French Navy and the First World War

French Navy and the First World War


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After 1870 France feared a land attack from the German Army. The government therefore decided to concentrate on building up its French Army to protect its frontiers from attack. This resulted in a decline in the money spent on the French Navy.

The growth in the German Navy at the beginning of the 20th century forced the French government to review its defence policy. As a result, spending on the French Navy almost doubled between 1910 and 1914.

By 1914 the French Navy had 2 modern dreadnoughts, 32 cruisers, 86 destroyers, 19 battleships (pre-dreadnought design)and 34 submarines.


Two French minesweepers in Lake Superior

Navarin-class trawler minesweeper floating in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (Lake Superior Magazine)

The Canadian Car and Foundry Company was a steel works and vehicle manufacturing company, originally from Montreal but with a site in what would become part of Thunder Bay, Ontario. At that time it was called Fort William, and it was at that site that the Inkerman and Cerisoles were constructed in the year 1918, along with their ten sister ships that were successfully delivered to the possession of the French government. The French Navy had contracted Canadian Car and Foundry to build these twelve minesweepers in the final year of World War I, despite the fact that Canadian Car and Foundry had never had a history of building ships, especially vessels of war. This contract is one of the reasons why Canadian Car and Foundry saw substantially higher earnings in fiscal year 1918 than in 1915 or 1920, for example. The Inkerman and Cerisoles were the final two of these vessels built, and by the time that they were completed the armistice between the Allies and the Central Powers had been declared at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of that year.

Navarin-class trawler minesweeper docked in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (Lake Superior Magazine).

These ships were designed to be minesweepers in wartime, specifically to clear German mines out of the English Channel and thus provide for the safety of shipping between England, France, and other nations, but they were also designed to be easily converted to fishing trawlers following postwar service. All twelve ships built by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company at Fort William were built with this postwar function in mind, and for this reason they were designated as “trawler minesweepers” or “chalutiers” in the French language. They were built with wooden hulls over steel frames at 140 feet long, and each of them displaced 630 tons and had four independent watertight compartments to help prevent sinking. These twelve particular ships were of the Navarin class of trawler minesweepers, named for the first of the group built, which in turn was likely named for the Battle of Navarino in October 1827, a victory for French naval forces alongside their British and Russian allies. The first nine of the Navarin class sailed for France prior to the completion of the ships about which this story is told.

Watercolor painting of the Inkerman and Cerisoles by Rev. Edward J. Dowling ( Lake Superior Magazine ).

First Lieutenant Marcel Adrien Jean Leclerc, commander of the three ship flotilla ( Lake Superior Magazine ).

The final three ships built under this contract, the Inkerman, the Cerisoles, and the Sebastopol (all named for French victories in the Crimean War) left Thunder Bay on their way to Sault Ste. Marie and eventually France via the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The three of them travelled south from the city of their origin, and the lead ship, Sebastopol, made it past Isle Royale before the wind picked up and the waves began to grow. The commander of this small group of minesweepers, First Lieutenant Marcel Leclerc, turned the formation to the south with the plan of passing Copper Harbor, sailing around the tip of the Keweenaw, and sheltering in the protected waters of Bete Grise Bay. It was in the main body of the big lake, in between Passage Island, near Isle Royale’s northern end, and Copper Harbor, that the three ships lost sight of each other. The officer in charge saw his ship, the Sebastopol, make it to sheltered waters, but not without trouble. The blizzard that struck them was recorded to have winds of up to fifty miles per hour and waves up to thirty feet in height, and so it could be said that the French minesweeping vessels faced the gales of November that a particular Canadian singer and songwriter made famous decades later. One of the sailors on board First Lieutenant Leclerc’s ship Sebastopol was noted as describing the storm as life-threatening, saying that the sailors had to ready the life boats and prepare for leaving the ship, and that he had already given himself up to God. The Sebastopol’s engine compartment was flooded, and the fires of coal that were responsible for propelling the ship were very nearly put out. After at least one day of enduring the storm, First Lieutenant Leclerc and his ship finally made it to safe waters and eventually to the Soo Locks at the east end of Lake Superior.

During and immediately following the storms, First Lieutenant Leclerc failed to see or hear any sign of his two companion ships, the Inkerman and the Cerisoles. On account of the conditions and the state of the radio equipment (still relatively new in this application at the time of the First World War, and potentially damaged by the storm), the crew of the Sebastopol failed to make radio contact with either of the other two minesweepers’ crews, and First Lieutenant Leclerc assumed that they had weathered the storm and continued on his journey to the lock complex at Sault Ste. Marie and into Lake Huron beyond. The Sebastopol waited at the Soo Locks for a number of days before continuing on the assumption that its sister ships had beaten them there and carried on with the journey.

Crew members on pilothouse of Navarin class minesweeper in Lake Superior ( Lake Superior Magazine ).

Operation Catapult: Naval Destruction at Mers-el-Kebir

On July 3, 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to make one of the most momentous decisions of his career. Early that morning, he ordered a British fleet to arrive off the naval base of Mers-el-Kebir in North Africa and demand the surrender of the French vessels there. The British were to offer the French admiral four alternatives intended to prevent the French fleet’s falling into the hands of the Germans. If the French commander refused the terms, his ships would be sunk by the British force. If the British were compelled to open fire, it would be the first time in 125 years that the two navies were arrayed against one another in hostility.

In order to prevent an Anglo-French showdown, Churchill and the British War Cabinet worked feverishly throughout the month of June to arrive at a diplomatic settlement of the problem. Efforts to gain valid assurances from the French that their ships would be denied to the enemy did not produce satisfactory results. Ultimately, negotiations failed and Churchill had to resort to force in order to protect Britain from the ‘mortal danger that Axis possession of the French vessels threatened. Although an attack would certainly incur the enmity of France, the urgency of the situation left Churchill with no option but to turn the guns of the Royal Navy against his recent ally.

In June 1940, Great Britain was in a precarious strategic position. With the collapse of French resistance imminent and the sudden entry of Italy into World War II, Britain suddenly found herself standing alone against Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Almost overnight, all of Europe was either at war with England or under the control of her enemies. The situation that now confronted Britain was far worse than the one she had faced in 1917.

Within a fortnight of Italy’s entry into the conflict, the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean shifted against the British. With France out of the war, Britain had to assume naval responsibilities throughout the whole of the Mediterranean. Stretched dangerously thin, Britain might have to abandon her considerable interests in the eastern Mediterranean and concentrate her naval strength at Gibraltar. Facing the prospect that the Royal Navy might have to confront the combined German-Italian fleet alone, Churchill ordered substantial reinforcements to the Mediterranean from other trouble spots throughout the empire.

While these reinforcements temporarily redressed the balance in Britain’s favor, the question of what was to become of the vessels of the French fleet was a source of intense anxiety for the War Cabinet in London. In 1940, the French fleet was the fourth largest naval force in the world after Britain, the United States and Japan. Its strength included seven battleships, 19 cruisers, 71 destroyers and 76 submarines. Shortly after the Germans attacked France on May 10, 1940, most of the vessels in French ports sailed to other harbors. A powerful French naval force was anchored at Mers-el-Kebir, just to the west of the French Algerian port of Oran.

