The brainchild of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, the Royal Naval Division (RND) was formed in 1914. It was comprised of eight battalions of reserve sailors not needed for sea service and four battalions of Royal Marines, scrounged up from each Marine depot. The RND eventually numbered about 8,000 men, which was under-manned compared to army divisions of the time, which at full strength had around 12,000. The ‘sailor’ battalions were named after famous admirals: Anson, Benbow, Collingwood, Drake, Hawke, Hood, Howe and Nelson. The Marine battalions were titled after their respective depots: Chatham, Deal, Plymouth and Portsmouth.
Due to a shortage of steel during the war, the United States Shipping Board (USSB) contracted for about 700 steam-powered cargo ships to have hulls made from wood. Shipyards on the Sabine River in Texas took on some of these contracts. So the big news in Orange, Texas in May, 1918 was the launching of the City of Bonham, which was the first of 12 very large wooden cargo ships ordered by the USSB. The Bonham was built according to A.M. Daughtery’s plans and was exactly like his ships War Marvel and War Mystery, both of which had been built in Orange for the British Cunard Line. With a displacement of 4,700 tons, they were the largest wooden cargo ships that would ever be built, although by war’s end wooden ships as big as 7,300 tons had been ordered.
Although the Secretary of War had pledged to bring all of the dead home back in 1917, in 1919 all space on ships was needed to bring the living home. A rousing disagreement then started up over what to do. Many felt that the dead should be buried in beautiful cemeteries in Europe, figuratively resting amongst their comrades. Congressional debate went back and forth with the final result being a Solomonic policy: the next of kin could choose whether to have their fallen buried in one of the new cemeteries in Europe, or they could have the remains returned to the U.S. and buried at the government’s expense. The result was that 30,922 were buried in the cemeteries and about 44,000 remains were repatriated.
Although the 369th Regiment Armory still stands at 142d St. and Fifth Ave. in New York, the regiment itself was disbanded in 1946 and its heritage passed to other units, now the 369th Sustainment Brigade, NY National Guard. The original 369th Infantry, widely known as “The Harlem Hell Fighters”, served with the French in WW1, and has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM).
“Retreat? Hell, we just got here.” So said Capt. Lloyd Williams, Virginia Tech Class of 1909, who was commanding the 51st Co., 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (2/5 Marines) at Belleau Wood. You can read more about this incident by clicking here.
Formed in 1917, the 2/5 Marines went on to become the most decorated battalion in USMC history. They are on active duty as a part of the 1st Marine Division.
If you’re a long time follower of this blog, you may remember Dennis Cross’ frequent re- posts from his blog “Centennial Countdown to the Great War”. This was a condensed news report covering events every month from 1911 to 1920, as viewed from a 21st Century perspective.
Norway was a brand-new country in 1914 – it had been only nine years since the nation was spun off from Sweden. Small in population and economically insignificant, Norway sat on the sidelines while the great powers of the day went to total war. How easy was it for Norway to remain neutral? Andrew McKay has this to say:
Most of us have become familiar with the concept of a Jihad. On November 14th, 1914, the influential religious leader of the Ottoman Caliphate known as the Sheikh-ul-Islam, declared a Jihad, urging all Muslims to rise up and defend the Ottoman Empire, a protector of Islam, against its enemies Britain, France, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro:
Today protective headgear is ubiquitous in American industry. This dates from 1919, when recently discharged 1st Lt. E.W. Bullard devised the first “Hard Boiled Hat”, patterned after the Doughboy’s M1917 ‘Brodie’ pattern helmets. Bullard’s hats were somewhat different from the WW1 helmets but, as the photograph above shows, many others were virtually identical. You can read all about this by clicking here.