Views from Various Trenches, Part II of II (Remembrance Day 2020)

Morning has broken, faded, and gone. It’s a gloomy afternoon in Brooklyn, and I’ll be bringing you the five combatants I didn’t get to last night. I mean this morning. I napped for over four hours. I feel guilty for that – still so much to do! Much of my country is slacking off today for “Veterans Day“, and sadly, I understand this, having suffered through American public and Catholic school curricula.

You see, simpletons, Germany wasn’t on the point of starvation when the AEF arrived – they were going to win the war without us! J.J. Pershing – brilliant military commander. (He was known as N—– Jack for allowing Black troops to serve in Cuba – he was actually hated here. But Wilson hated his only legitimate opponent more, as he had political ambitions. Tough, innit, when you have only two options and like neither? N—– Jack loses any admiration he should have gained when you take into account that he refused to work with Foch – except to send him the Black troops who he didn’t really want. Thanks for respecting our Black servicemen, you wanker.)

This second post is coming out late. I was actually dozing off at my computer when my wife rightly pointed out that 40-year-old me cannot work for several days on 2-3 hours sleep a night. I really wanted to get this out on the tail end of Remembrance Day, but I was starting to write incoherent rubbish, and to make scans that were crooked, etc. “Getting old is hell”, as my father often says. Anyhow, on with the other five nations:

The Ottoman Empire (the Turks)

The Ottoman Empire – particularly the Turkish part – is probably most often portrayed as the force that stopped the British advance at Gallipoli. Less well known is the fact that they tried to remain neutral, until a couple of German captains on recently purchased boats fired on Russia. Oh well, neutrality aside, let’s institute the Armenian Genocide and eventually scuttle the Islamic Caliphate – all for a few fleeting land gains after an accidental German incursion. The Ottomans tried to remain neutral, but like most of Europe, went to war when the bigshots wouldn’t decry the Russian situation. The majority of the Empire (or Caliphate – dealer’s choice) was agrarian. Ready for farmers? (spoilers: images are of permanent military and conscripts):


Where to start with our neighbors to the North? Well, being a semi-autonomous British Dominion, they didn’t have to take up the call, but they did – on the exact day Britain did. They did conscript, eventually, in 1917, and with some resistance. But less than one tenth of the fighting force were conscripts, in direct contradiction to America. And this is part of what paved their way to complete independence – or as my college friend Omar put it “since the First World War, the queens and stuff are just people on our money”. Of course, Omar was from Toronto and first experienced racism when he visited Albany’s bus terminal. Which I’ll attest is better now than in the late 90s.

Digressions aside, Canadians fought bravely and the only reason we don’t have more 3D records of it is that there weren’t major Canadian stereoview purveyors. Even Charles Bierstadt stuck his base to the American side of Niagara Falls – let me tell you, having grown up nearby, the Canadian Falls are so much nicer! (Our side has a Nikola Tesla statue, but we’re getting to Serbia later.) Without Canadians recording it, there are still awesome records of Canadians, and some from Troutman (a manufacturer Doug and I laughed at – but two images of theirs, of the Canadian Memorial at Ypres and the Vimy Ridge shot – are good). And don’t forget that the Canadians and Anzacs teamed up to take down the Red Baron – still the most feared flying ace in history. Here are the brave Canadians, with a little focus on Vimy Ridge:


“Dickels und Pickels”, which I call it because it makes me laugh.

The Kaiser took himself altogether too seriously. I don’t suffer from the same problem. Neither did Doug. We both took to calling Wilhelm II “Kaiser Bill”, in deference to old Tommy trench jokes. Helmuth von Molke, loser of the Marne, almost generates his own jokes. One time, definitely on a Tuesday in 2018, Doug referred to me as “Dickelhaube” because of my Hungarian heritage. Tuesdays were notable because the chemo led to these bizarre manic outbursts. I was “Dickelhaube” for one phone call and Doug dropped it. Then last week while planning this post, I came across this card that I can only believe Doug shoved into a back corner so as not to have to deal with it. It’s barely-stereo and accompanied by images from the Russo-Japanese War (!) and drawings.

