Jul 302018

Today is the birthday (1898) of Henry Spencer Moore OM CH FBA, an English artist best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art. One of his sculptures – Large Two Forms, used to be the centerpiece of the campus where I taught for 35 years (now moved). As well as sculpture, Moore produced many drawings, including a series depicting Londoners sheltering from the Blitz during the Second World War, along with other graphic works on paper. His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting mother-and-child or reclining figures. Moore’s works are usually suggestive of the female body, apart from a phase in the 1950s when he sculpted family groups. His forms are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces.

Moore was born in Castleford, West Riding of Yorkshire, to Mary Baker and Raymond Spencer Moore. His father was of Irish extraction and became pit deputy and then under-manager of the Wheldale colliery in Castleford. He was self taught with an interest in music and literature. He was determined that his sons would not work in the mines and saw formal education as the route to their advancement. Henry was the seventh of eight children in a family that often struggled with poverty. He attended infant and elementary schools in Castleford, where he began modelling in clay and carving in wood. He professed to have decided to become a sculptor when he was eleven after hearing of Michelangelo’s achievements at a Sunday School reading.

On his second attempt Moore was accepted at Castleford Grammar School, which several of his siblings had attended, where his headmaster soon noticed his artistic ability and interest in medieval sculpture. His art teacher broadened his knowledge of art, and with her encouragement, he determined to make art his career; first by sitting for examinations for a scholarship to the local art college. Moore’s earliest recorded carvings – a plaque for the Scott Society at Castleford Secondary School, and a Roll of Honour commemorating the boys who went to fight in the First World War from the school – were executed around this time.

Moore’s parents had been against him training as a sculptor, a vocation they considered manual labor with few career prospects. After a brief introduction as a student teacher, Moore became a teacher at the school he had attended. Upon turning 18, he volunteered for army service. He was the youngest man in the Prince of Wales’ Own Civil Service Rifles regiment and was injured in 1917 in a gas attack, on 30th November at Bourlon Wood, during the Battle of Cambrai. A great many of his comrades died, but he survived and was repatriated to England. After recovering in hospital, he saw out the remainder of the war as a physical training instructor, returning to France just before the Armistice was signed. He recalled later, “for me the war passed in a romantic haze of trying to be a hero.” This attitude changed as he reflected on the destructiveness of war and in 1940 he wrote, in a letter to his friend Arthur Sale, that “a year or two after [the war] the sight of a khaki uniform began to mean everything in life that was wrong and wasteful and anti-life. And I still have that feeling.”

After the Great War, Moore received an ex-serviceman’s grant to continue his education and in 1919 he became a student at the Leeds School of Art (now Leeds College of Art), which set up a sculpture studio especially for him. In Leeds, Moore had access to the modernist works in the collection of Sir Michael Sadler, the University Vice-Chancellor, which had a pronounced effect on his development. In 1921, Moore won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London. While in London, Moore extended his knowledge of non-Western art and sculpture, studying the ethnographic collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum.

Moore’s student sculptures followed the conventions of romantic Victorian style, and included natural forms, landscapes and figurative modelling of animals. Moore later became uncomfortable with classically derived ideals, and the influence of sculptors such as Constantin Brâncuși, Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Frank Dobson led him to the method of direct carving, in which imperfections in the material and marks left by tools became part of the finished sculpture. Having adopted this technique, Moore was in conflict with academic tutors who did not appreciate such a modern approach. During one exercise set by Derwent Wood (the professor of sculpture at the Royal College), Moore was asked to reproduce a marble relief of Domenico Rosselli’s The Virgin and Child by first modelling the relief in plaster, then reproducing it in marble using the mechanical pointing machine. Instead, he carved the relief directly, even marking the surface to simulate the prick marks that would have been left by the pointing machine.

In 1924, Moore won a six-month traveling scholarship which he spent in Northern Italy studying the great works of Michelangelo, Giotto di Bondone, Giovanni Pisano and several other Old Masters. During this period, he also visited Paris, took advantage of the timed-sketching classes at the Académie Colarossi, and viewed, in the Trocadero, a plaster cast of a Toltec-Maya sculptural form, the Chac Mool, which he had previously seen in book illustrations. The reclining figure had a profound effect upon Moore’s work, becoming the primary motif of his sculpture.


On returning to London, Moore undertook a seven-year teaching post at the Royal College of Art. He was required to work two days a week, which allowed him time to spend on his own work. His first public commission, West Wind (1928–29), was one of the eight reliefs of the ‘four winds’ high on the walls of London Underground’s headquarters at 55 Broadway. The other ‘winds’ were carved by contemporary sculptors including Eric Gill with the ground-level pieces provided by Epstein. In 1928 Moore had his first solo exhibition, held at the Warren Gallery in London. In July 1929, Moore married Irina Radetsky, a painting student at the Royal College. Irina was born in Kiev in 1907 to Ukrainian–Polish parents. Her father did not return from the Russian Revolution and her mother was evacuated to Paris where she married a British army officer. Irina was smuggled to Paris a year later and went to school there until she was 16, after which she was sent to live with her stepfather’s relatives in Buckinghamshire. Shortly after they married, the couple moved to a studio in Hampstead at 11a Parkhill Road NW3, joining a small colony of avant-garde artists who were taking root there.

