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Must see TV

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Aug 2014, 08:39

Fig.1 Great War Diaries

This series, each episode an hour long, features six or so characters per episode, most from episode to episode drawing on their diaries and letters. A lifetime interested in the First World War I am still amazed and thrilled at the stories that are told and the quality of dramatisation. Without any doubt in my mind THIS is the series that our generation will remember in relation to the marking of the centenary of the First World War.

Elfriede Kuhr, featured above, joins us as a 15 year old developing a crush on a German trainee pilot. Born in what is now Poland she went on to marry a Jew and perform in ante-war performances, having to flee Germany in 1933. 

Inspired stuff; though the four universities offering free courses sadly offering little that relates directly to any of this series at all. A lost opportunity. There is a need for a module on the First World War, not niche parts of it, nor a one hundred year sweep from the 1860s to 1960s.

This stunning production, with the highest production values and a budget to match will see many of the actors appearing in movies and TV, with the director surely moving on to Hollywood.

Brilliant

 

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Testament of Youth

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Fig. 1. Kit Harington stars in Testament of Youth

It's a good time to read Vera Britain's autobiographical story set during the First World War - based on the movie trailer we're in for a treat next year when this comes out. There's no escaping the hundredth anniversary of WW1 so go with the flow I say.

'Study a period in history until you can hear its people speak' said the historian E H Carr - correct me if I paraphrase, I've struggled to find the page in his 'What is history'. These days you study in a period until you can hear its people speak and write a screenplay (or radio). 

 

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1914 Evening

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 5 Aug 2014, 17:30

 Fig.1 Screengrab from a news report style presentation on why Britain went to war 100 years ago / at midnight tonight.

I stumbled upon all of this quite by chance. Who'd imagine the BBC Parliamentary Channel would produce an evening of documentaries, talks and lectures. Former foreign secretaries reflect on the important role Edward Grey in 1914 took to keep Britain out of a continental conflict. I hope it's all on the iPlayer as every word is worth sharing. 

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Did everyone speak fluent english a hundred years ago with a foreign accent?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 10:53

Fig.1. Images from my Google Pics gallery

We are collectively being tipped into a centenary marking of the First World War where all 'foreigners' speak english with an accent; we have German, Russian, French ... we have Serbian and Austro-Hungarian 'english'. We even have Americans voiced by English actors speaking ... english with an American accent. So how do we spot the lads from Newfoundland? Not then part of Canada, but a sovereign state? And from the Indian subcontinent the difference in accents and language from a multitude of sources?

It's all compromise and accommodation

It's very much the BBC perspective: which as the ONLY public service broadcaster the world has tries so hard to represent everyone. I have my say here - Jonathan Vernon on Hastings 1918

WBC anyone?

The World or Globe or Earth or ... whatever 'Broadcasting Company'?

For all or any failings the effort, transparently at least, to strive for 'truth' based on evidence of what is going on.

The Open University has been, was and should take the lead. I wonder, with concern that the legacy of Michael Bean has been to trim back too hard and so diminish us to a voice from the corner of the empire.

I hope the next Vice Chancellor will be a global figure. Bill Clinton comes to mind. 

'Read in a subject until you can hear the people speak'.

E H Carr.

It has taken a forty years but I feel I have the voice of the soldier of the First World War - and the officer, and the girlfriends and mothers at home.

 

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The Tragic Poker Game: World War One on the BBC

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Jul 2014, 08:03

Catch the short pieces by Prof. Chris Clark on the First World War.

He's the author of 'Sleepwalkers. How Europe went to war in 1914'. He's a compelling, easy to listen to historian. A linguist too: he is adamant about the need for historians to do first hand research in the original language - he has German and French at least. An Australian whose accent has vanished after a decade or more in the quads of Cambridge.

Listen, then think again.

Personally, I have come to not wholly agree - which cost me a few marks short of a distinction on an essay on the origins of the First World War which I wrote by amongst others, by extensive reading of the OU's Annika Mombauer's edited anthologies of original documents. These are fascinating to pick through so that you can construct your own point of view.

Christopher Clark believes that a) the Kaiser, had he real power, could have and would have prevented the outbreak of a general European war b) that between the French and Russian's had been planning for it and were 'up for it' as the prospective of a test of strength developed. 

No war, no Russian Revolution?

No war, dynastic monarchies still ruling Europe?

No war ... 