Churchill knew that the French warships could not be allowed to fall into the hands of the Axis. If Germany and Italy could add these units to their existing naval force, Britain would face an overwhelming threat that it could not adequately meet. With Britain’s command of the seas in jeopardy, the British Isles could be cut off from the rest of the empire and the vital Atlantic supply routes irrevocably closed. In addition, the waters around the British Isles could become an unobstructed avenue for a German invasion force.

In dealing with the French fleet issue, Churchill at first used tactful diplomacy and friendly persuasion. Despite Churchill’s numerous requests that the French immediately sail their ships to the safety of British ports, the government of French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, and later the Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe Petain, refused.

Britain’s general distrust of French intentions was heightened on June 20, when Petain violated a no separate peace agreement with Britain and concluded an armistice with Germany. The terms of the treaty dealt a serious blow to British interests. One clause in particular, Article Eight, appeared to be most threatening. This stipulated that all vessels outside of home waters were to immediately return to France. In North Africa, the French fleet was at least a few hundred miles from the nearest German-controlled territory. If compelled to sail to occupied France, the vessels would come within Germany’s grasp.

On June 24, with no clear solution to the French problem in sight, the War Cabinet met in three extraordinary sessions. While no final course of action was agreed upon, the consensus was that something must be done to gain immediate control of the French warships or to permanently put them out of action. The next day, the War Cabinet instructed Vice Adm. Dudley North to proceed to Oran and meet with the French naval commander there, in order to gauge his views on the situation. The admiral flatly refused to hand over his ships to the British under any circumstances.

The realities of the British military situation necessitated an urgent settlement of the French problem. As Churchill pondered, Germany was poised in the Low Countries and along the coast of France, ready to intensify its attack on the convoys carrying vital supplies to Britain. German bombing raids were already a frequent occurrence in many of Britain’s southeastern cities. In Berlin, Hitler was completing plans for the invasion of Britain–Operation Sea Lion.

To meet the invasion threat, the overriding concern for Churchill and his advisers was to concentrate the maximum possible naval strength in home waters. The uncertainty regarding the French fleet had to be dissipated as soon as possible in order for the British warships now shadowing the French to be released for operations elsewhere.

Because Britain was militarily inferior to her enemies, her only hope of survival during a protracted war was persuading outside powers to intervene on her behalf. Unfortunately, the predominant world opinion was that Britain would soon collapse.

Something had to be done to counter this pessimistic appraisal of Britain’s chances and to enable the country to break out of its state of diplomatic isolation. Churchill felt that since many people throughout the world believed Britain was about to surrender, a bold stroke in British foreign policy was needed to impress upon the world Britain’s determination to continue the war and fight to the end. With one audacious move, he believed all doubts could be swept aside by deeds.

On June 27 the War Cabinet met to plan that decisive action. With the very life of the state at stake, Churchill set July 3 as the day on which all French naval warships within Britain’s grasp would either be seized or destroyed. For the next six days, the War Cabinet and naval staff worked on the details of Operation Catapult.

In choosing primary targets, the planners felt that little was to be feared from the French ships that had taken refuge in Britain’s home ports. The planners figured that they could seize these ships–which included the powerful old battleships Courbet and Paris, the large destroyers Leopard and Le Triomphant, the smaller destroyers Mistral and Ouragan, and the huge submarine Surcouf–at their convenience. Likewise, there was no immediate concern about seizing formidable French battleship Jean Bart at Casablanca or Richelieu at Dakar, West Africa. Both vessels were being kept under close surveillance by an adequate number of British warships. Similarly, the three older battleships and one light cruiser at Alexandria, Egypt, could easily be neutralized by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s force stationed there.

The real concern of the War Cabinet was what to do about the French ships at or near Oran. There the situation was very different. The large port in northwestern Algeria was home to a modest force of seven destroyers, four submarines and a handful of torpedo boats, and at the nearby base of Mers-el-Kebir, under the protection of powerful shore batteries on the cliffs above, lay anchored the strongest concentration of French warships in the world. These ships were from the mighty Atlantic fleet (Force de Raid) and had moved to Mers-el-Kebir from Brest, France, in early June. The force included the battleships Bretagne and Provence, six destroyers, one seaplane carrier and two modern battle cruisers, Dunkerque and Strasbourg. In 1940 naval power was reckoned on the basis of capital ship strength, and these two Dunkerque-class battle cruisers were a major concern for the British Admiralty. Dunkerque, which had been launched in 1937, was one of the most modern ships afloat. She was armed with eight 13-inch guns and capable of cruising at 291Ž2 knots. Strasbourg had been commissioned in 1938 and possessed similar assets. Both vessels were more powerful than the German Scharnhorst and Gneisnau and faster than anything the British possessed except the battle cruiser Hood. Provence and Bretagne were each capable of 20 knots and carried 10 13.4-inch guns.

Commanding the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir was a highly disciplined and efficient admiral, Marcel Gensoul. In British Captain Cedric Holland’s assessment, Gensoul was completely service. He was fervently loyal to the French naval commander, Admiral of the Fleet Jean François Darlan, and to the Vichy government. According to Holland, Gensoul was known to be somewhat pigheaded and difficult to deal with. In addition, the admiral’s bitter anglophobia was well-known in British naval circles. The prospects for obtaining his cooperation through verbal persuasion did not seem to be encouraging.

On June 27, the War Cabinet discussed the best way to eliminate the menace posed by the vessels at Mers-el-Kebir. Churchill’s main concern was that the ships be contained within the harbor and then neutralized within a short space of time. As a means of accomplishing this, he planned to have a British force arrive off Mers-el-Kebir and offer Gensoul four alternatives–have the French fleet join the Roayl Navy, take the fleet to British ports with reduced crews, take the fleet to a French West Indian port or a U.S. port and be decommissioned, or sink the fleet right there in Mers-el-Kebir’s harbor. If none of those options were accepted within three hours, the British admiral on the scene would be instructed to sink the French fleet by naval gunfire.

Later that day, the War Cabinet informed Vice Adm. Sir James Somerville that he was to command Force H, a flotilla that had been hastily formed to monitor the situation in the Mediterranean. Now it was to be the main instrument in a large-scale operation that would effectively place the French fleet permanently beyond the enemy’s reach. The British had assembled an impressive array of firepower. At Somerville’s disposal were the battle cruiser Hood, the battleships Valiant and Resolution, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, the smaller cruisers Arethusa and Enterprise and 11 destroyers.

At 3:30 p.m. on June 29, Somerville was briefed on his task. He was to endeavor to secure the transfer, surrender, or destruction of the French warships at Oran and Mers-el-Kebir by any means possible, and no concessions were to be given to the French. They were either to accept the British terms or face the consequences.