In 1932, after six year’s teaching at the Royal College, Moore took up a post as the Head of the Department of Sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art. In 1937, Roland Penrose purchased an abstract ‘Mother and Child’ in stone from Moore that he displayed in the front garden of his house in Hampstead. The work proved controversial with other residents and the local press ran a campaign against the piece over the next two years. At this time Moore gradually transitioned from direct carving to casting in bronze, modelling preliminary maquettes in clay or plaster rather than making preparatory drawings. In 1938, Moore met Kenneth Clark for the first time. From this time, Clark became an unlikely but influential champion of Moore’s work, and through his position as member of the Arts Council of Great Britain he secured exhibitions and commissions for Moore.

At the outbreak of the Second World War the Chelsea School of Art was evacuated to Northampton and Moore resigned his teaching post. During the war, Moore produced powerful drawings of Londoners sleeping in the London Underground while sheltering from the Blitz. Kenneth Clark, the chairman of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC), had previously tried to recruit Moore as a full-time salaried war artist and now agreed to purchase some of the shelter drawings and issued contracts for further examples. The shelter drawings WAAC acquired were completed between the autumn of 1940 and the spring of 1941 and are regarded as among the finest products of the WAAC scheme. In August 1941 WAAC commissioned Moore to draw miners working underground at the Wheldale Colliery in Yorkshire, where his father had worked at the start of the century. Moore drew the people in the shelters as passively waiting the all-clear while miners aggressively worked the coal-faces. These drawings helped to boost Moore’s international reputation, particularly in the United States where examples were included in the WAAC Britain at War exhibition which toured North America throughout the war.

After their Hampstead home was hit by bomb shrapnel in September 1940, Moore and Irina moved out of London to live in a farmhouse called Hoglands in the hamlet of Perry Green near Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. This was to become Moore’s home and workshop for the rest of his life. Despite acquiring significant wealth later in life, Moore never felt the need to move to larger premises and, apart from the addition of a number of outbuildings and studios, the house changed little over the years. In 1943 he received a commission from St Matthew’s Church, Northampton, to carve a Madonna and Child; this sculpture was the first in a major series of family-group sculptures.

After the war and following several earlier miscarriages, Irina gave birth to their daughter, Mary Moore, in March 1946. The child was named after Moore’s mother, who had died two years earlier. Both the loss of his mother and the arrival of a baby focused Moore’s mind on the family, which he expressed in his work by producing many “mother-and-child” compositions, although reclining and internal/external figures also remained popular. In the same year, Moore made his first visit to the United States when a retrospective exhibition of his work opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Before the war, Moore had been approached by educator Henry Morris, who was trying to reform education with his concept of the Village College. Morris had engaged Walter Gropius as the architect for his second village college at Impington near Cambridge, and he wanted Moore to design a major public sculpture for the site. The County Council, however, could not afford Gropius’s full design, and scaled back the project when Gropius emigrated to the US. Lacking funds, Morris had to cancel Moore’s sculpture, which had not progressed beyond the maquette stage. Moore was able to reuse the design in 1950 for a similar commission outside a secondary school for the new town of Stevenage. This time, the project was completed and Family Group became Moore’s first large-scale public bronze.

In the 1950s, Moore began to receive increasingly significant commissions. He exhibited Reclining Figure: Festival at the Festival of Britain in 1951,] and in 1958 produced a large marble reclining figure for the UNESCO building in Paris. With many more public works of art, the scale of Moore’s sculptures grew significantly and he started to employ an increasing number of assistants to work with him at Much Hadham, including Anthony Caro and Richard Wentworth.

On the campus of the University of Chicago in December 1967, 25 years to the minute after the team of physicists led by Enrico Fermi achieved the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, Moore’s Nuclear Energy was unveiled on the site of what was once the university’s football field stands, in the rackets court beneath which the experiments had taken place. This 12-foot-tall piece in the middle of a large, open plaza is often thought to represent a mushroom cloud topped by a massive human skull, but Moore’s interpretation was very different. He once told a friend that he hoped viewers would “go around it, looking out through the open spaces, and that they may have a feeling of being in a cathedral.” In Chicago, Illinois, Moore also commemorated science with a large bronze sundial, locally named Man Enters the Cosmos (1980), which was commissioned to celebrate the space exploration program.

The last three decades of Moore’s life continued in a similar vein. Several major retrospectives took place around the world, notably a very prominent exhibition in the summer of 1972 in the grounds of the Forte di Belvedere overlooking Florence. Following the pioneering documentary ‘Henry Moore’, produced by John Read in 1951, he appeared in many films. In 1964, for instance, Moore was featured in the documentary “5 British Sculptors (Work and Talk)” by American filmmaker Warren Forma. By the end of the 1970s, there were some 40 exhibitions a year featuring his work. The number of commissions continued to increase; he completed Knife Edge Two Piece in 1962 for College Green near the Houses of Parliament in London. According to Moore, “When I was offered the site near the House of Lords … I liked the place so much that I didn’t bother to go and see an alternative site in Hyde Park—one lonely sculpture can be lost in a large park. The House of Lords site is quite different. It is next to a path where people walk and it has a few seats where they can sit and contemplate it.”

By 1977, Moore was paying close to one million pounds a year in income tax. To mitigate his tax burden, he established the Henry Moore Foundation as a registered charity with Irina and Mary as trustees. The Foundation was established to encourage the public appreciation of the visual arts. It now runs his house and estate at Perry Green, with a gallery, sculpture park and studios.

Moore died on 31st August 1986, at the age of 88, in his home in Much Hadham where his body is interred in Perry Green churchyard.

