Category Archives: History Weblinks for Students and Teachers

Winnie The Pooh’s A.A. Milne was WWI Propagandist

Alison Flood in The Guardian, April 26, 2013:

Writer was anti-war but new discovery shows he was drafted by military intelligence service MI7b, shut down in 1918

AA Milne with Christopher Robin and the original Pooh Bear in 1928
Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne with Christopher Robin in 1928. Photograph: Pictorial Press

AA Milne famously denounced war in his pacifist essay Peace with Honour, but classified documents found in an old trunk reveal the author of Winnie the Pooh was recruited by a secret propaganda unit during the first world war.

Jeremy Arter was sorting through old paperwork in his aunt’s home when he stumbled across rare, classified documents from MI7b, a military propaganda outfit that worked with writers to present a positive version of the war to those at home.

It closed in 1918 with all official paperwork thought to have been destroyed, but Arter found more than 150 articles saved by his great uncle, Captain James Price Lloyd, who worked for the unit.

“As far as we’re aware this is the only surviving body of material from MI7b and it’s a truly remarkable record of how the British propaganda machine worked at the time,” said Rob Phillips, digitisation project manager at the National Library of Wales, which is creating an archive relating to the Welsh experience of the war.

Along with manuscripts and photographs, Arter found a pamphlet entitled The Green Book, dated January 1919 and stamped MI7b: “for private circulation”.

“I looked for Uncle Jim, but I found AA Milne as well. I also found Cecil Street, the author of the Dr Priestley novels; the frontiersman and author Roger Pocock; the Irish poet Patrick MacGill; and JP Morton of Bystander fame,” said Arter. “It was a bit like the Magnificent Seven had ridden into town, except that these were more than 20 or so of the greatest literary men of their day all working for MI7b, along with Uncle Jim.

“[The Green Book] was a valedictory in-house magazine probably printed in no more than 20 copies, for each of the people who probably had a farewell dinner at one of the London clubs. In it they vent their spleen and humour at the war and at each other … It’s a priceless document. Great Uncle Jim broke every rule in the book [to preserve it].”

In a series of poems, Milne, who also worked as a signalling officer during the first world war and served briefly in France, imagines how “some earlier propagandists” might have approached having to “lie” about the “atrocities” of the war.

In Captain William Shakespeare, of a Cyclist Battalion, Milne writes: “In MI7B, / Who loves to lie with me / About atrocities / And Hun Corpse Factories. / Come hither, come hither, come hither, / Here shall he see / No enemy, / But sit all day and blether.”

In Captain Thomas Campbell, of the Border Regiment he writes: “It was the schooner ‘Hesperus’ / Which sailed the wintry seas … / And victory must remain with us / While we have ships like these.”

Milne “probably stood out because he didn’t keep his pacifist views to himself”, said Arter. The author was discharged in 1919. Five years later he began his career as a children’s author, with the publication of two poetry collections, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, and his two Winnie- the- Pooh novels.

His pacifist work Peace with Honour: an Enquiry Into the War Convention was released in 1934. He wrote it, he said, “because I want everybody to think (as I do) that war is poison, and not (as so many think) an over-strong, extremely unpleasant medicine.”

The second world war changed Milne’s mind, however. He accused his old friend PG Wodehouse, of near-treason for his radio broadcasts from a Nazi internment camp, and in 1940 he published War with Honour, which took a different line from his earlier assertion that “war is something of man’s own fostering, and if all mankind renounces it, then it is no longer there”.

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Richmond Celebrates Civil War and Emancipation Day

Holly Prestridge for Richmond Times Despatch, April 4, 2013:

Richmond lives and breathes history and for those who are curious about the past — or are full-blown history buffs — Saturday is when the city comes alive.

More than 25 activity centers will be open to the public, featuring walking tours, dramatic readings, lectures and more during the fourth annual Civil War & Emancipation Day.

Hear about Richmond’s 1863 Bread Riot or walk its Slave Trail at dusk by torchlight from Ancarrow’s Landing to Lumpkin’s Jail.

