Tomorrow at Sunrise, marks the 96th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign during the Great War 1914-1918. (ANZAC DAY)April 25th.
The Royal Newfoundland Regiment which was part of the British 29th Infantry Division, 88th Infantry Brigade at this time. (It is the ONLY Regiment in the entire Canadian Army that has Gallipoli as a battle honour on it's regimental colours!)
Here is a number links on this interesting campaign!
I just found a rather interesting link that I'd like to post, for those who might to read about Newfoundlands contribution on during this campaign. Also, I detailed map showing where the The Newfoundland Regiment was fighting along side with the 'ANZAC' Forces. (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps.)
Websites that do nothing but wring hands and point fingers absent-mindedly really don't do much of a service to anyone.
I found this passage one of the more offensive ones from that site, with regards to one of the British film-makers (who, it should be pointed out, also risked life and limb to produce motion picture coverage of the war for consumption back home):
"He included no sequences of British staff officers scratching their heads and shrugging their shoulders ...
as this might have forced the Empire's politicians to question the negligent waste of its volunteer soldiers."
The Battle of the Somme may surely be characterized as waste, but negligent?
I don't see anything on that page that suggests what, exactly, the British Army was supposed to have done otherwise, with a largely untrained military of Pals battalions with little training or experience, and the pressing need to attack somewhere in some strength, immediately, to relieve the pressure on the French who had been bleeding at Verdun for months.
As it was, some divisions on July 1st made it to their objectives with little loss. The ones that fared best did ignore Haig's tactical instructions - but nevertheless, what choice did Haig and his subordinate commanders have to keep tactical control of an army of mail clerks, college students, and miners?
A tough job that I have yet to see a realistic alternative provided for. It is tragic that 20,000 men died that day. But even at Vimy, considered a victory, casualty rates were catastrophic by modern standards. The First World War was like that.
The war was in Britain's national interest; it was also in Newfoundland's interest to participate and unfortunately, those brave men on July 1st paid the price. Wringing of hands now doesn't change that. Calling it murder only dishonours their memory, and more, sullies reputations of men that deserve better after the fact. The British Army did the best with what it had, and those cruel lessons of 1916 created a war winning machine in the field in 1918.
You have actually touched on a very strong trend in popular history and nationalistic reimagening of Newfoundland's war effort. There has been, in the last decade and a half a growing trend on the island and in it's cultural identity to damn the empire for the slaughter of the Newfoundlanders. One recent general history by a local author has gone so far as to outright state that on 1 July 1916 the British knew the day was lost but refused to give up and decided to attack once more but chose not to waste British soldiers and so sent in the colonials, ie the NFLD Rgt. Among his many historical inaccuracies, the author does not know, though more likely willingly overlooks the fact that the Middle Essex were ordered in at the same time as the Newfoundlanders.
Many popular histories, articles and documentaries are firmly entrenched with the mythic idea of the "lost generation." This plays into a growing nationalistic movement in which every thing bad that has happened to Newfoundland has been at the hands of the Brits and the Canadians, while every positive event was hard won by dedicated Newfoundlanders (usually Irish Newfoundlanders).
Likewise I have no time for such interpretations. Fortunately if one digs past the fluff you will find a solid, growing and imteresting discourse on Newfoundland's wartime experience. As for it being in Newfoundland's interest to participate, I believe more accurately it was in St. John's interest to participate. But your point is well made. It was a war that was well supported by Newfoundlanders and continued to be celebrated openly as a success until the mid 20's before remembrance took on a more somber tone. Yet in current popular accounts Newfoundladers were duped by the king and slaughtered for their efforts to please. At times it seems as if disillusionment writing is alive and kicking here. But what do I know.
Thanks for the reply. I guess the important thing is to keep the discussion going in the realization that history is the interpretation of events after the fact. I have no hardship with authors making a case, but would prefer it be done from fact (whatever that means) and not from emotion. Not that good history can be devoid of it, but it is more satisfying to read the real story and less of a let-down if one's understanding isn't inflated by fancy first. After decades of Pierre Berton's image painted in the book Vimy of a crushing Canadian defeat on a determined enemy, I read the "real" account in another book last summer, purchased at the gift shop at the battlefield memorial, that paints a less emotional picture. Seems IIRC the Germans were thinly strung across the ridge and in the process of moving back to more defensible positions when the storm broke. Yet the legend persists. Not to take away from the bravery of the Canadians that day - who nonetheless suffered great loss. As I mentioned before - battles cost lives in the Great War, whether you were winning or losing.
