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J.R.R. Tolkien's World War One revolver on display at the Imperial War Museum

News from Bree
spymaster@theonering.net

Feb 1 2014, 12:20am

Post #1 of 12 (312 views)
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J.R.R. Tolkien's World War One revolver on display at the Imperial War Museum Can't Post

The service revolver worn by J.R.R. Tolkien at the Battle of the Somme is now on display at the Imperial War Museum in Greater Manchester.

The revolver is part of a several pieces being displayed ahead of a large exhibition that is planned to mark the centenary World War One. The exhibition, called From Street To Trench: A War That Shaped a Region opens at the war museum in April.

Tolkien gained a commission as a second lieutenant on his graduation from the University of Oxford in June 1915, and served with The Lancashire Fusiliers in the war. His Webley Mk V was the standard British service revolver at the outbreak of the conflict.

tolkien revolverJ.R.R. Tolkien's Webley service revolver

The museum's director, Graham Boxer, said the weapon would allow visitors to "connect further with Tolkien's magical stories which were born from harrowing wartime experiences".

Between July and November 1916, there were more than 1 million casualties in The Battle of The Somme. Tolkien (and his battalion) arrived at the front on July 3, 1916. He occupied front line trenches in Beaumont-Hamel, Serre and the Leipzig Salient and took part in the attack on Ovillers.

At the end of October, weighed down by weeks of tension and wretched conditions, Tolkien contracted trench fever and was sent back to hospital in Birmingham. It was at this point he began writing The Book of Lost Tales, the stories that would form the foundation of Middle-earth.

[Read More]


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Feb 3 2014, 3:48am

Post #2 of 12 (152 views)
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It's been a while since I've seen Indiana Jones, [In reply to] Can't Post

but I think his revolver was also a Webley.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Feb 4 2014, 12:12am

Post #3 of 12 (155 views)
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That would not be of much use against a machine-gun [In reply to] Can't Post

 


squire
Valinor


Feb 4 2014, 1:54am

Post #4 of 12 (159 views)
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It worked against your own men, however [In reply to] Can't Post

If I remember correctly, the WW I officer's revolver was a modern version of a sword. European officers - always drawn from the aristocratic class until recently - traditionally carried swords not so much to duel with the enemy as to punish common soldiers who shirked duty or showed a lack of zeal in attacking. The pistol was there for the same reason in 1914-1918. Not that Tolkien ever shot a cowering Tommy in cold blood, of course -- but he was expected to be able to if the need arose, to suppress an incipient mutiny in his unit.

Today, of course, with officers chosen for merit rather than social class and with private soldiers trained to work and think independently rather than in a line, such a system is obsolete. A sidearm is just a useful weapon in rare instances of close combat.

And no, it's not much use against a machine gun! Or anything else on the actual battlefield, really.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Feb 4 2014, 1:53pm

Post #5 of 12 (135 views)
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Fascinating!! [In reply to] Can't Post

I never knew that! Of course I knew that officers were picked from 'high society', but that an instrument so similar in function to the ancient whip should survive until the twentieth century is incredible!

Do you mind if I ask where you learned this? I might have to read that book/article.

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 4 2014, 4:59pm

Post #6 of 12 (130 views)
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I don't see how that can be right... [In reply to] Can't Post

I mean, not in the sense that the pistol was intended to be turned on an officer's own men. Whether it sometimes had to be is a different matter, and then it depends who you read. But the mythology by which WWI was fought was that the heroic young officers (of the "leader class", as you say) inspired their men by leading from the front and showing their own heroism - much like Aragorn, in fact. Common soldiers who shirked duty (including those who were suffering from shell-shock) were certainly punished by death - but normally by a firing squad of men with rifles.

I think the pistol would have been mostly for use against an invidual enemy if you got across enemy lines and ended up face to face (which did happen, although not as often as the powers that be probably imagined when they decided that officers should have pistols). Plus, as you say, it would be a ceremonial symbol replacing the sword. I believe from other things I've read that the pistol would have had to be bought by the officer himself - again going back to tradition, of officers providing their own swords and other equipment.

(For anyone in Britain, by the way, I'd recommend Jeremy Paxman's series that's running at the moment on BBC1, called Britain's Great War. It's got an interesting perspective on how the population as a whole gradually adjusted to the new reality of this previously-unimaginable kind of war.)

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 4 2014, 10:30pm

Post #7 of 12 (153 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

The practice of employing officers as ʻbattle policeʼ played a considerable role from the Battle of the Somme onwards as typified by this incident in July 1916:

ʻI hear a rumour about riflemen retiring on the left and go out to “stop the rot”. A strong rabble of tired, hungry and thirsty stragglers approach me from the east.... They are marched to the water reserve, given a drink, and hunted back to fight. Another more formidable party cuts across to the south. They mean business. They are damned if they are going to stay, itʼs all up. A young sprinting subaltern heads them off. They push by him. He draws his revolver and threatens them. They take no notice. He fires. Down drops a British soldier, at his feet. The effect is instantaneous. They turn back.'
- F.P. Crozier, A Brass Hat in No Manʼs Land (London, 1950), p. 109.

BTW, the Webley is rather heavy and tends to jerk when fired, so extensive practice is required to master it. A lot of British officers would trade theirs in for a captured German Luger once at the front line, for easier firing, and longer range.

******************************************


May 1910: The Nine Kings assembled at Buckingham Palace for the funeral of Edward VII.
(From left to right, back row: Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, Manuel II of Portugal, Wilhelm II of Germany, George I of Greece, and Albert I of Belgium. Front row: Alphonso XIII of Spain, George V of England, and Frederick VIII of Denmark.)