Witness dramatic monologues at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic site or learn about Mary Bowser, a free black woman who served as a spy for the Union Army.

Know what a Civil War Zouave uniform looks like? The Virginia Historical Society recently acquired one of these rare uniforms and it’ll be on display for the first — and only — time this year on Saturday.

The day’s festivities are put on by The Future of Richmond’s Past, a collaborative effort among local historical societies, museums, colleges and universities, and cultural and tourism organizations to promote the anniversaries of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.

The day is “a great opportunity for Richmonders to be tourists in their own city,” said Jennifer Guild, senior officer for public relations and marketing at the Virginia Historical Society. “This event shows not only the collaborative partnerships that exist within the cultural community, but also their deep desire to make stories from the past accessible to everyone.”

Organizers said more than 5,200 people visited sites last year.

Andy Talkov, Virginia Historical Society’s head of program development, said the organization tries to find unique exhibits or programs for Civil War & Emancipation Day and this year’s will be hard to top.

In December, it acquired a one-of-a-kind collection that includes a complete Zouave uniform with leather leggings, a fez (a felt hat with a tassel), bright red pants and even a revolver.

The Zouave was a militia soldier who served in Northern Africa with the French Army during the 1800s. Nearly 240 organizations in America in the 1800s adopted the Zouave uniforms and fierce military styles.

The uniform obtained by the historical society belonged to a soldier in the 5th New York Infantry. Supporting documentation shows that he was issued the uniform in September 1861 and died eight months later in Virginia. He was buried in Hampton.

“His experience in the Civil War was in Virginia,” Talkov said, “and he’s still on Virginia soil.”

The uniform has never been on display. Saturday’s exhibit, called “Who Are You Wearing?: The Civil War Zouave Fever,” is the only day this year that the society has plans to show it to the public.

Some of the new events planned this year include several activities at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site such as a guided tour of her home, a walking tour of Historic Jackson Ward and a special exhibit called “Lifting as We Climb: Maggie Walker’s Workforce.”

Anyone with historic family documents can bring them to the Library of Virginia to be scanned as part of the Civil War 150 Legacy Project. While the Confederate Memorial Chapel, near the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, was open to the public last year, this year includes a tour of the former grounds of Robert E. Lee’s Camp #1.

One of the unique things about Civil War & Emancipation Day, said University of Richmond President Edward Ayers, is that it’s all about commemorating two distinct concepts at the same time: the Civil War, and all of the darkness that came with it, as well as freedom.

Ayers will moderate a panel discussion at the Museum of the Confederacy called “Union Spies in Richmond, the Difference Between Fact and Fiction.”

The panelists include Dr. Elizabeth Varon, author of “Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy,” and novelist Lois Leveen, who wrote “The Secrets of Mary Bowser,” about the life and legend of the woman thought to be a Union spy planted in the Confederate White House.

Ayers said that in a city like Richmond that’s full of history, folks often take for granted what they think they know. They pass by statues on Monument Avenue or historical markers in Shockoe Bottom and become desensitized to the significance of those people and places.

But Ayers said organizers of Civil War & Emancipation Day hope their efforts will open Richmond residents’ eyes to what lies, sometimes literally, beneath their feet.

More than just a day to attract tourists, “this is for ourselves,” Ayers said, referring to Richmond residents, “to open the city (and) make history resonate.”

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Young Canadian Soldier of WWI Receives New Gravestone

From BBCnews, September 22, 2012:

Cpl Alfred Gyde Heaven was injured at Vimy Ridge in France in April 1917 – a year after enlisting in the army at the age of 16, after lying about his age.

He was sent to hospital in Crosshouses, Shropshire, but died days later.

Local historians realised he had no gravestone and spent 10 years researching and campaigning for one.

Cpl Heaven, who was born in Ontario, Canada, came to England for military training in Liverpool and went on to fight for the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

In November 1916 he was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the Battle of the Somme.

However, less than six months later he suffered serious injuries to his face and jaw and was taken to Crosshouses for treatment.