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The origins of the First World War - as a rap

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Fig. 1. Origins: Rap Battle

You can fault it; Joffre doesn't have a word. And George V had nothing to do with taking the British Empire to war 100 years ago. He was a constitutional monarch; we should look to the cabinet and Foreign Minister earl Grey in particular. Kaiser Wilhlem II, also a constitutional monarch had far more influence over the appointment of senior officials, though it is Reich's Chancellor Hoffman Hollweg with Moltke we ought to lampoon as the German rascals who went on the offensive in a drive to build a more substantial German Empire. While Tsar Nicholas II is represented by a bear of a man, while the Tsar was short and slight. Franz Josef, the elderly Austro-Hungary Emperor, signed what his officials put in front of him. 

A great way to introduce the subject? Humour gets your attention. Or overly simplistic?

Remember the lines and you might have the basics of the origins too. Schools won't permit because of the language, though young people will watch it anyway.

You've only got 17 days left to view or download.

Inspired? Controversial? 

The First World War: Origins: The Movie?

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Precision writing

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Fig.1. My ever changing desk

Some weeks into preparing a 4000 word essay I finally, painfully, through copious notes, and assemblages of arguments to support my chosen thesis hit 'Word Count' and to my amazement find this fourth draft far from massively overfilling the cup comes in at 4036 words. It is with an uncharacteristic confession that I should know by now that this kind of considered effort will deliver, while writing as if in a blog will never do. A few marks short of a distinction for my last effort what I need now to do is prioritise the multitude of references that I've attached - some 67 (from a core set of seven or so books and eBooks). Actually I am still missing a dozen references at least. Whilst some of the ideas are mine, most are not, when it comes to the First World War, thousands have been there already (some 23,000 publications on the topic).

There is method to this. All other approaches having failed the above is to be the approach I take for my very last effort to constructing, rather than writing, a novel. It has its moments in the First World War, though it covers a period that a lecturer at the weekend expressed in the phrase, as 'From Super Power to the three day week'. He wanted to know how Britain had gone from Empire to near collapse over 75 years; this just so happens to be the period my main character lives through. 

Over the last four years I migrated from pen and paper, to purist working on and from digital platforms only. Today my approach is blended - anything and everything that works. This means hard back reference books as well as eBooks, a pad of paper and an ink pen and the interface an iPad, and laptop or desktop - documents in Google Docs so quite frankly anything that gets me online will work. Often I take photos of a book rather than take notes. With eBooks I highlight, add notes - then assemble choice points onto Rolledex cards. What counts, I have learnt, is the time and quality of engagement with the subject matter. At some stage the fog does clear and it makes sense well enough for you to be able to talk about it willingly and in an informed way if you so choose - recommended, where and if you can find some many willing and able to listen and respond. 

The result is my understanding of 'Why Britain went to war in 1914'. It is not the conclusion I would have come to a few weeks ago. It has relevance today as 100 years ago too - it comes down to a handful of political leaders: who they are, what they desire and represent, how they behave and to whom (if anyone) and how, they are accountable. 

Somewhere across these posts there are other images of 'my working space' and my 'Personal Learning Environment'. This space is temporary: its the kitchen/dining table for a start. When my teenage daughter gets in from college she takes over with art materials and a sewing machine and I retire to a corner of the bedroom with an iPad. 

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Why did Britain go to war in 1914? In 100 words

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A handful of belligerent political leaders, primarily in Berlin, but also in Vienna, exploited the murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand to pursue their long held belief in Germany’s need for a world policy ‘Welpolitik’, even the right to world power ‘Weltmachtstellung’. Their machinations, deviousness, obfuscations and at times ineptitude and delusions, led Britain’s leaders, reluctantly, in August 1914, once all efforts at mediation had failed, and enough of Britain’s divided Cabinet could unite after Germany’s invasion of Belgium, to enter a state of war when Germany failed to respond to Britain’s 4th August ultimatum.

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Why did Britain go to war in 1914?

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My reading may have reached 2000 pages on the subject (including several hundred original documents).

My target is a 4000 word essay.

Writing 40,000 words is easy; a Tweet is easy too - Blame Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Moltke.

A summary of 600 words, expanded to 2000 words is straightforward too. The problem is 4000 words - here the need and expectation to prove a point required considerable fine and considered editing of the mass of evidence.

There are over 23000 books on the First World War. I've read perhaps 40 of them and own 100. Do I know enough? Have I satisfied this itch once and for all?