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Feb 5 2014, 1:13am

Post #8 of 12 (120 views)
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Very interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

I knew that a lot of officers would exchange for the Luger, but I thought that it was for the souvenir and trophy value. Now I learn that there was a practical reason. Oh, the things you learn!

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 5 2014, 12:15pm

Post #9 of 12 (104 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

It's not clear that Crozier is any more believable than the purveyors of the other mythology, about the heroism of the soldiers in the trenches. No doubt there was some truth in both accounts, and no account that can ever really portray the "Great War" as it really was.

According to this blog, Crozier was a particularly cynical professional soldier, going back to the Boer War, who later became a pacifist and may have actually exaggerated the brutality of his earlier experiences to make his point as a pacifist. There's a link in that blog to a review by Robert Graves (whose Goodbye to All That tells the other story, of suffering, honest officers doing their best for their men) that implies that neither account is really true. He goes as far as to say that:
I would even paradoxically say that the memoirs of a man who went through some of the worst experiences of trench warfare are not truthful if they do not contain a high proportion of falsities. High-explosive barrages will make a temporary liar or visionary out of anyone.
The case is sometimes made for fantasy being one of the more "truthful" ways of dealing with this kind of horror. Perhaps that's right - because no "non-fiction" approach can really be believed on its own terms.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 5 2014, 3:45pm

Post #10 of 12 (94 views)
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Apparently one officer got a VC for it. [In reply to] Can't Post

“Before the order to retreat came, however, a British lieutenant was said to have shot four of his own men who had bolted. Dallas Moor, only 18, claimed he had killed them to stop a mob desertion. It was subsequently reported he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his disciplinary measures."
-Jonathan King, "Gallipoli: Untold Stories from War Correspondent Charles Bean and Front-Line Anzacs: A 90th Anniversary Tribute"

"On 5 [actually 6] June 1915 south of Krithia, Gallipoli, Turkey, when a detachment of the battalion which had lost all its officers was rapidly retiring before a heavy Turkish attack, Second Lieutenant Moor, realising the danger to the rest of the line, dashed back some 200 yards, stemmed the retirement, led back the men and recaptured the lost trench. This brave act saved a dangerous situation."
-London Gazette, 24 July 1915

As for Graves' quote, I'd argue that more often the reverse is true. Veterans do a lot of self-censoring, either consciously or unconsciously. They know that civilians would never understand.

******************************************


May 1910: The Nine Kings assembled at Buckingham Palace for the funeral of Edward VII.
(From left to right, back row: Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, Manuel II of Portugal, Wilhelm II of Germany, George I of Greece, and Albert I of Belgium. Front row: Alphonso XIII of Spain, George V of England, and Frederick VIII of Denmark.)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 5 2014, 5:16pm

Post #11 of 12 (100 views)
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Thanks Darkstone [In reply to] Can't Post

That's a very telling comparison between the two versions of events!

I'm assuming, however, that the VC was awarded based on a report such as the one from the London Gazette that doesn't mention shooting at all. Even the King book you cite puts "was said" and "it was reported" into the story, so it's hardly fair to say that the officer got the VC for shooting the men - he got it for stopping a rout and if the shooting story is true (which Jonathan King doesn't seem very sure about) it seems that the awards committee either didn't know the details or at the very least turned a blind eye. (The citation is on his Wikipedia page, and indeed it has the same wording as the London Gazette article.) I say if Moor really did resort to shooting the men, then he got his VC by cheating. That's just not cricket. But then he was Australian so what can you expect?

Tongue

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 5 2014, 9:57pm

Post #12 of 12 (139 views)
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Sure [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But then he was Australian so what can you expect?


Yes, in a lot of anecdotal accounts it's "those other guys" doing the shooting, like Scots ordered to shoot retreating English, or English shooting Irish troops. British describe French officers shooting their own troops, Russians claim they saw Germans doing it, Germans claim they saw Russians doing it, Americans say they saw Italians doing it, and so on.

Also certain bombastic officers seem to have relished relating such incidents. For example, in "I Was There" Graham Seton Hutchison (aka The Mad Major) describes ordering the machine-gunning of an entire retreating British platoon at Meteren during the 1918 Spring Offensive. He also recounts other personal acts of mayhem against recalcitrant British soldiers.

Still, by one account it does seem to have been actually taught at Sandhurst as described by then Lieutenant GDJ McMurtrie of the 7th Somerset Light Infantry at Cambrai:

"I turned round to try and stop them all. Everyone wished to clear out, everyone was out for himself and his own preservation. It is extraordinary what one thinks of at such moments as these and it is marvellous what a difference one strong, brave man makes in situations such as this. I remembered a lecture that we had had at Sandhurst by a Staff Sergeant and he told us that if withdrawing the men tried to run away, then get out your revolver and threaten them and if that was not enough, shoot some of them. This was a similar situation, all the men had panicked and just commanding them was not enough. The place we had got to was quite a good place for making a stand and so I cocked my revolver and started threatening them with it. Immediately they turned around and faced the enemy and began firing away again. I saw Jenks [another Lieutenant] doing the same thing further down on the left."
-Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel G D J McMurtrie, quoted in "Cambrai 1917: The Myth Of The First Great Tank Battle" by Bryn Hammond.

BTW, the Moor shootings are also recounted in "The Story Of The 29th Division. A Record Of Gallant Deeds" by Stair Gillon.

******************************************


May 1910: The Nine Kings assembled at Buckingham Palace for the funeral of Edward VII.
(From left to right, back row: Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, Manuel II of Portugal, Wilhelm II of Germany, George I of Greece, and Albert I of Belgium. Front row: Alphonso XIII of Spain, George V of England, and Frederick VIII of Denmark.)


(This post was edited by Darkstone on Feb 5 2014, 10:08pm)

 
 

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