‘Least we can do’

After his death he was buried in Shrewsbury Cemetery, but having died before the War Graves Commission was set up, he did not automatically qualify to get a marked grave.

The new gravestoneThe new gravestone was unveiled as part of Saturday’s memorial service

Researchers Phil Morris and Clive Bakeway, members of the Shrewsbury Military Research Group, spent a decade building up evidence to prove it was Cpl Heaven who was buried in the grave.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission then accepted the evidence and agreed to provide a headstone for the soldier.

Historian Ken Bishop, who was also involved in the campaign, said it had been important for Shropshire residents to honour the “war hero” who was buried locally.

He said: “When we consider he was only a child and he went through all that and showed so much leadership, it’s quite incredible.

“We need to make sure people like him are never forgotten. They paid the ultimate sacrifice, it’s the least we can do.”

The memorial service, attended by representatives from the Canadian military and the High Sheriff of Shropshire, took place at 11:00 BST at Shrewsbury Cemetery.

 
 

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Death by Chocolate

 No, the title doesn’t refer to an Agatha Christie mystery but rather to a Nazi plan to silence Winston Churchill during WWII.  Here’s the article by Nick Enoch for Daily Mail online.co.uk, July 19, 2012:

It was a dastardly plan which, if successful, could have meant sweet victory for the enemy.

Secret wartime papers exchanged between MI5 officials reveal that the Nazis’ plans to conquer Britain included a deadly assault on Sir Winston Churchill with exploding chocolate.

Adolf Hitler’s bomb-makers coated explosive devices with a thin layer of rich dark chocolate, then packaged it in expensive-looking black and gold paper.

The Germans planned to use secret agents working in Britain to discreetly place the bars of chocolate – branded as Peter’s Chocolate – among other luxury items taken on trays into the dining room used by the War Cabinet during the Second World War.

 

 

 
 
Churchill (seen here dining on board a plane) could have been killed by the lethal chocolate
Churchill (seen, left, dining on board a plane) could have been killed by the lethal chocolate plot devised by Hitler's spies
 

Churchill (seen, left, dining on board a plane) could have been killed by the plot involving lethal chocolate (file photo). Hitler’s bomb-makers coated explosive devices with a thin layer of rich dark chocolate, then packaged it in expensive-looking black and gold paper

 
Lord Rothschild typed a letter to a talented illustrator seconded to his unit asking him to draw poster-size images of the chocolate to warn the public to be on the look-out for the bars

British agents foiled the plot and tipped off one of MI5’s most senior intelligence chiefs, Lord Victor Rothschild. He typed a letter to a talented illustrator seconded to his unit asking him to draw poster-size images of the chocolate to warn the public to be on the look-out for the bars

The lethal slabs of confection were packed with enough explosives to kill anyone within several metres.

But Hitler’s plot was foiled by British spies who discovered they were being made and tipped off one of MI5’s most senior intelligence chiefs, Lord Victor Rothschild.

 

Lord Rothschild, a scientist in peace time as well as a key member of the Rothschild banking family, immediately typed a letter to a talented illustrator seconded to his unit asking him to draw poster-size images of the chocolate to warn the public to be on the look-out for the bars.

 
British spies foiled the plot and tipped off one of MI5's most senior intelligence chiefs, Lord Victor Rothschild (above)
The letter was sent to artist, Laurence Fish
 

Lord Rothschild (left) was a scientist in peace time as well as a key member of the Rothschild banking family. His letter to the artist, Laurence Fish (right, who died in 2009), is dated May 4, 1943 and was written from his secret bunker in Parliament Street, central London

His letter to the artist, Laurence Fish, is dated May 4, 1943 and was written from his secret bunker in Parliament Street, central London.

The letter, marked ‘Secret’, reads:

‘Dear Fish,

I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate. 

‘We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate. 

‘Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism… When you break off a piece of chocolate at one end in the normal way, instead of it falling away, a piece of canvas is revealed stuck into the middle of the piece which has been broken off and a ticking into the middle of the remainder of the slab. 