Legends are important things to have so I am not surprised that we tell ourselves stories, and fictional ones seem to be more palatable than true ones. I just hope that the real ones never get completely lost among the romanticism. Surely it's important to remember that, too.
Re: Popular depictions of Newfoundland's war effort
April 12 2012, 2:48 PM
I am a little piqued by your interpretation of the growing trend of nationalistic reimaging of Newfoundlands war effort in this province. To the contrary, it appears to me and my colleagues that what is actually taking place is a Canadian reimaging of Newfoundlands past that has been particularly damaging to historical accuracy. And this has spilled over into the Royal Newfoundland Regiments role in WWI. This obfuscation of our past is often espoused by those locals (and Canadian ex-pats) who have gone through the Memorial University system in the last 20 years where historic instruction has been dominated by Canadian and foreign professors with strong socialist tendencies, or by non-Newfoundlanders that either failed to grasp a true understanding of our culture, heritage and history or deliberately re-interpret our history to meet some bureaucratic vision of a one Canada with a one history. Sometimes the writers are just not that bright. And unfortunately this also holds true with those that occupy positions where they can affect change but refuse to do so, such as teachers, museum staff, archival personnel and the most concerning, are those that work in the historic branch of Newfoundlands Department of Tourism and/or the curriculum branch of the Department of Education.
I have a fair idea of the author you accuse of historical inaccuracies, which may be fair in one aspect, is totally unjust in another. He clearly does not belong in the same category as the author of the website that initiated this forum post. I believe his crime according to you may be unjustly coloured by your apparent disrespect for Newfoundland Nationalists. I have to wonder if your vitriol is because he is a poor Historian (Historian he is not) or the fact that the tone of his book is from someone with a deep respect for the feelings of a sizable portion of our population back in the day and now. It was no accident that Newfoundland had fought for 80 years to stay out of Confederation. Many of them were proud, patriotic, and dare I say, Nationalistic. And no, they were not all Irish Newfoundlanders; that in itself is a self-indulgent myth amongst the descendants of the early 19th century Irish immigrants.
I also have to take note that although the Newfoundlanders and 1st Essex (not Middle) were ordered to go over the top at the same time, the Essex did not go! Their excuse was that they could not get to the front line to launch their attack. When the Essex did go over the top it was 45 minutes later and then they only sent one company before the attack was mercifully stopped. The Newfoundlanders (Ordered by a British Officer) chose to attack from the support trench. There was not one man in that Regiment prior going over the top that did not know what was happening and were sure they were about to draw there last breath. That does not come from some misinformed nationalistic dolt but from the mouths of the survivors of that terrible day. The failure of the Essex to attack at the same time meant it was only the Newfoundlanders that crested the horizon giving the insatiable appetite of German machine guns and artillery an easy target from three sides. This was not the only time that the Essex failed the Newfoundlanders during the war resulting in many needless casualties to the Regiment.
I am not sure how old you are Chris but I do not see a growing nationalistic movement. That movement has been around a long time, decades, if not centuries. And its growth has been stymied by the efforts of historical apologists such as yourself that are eager to condemn someone for even thinking that Newfoundland was once a country and that, yes indeed, if people would care, have a well-earned right to be different in the Canadian family.
But to deride those that say both Canada and Britain have had a hand in the assault on Newfoundland makes you a part of the confederate revisionist historical movement that has been force-feeding every Newfoundlander re-invented myths through our school system, university, and Government since April 1, 1949.
Just to be perfectly clear, what happened to Newfoundland in WWI, happened to every Empire participant. The British jingoist movement had worked its propaganda magic so much so that the colonials from all over the world were eager to get a piece of the action. Canadians, Newfoundlanders, Australians, South Africa, India, and New Zealanders all were eager contributors. Yes, they were proud to have fought for their King. But there are cases where the soldiers that returned felt that they were lied to, and their respect for the King and the Brits were lost, never to be regained. Amongst the Newfoundland soldiers in the ranks there definitely was a seething hatred for nearly all British officers. As my grandfather put it: More British Officers were shot in the back than were ever shot by the Germans. It then would be easy for a returning soldier to bring his experience and his feelings about the British back home and that this blaming the Brits may have its start with those who actually were subjected to their rule while in the front line.