As I mentioned in my introduction, we had a large Moore sculpture on my campus, Purchase College, SUNY, for decades until it was moved to build a student service’s building. They moved it to the front entrance of the campus where you can see it when you arrive, but it is completely divorced from any human interaction. When the sculpture was on the main mall, it was just about the only humanizing factor for a campus that was a wind-swept wasteland otherwise. It was not just an obvious meeting point, it was also a place to hang out. Students regularly stretched out on the bronze, or sat in its nooks. Sometimes they would drum on it with their hands, and, because the sculpture was hollow it would ring loudly. Every so often a percussionist would come with padded mallets and beat out rhythms, which, once, caused a huge battle (that I ended up playing a major role in) between those who wanted to “preserve” Moore’s art by banning contact with it, and those (my side) who wanted the sculpture to be integrated into the living and breathing fabric of campus life – which, of course, involved touching it: a lot. At the height of the debate I staged a performance piece which involved dozens of my students interacting with the sculpture in numerous ways.  I am sure Moore would have been happy with the event.

Moore lived most of his life in the south of England, but his roots are in the coal country of the West Riding of Yorkshire. West Riding pudding, not a dessert known well outside of Yorkshire seems to me a fitting tribute. It resembles (a little) Bakewell tart from Derbyshire. It’s not exactly a gourmet delight, but is indicative of English regional cooking. People of US persuasion will have to get over their insistence on limiting their use of the word “pudding.” In some dialects of British English “pudding” means “dessert,” which does not explain black pudding of course.

West Riding Pudding


6 oz shortcrust pastry
4 tbsp raspberry jam
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
4 oz caster sugar
finely grated zest of ½ orange
2 large eggs
5 oz self-raising flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1 oz ground almonds
1 oz almond slivers
icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F.

Grease an 8” round backing tin. Roll out the pastry and use it to line the tin. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest in a stand mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well each time.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds into a bowl, and stir well to mix thoroughly. Make sure to break up any clumps that form (the ground almonds can be sticky. Add this mix to the wet ingredients and gently, but thoroughly, fold them in.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Spread the jam evenly over the base of the pastry base. Spoon the filling over the jam making sure it is evenly covered. Smooth out the surface. Scatter the almond slivers over the filling. [Some cooks omit the slivered almonds].

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the filling has risen and is light golden. Lightly dust with sifted icing sugar and serve warm.

Mar 152018

On this date in 1906, Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce incorporated Rolls-Royce Limited as a business for car manufacture that quickly developed a reputation for superior engineering quality and for manufacturing the “best car in the world.” Later, Rolls-Royce became a leading manufacturer of piston aero-engines after it was led into building them by the economic necessities of the First World War.



From 1940, Rolls-Royce participated in the development of the jet engine and built for itself, and retains, a pre-eminent position in aero engine development and manufacture for use in military and civil aircraft. My father’s brother, my uncle Alec, worked in various divisions of Rolls-Royce aerospace engineering from the end of the Second World War until his retirement in both Scotland and New Zealand, so I feel a (minimal) connexion. He would pop in and out of our lives in both Australia and England because he was always flying all over the place on business, back in the days when only movie stars and millionaires traveled by plane. Hence, Rolls-Royce is sealed in my consciousness as the height of luxury, as if its image as a car manufacturer were not enough. There was a time when a Rolls-Royce automobile was not only identifiable by its shape, but also by the fact that its engine was so quiet that the sound of the tires on the road made more noise than the engine. “Ghost” was a deserving model name.

In 1884 Henry Royce started an electrical and mechanical business. He made his first car, a two-cylinder Royce 10, in his Manchester factory in 1904. Henry Royce was introduced to Charles Rolls at the Midland Hotel, Manchester on 4 May of that year. Rolls was proprietor of an early motor car dealership, C.S.Rolls & Co. in Fulham. In spite of his preference for three- or four-cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the Royce 10, and in a subsequent deal made on 23rd December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make. There would be four models:

a 10 hp, two-cylinder model at £395

a 15 hp, three-cylinder at £500

a 20 hp, four-cylinder at £650

a 30 hp, six-cylinder at £890

All would be sold under the Rolls-Royce label, and be sold exclusively by Rolls. The first Rolls-Royce car, the Rolls-Royce 10 hp, was unveiled at the Paris Salon in December 1904.

When Rolls-Royce Limited was formed in 1906, it was apparent that new premises were required for production of cars. After considering sites in Manchester, Coventry, Bradford and Leicester, it was an offer from Derby’s council of cheap electricity that resulted in the decision to acquire a 12.7-acre site on the southern edge of the city. The new factory was largely designed by Royce, and production began in early 1908, with a formal opening on 9 July 1908 by Sir John Montagu. The investment in the new company required further capital to be raised, and on 6th December 1906 £100,000 of new shares were offered to the public.

During 1906 Royce had been developing an improved six-cylinder model with more power than the Rolls-Royce 30 hp. Initially designated the 40/50 hp, this was Rolls-Royce’s first all-new model. In March 1908 Claude Johnson, Commercial Managing Director and sometimes described as the hyphen in Rolls-Royce, succeeded in persuading Royce and the other directors that Rolls-Royce should concentrate exclusively on the new model, and all the earlier models were duly discontinued. The new 40/50 was responsible for Rolls-Royce’s early reputation with over 6,000 built. Its chassis was used as a basis for the first British armored car used in both world wars.

In 1907, Charles Rolls, whose interests had turned increasingly to flying, tried unsuccessfully to persuade Royce and the other directors to design an aero engine. On 12 July 1910, at the age of 32, Rolls was killed in an air crash at Hengistbury Airfield, Southbourne, Bournemouth when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, and the eleventh person internationally. His was also the first powered aviation fatality in the United Kingdom.