On July 2, Somerville received his final instructions and held a conference aboard his flagship in which he briefed his staff on Operation Catapult. Persuasion and threats were to be employed first, in an attempt to get Gensoul to comply. If he refused to accept any of the alternatives, the British were to fire a few rounds close to the French ships. If Gensoul still remained intransigent, Force H was to destroy the French fleet as efficiently and with as little loss of life as possible.

At 5:30 a.m. on July 3, Somerville’s task force arrived off Mers-el-Kebir. The British commander had been instructed to complete the operation during daylight. At 6:30 a.m., the destroyer Foxhound steamed toward the harbor entrance with Captain Holland on board. Holland had been instructed to meet with Gensoul and personally explain the British terms to him.

At 8:10, Gensoul sent Flag Lt. Antoine Dufay in a launch to confer with Holland. Holland told the lieutenant that it was of the utmost importance that he speak directly with Gensoul about his mission. Dufay replied that Gensoul had refused to see the British captain.

Meanwhile, Gensoul, surveying the scene before him, grasped the significance of Force H and became indignant at what he felt was likely to be British diplomacy at gunpoint. At 8:47, he ordered Foxhound to leave the harbor at once.

Holland, knowing what would happen if negotiations failed, tried once again to see Gensoul. Pretending to exit the harbor, the determined Briton instead boarded a fast launch and sped toward Gensoul’s flagship. Before he could get there, he was intercepted by Dufay in another craft. Dufay again explained that Gensoul would not see him. In desperation, Holland handed the flag lieutenant a briefcase containing the text of the British terms. The British had planned to communicate these demands orally, but Gensoul’s stubbornness precluded that option. Since Force H was to take action before sundown, Holland felt it was imperative to deliver the terms by any means possible.

Gensoul had read the British demands, he became incensed. At 9:45 he signaled the French Admiralty in Toulon, informing them that a British force was off Oran and that he had been given an ultimatum to sink his ships within six hours. Gensoul transmitted his intention to reply to force with force.

While Holland was awaiting a reply aboard Foxhound, he reported observing the French vessels beginning to unfurl their awnings and raise steam. It was clear that the French were preparing to leave the harbor. First Sea Lord Sir Alfred Dudley Pound ordered Somerville to have the harbor entrance sown with mines in order to prevent the fleet from leaving.

At 10 a.m., Somerville received a message from Gensoul that, in view of what amounted to a veritable ultimatum, the French warships would resist any forcible British attempt to gain control of the fleet. Gensoul informed Somerville that The first shot fired at us will result in immediately ranging the entire French Fleet against Britain. Since Gensoul had refused the terms and was apparently preparing to fight, Somerville told the British Admiralty that he would begin firing at 1:30 p.m. Still undaunted, Holland was convinced that a peaceable settlement could be found, and he implored the Admiralty for more time to negotiate. As a result, there was delay after delay during the next three hours, and a new deadline was set for opening hostilities𔃂:30 p.m.

At first this approach seemed to pay off. At 4:15, Gensoul relented and agreed to parley with Holland. While this appeared to be an encouraging development, the mood of optimism was soon dampened. Gensoul told Holland that so long as Germany and Italy abided by the armistice terms and allowed the French fleet to remain in French metropolitan ports with reduced crews, he would also remain. While the meeting was taking place, the harbor was mined. The French admiral viewed this as a hostile act, and it added to the tension of the interview. At times it seemed to Holland that an agreement was in sight, but it was becoming painfully clear to the British that Gensoul was merely stalling for time.

In the meantime, the situation was becoming more and more hazardous. The misleading signal that Gensoul had sent at 9:45 had reached the French Admiralty. In the absence of Darlan, who could not be located, the French chief of staff, Admiral Le Luc, issued a response in his name. He told Gensoul to stand firm and ordered all French naval and air forces in the western Mediterranean to prepare for battle and proceed with the utmost haste to Oran.

Before Gensoul could inform Holland of the orders he had received, the British Admiralty intercepted Le Luc’s order and passed it on to Somerville. The naval chiefs added, Settle matters quickly or you will have reinforcements to deal with. As a result, Somerville sent a signal to Gensoul, stating that: If none of the British proposals are accepted by 5:30 p.m., it will be necessary to sink your ships. That message–received aboard Dunkerque at 5:15 p.m.–put an end to all discussion. In view of the irreconcilable position of each side, further negotiation was fruitless. A disappointed Holland somberly departed the French flagship at 5:25. A few minutes later, before he had even cleared the harbor, Force H opened fire on the French ships. The first Anglo-French naval exchange since Trafalgar and the Nile had begun.

It was not much of a duel, for most of the gunfire came from the British. According to French Admiral Auphan, the British gunfire was very heavy, very accurate and short of duration. One of the first salvoes struck the battleship Bretagne, which blew up. Another shell tore off the stern of the destroyer Mogador. Dunkerque received several hits but managed to fire about 40 rounds at Hood before being put out of action. Heavily damaged, Provence was forced to run aground. Before the smoke cleared, the bulk of French naval power at Mers-el-Kebir was either aflame or at the bottom of the sea, and more than 1,297 French sailors had been killed.

In response to a signal from the shore begging the British to cease fire, Somerville ordered his guns silent. He gave the French an opportunity to abandon their ships in order to avoid further loss of life. But the French used the reprieve to make a break out from the harbor with the few undamaged ships remaining. As Force H moved westward to avoid exposure to the shore batteries, Strasbourg, the seaplane carrier Commandant Teste and five destroyers avoided the mines and escaped into open water. Somerville ordered three airstrikes against Strasbourg from Ark Royal. The British pilots scored a direct hit on the beleaguered Strasbourg, but the vessel managed to continue her escape. On July 4, the meager force that had escaped Mers-el-Kebir arrived in Toulon. Doubts about the extent of damage to Dunkerque led to a dawn torpedo attack by British Fairey Swordfish bombers the next day, which effectively put Dunkerque out of action.

There can be little doubt that the effect of the attack on Anglo-French relations was entirely negative. On July 3, the French chargé d’affaires formally protested the British action. For a while it seemed possible that the French might have been provoked to the point of declaring war. Immediately after the attack, Admiral of the Fleet Darlan ordered all French warships to engage the British enemy wherever they were encountered. On July 5, a small squadron of French aircraft appeared over Gibraltar and dropped some bombs on British installations there, causing minor damage. On July 8, the Vichy government officially severed all diplomatic ties with London.

While the goodwill of France had been sacrificed, the material results of the operation were considerable and seemed in themselves to justify Churchill’s use of force. Strasbourg and five destroyers had eluded the British efforts to sink them, but the bulk of France’s capital ship strength had been effectively neutralized. In the space of a few hours, the world’s fourth largest fleet had lost 84 percent of its operational battleship strength and had been reduced to a token force of light craft and submarines. As a result of the action at Mers-el-Kebir and seizures elsewhere, Britain had successfully eliminated the danger of an augmented Axis fleet, while reaffirming its own naval supremacy.

Perhaps an even more important consequence of Churchill’s action was the favorable impression it created on world opinion. Catapult was a striking example of Britain’s determination to continue the war at all costs and despite the odds. While the aggressive ruthlessness of the Royal Navy proved crucial in gaining the confidence of many of the neutral powers and the respect of the enemy, it was the new position of the United States that was the most significant.

