Thursday, September 11, 2014

Miracle on the Battlefield-First Marne

One hundred years, ago one of the most important battles of the 20th century was fought North East of Paris by the Marne River.  Throughout the month of August and first days of September 1914, the  Imperial German Army marched from victory to victory, crushing Belgium, smashing through Northern France and forcing the French and British Armies into a near month long retreat. The German Schlieffen Plan for the conquest of France seemed to be on the verge of victorious conclusion, while the French war Plan XVII proved to be such a
disaster that by September 3, the French Government had fled Paris and the World waited for a swift German victory, just as they had done in 1870.
But the British and French regrouped and used a new addition to war, air recon, to reform on favorable terrain and attack the Germans in their weakest positions.  The German advance was halted, Paris was saved and the war continued...the soldiers would not "be home before the leaves fall" (Kaiser Wilhelm II, August 1914).  The victory so change the momentum of the war that the battle was soon called the Miracle on the Marne.  What none of the combatants could for see was that this was but the opening volley of a long, bloody war that would leave ten million soldiers dead, tens of millions more wounded, empires destroyed (Russian, Ottoman, German and Austro-Hungarian) and be the cause of an even greater conflict-the Second World War.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wattle and Daub-Elizabethan Style

While not common, wattle and daub houses did not have to be white washed.

Wattle and daub was a fairly inexpensive way to build homes from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
The walls between the large timbers of a structure were made of wattle (sticks woven in a loose pattern) and daub (a mixture of mud, straw and animal manure that was packed onto the wattle) then covered in plaster.

The upper story of the house to the right is a traditional style while those to the left have more wood detailing for decorative rather than structural reasons.
The Elizabethan Era was the high design point for wattle and daub buildings as by the end of her reign brick became the favored building material in England.

The sagging is a common aspect of many two or more story wattle and daub structures.
All these houses are in Ludlow, UK whose castle (to the left of the photo) was a major structure on the border with Wales and retained its importance until the late 17th century.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Garderobe-the castles way of meeting an every day need

For residents of a castle, when nature called, the garderobe was the place to go...the curved structure is the exit hole of the garderobe and the small arrow loop above doubled as source of fresh air for the users. 

Even centuries after its last use the stain and erosion caused by countless numbers of humans reliving themselves multiple times a day for more than five hundred years is clearly evident.

The advantage of relieving oneself behind the protective walls of a castle were obvious.  The problem that arose was where the waste ended up, piled up on the side of the exterior wall (as in the case of the above garderobe where the exit was angled to direct the waste further away from the wall), or in the moat.  In the former case the human waste was most often collected by peasants to use as fertilize in the local crop lands.  Some lords even charged their peasants for the use of the waste. In the latter case, having your waste entering the water table was a danger the residents of a castle were probably unaware. Besides, at that time period drinking ale/beer was safer, gave need calories and was probably more enjoyable.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Great War-End of the Old World

Upon learning of the German declaration of war upon France one of the most prophetic statements of that time was made: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime," Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, August 3, 1914. Later the next day the British Empire would join the folly that would redraw the map of Europe, destroy four empires, kill more than ten million men and lay the ground work for the greatest war in human history a generation later. The lights of the old Victorian/Edwardian World would never be lit again

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Great War-Begins in the West

August 2, 1914, Luxembourg and the opening moves of the soon to be called the Great War begins as Imperial German cavalry crosses the border. The German Schlieffen plan is about to run head on into the French Plan XVII. To the Germans this was "Der Tag" where they would gain their true place as the leaders of Europe. To the French this was the day of "Revanche" where their loss in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War would be avenged. The great Battle of the Frontiers will start in days and determine if this will be a short or long war.