Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Monday, November 05, 2007

"The Devil's Rope"

So you think that you have seen her
When you're lying in between her
And you tell me that you don't care
Busy bodies getting nowhere
Ev'rybody's getting meaner
Busy bodies
Caught in the concertina


Elvis Costello, "Busy Bodies"

If you want to find the old battalion,
I know where they are, I know where they are.
If you want to find the old battalion,
I know where they are,
They're hanging on the old barbed wire.


Soldier's song



Leading up to Armistice Day, I'm back on my Great War obsession. Today's subject, one of the two things that most defined the way the war was fought. Both were American inventions and, in all fairness to Europe, would probably not have been invented back in the old country.
The US had a huge storehouse of natural resources but a dearth of the type of skilled tradesmen that the guild system had been turning out for hundreds of years in Europe. So, those clever Yanks were forced into an "innovate or die" corner. Two of the results of this are :Machine guns which I'll deal with another time and, barbed wire.
It's hard to imagine WW1 without barbed wire being predominant but its military use previously had been marginal. It was used in the Russo-Japanese War but, like everything else, that the big brains should have watched and learned from, it was ignored.
The first use in The Great War was a few strands put up to keep livesock from straying onto the battlefield.
They caught on fast though. Soon everywhere, no-man's land was banded with belts of the stuff. The German entanglements were a least 50 feet deep and extended to 100 feet of depth on the Hindenburg Line where each bit of trench was supposed to erect and maintain ten belts of such (room permitting of course - ten belts of 100 feet each would add up to close to a quarter mile). Of course belts were also set up within the lines; between the front-line trench and the support trenches behind for example.
In one French sector, in 1915 the order was given that each unit, during its time in the line, would add two yards to the depth on the defenses.
There's not a lot to say on the subject. A look at the photos shows lots of it was used, some still remaining (the only color photo) and that, it more than anything made the tank welcome.
The second photo from the top; a British Mk IV Male with the disdain that only 28 tons can show to such paltry shit. Ideally, tanks would crush the wire but occasionally it would get caught up in the treads and then make them into some sort of bizarre, rotating, giant brillo pad until the lads climbed out and cut it loose.
On that note, I'm going to let the pictures speak their thousands of words on their own.



















































Now c'mon. DIY instructions. You won't get that from Home Depot.
To close (almost); two Anzacs at Gallipoli cutting wire into pieces for use as the shrapnel component of "jam tin bombs". Remember, the devil finds work for idle hands.
And look at the number of cans at their disposal. That's a lot of jam.
Now I really will quit - with one of my favorite pictures.
Nice shot of a trench, in poor repair but pretty standard - and sandbags (read: "mudbags") and barbed wire. What really frosts it for me is the leg, with the broken shin and boot, sticking out of the side. This fella really put it all into defending his bit of turf.
Aint war just glorious?The aforementioned color pic. Somewhere in Luxembourg.

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