President Franklin Roosevelt lauded Churchill’s action and welcomed it as a service to American defense. To other American officials as well, Catapult eradicated all doubts of Britain’s ability to repel an enemy invasion. This newfound confidence translated into material benefits for Britain as FDR pressured Congress to step up support through Lend-Lease and the Destroyers for Bases arrangement.

The British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir was a major turning point in World War II. As Britain braced herself for the upcoming duel with Germany in the skies and on the sea, the vital commitment of the United States would weigh heavily in the balance. Without the moral and materiel benefits that were gained from Churchill’s bold stroke at Oran, the Axis domination that had descended upon the free world by 1940 might never have been broken.

This article was written by Robert J. Brown and originally appeared in the September 1997 issue of World War II magazine. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!


Dispatches

Dispatches: Backgrounders in Canadian Military History

Dr. Serge Durflinger

Introduction

During the First World War, the Canadian government used posters as propaganda devices, for fund raising purposes and as a medium to encourage voluntary enlistment in the armed forces. Posters were an important form of mass communication in pre-radio days and hundreds existed during the war, some with print runs in the tens of thousands.

Because of Canada’s bilingual character, recruiting poster images and text reflected different cultural traditions, outlooks and sensibilities. Recruiting posters remain snapshots in time, helping historians understand the issues and moods of the past.

The French-Canadian recruiting posters on display in the Les Purs Canayens exhibit reflect Canada’s pressing demand for manpower during the First World War. They also indicate the underlying social, cultural and political strains which affected Canada’s war effort and influenced military policy. Most French-speaking Canadians did not support Canada’s overseas military commitments to the same degree as English speakers.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the Dominion of Canada was constitutionally a subordinate member of the British Empire. When Britain was at war, Canada was at war: no other legal option existed. Nevertheless, Ottawa determined the actual nature of Canada’s contribution to the war effort, not London.

When Canadians learned they were at war, huge flag-waving crowds expressing loyalty to the British Empire drowned out voices of caution or dissent. The war would be a moral crusade against militarism, tyranny, injustice, and barbarism. “There are no longer French Canadians and English Canadians,” claimed the Montreal newspaper, La Patrie, “Only one race now exists, united…in a common cause.” Even Henri Bourassa, politician, journalist, anti-imperialist, and guiding spirit of French-Canadian nationalism, at first cautiously supported the war effort. Few Canadians could have predicted at this time that their nation soon would become a major participant in the worst conflict the world had yet seen, or that the war would place enormous political and social strains on Canada.

Recruitment: Policy versus Reality

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Robert Borden immediately offered Britain a contingent of troops for overseas service. Thousands of men enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), then assembling at Valcartier, Québec under the personal, if chaotic, supervision of Sam Hughes, the exuberant Minister of Militia and Defence. There was a surplus of volunteers and selection standards remained high some men, in fact, were turned away. On October 3, a convoy of ships carrying nearly 33,000 Canadian troops departed for Britain. In December 1914, Borden announced solemnly that “there has not been, there will not be, compulsion or conscription”. To find whatever manpower might be necessary, Borden placed his faith in Canadians’ patriotic spirit.

Fully two-thirds of the men of the first contingent had been born in the British Isles. Most had settled in Canada in the 15-year period of massive immigration which had preceded the Great War. The same attachment to the Mother Country was less obvious among the Canadian born, especially French Canadians, of whom only about 1000 enlisted in the first contingent. At the time war was declared, only 10 percent of the population of Canada was British born. Yet, by the Armistice in 1918, nearly half of all Canadians who served during the war had been born in the British Isles. These statistics indicate that voluntary enlistments among the Canadian born were never equal to their proportion of the population.

Following the despatch of this first contingent, the Department of Militia and Defence delegated the task of recruiting to militia units across the country. This decentralized and more orderly system raised a total of 71 battalions — each of approximately 1000 men — for service overseas. Posters, which appeared in every conceivable public space, were an important part of this large recruiting effort. The poster text and images were usually designed and printed by the units themselves and tailored to local conditions and interests. Many of the posters on display are good examples of these.

Unemployment had been high in 1914-1915, and this perhaps had prompted the initially heavy flow of enlistments, especially from economically-troubled Western Canada. By 1916, the booming wartime industrial and agricultural economies combined to provide Canadians with other options and employers competed with recruiting officers for Canada’s available manpower. Those keen to volunteer had already done so the rest would have to be convinced — or compelled.

French Canada and Recruitment

Following the nation-wide outbursts of patriotism in August 1914, French-Canadian support for the war began to decline. There existed among French Canadians a tradition of suspicion and even hostility towards the British Empire, and, while sympathetic to France, Britain’s ally, few French Canadians were willing to risk their lives in its defence either. After all, for over a century following the British conquest of New France in 1760, France showed no interest in the welfare of French Canadians. In North America, les Canadiens had survived and grown, remaining culturally vibrant without French support. By 1914, while an educated élite in French Canada professed some cultural affinity, most French Canadians did not identify with anti-clerical and scandal-ridden France.

When a French government propaganda mission toured Québec in 1918, Bourassa spoke for French Canada when he wrote of the irony of the French “trying to have us offer the kinds of sacrifices for France which France never thought of troubling itself with to defend French Canada”. In short, neither France nor Britain was “a mother country” retaining the allegiance of French Canadians. The “patriotic” call to arms rang hollow.

French Canadians’ language and culture seemed more seriously threatened within Canada than by the war in Europe. In 1912, Ontario passed Regulation 17, a bill severely limiting the availability of French-language schooling to the province’s French-speaking minority. French Canada viewed this gesture as a blatant attempt at assimilation, which it had resisted for generations. Bourassa, who by 1915 saw the war as serving Britain’s imperial interests, insisted that “the enemies of the French language, of French civilization in Canada are not the Boches [the Germans]…but the English-Canadian anglicizers…” Bourassa’s acerbic campaign against the “Prussians of Ontario” had a major impact on recruiting for “Britain’s” war. The Montreal daily, La Presse, judged Ontario’s unyielding Regulation 17 as the main reason for French-Canadian apathy. To English Canada’s calls for greater French-Canadian enrollment, Armand Lavergne, well-known nationaliste, replied: “Give us back our schools first!” Wartime appeals for unity and sacrifice came at an inopportune time.

French Canada’s views were reflected in low enrollment numbers. Yet, most Canadians of military age, notwithstanding language, did not volunteer. Those tied to the land, generations removed from European immigration, or married, volunteered the least. Significantly, these characteristics applied most often to French Canadians, although many rural English-Canadians were not enlisting either. If British immigrants are not counted, the respective contributions of French and English Canadians are more proportional than the raw data would suggest.

