1893 Grand Exhibition. The world's intro to PBR, hot dogs, ice cream cones and the Ferris Wheel.

1893 Grand Exhibition. The world's intro to PBR, hot dogs, ice cream cones and the Ferris Wheel.
A view through the wheel. The black, horizontal line is the axle, the single largest forging to that time.
"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

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Little Willie

Willie saw some dynamite,
Couldn't understand it quite;
Curiosity never pays:
It rained Willie seven days.


Harry Graham


Meet Willie.
He's quite a young man in this photo. In spite of that, two things stand out.
First off: The attitude - he's The Crown Prince of Prussia (well, son of the Crown Prince), future emperor of Germany (...that's got some working out to do - but it'll happen).
In short - Willie's got it wired. He's got it goin' on.
Secondly, his left arm, casually held underneath the other, was shorter than his right and atrophied, the result of a breech birth.
The little fella had tried to come out sideways against the better judgement of the Mom, one of the Daughters of Queen Victoria.
It's a sad thing. He was said to have been very athletic and "into" all sorts of things where two good arms would have been nice.
He had always tried to conceal the deformity, either by keeping his left hand on his sword hilt or carrying a pair of gloves so that it, the arm, would seem longer.

June 1887. Big party at Grandma's house - Buckingham Palace. The occasion, the 50th anniversary of the Queen's ascension, her "Golden Jubilee".
Of course, everyone and his dog had to be invited - fifty-some monarchs of various flavors from around the globe. It was going to be huge.
But, there was a problem.
The family, that is the Royal family knew our lad, at 28, to be somewhat problematic.
He had opinions - lots of them - and he liked to share them.
Queen Vic was reluctant to let him come at all. Her concern was that William would "...show his dislikes and be disagreeable."
Her son and heir-apparent, played it a little smarter, pointing out that, even though Willie was second in the succession, his Dad was dying from throat cancer, while the present Kaiser, Wilhelm I, at ninety, refused to die.
Seeing the wisdom of not alienating the, almost certain future ruler of Germany, Victoria agreed - but the Price of Wales was charged with riding herd on Little Willie and "...keeping William sweet."
First off, the Prince of Wales was a great uncle - by that I mean a fun uncle.
Also, Willie, once you knew him was a bit of a cheap date.
He liked things military. A lot.
Uncle Edward took him on a whirlwind tour of things, martial.
Parades, reviews, maneuvers, Willie was in hog-heaven.
The culmination of this glut of military pageantry came about when he was allowed to spend the day with the Prince of Wale's own regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars.
The commander, Colonel Liddell had a new toy that Willie was quite taken with.
The Colonel had purchased, with his own money, a machine gun.
It was a Nordenfelt and he'd had it mounted on its own carriage.
it was the pride of the regiment.

Needless to say, Willie was orgasmic. He'd never had such a good time.
When he got home he dashed off thank-you letters to all his hosts, along with pictures of himself and invitations to come and see his regiment, the Garde Hussarien.
The Brits took him up on the offer and showed up next year with a surprise.
Who'd a seen this coming?
They'd brought Willie his own Nordenfelt (Naval version pictured at left).
The gift included the temporary services of one Corporal Hustler of the Royal Hussars, charged with showing them how to operate the damned thing.
The story's a bit predicable from here.
Willie enjoyed his stone-age, hand-cranked Nordenfelt but, when Hiram Maxim ten years later showed him his machine gun, Willie said "This is the gun. There is no other."
Another 20 years, an unfortunate confluence of events led to the two largest armies on earth, Germany and France with a small contingent (30,000 troops) of the best-trained and most professional regular army the world had ever seen, the BEF, facing off in Europe.
Everyone brought something to the party.
The French had their Soixante-Quinze, the French 75, the best field piece of the era. The first rapid-fire cannon, it was capable of 15, aimed rounds per minute.
The Brits brought "musketry" skills second to none, massed fire from the fast-firing, high-capacity Lee-Enfield. The rifles used in the first few years of the war were fitted with "volley sights" graduated to 1800 yards. Their fire was so fast and so accurate that the Germans mistook them for machine guns.

Machine guns.
They all had machine guns - but only the Germans had grasped their significance.
The French and the British were thrown off by the slight resemblance that early machine guns had, to artillery.
So, they kept putting them with the artillery where they were of little use.
Nobody liked them anyway.
War wasn't supposed to be about this... this machine with an operator just mowing folks down with no style.
It's supposed to be about The Cav man, the glory of the charge, the terror of cold-steel.
Or not.
The Germans figured it out first.
Everybody followed suit and the world hid in the ground for four years.
Picture above: Machine Gunners Advancing by Otto Dix, a German expressionist and Great War machine gunner.
More Dix

2 comments:

Andy said...

better watch yourself Dan, remember blogs are supposed to be "me,me,me", not generally interesting stuff.

Bob Brock said...

Is the implication that this particular "me, me, me" is not generally interesting?
I'm so damned interesting people can't stand me.
Life is boring, now that I've sworn off AYUP (Armed Yahoos in Utah Posse)

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