There is some truth that the British preferred to use the colonials in tough situations. Some of the soldiers on the ground, not just current day historians, interpreted this as using them as cannon fodder. My own personal view, one that I come by from my own research, is that they were chosen because of their fighting ability. Whereas the British Regiments, especially by 1916 were staffed with white collar workers and students, colonial Regiments had a tougher, blue collar feel. Of course they would be stronger, faster, and more agile than their British counterparts and frankly, made better soldiers. Smart, and even the dumb, British Staff Officers could see the benefit of assigning the tough tasks to the go-to players. To use a Canadian analogy, the colonials were skaters you put on the ice in the last minute of a tied hockey game.
I am wondering if I would be welcome in this growing and interesting discourse on Newfoundlands wartime experience. Or would I be excluded because you and other revisionist apologetic bureaucratic historians have no time for such interpretations.
You know Chris, you remind me of a outport university student I talked to last year about the shame he carried over his Newfoundland dialect. He was so embarrassed by it he trained himself to speak with a generic accent so nobody would know that he was a Newfoundlander. And he was proud of that fact. It seems to me that you carry the same embarrassment and resentment about our history. It is a shame, lets hope you dont occupy a position where your ideas can be rammed down the throats of the unsuspecting.
Leaving aside your very personal attacks on my education, character, intelligence, and integrity, I would like to take a minute to respond to some of your comments, as it is clear that I have touched a nerve.
Let me be abundantly clear, I am neither an apologist nor apologetic for my above post. Despite whatever innate hatred you house for university and university trained individuals, let me state upfront that I am a proud Memorial University graduate and bear no shame in saying so. Before you criticize the universitys history department you should take the time to understand its composition and the background of the professors, against whom you have made such uninformed and baseless accusations, or at least make clear that you have a working knowledge of the department in the last 20 years.
I do not disrespect Newfoundland nationalist s because they are proud of their history. I believe nationalistic interpretations of any history to be of little value and can subvert an in-depth understanding of the subject matter they seek to shed light on. And before you jump to conclusions, I do understand the difference between nationalism and nationalistic interpretation.
The author in question, Kevin Major, may not be a graduate student in history but he wrote a history of Newfoundland thus has engaged in the historical debate. I do not disrespect him, in fact I quite like some of his fiction and he is a pleasure to hear speak and to talk to. I do however disagree with his interpretation of Newfoundland during the Great War. That does not make part of the confederate revisionist historical movement that has been force-feeding every Newfoundlander re-invented myths through our school system, university, and Government since April 1, 1949. I means I think critically about what I read.
Please do me the courtesy of not assuming I am a complete idiot. I never stated the Essex did not attack, just that Major makes no reference to it which to me seems that for him to do so would detract from his argument that the British brass willingly chose to sacrifice colonials on a hopeless situation. I know they were ordered in and their reason for the delay on their attack. I know Col. Hadow chose to send the Newfoundlanders over the top from the reserve trench. For good or bad, right or wrong that was the mans decision based on the information and orders he had at hand, (of course they were ordered in by a British officer, they were part of the BEF). I do not criticize him for it and feel it is useless to do. Likewise I know the men of the regiment knew what was happening, one only has to read James Stacys memoirs to get a clear picture of just how evident the situation was to them. I know too that the Newfoundlanders were not sent in because of their colonial chutzpah, their division Brigade and regiment were always designated to be in the follow up attacks, their timeline was bumped up.
My beef with Majors interpretation and other such popular interpretations like the documentary Hard Rock and Water is that they have not moved past the prevalent Marxist interpretations of the 50s,60s, and 70s. They have failed to keep up with discourse on the Great War or at very least acknowledge or critically engage the works of people like John Teraine, Tim Travers, Correllie Barnett, David Silbey, Jessica Myer, etc. Or even Newfoundland born historians/ Historical geographers (which for some reason are the only ones you seem to want to engage) such as Chris Sharpe or Mike OBrien. To which I may add Canadian historians of the Newfoundland Regiment like Robert Harding. Regardless of whether or not such popular interpretations agree with the current discourse, refusal to acknowledge them to me seems like agenda setting, which in truth, feels like the tone of your reply.