‘When the piece of chocolate is pulled sharply, the canvas is also pulled and this initiates the mechanism. 

‘I enclose a very poor sketch done by somebody who has seen one of these. 

‘It is wrapped in the usual sort of black paper with gold lettering, the variety being PETERS. 

‘Would it be possible for you to do a drawing of this, one possibly with the paper half taken off revealing one end and another with the piece broken off showing the canvas. 

‘The text should indicate that this piece together with the attached canvas is pulled out sharply and that after a delay of seven seconds the bomb goes off.’

The letter was found by Mr Fish’s wife, journalist Jean Bray, as she sorted through his possessions following the artist’s death, aged 89, in 2009.

She has spent the past two years putting together a book of her late husband’s work – Pick Up A Pencil. The Work Of Laurence Fish.

 
The Germans planned to use secret agents working in Britain to discreetly place the bars of chocolate - branded as Peter's Chocolate - among other luxury items trayed into the dining room used by the War Cabinet during the Second World War

The Germans planned to use secret agents working in Britain to discreetly place the bars of chocolate – branded as Peter’s Chocolate – among other luxury items trayed into the dining room used by the War Cabinet during the Second World War

 
One of the War Cabinet offices built deep beneath Whitehall

One of the War Cabinet offices built deep beneath Whitehall

 

After the war, Mr Fish spent several decades as a commercial artist, producing many iconic posters for corporate giants including Dunlop and BP, rail companies, tourist boards and Save the Children.

In his later years, he returned to fine art, producing a breathtaking range of work.

His widow said he had ‘very fond memories’ of his secondment to MI5 and of working with Lord Rothschild in particular.

‘They got on tremendously well and who knows, they might even have saved a few lives,’ said Mrs Bray yesterday from her home in the Cotswolds.

 

The Russian spy who ‘saved’ Churchill from assassination

A legendary Russian spy who foiled a Nazi plot to assassinate Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt died in January, aged 87.

Gevork Andreyevich Vartanyan, codenamed Amir, ensured the safety of the three leaders by exposing a plot to kill them at the historic 1943 Tehran conference of the ‘Big Three’ Allies. 

He was just 19 at the time but he led a group of young Soviet agents to disrupt a German plot codenamed Operation Long Jump to wipe out the leaders of Britain, the USSR and the US.

As his death was announced he received an immediate accolade from the Kremlin signifying his standing as one of Moscow’s greatest-ever agents.

 

 
 

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Southwest Offers Free Travel to WWII Vets

James Aldrige for San Antonio Business Journal, July 18, 2012:

Southwest Airlines has renewed its commitment to provide free travel for America’s World War II veterans as a member of the Honor Flight Network.

The Dallas-based airline will provide $1.2 million worth of free travel through 2015 to help veterans visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. Southwest has been the official commercial airline of the Honor Flight Network since 2009.

“Because of Southwest Airlines’ generosity and renewed sponsorship, thousands of World War II and terminally ill veterans will continue to have the opportunity to see the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifice in Washington, D.C.,” Chairman of the Honor Flight NetworkJames McLaughlin says.

Southwest (NYSE: LUV) is the largest carrier to fly out of San Antonio International Airport    . San Antonio has a long history with the military. The city is home to thousands of veterans.

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Hungarian Nazi Found

July 16, 2012:

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre confirmed Sunday thatLaszlo Csatary, accused of complicity in the killings of 15,700 Jews, had been tracked down to the Hungarian capital.

“I confirm that Laszlo Csatary has been identified and found inBudapest,” the centre’s director Efraim Zuroff told AFP.

Ten months ago an informer had provided information that allowed them to locate Csatary, 97, in Budapest, Zuroff told AFP by phone. They had paid the informer the $25,000 promised for such information, he added.

In September last year, they had passed on their information to the prosecutor’s office in Budapest.

