First World War Collection

Sir Martin writes:

Two very different wars were fought between 1914 and 1918. The first was a war of soldiers, sailors and airmen, of merchant seamen and civilian populations under occupation, where individual suffering and distress were on a massive scale, particularly in the front-line trenches. The second was a war of War Cabinets and sovereigns, of propagandists and idealists, replete with political and territorial ambitions and ideals, determining the future of Empires, nations and peoples as sharply as the battlefield.

Sir Martin on the battle field of Ypres with his assistant,1969
Sir Martin on the battle field of Ypres with his assistant,1969

There were times, particularly in 1917 and 1918, when the war of armies and the war of ideologies combined, leading to revolution and capitulation, and to the emergence of new national and political forces. The war changed the map and destiny of Europe as much as it seared its skin and scarred its soul.

On This Day: 19 December 1915:

“That day … the Germans released phosgene gas, ten times more toxic than chlorine, against the British forces in the Ypres Salient.  Their aim was to cause panic and a mass retreat.  But the British troops, who had been surprised by the new weapon in April, were now well trained in gas drill and well equipped with gas helmets.  A thousand soldiers were gassed, and 120 killed.  The wind was a strong one that day, blowing the gas cloud southward across the British lines and far to the rear:  because of a curve in the line, some of the gas was blown along the German trenches on the Wytschaete Ridge.”

First World War, A Complete History

Read more about Sir Martin’s inspiration and interest in world war history, his blogs, films and book talks: Sir Martin & The First & Second World Wars