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A shivver of vibrancy in a project to use QR codes as another way to egage people in remembering the combatants of the First World War

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 18:39

This morning I got a lengthy email from someone whose grandfather is featured in a 1918 photograph of RAF cadets I put up on Flickr, I also got a lengthy email from someone sharing a review on a book on the First World War on Amazon. Today, Dan Snow helped launch an initiative through the Imperial War Museum that aims to repeat what the IWM started to do in 1919 - campaign for people to share photographs, artefacts and stories of people who served, suffered, thrived or survived the First World War - this is at the 'Who do you think you are' exhibition at Olympia - I will try to get over on Saturday. And finally, a fascinating conversation with my brother in law on why a gallery curator is inviting people to feedback and respond to works of art through social media - and the curator's philosophy of 'openness' and a desire to move away from the grand voice of the patron in favour of mutliple voices and interpretations. He particularly likes to describe the value of 'dirt' to challenge perceptions and permit the points of view of anyone, and called this dirt 'soil' that would nurture fresh and vibrant ideas - he's Italian, speaks with an accent and chooses his words carefully (he is a tutor in fine art and art history). We got into discussions on learning and why as a student he'd have to queue up early in Bologna in order to hear Umberto Eco. This enthusiastic, reflective discussion continued as he prepares supper and I help - eager to pick up some cullinary tips too.

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Repeat. Remember. Be Original

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 23:44
From E-Learning III

Repetition or re-visiting is vital. We cannot help but change our perspective as we gain more experience, insights and knowledge. We need repetition in order to get 'stuff' into the deeper recesses of our brains where wonders are worked. Therefore, far better to exposure to brilliance often, rather than giving them something less than brilliant simply because it is new, or an alternative. If nothing else Web 2.0 ought to be giving students the chance to find and limit themselves to the best.

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Leveraging mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools to engage those with an interest in the centenary of the First World War in the stories of the people of the er

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 10:36

A conference presentation for H818: The Networked Practitioner

In relation to the First World War, during its centenary commemoration, there are many places, such as war memorials, cemeteries, historic houses and battlefields that are bereft of quality, supporting information. With consideration for the needs and interests of visitors to such sites rich, multimedia information, such as audio guides and photographs, links to databases and to others with a similar interest can be provided through the use of Quick Response (QR) codes. Of interest here is to personalise commemorisation through the use of a self-generated QR code and content with the code put onto a British Legion Poppy.

This opens up the possibility of providing information at war memorials, large and small, even down to the single name, as well as at sites, buildings and on battlefields, for example informing walkers and cyclists that the old airfield was once a training area for the Royal Flying Corps showing them photographs of what it looked like or that that council building that was a convalescence home or that part of the Downs that had trenches dug in it for training or the concrete pill-box on the former Western Front where it is known an officer and two of his men died.

QR codes, orginally the creation of a supplier to Toyota, have grown in popular use in Japan and China in the 1990s, then the US, Canada and Germany. They are now used at point of sale for marketing purposes, and increasingly in libraries and museums were research is indicating how they can best be used. Implementation issues relate to the percentage of the population that do not have smart devices, the possible cost of 2G and 3G away from free Wi-Fi and adequate support for the use of QR codes which are not yet ubiquitous in the UK.

The purpose of this paper is to pull together current experiences of the use of QR codes in order to consider ways they could add to the our collective understanding of the events of the First World War. QR codes offer multiple potentials, not simply providing rich mobile multimedia content, but letting people create their own content and QR codes, to share, form hubs of like-minds and respond in their own way whether by contributing to the historical debate, offering their own family stories or being inspired or angered by the events as described and wanting to express their views in prose, poetry, painting or performance.

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Antidisestablishmentarianism

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 1 Jun 2014, 06:19

I satisfied a life long itch to use this 24 letter word in an essay and successfully did so in a masters level history essay on the way TV producers tell 'The Great War' story. On closer inspection the markers ought to have deleted it as 'antiestablishmentarianism' would have been correct. Next essay I'll see if I can get 'disconbobulate' in somewhere.

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New blog post

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20140102-172213.jpg I saw the film in my early teens - on TV. I'm reading everything I can on the First World War in this the centerary year. 'Johnny got his gun' is a moving and memorable account of one young soldier's plight when he is terribly wounded and survives. The author's story and how the book was oublished then banned makes for fascinating reading too.
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Bereavement

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 9 Dec 2013, 08:10

It's as good a reason as any to stop for a while. But of course it doesn't. In fact I'd say the revelations of the last week have been extraordinary and impossinle without the required - stop.

It came walking the dog in 'Bluebell Woods' (that's Spring). Today we we have acres of larch shedding their leaves .... just an intermittent breeze and a shoer of leaves rattle down through the arching branches above.

I took photos. I even hung around 'til I could video it.