Occasionally in 1915 and 1916, respected and battle-hardened officers of the 22nd would be assigned to newly-formed French-language battalions in the hope that a claim to some association with the famed “Van Doos” might encourage prospective enlistees. It rarely did. In June 1916, the 167th Battalion, recruiting in Québec City, even tried raffling an automobile to raise interest but only raised 144 men for service at the front with the 22nd. One interesting unit was the 163rd Battalion, raised in November 1915 by the noted nationaliste journalist and adventurer, Olivar Asselin, who insisted on enrolling only high-calibre men. Criticized by his nationaliste colleagues for enlisting, Asselin explained in the pamphlet, Pourquoi je m’enrôle that, far from being a hypocrite, he was helping to defend France and not the British Empire. Asselin nicknamed his unit “les poils-aux-pattes” [hairy paws] and adopted the porcupine as his regimental emblem, explaining that “qui s’y frotte s’y pique” [stung are those who come into contact with it]. The unit’s recruiting poster, on display in the exhibit, featured a soldier in French, not Canadian, uniform. Asselin’s considerable efforts to raise a high-quality French-language battalion were in vain: despite successful recruiting, the 163rd was despatched to Bermuda for garrison duty, where it languished. It, too, was eventually dismantled to reinforce the 22nd.

French Canada supplied approximately 15,000 volunteers during the war. Most came from the Montreal area, though Québec City, Western Québec and Eastern Ontario provided significant numbers. A precise total is difficult to establish since attestation papers did not require enlistees to indicate their mother tongue. Though French Canadians comprised nearly 30 percent of the Canadian population, they made up only about 4 percent of Canadian volunteers. Less than 5 percent of Quebec’s males of military age were enrolled in infantry battalions, compared to 14-15 percent in Western Canada and Ontario. Moreover, half of Quebec’s recruits were English Canadian and nearly half of French-Canadian volunteers came from provinces other than Québec. The result was an angry national debate concerning French Canada’s, and especially Québec’s, manpower contribution.

Conscription and its Aftermath

When Borden pledged in 1914 that there would be no conscription in Canada he also maintained that Canada would furnish whatever manpower was needed to help win the war. By the spring of 1917, these two policies had become irreconcilable. Voluntary enrollment was no longer producing the reinforcements necessary to maintain Canada’s commitment in the field where the CEF had suffered appalling casualties. Worse was yet to come.

In May 1917, Borden visited Vimy Ridge in the immediate aftermath of that costly Canadian victory. Moved by the hardships endured by the troops and proud of their battlefield achievements, on May 18, upon his return to Canada, Borden announced that “all citizens are liable for the defence of their country and I conceive that the battle for Canadian liberty and autonomy is being fought on the plains of France and Belgium.” The government began drafting the Military Service Act.

Many English Canadians hailed the step as a military necessity, but also as a means of forcing French Canada to augment its low enlistment rate. Saturday Night magazine insisted that “it is certainly not the intention of English Canada to stand idly by and see itself bled white of men in order that the Québec shirker may sidestep his responsibilities.” English Canada hated Bourassa as much as the German Kaiser. There was little sympathy for French Canadians and little understanding of the demographic, cultural or historical factors which might have dissuaded them from enlisting.

The Military Service Act became law on August 28. Former prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier claimed the measure “has in it the seeds of discord and disunion”. He was correct anti-conscription demonstrations occurred regularly in Montreal in the summer of 1917. Angry crowds broke office windows at the pro-conscription Montreal newspaper, The Gazette. The home of Lord Atholstan, proprietor of the equally pro-conscription Montreal Daily Star, was dynamited earlier that month although he escaped unharmed. Recruiting officers in various parts of Québec made themselves scarce for fear of their lives. Crowds chanted: “Nous en avons assez de l’Union Jack!”

The political truce which had prevented a wartime election ended. Parliament was dissolved in October 1917 and pro-conscription Liberals joined Borden’s Conservatives to form a Union Government, something of a misnomer since its founding was the result of national disunity. Some labour groups, most farmers and many Canadians of non-British origin were also firmly opposed to conscription. J.C. Watters, the president of the Trades and Labour Congress threatened that if conscription passed, Canadian workers “would lay down… tools and refuse to work”.

The ensuing December 17 “conscription” election was by far the most bitterly-contested and linguistically-divisive in Canadian history. In the end, the Unionists won 153 seats against the Laurier Liberals’ 82, including 62 obtained in Québec, but the popular vote was less than 100,000 in favour of the Unionists. The result was profound alienation in French Canada. Conscription was considered the result of the English-language majority imposing its views over a French-language minority on an issue of life and death. Conceptions of Canada and definitions of patriotism had never been further apart. Canadian national unity had never seemed so fragile.

The first group of conscripts were called in January 1918. There were slightly more than 400,000 Class I registrants that is, unmarried and childless males aged 20-34. Nationally, almost 94 percent of these men applied for various exemptions from service (98 percent in Québec) and the appeal boards established to review these cases granted nearly 87 percent of their requests (91 percent in Québec). Some 28,000 others (18,000 in Québec) simply defaulted and went into hiding to avoid arrest by military or civilian police. Conscription was unpopular among those called, regardless of region, occupation or ethnicity.

The tension in Québec was palpable. At the end of March 1918 a mob destroyed the offices of the Military Service Registry in Québec City. Conscript troops were rushed from Toronto and on April 1 they opened fire with machine guns on a threatening crowd, killing four demonstrators and wounding dozens of others. The extent of the violence shocked the country. Religious leaders and civic authorities successfully appealed for calm. The rioting stopped, but the bitter memories would linger for decades.


8. Republic of Korea Navy

Since the 1990s, South Korea has significantly improved its naval strength to counter North Korea, having similar reasons as Taiwan.
But unlike the Taiwanese Navy, which imports many ships from western countries, the South Korean Navy operates every vessel made in their homeland.
Most of them are designed & manufactured by state-owned companies, while private firms like Hyundai and Daewoo make the rest of the armed vessels.
South Korea has about 70,000 active personnel, which is much more than the combined forces of our predecessors Italian Navy and the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Its naval fleet comprises 23 submarines, 1 amphibious assault ship, 6 landing vessels, 8 landing crafts, 12 destroyers, 14 frigates, 36 corvettes, 11 mine countermeasures ships, and 70 fighter aircraft.
South Korea needs a powerful military to protect itself from its neighbor’s sea-based attacks with a threat on the horizon.
Thankfully, since the Korean War, the South Korean economy has slowly been improving, allowing the government to use modern military equipment without worrying about economic constraints.
Based on what is happening regarding North Korea today, you can expect that the South Korean government will further boost the nation’s coastal defenses.
Although South Korean Marines were established many decades ago, it has recently become a competent ocean force as the eighth strongest navy in the world.


Visiting Kent as First Lord of the Admiralty

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 - 1915, in front of Short Type S.38 Biplane (a.k.a. Short S.77), No. 66, of the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps, during a visit to Eastchurch, Kent, May 1914.


The History Of The First And Last Man Killed In Every Major US Conflict

As the war in Afghanistan continues to rage on after 14 years, and with the recent resurgence of violence in Iraq and now in Syria, a question like that undoubtedly weighs heavy in the minds of service members, veterans, and military decision makers.