When we were at Doug’s house, and he was dying and barely taking morphine so as to keep his head straight, we created Dickels, the straight man (yes, I get phallic humor) and Pickels, the comic relief. Forgive me, but we were both gallows humor kind of guys. Doug took some marijuana edibles which arrived in his fridge, and I was just there – Blackadder to his Baldrick, the former just trying not to to tear up at his dear dying friend, both with horrendous German accents. Then on our first full day alone together he injured himself. Doing a comic bit getting sage advice from my Dickels (he’d have loved this post), he fell into a bookshelf. Our vaudeville act was over, though he covered it up with actual work before the nurses saw.

Dickels and Pickels only re-emerged when I found a set of crappy stereoviews last week. It made me chuckle. Drawing a line through my comments on Remarque last night, perhaps it is not so clear-cut what those German youths died for. Wilhelm’s forever-optimism or von Moltke’s fervent folly. The youths knew nothing of the Schliefen Plan. My wife knew nothing of the pickelhaube or the other German helmets on Sunday’s viewing of the 1930 film adaptation of “All Quiet on the Western Front”. I had to explain the pickelhaube/”Dickelhaube” joke to her. Anyhow, here are some German youths, courtesy of some old Feldstag-Verlag scans:

French Colonial Troops

My Remembrance Day posts of 2018 and 2019 extensively covered the French. Here, I want to remember the French Colonial Forces. Specifically the Senegalese, and the Zouaves – the elite Algerians, who were much feared by their enemies. Unlike regular units, the colonial units were not outfitted with stereo cameras by the French government through the SCA. Unlike the Indian Corps, there wasn’t a particular stereographer who went out of his way to capture them. These young men fought and died for a far-away country, and there’s hardly a stereoview to remember them by. Here, I remember them with a hodge-podge I’ve managed to scrape together. Most are from things Doug collected but for the last two, I had to use images acquired for the Collection after his death:


Let us end at the beginning: with Serbia. Serbia was a free monarchy, and Franz Joseph detested this – he thought they belonged to Austro-Hungary, for whatever reason (the Serbs had freed themselves from the Ottomans, not Joseph’s split empire). A lone Serb – an ideological teenager with a gun – did fire a bullet in Sarajevo. An idiot with a gun killed John Lennon and Britain didn’t declare war on us – and Britain doesn’t even hate Lennon!

For whatever reason, every Serb I’ve ever mentioned the Great War to quickly interjects with something like “we didn’t start that war”! Let me be unambiguous here: it is my position, it was Doug’s position, it is the official position of The Jordan/Ference/Ference Collection that Austria started the Great War. And Serbia paid dearly for what one idealist did. By the end of the war, one-eighth – 16.67% – of the population was dead. Not the military – the entire population. Over 50% of New Zealanders who landed at Gallipoli were killed or wounded – but that’s a casualty rate for soldiers. Less than 1% of New Zealand’s population died in this war. That’s a staggering difference.

My personal hero, Nikola Tesla, was born in Serbia. After the war – bankrupted by American capitalism and his own idealism, and left only with his legendary brain – he dreamed of ending war. His dream was of the Teleforce Peace Ray – basically a particle gun that could only be used for defense, because the power it would have taken to use it offensively would be inconceivable. Inconceivable, given what Tesla could conceive, can be read as impossible. Every Serb I’ve ever met has also spoken with pride of Nikola Tesla.

The Serbs who fought in the war fought bravely, if always at a disadvantage. At Cer, the outnumbered Serbs fought off Franz Joseph’s troops, taking almost 5,000 prisoners to add insult to injury. At Drina and Kolubara, the Serbs again defended themselves to the point of embarrassing Austro-Hungary. They used guerrilla warfare against armies that were still fighting Napoleonic battles, and they were our allies – which sadly, a lot of Americans don’t know. (I talked about American education at the beginning.) Here are some scenes from Serbia, captured by a stereographer embedded with their army, as scanned by Doug:

The End

The war sort of petered out, and so goes this post. I’m in a more “together” state of mind; I slept last night. That means that this year’s Remembrance Day post is split into two days – so it goes, as Vonnegut wrote. My wife was right; I’m not a 20-year-old anymore and can’t act like it. I spent a bunch of time today cleaning up spelling errors and other detritus from yesterday’s sleep-starved writing. Both halves are a remembrance of Doug Jordan as well as of the millions who died at Ypres and Verdun, in Serbia, of wounds received after. I hope that Doug is remembered to the Great War community for his tireless categorization of almost 10,000 stereoviews and his acquisition of quite a lot more. I ended the first half of this post with the Latin, so screw it. I’m reappropriating a nickname:

I miss you, Dickelhaube.

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