When World War I broke out in August 1914, Rolls-Royce were taken by surprise. As a manufacturer of luxury cars, Rolls-Royce was immediately vulnerable, and Claude Johnson thought the bank would withdraw its overdraft facility on which Rolls-Royce depended at that time. Nevertheless, believing that war was likely to be short-lived the directors initially decided not to seek government work making aero engines. However, this position was quickly reversed, and Rolls-Royce was persuaded by the War Office to manufacture 50 air-cooled V8 engines under license from Renault. Meanwhile, the Royal Aircraft Factory asked Rolls-Royce to design a new 200 hp engine. Despite initial reluctance they agreed, and during 1915 developed Rolls-Royce’s first aero engine, the twelve-cylinder Eagle. This was quickly followed by the smaller six-cylinder Hawk, the 190 hp (140 kW) Falcon and, just before the end of the war, the larger 675 hp Condor.

Throughout World War I, Rolls-Royce struggled to build aero engines in the quantities required by the War Office. Rolls-Royce resisted pressure to license production to other manufacturers, fearing that the engines’ much-admired quality and reliability would risk being compromised. Instead, the Derby factory was extended to enable Rolls-Royce to increase its own production rates. By the late 1920s, aero engines made up most of Rolls-Royce’s business. Rolls-Royce’s Eagle, first produced in 1915, was the first engine to make a non-stop trans-Atlantic crossing by air when in June 1919 two Eagles powered the converted Vickers Vimy bomber on the transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown.

Royce, who lived by the motto “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble,” was awarded the OBE in 1918, and was created a baronet, of Seaton in the County of Rutland, in 1930 for his services to British Aviation. Because he was childless, the baronetcy became extinct on his death. He died on 22 April 1933.

There is a cocktail called the Rolls Royce made of 2 oz. gin, ½ oz. dry vermouth, ½ oz. sweet vermouth, and a dash of Bénédictine. Look it up if you want more details. There is also a dinner roll called the Rolls-Royce, so named because of the play on “rolls” than any deeper significance. When I was a boy, “Rolls” was the diminutive of Rolls-Royce leading to some bad puns in advertising:

(Man talking to a boy eating chocolate covered cake rolls)

Man: What do you think of the rolls? (i.e. pun on Rolls[-Royce]).

Boy: They sure go fast.

There is a recipe for Rolls-Royce dinner rolls here – https://www.recipelion.com/Bread-Recipes/Rolls-Royce-Dinner-Rolls The joke is certainly old now, but the site cannot resist saying, “Be prepared to make extras because these delicious dinner rolls will go fast!”

Nov 112015


The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was an armistice during the First World War between the Allies and Germany – also known as the Armistice of Compiègne after the location in which it was signed – and the agreement that ended the fighting on the Western Front. It went into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”), and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender. The Germans were responding to the policies proposed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points of January 1918. The actual terms, largely written by French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German troops to behind their own borders, the preservation of infrastructure, the exchange of prisoners, a promise of reparations, the disposition of German warships and submarines, and conditions for prolonging or terminating the armistice. Although the armistice ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles.

On 29 September 1918 the German Supreme Army Command informed Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Imperial Chancellor, Count Georg von Hertling at Imperial Army Headquarters in Spa of occupied Belgium, that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless. Quartermaster general Erich Ludendorff, probably fearing a breakthrough, claimed that he could not guarantee that the front would hold for another 24 hours and demanded a request be given to the Entente for an immediate ceasefire. In addition, he recommended the acceptance of the main demands of US president Woodrow Wilson (the Fourteen Points) including putting the Imperial Government on a democratic footing, hoping for more favorable peace terms. This enabled him to save the face of the Imperial German Army and put the responsibility for the capitulation and its consequences squarely into the hands of the democratic parties and the parliament. As he said to officers of his staff on 1 October: “They now must lie on the bed that they’ve made for us.”


On 3 October, the liberal Prince Maximilian of Baden was appointed Chancellor of Germany, replacing Georg von Hertling in order to negotiate an armistice. After long conversations with the Kaiser and evaluations of the political and military situations in the Reich, by 5 October 1918, the German government sent a message to President Wilson to negotiate terms on the basis of a recent speech of his and the earlier declared “Fourteen Points”. In the subsequent two exchanges, Wilson’s allusions “failed to convey the idea that the Kaiser’s abdication was an essential condition for peace. The leading statesmen of the Reich were not yet ready to contemplate such a monstrous possibility.” As a precondition for negotiations, Wilson demanded the retreat of Germany from all occupied territories, the cessation of submarine activities and the Kaiser’s abdication, writing on 23 October: “If the Government of the United States must deal with the military masters and the monarchical autocrats of Germany now, or if it is likely to have to deal with them later in regard to the international obligations of the German Empire, it must demand not peace negotiations but surrender.”

In late October, Ludendorff, in a sudden change of mind, declared the conditions of the Allies unacceptable. He now demanded to resume the war which he himself had declared lost only one month earlier. However the German soldiers were pressing to get home. It was scarcely possible to arouse their readiness for battle anew, and desertions were on the increase. The Imperial Government stayed on course and Ludendorff was replaced by Wilhelm Groener. On 5 November, the Allies agreed to take up negotiations for a truce, now also demanding reparation payments.

The latest note from Wilson was received in Berlin on 6 November. That same day, the delegation led by Matthias Erzberger departed for France.