The first soldier death marks the place where a war begins, at least for the troops. The last death bookends the war and earns that soldier a particular place in our nation’s history that is a dignified but dubious honor.

Here is a breakdown of the first and last fatalities of major U.S. wars.

Revolutionary War

First: Isaac Davis (Apr. 19, 1775) — A gunsmith from Acton, Massachusetts, Davis served as a minuteman with his local company. During the Battle of Concord, his company was selected to advance first on the British. When asked if his company was afraid, Davis is recorded as having replied, “No, I am not and I haven&apost a man that is!” As they advanced, Davis was shot through the heart. He is memorialized with a statue in the Acton Town Common.

First: Elmer E. Ellsworth (May 24, 1861) — Union officer Ellsworth was a law clerk under Abraham Lincoln and an Army soldier. Just prior to the Civil War, he began recruiting for the 11th New York Volunteer Regiment. The day after Virginia voters ratified the state convention’s decision to secede from the Union, Ellsworth and his troops entered Alexandria, Virginia, to assist in the occupation of the city. There, while taking down a Confederate flag, he was shot point blank by innkeeper James Jackson, a defender of slavery. Noting his close relationship with the Lincolns, Ellsworth&aposs body was brought back to the White House, and his casket sat in the East Room. The funeral was attended by both Abraham Lincoln and his wife.

Last: John J. Williams (May 13, 1865) — Williams was a Union soldier who served with Company B, 34th Regiment Indiana Infantry. Though the Union and Confederate companies in southern Texas had a gentleman’s agreement not to fight, Union Col. Theodore Barrett ordered Lt. Col. David Branson to take troops stationed on the island of Brazos Santiago and attack Confederates at White’s Ranch and Palmito Ranch. It was there that the 34th Regiment Indiana Infantry was met with a large Confederate cavalry force. They made the choice to retreat, and Williams was killed. It was a full month after Lee&aposs surrender at Appomattox. Williams died in a meaningless battle at Palmito Ranch.

World War I

First: Joseph William Guyton (May 24, 1918) — Guyton joined the Army as a part of the 126th Infantry Regiment and was attached to the 32nd Infantry Division, which was stationed in a German-held area of France. There, he served as an automatic gunner, firing off intermittent rounds on a post near the line of resistance. The enemy shot a barrage of machine gun fire into the line where Guyton was struck and killed instantly. President Warren G. Harding placed a presidential wreath on his coffin at a funeral ceremony for more than 5,000 fallen soldiers in Hoboken, New Jersey, in May 1921.

Last: Henry Gunther (Nov. 11, 1918) — Gunther did not join the Army, but was drafted into the 157th Brigade, 79th Infantry Division. His military unit, which deployed to France in July 1918, was part of the incoming American Expeditionary Forces. During the Battle of the Argonne Forest, Gunther’s unit ran into a German ambush near the French town of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, north of Verdun. Although a message had arrived that the war would be over within an hour, Gunther went after the two German machine-gun sections blocking a road. The Germans attempted to wave him back and refused to fire until he was within a few yards of their position, but were ultimately forced to shoot. Killed instantly, he was the last American killed in action during World War I, taken out by a German bullet just one minute before the 11 a.m. armistice.

World War II

First: Robert M. Losey (Apr. 21, 1940) — A captain in the Navy, Losey was serving as an air attaché in Finland. To aid Florence Harriman, then-ambassador to Norway, he went to assist in the evacuation of American staff and dependents from Embassy Oslo. She wanted to be the one to go, but he refused, saying, “I certainly don’t want to be killed, but your death would be the more serious as it might involve our country in all kinds of trouble, where with a military attaché.” Along the way, Losey and his chauffeur were traveling on the strategic railway called Dombas — a Luftwaffe target. Losey and the chauffeur sought refuge in a railway tunnel. Unfortunately a bomb fragment fell near the entrance and a fragment pierced Losey’s heart. Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring sent a message of regret regarding Losey&aposs death to Maj. Gen. Harry H. Arnold.

Last: Anthony J. Marchione (Aug. 18, 1945) — Twenty-year-old Sgt. Anthony Marchione served as a gunner and photographer with the 20th Reconnaissance Squadron. In August 1945, his unit was placed in U.S.-held Okinawa. He was flying in a B-32 sent to photograph Tokyo. When two of the accompanying aircraft were forced to return to Okinawa with oil leaks, defensive firepower was cut in half and Marchione’s plane, along with one other from their squadron, were forced to prolong their time over Japan in order to photograph targets. Eventually, Marchione’s plane was met by Japanese pilots. A 20 mm cannon round fired through the B-32, killing Marchione. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. It took four years for his remains to be repatriated to his home in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

First: Kenneth Shadrick (July 5, 1950) — In 1948, 17-year-old Shadrick joined the Army after dropping out of high school. He was deployed for a year in Japan before transferring to South Korea with his unit, the 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. He served as an ammunition carrier in a bazooka squad sent to stop communist tanks near Sejong, South Korea. As he aimed a rocket at an enemy tank, he stuck his head and shoulders above the gun pit to watch. The tank&aposs machine gun returned fire, sending one bullet through his right arm, another through his chest, killing him instantly. The New York Times reported on July 7, “He died, as doughboys usually die, in a pelting rain in a muddy foxhole.”

Vietnam War

First: Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. (June 8, 1956) — Fitzgibbon originally served during World War II in the Navy, joining the Air Force prior to operations in Vietnam. He was a member of Detachment 1, 1173rd Foreign Mission Squadron.Fitzgibbon was not killed in action, but murdered by a deranged American airman who shot him as he was handing out candy to local orphans in Saigon. He and his son, Richard B. Fitzgibbon, III, are also known as one of three father-son duos killed while serving during the Vietnam War. Acknowledgement of Fitzgibbon’s death as the first casualty of the Vietnam War did not come until 1999.

Last: Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge (Apr. 29, 1975) — McMahon and Judge served as members of the Marine Security Guard Battalion at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, providing security for the Defense Attache Office Compound. After the U.S. withdrawal in 1973, they were two of only a few dozen Marines still abroad. Thought to be out of harm&aposs way, the boys were stationed at Tan Son Nhut air base.One day before the fall of Saigon to the North, McMahon, 22, and Judge, 19, and only deployed for 11 days, were killed in direct hit from a rocket attack. In the process of withdrawing from Saigon, their bodies were left behind. Sen. Ted Kennedy lobbied to get the remains, and after weeks of persistence, was finally able to have them repatriated and buried in 1976.

Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan

First: Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann (Nov. 25, 2001) — After serving in the Marine Corps as a captain, Spann worked a member of the CIA&aposs paramilitary Special Activities Division. He was dispatched to Afghanistan soon after Sept. 11, 2001, to find Osama bin Laden. Near Mazar-e-Sharif, the CIA was holding al Qaeda fighters in the recently captured fortress of Qala-i-Jangi. Spann was killed while interrogating Taliban fighters — in particular, American Taliban John Walker Lindh. According to the video transcript of the interview, Spann said, “You got to talk to me. All I want to do is talk to you and find out what your story is. I know you speak English.” After getting no answer and consulting with another member of his team, Spann was attacked. According to eyewitness accounts given to a German television crew trapped at the compound, Taliban fighters launched themselves at Spann, who took out seven men with his pistol before being killed. The Taliban group, who had feigned surrender, led an uprising that lasted three days. Spann is now memorialized with a star on the CIA Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He was also posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

Last: Wyatt J. Martin and Ramon S. Morris (Dec. 12, 2014) — Martin, a 22-year-old specialist from Arizona joined the Army in 2012 seeing it as an opportunity to give back to the community and serve his country, according to his mother Julie. Sgt. 1st Class Morris was a 37-year-old from New York joined the Army in 1996. The two were assigned to the 3rd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. The two combat engineers were killed when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in the Parwan province. Martin’s awards include an Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon. Morris was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, three Meritorious Service Medals, four Army Commendation Medals, six Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medals, Afghan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge and the Driver and Mechanic Badge with Driver Wheeled Vehicle. Though operations in Afghanistan are ongoing, the soldiers listed were the final two casualties prior to the expiration of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan Dec. 31, 2014.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

First: Therrell Shane Childers (Mar. 21, 2003) — Childers served as a second lieutenant Marine assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division — one of the first cleared units to enter Iraq. After the battalion secured a pumping station at the Rumaila oil fields, 20 miles north of the border with Kuwait, Iraqi soldiers unloaded from a pick-up truck. In a drive-by, Childers was shot once in the stomach. The injury became fatal when his his motion to fire at those in the truck lifted his body armor, leaving him exposed. He was assigned the rank of first lieutenant posthumously and laid to rest in Powell, Wyoming, near his parents.

Last: David Hickman (Nov. 14, 2011) — In 2009, Hickman enlisted with the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry. One month prior to withdrawal from Iraq, the unit was serving in a police capacity, known as “presence patrols,” walking through Iraqi neighborhoods. He was killed in Baghdad when his armored truck was blown up by a roadside bomb. When his mother Veronica was told of her son&aposs death, she said, “I am proud of him. He died for his country.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article identified Charley Havlat as the last man killed in World War II. Havlat was the last soldier killed in Europe. (11/19/2015 5:15 pm)


The She-Soldiers of World War One


The role of women in the War is largely associated with weeping, waiting and working: as wives, mothers and sweethearts as factory, munitions and land workers (the United Kingdom used slogans like ‘National Service’ or ‘Women’s Land Army’ to encourage young women to join the work force) as nurses on the home front, red cross workers, VADs and WRNS who worked in all the Theatres of War. But military involvement, that’s something that doesn’t appear on the school curriculum.

Of course, women in the military have a history that extends over 4,000 years into the past, throughout a vast number of cultures and nations, from ancient warrior women to the women currently serving in conflicts, they have played many roles. Whilst military involvement in the First World War was rare it existed below are some examples:

  • Aviator Eugenie Mikhailovna Shakhovskaya (1889–1920) was the first woman to become a military pilot when she flew reconnaissance missions for the Czar in 1914.
  • On March 17th 1917 Loretta Perfectus Walsh (1896 – 1925) became the first American active-duty Navy woman, and the first woman allowed to serve in any of the United States armed forces other than as a nurse, when she enlisted in the US Naval Reserve. She subsequently became the first woman Navy petty officer when she was sworn in as Chief Yeoman. By the end of the War America had sworn in 11,274 female Yeomen to the Navy on the same status as men.
  • In 1917, in a last-ditch effort to inspire the mass of war-weary soldiers to continue fighting in World War, the Russian Provisional Government created fifteen formations of women-only ballalions. This included the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, commanded by Maria Bochkareva which were called into battle against the Germans during the Kerensky Offensive. The women performed well in combat, taking 200 prisoners and suffered few casualties. (1876–1955) enlisted as a St John Ambulance volunteer and was stationed in Serbia to assist the humanitarian crisis where she joined the Serbian Red Cross in Kragujevac. Separated from her unit during the retreat into Albania, she joined a Serbian regiment for safety. Here she took up the rifle and became the first woman to be commissioned as an officer in the Serbian army and the only British woman to officially enlist as a soldier in World War I. In 1916 she was promoted to corporal then sergeant, and was wounded by an enemy grenade during hand-to-hand combat during the Serbian advance on Bitola (Monastir). Awarded the King George Star (Serbia’s highest decoration), she was then promoted sergeant-major, and eventually reached the station of captain.

Pour que vos enfants ne connaissent plus les horreurs de la guerre, souscrivez á l'Emprunt National. Société générale. Image in the Public Domain, via Library of Congress.

To many, the idea of women in combat was abhorrent during the First World War, far removed from the picture of the ‘ideal woman’ as gentle, nurturing and pacifist. Summed up in a popular 1916 pamphlet allegedly written by A Little Mother which sold 75,000 copies in less than a week. The pamphlet stated women were ‘created for the purpose of giving life, and men to take it’. Feminists also argued that ‘women were not warriors’ their job was not to ‘bear arms’ but ‘bear armies’. Engaging in combat would undermine the argument that it was not only those who fought for their nation (men) who a right to the ultimate gift of citizenship and right to vote.


8. No-one won

Swathes of Europe lay wasted, millions were dead or wounded. Survivors lived on with severe mental trauma. The UK was broke. It is odd to talk about winning.

However, in a narrow military sense, the UK and its allies convincingly won. Germany's battleships had been bottled up by the Royal Navy until their crews mutinied rather than make a suicidal attack against the British fleet.

Germany's army collapsed as a series of mighty allied blows scythed through supposedly impregnable defences.

By late September 1918 the German emperor and his military mastermind Erich Ludendorff admitted that there was no hope and Germany must beg for peace. The 11 November Armistice was essentially a German surrender.

Unlike Hitler in 1945, the German government did not insist on a hopeless, pointless struggle until the allies were in Berlin - a decision that saved countless lives, but was seized upon later to claim Germany never really lost.


World War I in Photos: War at Sea

The land war in Europe became a destructive machine, consuming supplies, equipment, and soldiers at massive rates. Resupply ships from the home front and allies streamed across the Atlantic, braving submarine attacks, underwater mines, and aerial bombardment. Battleships clashed with each other from the Indian Ocean to the North Sea, competing for control of colonial territory and home ports. New technologies were invented and refined, such as submarine warfare, camouflaged hulls, and massive water-borne aircraft carriers. And countless thousands of sailors, soldiers, passengers, and crew members were sent to the bottom of the sea. I've gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world. This entry is part 7 of a 10-part series on World War I.