You dont see a growing nationalistic/ romantic movement yet you criticize the government and museum officials and workers for trying to subvert and re-interpret history for their own agenda in Canada. Well the same is going on here. To me it seems it has ramped up in the last decade or so. Maybe it has been around longer, fair point.
At what point did I separate Newfoundland from what was happening in other colonial contexts, yet the Indian and South African experience was very different from the others you listed and there is no direct correlation. Likewise I never commented on veterans experiences. You should not construct arguments I never made in order to effectively prove your point.
If you endeavored to engage or question me you would have found that our points of view are similar in many cases. I am very confident in my understanding of Newfoundland History. I am not ashamed of my cultural background, my opinions, nor do I feel it necessary to deride those who disagree with me. For me, you would be more than welcome in any debate on Newfoundland history. In fact I more than welcome further discussion on any points I have made, here or via private contact, that is unless you feel it necessary to further attack my character, well then I am not interested.
First and foremost let me answer some of your questions while turning down my spiteful volume a notch to take this argument out of the personal realm. Nor will I comment on the nastier of your attacks on me, other than to say they were simply unjust. But not surprising. It was not my intention to personally attack you, but more so the cadre of like-minded individuals, that consistently attack and or deride, whatever you want to call it, the nationalistic viewpoints of Newfoundlanders such as myself. A perfect example of which appeared in your post.
In my view you fall within that category of like-minded individuals that have been clearly influenced by what Dr. John Fitzgeralds (well known nationalist) calls neo-Marxists viewpoint from Muns History Department whose response to any comment on our history that does not match theirs is answered as a - right-wing blame others approach taken by nationalists or to quote you - This plays into a growing nationalistic movement in which every thing bad that has happened to Newfoundland has been at the hands of the Brits and the Canadians, while every positive event was hard won by dedicated Newfoundlanders (usually Irish Newfoundlanders). Comments like those are derogatory, inflammatory, and downright shameful towards the very people and place that you choose to live and earn your living and cannot go unchallenged.
For the record, I am not only a graduate of the same history department as you, many of the professors there today were also my professors. I can make comment on those profs I knew well, and they taught me well. My own observations from my time in MUN closely match that of Dr. Fitzgeralds assessment of the situation. One that is continuously hammered home each and every time I pay a visit. It is all the less palatable when you stop to consider that MUN was founded as a living memorial to our (Newfoundlands) fallen soldiers and sailors in WWI. I do not have an innate hatred of our university but I am tired of the singular view that has been originating from that institution over the last 20 years or so. They are not open to debate on the topic as was evidence by the recent forum in 2009 - Memorial Presents: Not a Nation? - dedicated to the growing nationalistic movement that only saw presenters from one side, and no one from the nationalistic perspective presented. Hardly a fair discussion on the subject matter when those that you are attacking are not even invited to the debate. In my view your post was also misleading, as is your regurgitated comment that the movement is growing, it is not, you will be happy to know, this is akin to the right-wing conservatives that fill our heads with skewed numbers about crime while building more prisons and adding tougher sentences to ease the fear among the working class that something is being done about the rampant crime in our country. Absolute BS.
Whose agenda was being thrust down whose throats?
Your tone in your initial post was clearly to deride nationalists with flippant off hand remarks without clarification. Accusing them of fluffery and using negative imagery imply the damage that nationalist views of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland history in general have wrought upon the state of our culture and history. Funny, I am accusing you of the very same thing that you have attacked nationalists for in that post. One would think you already have a bias against Newfoundland nationalism, nationalists, and nationalistic views. You then attribute that all nationalistic interpretations are vial suggesting perhaps that we are arguing for naught as my viewpoint and that of many others are invalid for that reason. How presumptuous of you.