A much bigger obstacle, which contributed to the five-week delay in the signing of the Armistice and to the resulting social deterioration in Europe, was the fact that the French, British and Italian governments had no desire to accept the “Fourteen Points” and President Wilson’s subsequent promises. For example, they assumed that the de-militarization suggested by Wilson would be limited to the Central Powers. There were also contradictions with their post-War plans that did not include a consistent implementation of the ideal of national self-determination. As Czernin points out:

The Allied statesmen were faced with a problem: so far they had considered the ‘fourteen commandments’ as a piece of clever and effective American propaganda, designed primarily to undermine the fighting spirit of the Central Powers, and to bolster the morale of the lesser Allies. Now, suddenly, the whole peace structure was supposed to be built up on that set of ‘vague principles,’ most of which seemed to them thoroughly unrealistic, and some of which, if they were to be seriously applied, were simply unacceptable.

The sailors’ revolt which took place during the night of 29 to 30 October 1918 in the naval port of Wilhelmshaven spread across the whole country within days and led to the proclamation of a republic on 9 November 1918 and to the announcement of the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II.


Also on 9 November, Max von Baden handed over the office of Chancellor to Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat. Ebert’s SPD and Erzberger’s Catholic Centre Party had enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the Imperial government since Bismarck’s era in the 1870s and 1880s. They were well represented in the Imperial Reichstag, which had little power over the government, and had been calling for a negotiated peace since 1917. Their prominence in the peace negotiations would cause the new Weimar Republic to lack legitimacy in right-wing and militarist eyes.

The Armistice was the result of a hurried and desperate process. The German delegation headed by Matthias Erzberger crossed the front line in five cars and was escorted for ten hours across the devastated war zone of Northern France, arriving on the morning of 8 November. They were then entrained and taken to the secret destination, aboard Ferdinand Foch’s private train parked in a railway siding in the forest of Compiègne.

Foch appeared only twice in the three days of negotiations: on the first day, to ask the German delegation what they wanted, and on the last day, to see to the signatures. The Germans were handed the list of Allied demands and given 72 hours to agree. The German delegation discussed the Allied terms not with Foch, but with other French and Allied officers. The Armistice amounted to complete German demilitarization, with few promises made by the Allies in return. The naval blockade of Germany was not completely lifted until complete peace terms could be agreed upon.


There was no question of negotiation. The Germans were able to correct a few impossible demands (for example, the decommissioning of more submarines than their fleet possessed), extended the schedule for the withdrawal and registered their formal protest at the harshness of Allied terms. But they were in no position to refuse to sign. On Sunday 10 November, they were shown newspapers from Paris to inform them that the Kaiser had abdicated. That same day, Erzberger was instructed to sign by Ebert. The cabinet had earlier received a message from Hindenburg, requesting that the armistice be signed even if the Allied conditions could not be improved on.[

The Armistice was agreed at 5:00 a.m. on 11 November, to come into effect at 11:00 a.m. Paris time (12:00 noon German time), for which reason the occasion is sometimes referred to as “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”. Signatures were made between 5:12 am and 5:20 am, Paris time.

News of the armistice being signed was officially announced towards 9 am in Paris. One hour later, Foch, accompanied by a British admiral, presented himself at the Ministry of War, where he was immediately received by Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France. At 10:50 am, Foch issued this general order: “Hostilities will cease on the whole front as from November 11 at 11 o’clock French time The Allied troops will not, until further order, go beyond the line reached on that date and at that hour.” Five minutes later, Clemenceau, Foch and the British admiral went to the Élysée Palace. At the first shot fired from the Eiffel Tower, the Ministry of War and the Élysée Palace displayed flags, while bells around Paris rang. Five hundred students gathered in front of the Ministry and called upon Clemenceau, who appeared on the balcony. Clemenceau exclaimed “Vive la France!”—the crowd echoed him. At 11:00 am, the first peace-gunshot was fired from Fort Mont-Valérien, which told the population of Paris that the armistice was concluded, but the population were already aware of it from official circles and newspapers.

Although the information about the imminent ceasefire had spread among the forces at the front in the hours before, fighting in many sections of the front continued right until the appointed hour. At 11 am there was some spontaneous fraternization between the two sides. But in general, reactions were muted. A British corporal reported: “…the Germans came from their trenches, bowed to us and then went away. That was it. There was nothing with which we could celebrate, except cookies.” On the Allied side, euphoria and exultation were rare. There was some cheering and applause, but the dominant feeling was silence and emptiness after 52 exhausting months of war.

Many artillery units continued to fire on German targets to avoid having to haul away their spare ammunition. The Allies also wished to ensure that, should fighting restart, they would be in the most favorable position. Consequently, there were 10,944 casualties of which 2,738 men died on the last day of the war.


An example of the determination of the Allies to maintain pressure until the last minute, but also to adhere strictly to the Armistice terms, was Battery 4 of the US Navy’s long-range 14-inch railway guns firing its last shot at 10:57:30 am from the Verdun area, timed to land far behind the German front line just before the scheduled Armistice.

Augustin Trébuchon was the last Frenchman to die when he was shot on his way to tell fellow soldiers that hot soup would be served after the ceasefire. He was killed at 10:45 am. The last soldier from the UK to die, George Edwin Ellison of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, was killed earlier that morning at around 9:30 am while scouting on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium. The final Canadian, and Commonwealth, soldier to die, Private George Lawrence Price, was shot and killed by a sniper just two minutes before the armistice to the north of Mons at 10:58 am, to be recognized as one of the last killed with a monument to his name. And finally, American Henry Gunther is generally recognized as the last soldier killed in action in World War I. He was killed 60 seconds before the armistice came into force while charging astonished German troops who were aware the Armistice was nearly upon them.