The former German submarine UB 148 at sea, after having been surrendered to the Allies. UB-148, a small coastal submarine, was laid down during the winter of 1917 and 1918 at Bremen, Germany, but never commissioned in the Imperial German Navy. She was completing preparations for commissioning when the armistice of November 11 ended hostilities. On November 26, UB-148 was surrendered to the British at Harwich, England. Later, when the United States Navy expressed an interest in acquiring several former U-boats to use in conjunction with a Victory Bond drive, UB-148 was one of the six boats allocated for that purpose. #

Interior view of a British Navy submarine under construction, Clyde and Newcastle. #

Evacuation of Suvla Bay, Dardanelles, Gallipoli Peninsula, on January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign was part of an Allied effort to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). After eight bloody months on the peninsula, Allied troops withdrew in defeat, under cover of fire from the sea. #

In the Dardanelles, the allied fleet blows up a disabled ship that interfered with navigation. #

The British Aircraft Carrier HMS Argus. Converted from an ocean liner, the Argus could carry 15-18 aircraft. Commissioned at the very end of WWI, the Argus did not see any combat. The ship's hull is painted in Dazzle camouflage. Dazzle camouflage was widely used during the war years, designed to make it difficult for an enemy to estimate the range, heading, or speed of a ship, and make it a harder target - especially as seen from a submarine's periscope. #

United States Marines and Sailors posing on unidentified ship (likely either the USS Pennsylvania or USS Arizona), in 1918. #

A mine is dragged ashore on Heligoland, in the North Sea, on October 29, 1918. #

A Curtiss Model AB-2 airplane catapulted off the deck of the USS North Carolina on July 12, 1916. The first time an aircraft was ever launched by catapult from a warship while underway was from the North Carolina on November 5, 1915. #

The USS Fulton (AS-1), an American submarine tender painted in Dazzle camouflage, in the Charleston South Carolina Navy Yard on November 1, 1918. #

Men on deck of a ship removing ice. Original caption: "On a winters morning returning from France". #

The Rocks of Andromeda, Jaffa, and transports laden with war supplies headed out to sea in 1918. This image was taken using the Paget process, an early experiment in color photography. #

Landing a 155 mm gun at Sedd-el Bahr. Warships near the Gallipoli Penninsula, Turkey during the Gallipoli Campaign. #

Sailors aboard the French cruiser Amiral Aube pose for a photograph at an anvil attached to the deck. #

The German battleship SMS Kaiser on parade for Kaiser Wilhelm II at Kiel, Germany, circa 1911-14. #

British submarine HMS A5. The A5 was part of the first British A-class of submarines, used in World War I for harbor defense. The A5, however, suffered an explosion only days after its commissioning in 1905, and did not participate in the war. #

U.S. Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., the Big Gun section of the shops, in 1917. #

A cat, the mascot of the HMS Queen Elizabeth, walks along the barrel of a 15-inch gun on deck, in 1915. #

The USS Pocahontas, a U.S. Navy transport ship, photographed in Dazzle camouflage, in 1918. The ship was originally a German passenger liner named the Prinzess Irene. She was docked in New York at the start of the war, and seized by the U.S. when it entered the conflict in April 1917, and re-christened Pocahontas. #

Last minute escape from a vessel torpedoed by a German sub. The vessel has already sunk its bow into the waves, and her stern is slowly lifting out of the water. Men can be seen sliding down ropes as the last boat is pulling away. Ca. 1917. #

The Burgess Seaplane, a variant of the Dunne D.8, a tailless swept-wing biplane, in New York, being used by the New York Naval Militia, ca 1918. #

German submarines in a harbor, the caption, in German, says "Our U-Boats in a harbor". Front row (left to right): U-22, U-20 (the sub that sank the Lusitania), U-19 and U-21. Back row (left to right): U-14, U-10 and U-12. #

The USS New Jersey (BB-16), a Virginia-class battleship, in camouflage coat, ca 1918. #

Launching a torpedo, British Royal Navy, 1917. #

British cargo ship SS Maplewood under attack by German submarine SM U-35 on April 7, 1917, 47 nautical miles/87 km southwest of Sardinia. The U-35 participated in the entire war, becoming the most successful U-boat in WWI, sinking 224 ships, killing thousands. #

Crowds on a wharf at Outer Harbour, South Australia, welcoming camouflaged troop ships bringing men home from service overseas, circa 1918. #

The German cruiser SMS Emden, beached on Cocos Island in 1914. The Emden, a part of the German East Asia Squadron, attacked and sank a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer in Penang, Malaysia, in October of 1914. The Emden then set out to destroy a British radio station on Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean. During that raid, the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney attacked and damaged the Emden, forcing it to run aground. #

The German battle cruiser Seydlitz burns in the Battle of Jutland, May 31, 1916. Seydlitz was the flagship of German Vice Admiral von Hipper, who left the ship during the battle. The battle cruiser reached the port of Wilhelmshaven on own power. #

A German U-boat stranded on the South Coast of England, after surrender. #

Surrender of the German fleet at Harwich, on November 20, 1918. #

German Submarine "U-10" at full speed #

Imperial German Navy's battle ship SMS Schleswig-Holstein fires a salvo during the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916 in the North Sea. #

"Life in the Navy", Fencing aboard a Japanese battleship, ca 1910-15. #

The "Leviathan", formerly the German passenger liner "Vaterland", leaving Hoboken, New Jersey, for France. The hull of the ship is covered in Dazzle camouflage. In the spring and summer of 1918, Leviathan averaged 27 days for the round trip across the Atlantic, carrying 12,000 soldiers at a time. #

Portside view of the camouflaged USS K-2 (SS-33), a K-class submarine, off Pensacola, Florida on April 12, 1916. #

The complex inner machinery of a U.S. Submarine, amidships, looking aft. #

The Zeebrugge Raid took place on April 23, 1918. The Royal Navy attempted to block the Belgian port of Bruges-Zeebrugge by sinking older ships in the canal entrance, to prevent German vessels from leaving port. Two ships were successfully sunk in the canal, at the cost of 583 lives. Unfortunately, the ships were sunk in the wrong place, and the canal was re-opened in days. Photograph taken in May of 1918. #

Allied warships at sea, a seaplane flyby, 1915. #

Russian battleship Tsesarevich, a pre-dreadnought battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy, docked, ca. 1915. #

The British Grand Fleet under admiral John Jellicoe on her way to meet the Imperial German Navy's fleet for the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea on May 31, 1916. #

HMS Audacious crew board lifeboats to be taken aboard RMS Olympic, October, 1914. The Audacious was a British battleship, sunk by a German naval mine off the northern coast of Donegal, Ireland. #

Wreck of the SMS Konigsberg, after the Battle of Rufiji Delta. The German cruiser was scuttled in the Rufiji Delta Tanzania River, navigable for more than 100 km before emptying into the Indian Ocean about 200 km south of Dar es Salaam. #

Troop transport Sardinia, in dazzle camouflage, at a wharf during World War I. #

The Russian flagship Tsarevitch passing HMS Victory, ca. 1915. #

German submarine surrendering to the US Navy. #

Sinking of the German Cruiser SMS Bluecher, in the Battle of Dogger Bank, in the North Sea, between German and British dreadnoughts, on January 24, 1915. The Bluecher sank with the loss of nearly a thousand sailors. This photo was taken from the deck of the British Cruiser Arethusia. #

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