Friday, July 11, 2014

Learning Something New

Kay over at Georgia Girl With An English Heart  wrote a blog yesterday about learning something new every day, and gave the example that she'd learned (from a dj on the radio) that the little fuel pump symbol on her dashboard will have a diamond or a triangle to the left or right to show where your fuel tank is.  Mac said he didn't believe it and immediately went outside and checked both our cars and sure enough they each had the symbol indicating where the tank was.  Handy to know when you're using a rental car and haven't a clue where the tank is.
She then asked us to tell something we'd learned, aside from the fuel tank.  So I wrote that I'd just learned that Belgium had become a nation only in 1830 and was meant to be a neutral nation.
I learned that in an incredible book I'm reading, The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.  This is not a new book, it was written in 1962 and won the Pulitzer Prize.
What it tells is the lead up to WWI and the first month, August, of the war.  WWI is not a subject I know a lot about and with it being the 100th anniversary of the start of that war I decided to find out more about it.
I'm, according to my Kindle, about 50% of the way through the book and I'm blown away by the naivety, the thick-headedness, down right stupidity of many of the people who were in charge, the politicians, the generals, the diplomats, it's just mindboggling.
It became very clear that Germany and France both wanted the war, Germany to end what they considered their encirclement by the rest of Europe and France to make up for their defeat and humiliation in the 1870 Franco/Prussian War---not only did Germany defeat them, they had to allow the German army to march through Paris (which they had not taken in the war), they lost Alsace-Lorraine and they had to have German troops on their soil until they had paid war reparations that the Germans thought would take them years to pay (but they managed to pay off in a little over a year by nearly bankrupting the nation).
Though there were treaties, alliances and detentes that brought others into the fight it was France and Germany who set the tone and time table.
England didn't really want to become involved in what they saw as another French/German war, but feared that if they didn't join France in the war that Germany would win easily and go on to dominate Europe, something England was not willing to have happen.  They knew the people in England would need a good reason to support the war and Germany gave it to them by invading neutral Belgium.
The French were just so pig-headed, they (Joffre who was in charge) decided that only with"elan" could they win, they must be on the offensive, meet the Germans head on with calvary charges, bayonets at the ready.  The Germans called up all their reserves, the other nations disdained them, had built huge artillery, made good use of machine guns and airplanes-----can you see where this is going?
We have visited Verdun in France and seen the rows of trenches, the ossuary where the bones of unidentified soldiers lay, the whole area is a museum and were horrified.

Fascinating book, I want to read more about WWI.


  1. My father was born in 1907, and was a man between wars, so to speak. He was in a restricted job come WWII, although they read a letter at his retirement party, to let him out of this job to re-join the army and "fight this man's war!" Down the margin the president of Goodyear Aircraft had written "Who is this man Lytle?"
    Around the dinner table he told us about his memories of the first World War, and especially, the day may have been renamed "Veteran's Day," but it really was Armistice Day and more than honoring veterans we needed to remember it had only been an armistice signed and trouble never quit brewing.
    I think he was right, and we have lost the meaning of the first war by forgetting meaning of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

  2. You're absolutey right and the seeds of WWII were down with the armistice.


  3. This book really does sound like a book that I would like to read.
    Thank you for telling me about it and for this review.

    And that funny husband of yours should trust a fellow Georgian!!

  4. You should read "Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce."


  5. It is great to learn something new every day! I don't think that my car has the petrol symbol thing - because my car is so old!! I will look out for it on newer cars though! xx

  6. I also make a habit/goal of learning at least one new thing a day. That may be why I love NPR so much.


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