I was reminded immediatly of the Menin Gate, Ypres and the thousands of petals that are thrown from above.

I had an idea for the leaves ... and an even greater one for them falling from above. 

Tag 'em all.

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Print versus the eBook

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 17:10

Fig.1. The Pity of War (1999) Niall Ferguson. Same page/location.

Unless someone can offer me away around this I have found myself, after reading, highlighting and adding notes to an eBook that the only way I could properly cite it would be to purchase a print copy. This I did for £1.86 exclusing p&p. Cheapest of all would have been the library, but getting it sent from an outlying library then not being able to locate my library card ... 

Even for £1.86 I will not annotate the printed page. I'm loathe even to break its back ... some 500 pages takes some negotiation. 

I have long taken the view that the amount of effort required to pull together your thoughts does more good than harm in the long run - I've engaged with and 'constructed' my personal understanding of what is being said here rather than on a whim highlighing pages in the eBook and never giving them a second thought. Matching up the Kindle Location to a page number has had me jumping back and forth.

Is there an easy way to do this? I find I look for tables and charts, or references (that are standard in both formats) near to the 'search' I\ve done in the Kindle book. Indexing is crude, the difference between throwing a dart or a kitchen knife at a target across the room.

In one made moment of 'blending' the approaches I thought I could buy two paperbacks, tear out the pages and wallpaper them to the garage wall, then use coloured string and such like to seek out all the links like some murder mystery investigation.

OTT (Over the top).

Will printed books soon seem as archaic as a codex or papyrus?

The highlights and notes in the eBook have been less useful than I had hoped. They were just jottings, moments that hinted at a need to give something further thought - more detailed notes would need to come on a third read through. I've managed two.

The book is chunky, a thicks as a telephone directory. You get NO impression of size with an eBook, not the weight, presence of page numbers.

I need to play around with it further still. I do wonder if after all there is real educational value, savings and practicality to loading an eReader with standard texts. A student has no excuse if that term's books are on a device in their bag. What is best practice with use of eBooks in post compulsory education?

 

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Online vs. Face to face Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 May 2014, 06:44

I'll add notes here as the differences between the online and 'traditional' learning experience dawn on me as I do the two in parallel. Actually there's a third comparison I can make - that of L&D which the other week included something neither of the above formats offer - 'learning over a good lunch!'

Time Managment

The 'traditional' seminar or lecture forces your hand somewhat - you have to be there. Many these days are recorded, though mine will not be. I'm inclined therefore to take either a digital or audio recorder along to record these things. I have, just a couple of times over three years, got behind with the online course as I kept putting it off.

Travel ... and the associated cost

It'll be around four hours door to door once a month. This means getting up at 4.30 am. Not of course something someone in full time tertiary education needs to do. Off peak, unless booked well in advance it'll cost £74 return ... £24 if I stick to exact trains. The last train home was heaving. I could and did 'work' the entire journey whereas home is a constant distraction.

Eating on campus

Lunch I may have to take with me as the campus only had premade Spar sandwhiches at every outlet. A jacket potato or pasta would have been better.

Nodding off

After lunch I did something I last did in double Geography on a Friday afternoon. I sat at the back, cupped my hands over my eyes as if in deep thought ... and fell asleep.

When to put in the hours

Something, however common to many people on any part-time distance learning course is 'the early morning shift' - putting in 90 minutes or so before breakfast. 

Library Services

While this and other support services are offered to us on our VLE it was invaluable to to have a person run through it as a presentation in person. This kind of stuff should be given a linear expression ... a mini-module for newcomers and as a refresher. All I've done, two years after the event, was a webinar. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New blog post

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 29 Sep 2013, 07:02
I love to travel, not just on holiday with friends and family, but alone. Maybe this happens to you too, but I always find travel, especially new trips and destinations, is a catalyst to reflection.
 
All I did was take the first train out of Lewes to spend the day at the University of Birmingham. Two things that shook my brain: St. Pancras International ... and, sounding like a commercial, Virgin Trains. Although the train was quiet two people came through the train to collect rubbish ... as bubbly as buttons. Four times. The toilets were spotless. All in very sharp contrast to Southern Trains out of London where everything was overflowing ... 
 
I last studied 'lecture style' 31 years ago, yet I have signed up for one of these while I continue my learning journey here through all the MA ODE modules.
 
Learning is learning - it neither takes place online or off. It is in your head. It is what the brain is given a chance to do with it that counts.
 
I can now weigh up the two as I study in two very different ways in parallel.
 
There is of course 'blended learning' too that in a planned way mixes up both use of e-learning and face to face.
 