As a small tribute to my family members who served in the Great War here is a gallery:

My paternal grandfather, John Forrest, who was an ambulance driver:


My maternal grandfather, William Sloper, who served in the trenches in the Ox and Bucks regiment (commonly called the “box of nuts”), was gassed and eventually repatriated with part of his foot blown off. He died from lung complications attributable to the gassing:


My maternal grandmother’s brother, my great uncle Charlie Harden, who was a trench soldier:


My maternal grandfather’s brother-in-law, my great uncle Bill Legge, feared missing in action but eventually made it home, having walked from the eastern front !!!


During the First World War people in Britain would bake and post a fruit cake to loved ones on the front line. This recipe is repeated from a contemporary newspaper. Some traditional cake ingredients were hard to come by.


There are no eggs in this recipe and vinegar was used to react with the baking soda to help the cake rise.

Trench Cake


1/2lb flour
4 oz margarine
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/4 pint of milk
3 oz brown sugar
3 oz cleaned currants
2 teaspoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
grated lemon rind


Grease a cake tin. Rub margarine into the flour in a basin. Add the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the soda dissolved in vinegar and milk. Beat well. Turn into the tin. Bake in a moderate oven for about two hours.


Jun 222015


Today is the birthday (1898) of Erich Maria Remarque (born Erich Paul Remark), a German author whose best known work is the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, a profoundly moving anti-war story based on his own experiences in the trenches in the First World War. I read it first in my mid-thirties when I had an interest in autobiographical and semi-autobiographical works concerning the first-hand experience of war. What surprised me at the outset was how the same themes recurred: dissociation, alienation, dehumanization etc, no matter what the particular circumstances. I have never read any of his other works even though they were well received in Germany.

Remarque was born on 22 June 1898 into a working class family in the German city of Osnabrück to Peter Franz Remark (b. 14 June 1867, Kaiserswerth) and Anna Maria (née Stallknecht; born 21 November 1871, Katernberg).

During the First World War, Remarque was conscripted into the army at the age of 18. On 12 June 1917, he was transferred to the Western Front, 2nd Company, Reserves, Field Depot of the 2nd Guards Reserve Division at Hem-Lenglet. On 26 June, he was posted to the 15th Reserve Infantry Regiment, 2nd Company, Engineer Platoon Bethe, and was stationed between Torhout and Houthulst. On 31 July, he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm and neck, and was repatriated to an army hospital in Germany where he spent the rest of the war.

In 1927, Remarque wrote the novel Station at the Horizon (Station am Horizont), which was serialized in the sports journal Sport im Bild for which Remarque was working. It was published in book form only in 1998. He wrote his best-known work, All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues), in a few months in 1927, but was not immediately able to find a publisher. A number of similar works followed; in simple, emotive language they described wartime and the postwar years. By the time of the publication of his novel, Arc de Triomphe, he was internationally acclaimed and the book achieved worldwide sales of nearly five million.


All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of Paul Bäumer, a German soldier who—urged on by his school teacher—joins the German army shortly after the start of World War I. His class was “scattered over the platoons amongst Frisian fishermen, peasants, and labourers.” Bäumer arrives at the Western Front with his friends and schoolmates (Tjaden, Müller, Kropp and a number of other characters). There they meet Stanislaus Katczinsky, an older soldier, nicknamed Kat, who becomes Paul’s mentor. While fighting at the front, Bäumer and his comrades have to engage in frequent battles and endure the treacherous and filthy conditions of trench warfare.

At the very beginning of the book Remarque says “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.” The book does not focus on heroic stories of bravery, but rather gives a view of the conditions in which the soldiers find themselves. The monotony between battles, the constant threat of artillery fire and bombardments, the struggle to find food, the lack of training of young recruits (meaning lower chances of survival), and the overarching role of random chance in the lives and deaths of the soldiers are described in stark detail.


The battles have no names and seem to have little overall significance, except for the impending possibility of injury or death for Bäumer and his comrades. Only pitifully small pieces of land are gained, about the size of a football pitch, which are often lost again later. Remarque often refers to the living soldiers as old and dead, emotionally drained and shaken. “We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing from ourselves, from our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

Paul’s visit on leave to his home highlights the cost of the war on his psyche. The town has not changed since he went off to war; however, he finds that he does “not belong here anymore, it is a foreign world.” He feels disconnected from most of the townspeople. His father asks him “stupid and distressing” questions about his war experiences, not understanding “that a man cannot talk of such things.” An old schoolmaster lectures him about strategy and advancing to Paris, while insisting that Paul and his friends know only their “own little sector” of the war, but nothing of the big picture.

Indeed, the only person he remains connected to is his dying mother, with whom he shares a tender, yet restrained relationship. The night before he is to return from leave, he stays up with her, exchanging small expressions of love and concern for each other. He thinks to himself, “Ah! Mother, Mother! How can it be that I must part from you? Here I sit and there you are lying; we have so much to say, and we shall never say it.” In the end, he concludes that he “ought never to have come [home] on leave.”