A statement released Sunday by the centre said Zuroff had “last week submitted new evidence to the prosecutor in Budapest regarding crimes committed during World War II by its No 1 Most Wanted suspect Laszlo Csatary.”

The centre said the evidence “related to Csatary’s key role in the deportation of approximately 300 Jews from Kosice to Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, where almost all were murdered in the summer of 1941.”

Budapest’s assistant prosecutor general, Jeno Varga, said: “An investigation is under way. The prosecutor’s office will study the information received.”

But Zuroff said in the Centre’s statement: “This new evidence strengthens the already very strong case against Csatary and reinforces our insistence that he be held accountable for his crimes.

“The passage of time in no way diminishes his guilt and old age should not afford protection for Holocaust perpetrators.”

Zuroff told AFP that the British tabloid daily The Sun had photographed and filmed Csatary, having acted on the information that the Wiesenthal Center had released last September.

The online edition of the newspapers announced on Sunday it had found and identified Csatary.

When its reporters confronted him on his doorstep, he had denied any crimes and slammed the door in their faces, the paper reported.

This was the fourth time that The Sun had cooperated with the Centre to put pressure on officials who were dragging their feet to bring Nazi fugitives to justice, said Zuroff.

The Wiesenthal Centre has urged Hungarian prosecutors to put Csatary on trial.

They say he served during World War II as a senior Hungarian police officer in the Slovakian city of Kosice, then under Hungarian rule.

He was complicit in the deportations of thousands of Jews from Kosice and its environs to the Auschwitz death camp in the spring of 1944.

Csatary had treated the Jews in the ghetto with cruelty, whipping women and forcing them to dig holes with their bare hands, he added.

In 1943, a Czech court condemned him to death after a trial held in his absence. He had fled to Canada and had worked as an art dealer using a false identity, before being unmasked in 1995 and forced to flee.

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Wojtek the Bear and WWII

Ben Waldron for ABC OTUS News, July 13, 2012:

It’s a story worthy of a Hollywood adaptation. A cuddly bear cub, orphaned in the mountains ofnorthern Iran, grows up to become a soldier in the Polish army and helps fight the Nazis during World War II.

“Wojtek” the bear, Polish for “The Smiling Warrior” or “He Who Enjoys War,” continues to be honored today, German news magazine Der Spiegel reports.

According to legend, the bear was rescued by a young boy in the mountains of northern Iran after hunters had shot the cub’s mother, and was later sold to the Polish army.

The soldiers were part of the so-called “Anders Army,” a unit composed of Polish prisoners of warreleased by the Soviet Union after it was attacked by Germany, and the cuddly bear cub provided an instant morale boost for the soldiers, many of whom had endured Soviet internment camps.

The troops treated Wojtek like one of their own. “He was just like a dog,” said Polish Veteran Augustyn Karolewski to the BBC in 2008, adding “He drank a beer like any man” and reportedly had a taste for cigarettes, which he would swallow whole.

When “Anders Army” was scheduled to be transferred to Naples to join the allied campaign in Italy, Wojtek was initially denied passage because port officers in Alexandria, Egypt, said only soldiers could make the journey and refused to allow wild animals on board.

The solution? The soldiers made Wojtek an official soldier, complete with a service number and rank.

‘”Corporal” Wojtek reputedly saw combat at the bloody Battle of Monte Cassino in the Spring of 1944. By then, he had grown into a 6-feet, 485 pound bear. Resolved to take advantage of Wojtek’s strength,soldiers trained him to carry heavy crates of artillery rounds. One British veteran was reportedly shocked to see a large brown bear calmly carrying mortar rounds past him during the battle, Der Spiegel reported.

The company soon changed its official emblem to one showing a bear carrying a massive artillery shell.

After the war, Wojtek eventually found a home at the Edinburgh Zoo, where he was a huge draw until his death in 1963 at the age of 22. Today, the unusual bear is remembered fondly as a symbol of solidarity between Poland and Scotland.

A documentary has also been made about Wojtek’s extraordinary journey titled, “Wojtek – The Bear That Went to War.”

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