You are bloody right you touched a nerve, in the past number of years there has been a lot of comment and back lash against Newfoundland nationalists from a whole bevy of individuals that think because they can read, that they are capable of comment and debate. (That is not a personal attack against you but read what you must into it) There are others that write thinly veiled attacks (sometimes not so) in academic journals. However, by using their self-administered sense of entitlement it usually manifests itself in discourteous and belittling comments in sweeping vitriol against Newfoundlanders that are proud of their history and culture and show that pride in the flag they choose to hang from their homes, shirts they wear on their back or books that they produce. These individuals make comments like whiny nationalists you lost the vote get over it Pink White and Green was never the official flag - or even refer to current nationalistic views as -nationalistic reimaging agenda setting mythmaking etc (sound familiar?) without offering plausible points to counteract nationalistic arguments that have been made by people that have done real research outside the current self-serving aggrandising academic environment, other than to say nationalism is bad. Smacks of Marxism to me. There are nationalists that make broad assumptions as in Majors case or misunderstand and misinform the reading public with distorted views of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland history as in Jack (not John) Fitzgeralds pulp tripe the Spring Rice Document. Did Major deserve a knock for one sentence? When the comparison you made put Major in the same category as this Gallipoli Website, for which they are not even close. Your view of Major is heavy handed even though he is not a historian - admittedly I am not a big fan from a history perspective - but he does an admirable job in my view of conveying our history in a nutshell. Simply a comprehensive must read for every history buff or reader without having to trip through academic papers and hidden agendas to learn their own history. I would trust his viewpoint more among the masses than to the historical pulp fiction being pumped out today by a cadre of rabble rousers without a clue, websites like the afore mentioned Gallipoli Website, and the self-serving, nationalist bashing rhetoric that spills forth from MUN academia, external (including Canadian interpretations of Newfoundlands history) academics and graduates like you.
One of the basic problems in interpreting the Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War appears to stem from the fact that many people rely on the viewpoints of others both in popular culture and academic papers, rather than commenting on their own research. Being well read on topics and being able to regurgitate it does not make one a valid critic and considering the history of such an important topic as the Royal Newfoundland Regiment to Newfoundland and her people deserves better. While I have read many of the views, and others besides, of those you mentioned in your last post my view points are not influenced by anything other than my own research and if my research supports their views all the better. I believe in doing my own research and answering my own questions. Otherwise I dont make comment. And neither should you in my humble opinion. (See your presumptive personal attack that I am not well read)
According to your view point I clearly fall into that category of someone who is reimaging the Newfoundland Regiment from a nationalistic view and that is bad. I beg to differ. I view the history of the Newfoundland Regiment without the hype and hyperbole, I like to cut through the BS of war and post war propaganda, the follow up reinterpretation of the so-called triumphant (or Glorious) tragedy of Beaumont-Hamel, then the deep sense of loss of nationhood and focus on the soldiers who fought and died representing Newfoundland and her people in the Great War, for which A J.Stacey (James?) is but one. Of course he was also an Englishman and a self-admitted deserter and clearly not a well-rounded representative of the Newfoundlands conscious experience in the Great War. But times have changed and to protect the integrity of our history it is better to move forward and give back that sense of positive national identity to the people that have lost it rather than strip them further using negative and pejorative language, attempting to use academic bullying to mitigate nationalistic feelings of loss. I for one prefer to move forward and I will do that from what Michael Dorash calls facts. Not someone elses interpretation of them.
I used inflammatory language in my post to get your attention and it worked. I am not surprised by your vicious personal attack on myself and my views, it was evident in your post what I was dealing with self-indulgent twaddle attacking nationalists and their viewpoints without justification or provocation. I just could not let it go.
You should not have taken me personally in the first post or now. Express them clearly and politely and perhaps a real discourse can be allowed to happen. However it does pain me to know that you occupy a position in one of the list of occupations that I commented on with your viewpoint and caustic rhetoric that appeared in your post.
Bax, I don't see Chris making any "vicious" personal attacks, or for that matter, attacking you at all, so am quite confused about what you're referring to.
I also don't know what your post has to do with Newfoundland in the Great War, since you don't actually get around to discussing the subject, but would be more interested in reading about the topic at hand, rather than what participants in the conversation may happen to think of each other personally.
You seem very quick to take offence and accuse Chris of making attacks; I wonder if you re-read his post you might not come to a different conclusion. Based on your rashness, I have to wonder how accurate your comments about historians "attacking" or "deriding" others really is.