Paul feels glad to be reunited with his comrades. Soon after, he volunteers to go on a patrol and kills a man for the first time in hand-to-hand combat. He watches the man die, in pain for hours. He feels remorse and asks forgiveness from the man’s corpse. He is devastated and later confesses to Kat and Albert, who try to comfort him and reassure him that it is only part of the war. They are then sent on what Paul calls a “good job.” They must guard a supply depot in a village that was evacuated due to being shelled too heavily. During this time, the men are able to adequately feed themselves; unlike the near-starvation conditions in the German trenches. In addition, the men enjoy themselves while living off the spoils from the village and officers’ luxuries from the supply depot (such as fine cigars). While evacuating the villagers (enemy civilians), Paul and Albert are taken by surprise by artillery fired at the civilian convoy and wounded by a shell. On the train back home, Albert takes a turn for the worse and cannot complete the journey, instead being sent off the train to recuperate in a Catholic hospital. Paul uses a combination of bartering and manipulation to stay by Albert’s side. Albert eventually has his leg amputated, while Paul is deemed fit for service and returned to the front.

By now, the war is nearing its end and the German Army is retreating. In despair, Paul watches as his friends fall one by one. It is the death of Kat that eventually makes Paul careless about living. In the final chapter, he comments that peace is coming soon, but he does not see the future as bright and shining with hope. Paul feels that he has no aims left in life and that their generation will be different and misunderstood. When he dies at the end of the novel, the situation report from the frontline states, “All is Quiet on the Western Front,” symbolizing the insignificance of one individual’s death during the war.


It is the utter banality of Paul’s death that is so shocking. By that time he has lost his own sense of humanity and so it is fitting that his life is reduced to a mindless statistic in a mindless war. For decades after publication of the book the expression “all quiet on the Western Front” meant nothing of importance is happening, but now fallen into disuse. My mother used it to mean “all’s right.”

To celebrate Remarque I have chosen a recipe for Birnen, Bohnen und Speck (“pears, beans and bacon”) a North German dish which is especially popular in Lower Saxony where Remarque was born. You need to use very hard cooking pears left unpeeled and with the stems on.


Birnen, Bohnen und Speck


750 g green beans, topped and tailed
500 g cooking pears
400 g bacon, in a slab or sliced
500 g potatoes, peeled and diced
sprig of savory


Place the bacon in a heavy kettle, cover with water, and simmer covered for about 25 minutes.

Add the pears and beans, plus the savory, and continue to simmer covered for another 25 minutes, or until the pears are soft. Keep an eye on the broth to be sure that it reduces, but does not dry out. Add the potatoes and cook so that they are tender but still firm.

Serve one (or two) whole pears per person over the beans, potatoes, and sliced bacon.

Aug 162013


Today is the birthday (1888) of Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO, known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, and popularly as Lawrence of Arabia. He was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18. The breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame. He was featured in the 1962 epic film, Lawrence of Arabia, which captured some of the mood of Lawrence’s campaigns in Arabia, but was riddled with historical inaccuracies, and completely missed the mark with regards to Lawrence’s personal character. Unfortunately the film has left a lasting impression in the popular mind.

Lawrence was born in Tremadog in Wales as the illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner, a governess who was herself illegitimate. Chapman left his wife and first family in Ireland to live with Sarah Junner, where they called themselves Mr and Mrs Lawrence. In the summer of 1896 the “Lawrence” family moved to Oxford. At the age of 15, T.E. Lawrence and his school friend Cyril Beeson bicycled around Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire, visiting almost every village’s parish church, studying their monuments and antiquities, and making rubbings of their monumental brasses. Lawrence and Beeson monitored building sites in Oxford and presented their finds to the Ashmolean Museum. The Ashmolean’s Annual Report for 1906 said that the two teenage boys “by incessant watchfulness secured everything of antiquarian value which has been found.”

In the summers of 1906 and 1907 Lawrence and Beeson toured France by bicycle, collecting photographs, drawings, and measurements of medieval castles.  In 1907 Lawrence entered Jesus College at Oxford University to read history. In the summer of 1909 Lawrence set out alone on a three-month walking tour of crusader castles in Ottoman Syria, travelling 1,000 mi (1,600 km) on foot. He took a First Class Honours B.A. in 1910 and submitted a thesis entitled “The Influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture—to the end of the 12th Century” based on his field research with Beeson in France, notably in Châlus, and his solo research in the Middle East.

In December 1910 he sailed for Beirut, and on arrival went to Jbail (Byblos), where he studied Arabic. He then went to work on the excavations at Carchemish, near Jerablus in northern Syria, where he worked under D. G. Hogarth and R. Campbell Thompson of the British Museum, and with Sir Leonard Woolley (one of the most influential figures in the development of modern archeology). As the site lay near an important crossing on the Baghdad Railway, knowledge gathered there turned out to be of considerable importance to the military. Lawrence continued making trips to the Middle East as a field archaeologist until the outbreak of the First World War. In January 1914, Woolley and Lawrence were co-opted by the British military as an archaeological smokescreen for a British military survey of the Negev Desert. They were funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund to search for an area referred to in the Bible as the “Wilderness of Zin.” Along the way, they undertook an archaeological survey of the Negev Desert. The Negev was of strategic importance, as it would have to be crossed by any Ottoman army attacking Egypt in the event of war. Woolley and Lawrence subsequently published a report of the expedition’s archaeological findings, but also updated mapping of the area, with special attention to features of military relevance such as water sources. From March to May 1914, Lawrence worked again at Carchemish. Following the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Lawrence did not immediately enlist in the British Army. He held back until October, when he was commissioned on the General List; and immediately posted to the intelligence staff in Cairo because of his extensive knowledge of the Middle East.

