
Auda Abu Tayi: Anthony Quinn
Gen. Allenby: Jack Hawkins
Turkish Bey: Jose Ferrer
Sherif Ali Ibn El Kharish: Omar Sharif
Col. Harry Brighton: Anthony Quayle
216 minutes
Academy Awards
Won (7)

* Best Picture
* Best Director
* Best Sound
* Best Art Direction
* Best Cinematography (Fred A. Young)
* Best Editing
* Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre)

Nominated (10)

* Best Actor (Peter O’Toole) -he was passed over for Gregory Peck who won for TO KILL A MOCKING Bird
…Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif)
* Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt)

Peter O’Toole gives a memorable, idiosyncratic performance as the cerebral and scholarly Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence. Neither the script or his performance hides Lawrence’s strangeness. The film never states that Lawrence was a homosexual, given to masochism and with a predilection for young Arab boys, but if you choose to come away with that impression, it will let you.

He was the most extraordinary man I ever knew.
( Col. Brighton at Lawrence’s memorial service)

Assigned to British Intelligence in the Middle East in 1917, he persuades his doubtful superiors to become an observer to Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness – a David Lean stalwart and at this stage merely an understudying apprentice to Obe-Wan Kenobi). With the help of a dot on the horizon who eventually turns out to be Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), Lawrence crosses the allegedly impassable Nefud Desert and joins forces with an enemy tribe led by Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn). This new force defeat the Turks at Aquaba, a strategic port.

So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are.

‘El Aurens’, in traditional Arab garb, now leads his native forces in a guerilla war against the Turks. But Lawrence now begins to enjoy violence, his dream of creating a united Arab council in Damascus collapses in disagreement and disarray. An exhausted Lawrence returns to England, seeking peace and obscurity.

I pray that I may never see the desert again. Hear me, God.

This movie needs a big canvas, and you should see it on the largest screen possible.

compiler: benny

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