Woolley (L) and Lawrence

Woolley (L) and Lawrence

The Arab Bureau of Britain’s Foreign Office conceived a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. The Arab Bureau had long felt it likely that a campaign instigated and financed by outside powers, supporting the breakaway-minded Arab factions and regional challengers to the Turkish government’s centralized rule of their empire, would pay great dividends in the diversion of effort that would be needed to meet such a challenge. The Arab Bureau had recognized the strategic value of what is today called the “asymmetry” of such conflict. The Ottoman authorities would have to devote from a hundred to a thousand times the resources to contain the threat of such an internal rebellion compared to the Allies’ cost of sponsoring it.

The British government in Egypt sent Lawrence to work with the Hashemite forces in the Arabian Hejaz in October 1916. During the war, Lawrence fought with Arab irregular troops under the command of Emir Faisal, a son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca, in extended guerrilla operations against the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire.  He was a major player in the Arab revolt against the Turks ultimately leading to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire and, eventually, to the creation of Arab states in the Middle East.


I won’t go in to a lot of detail. For one thing, I don’t like war, and, for another, the actions of both the British and the Arabs during the war were not of the highest moral standards. After gaining the trust of Arab leaders Lawrence co-ordinated Arab activities of a guerrilla nature, such as blowing up rail lines and disrupting supply lines and communications. He was also responsible for organizing Arab irregular troops leading to the fall of the strategic towns of Aqaba and Tafileh. After leading forces against Tafileh Lawrence was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He was 30.


During the closing years of the war he sought, with mixed success, to convince his superiors in the British government that Arab independence was in their interests. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain contradicted the promises of independence he had made to the Arabs, and left him deeply disillusioned. After the war Lawrence was involved for a time in peace negotiations, and then retired to All Souls College, Oxford, where he held a 7 year fellowship for the purpose of writing a history of the Arab campaign.  Seven Pillars of Wisdom was one of the products of these years, written from start to finish afresh three separate times, the first time because he left the entire manuscript (250,000 words) in a satchel on a platform at Reading train station while changing trains.


After this stint in Oxford he dropped out of sight and his actions have left historians puzzled. In August 1922, Lawrence enlisted in the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman under the name John Hume Ross. At the RAF recruiting center in Covent Garden in London he was interviewed by a recruiting officer – Flying Officer W. E. Johns, later to be well known as the author of the Biggles novels concerning a WW I flying ace (read them all as a boy). Johns rejected Lawrence’s application as he correctly believed “Ross” was a false name. Lawrence admitted this was so and that the documents he provided were falsified. But he returned some time later with an RAF messenger, carrying a written order for Johns to accept Lawrence.

However, Lawrence was forced out of the RAF in February 1923 after being exposed. He changed his name to T. E. Shaw and joined the Royal Tank Corps in 1923. He was unhappy there and repeatedly petitioned to rejoin the RAF, which finally readmitted him in August 1925. A fresh burst of publicity after the publication of a 2nd edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom resulted in his assignment to a remote base in British India in late 1926, where he remained until the end of 1928. At that time he was forced to return to Britain after rumors began to circulate that he was involved in espionage activities. He continued serving in the RAF based at Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, specializing in high-speed boats and professing happiness. It was with considerable regret that he left the service at the end of his enlistment in March 1935.

At the age of 46, two months after leaving military service, Lawrence was fatally injured in an accident on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham. A dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control, and was thrown over the handlebars. He died six days later on 19 May 1935. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road.


One of the doctors attending him was the neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns, who consequently began a long study of what he saw as the unnecessary loss of life by motorcycle dispatch riders through head injuries. His research led to the use of crash helmets by both military and civilian motorcyclists.

In his (unpublished) field journal for May 1917 Lawrence describes a Bedu (Bedouin) feast he attended that consisted of boiled lamb and rice.

“. . . then two men came in carrying a copper butt, sixty inches across and perhaps five inches deep brimful of white rice topped with legs of sheep and ribs within the middle the boiled head, afterward the neck buried in the rice to the ears, which stuck up like withered leaves.”

This dish is known as mansaf and is nowadays much more kitchen friendly than it was in Lawrence’s Bedu encampment. It is the national dish of Jordan. Lawrence says that the rice was cooked in yoghurt but I suspect he misunderstood that the yoghurt flavor of the rice comes from the sauce that the lamb is cooked in.  Jameed is dried, fermented yoghurt that you can find online. If not just increase the amount of plain yoghurt. I give you here the simple version as served to Lawrence, but if you like you can spike the yoghurt sauce with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. Personally I prefer it with saffron only.




2 lbs (1 kilo) lean lamb cut in large pieces
1 cup jameed
2 cups plain yoghurt
2 cups long grain rice or basmati rice
4 tbsps ghee or clarified butter
1 tsp saffron
1 cup whole blanched almonds


Put the jameed in a bowl with a cup of water and let it soak overnight.

Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a heavy pot.  Add the lamb and sauté for 2 minutes. It should not brown.

Add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for an hour or until the meat is tender.

Place the rice in a bowl and cover with warm water.  Let it soak for at least 10 minutes, up to 1 hour.

Blend the jameed and soaking water in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside. Blend the yoghurt with 1 cup of water, and add it to the blended jameed.  Stir well, and add to the simmering lamb. Add the saffron. Continue to simmer.

Drain the rice and rinse well in a sieve under running water.  Place the rice in a pot with 2 ½ cups of water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Sauté the almonds in the remaining ghee until they take on a little color.

To serve, spread the rice on a large platter.  Put the cooked lamb on top, and sprinkle the almonds over the lamb. Pour the yoghurt sauce over the dish to moisten. Serve as a communal dish in the center of the table with flatbread.

Serves 4