I met someone who, like me, has just completed a degree with the OU and we immediately began to share notes.
 
The OU is of ourse 'open' to anyone - online learning makes formal learning possible for any of us who either need to stay in one place, or are always on the move. People who need significant flexibility in how they manage their time ... and don't want the cost in time and money to get to a place for a tutorial, seminar, lecture conference. And people who 'don't get on with people' - not just agrophobia, you know what I mean. I switch constantly, sometimes very keen to be on my own ... 
 
Nothing beats getting to know your fellow students than spending a day with them, during coffee and comfort breaks, at lunch, walking through the campus, in seminar rooms before a talk begins ... and on the way home when you find part of your journey is shared.
 
Relationships formed here are akin to a long distance phone call, or letters to a stranger, even, oddly, having a chat with the postman or a builder ... you let them into your house.
 
And your head?
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On getting it wrong about how Europe went to war in 1914

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 22 Sep 2013, 19:16

 

Fig.1. From Max Hastings new book. Catastrophe.

This is wrong!

Russia's partial mobilization on the 26th understandably gave rise to considerable worry in Germany and Austria-Hungary.  Only when Russia fully mobilized on the 29th did Germany responded. It worries me how many inaccuracies, lies, and old assumptions will be published and broadcast over the next five years. Max Hastings is not an historian.

Perhaps in our connected 21st century any such errors will be quickly picked up.

Did your great-grandfather or grandfather take part in the conflict? Did a great-grandmother become a nurse? Is there a death or several indicated in your family tree from this period? How relevant is it today tothe map of Europe and of the world?

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Has much changed here?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 19 Sep 2013, 12:57

I'm delighted to say the the transformation is an enhancement and the improvements are seamless without any loss of what we had before ... a 'bulletin-board-cum-blog-thingey'. My previous post suggested I might have found a bolt-hole without Internet. It hasn't lasted.

I will get Internet access down the road (I had wanted a garden office but this desire became an insummountable barrier at home).

All that it requires from me is something I lack - self-discipline NOT to get distracted by email, which includes updated postings from forums and the likes of Linkedin (let alone a gaggle of family members on Facebook). AOL is the worst as I innocently go to check email and find 20 minutes later I am still clicking through the inviting gobbets of news and sensation that is offered. 

I had hoped to behave like the smoker trying to give up - I'll only smoke other people's fags. A very, very, very long time ago ... I can honestly say I have never smoked a cigarette since I turned 20.

Back to the Internet. Like Television.

Or diet. We are living in an age where self-control is vital. Having not had a TV for several months I was eventually pushed to buy one. Courtesy of Which? we now have a TV so Smart that it probably tells my brother in South Africa who is watching what .... we can Skype sofa to sofa. I just wonder if our antics could be recorded and posted on YouTube? Not my doing but any of the teenagers with the wherewithal just hit a record button somewhere.

In all this hi-tech I DO have a tool I'd recommend to anyone.

I've invested in an hour-glass. In runs for 30 minutes. While that sand is running all I may do is read and take notes. This might be an eBook, or a printed book, either way they are on a bookstand. I take notes, fountain pen to lined paper. What could be easier? The left hand may highlight or bookmark and turn a page, while the right writes?

This works as the filtering process of the knowledge that I am reading and want to retain needs to go through several steps in any case. The handwritten notes will be reduced again as I go through, typing up the ideas that have some resonance for me.

My current task has been 'How Europe went to war in 1914' by Christopher Clark.

I doubt my second thorough read will be the last. From notes I will start posting blogs and going into related social platforms to share and develop thoughts and in so doing be corrected while firming up my own views. I need this social interaction, to join the discussion if not the debate.

Meanwhile I will revisit Martin Weller's book on Digital Scholarship.

However swift the age of the Internet may be he suggests it will still take a person ten years to achieve the 'scholar' level ... whereas John Seely Brown recently reckoned this was now down to five years. i.e. through undergraduate and postgraduate levels and popping out the other end with a PhD in five years.

DIdn't an 18 year old who was home schooled just get called to the Bar?

She graduated with a law degree while contemporaries did A' Levels and finished High School and then did a year of pupillage I suppose.

The intellectual 'have's' of the future will, by one means of another, achieve degree status at this age. The Internet permits it.

School is far, far, far, far, far too lax.

It tends to the median if not the mediocre. Long ago it found a way to process kids as a genderless yeargroup instead of treading each student as an individual ... so let them skip a year, let them stay back a year ... allow them to expand and push subjects that appeal to them.

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4 days in Ypres

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Aug 2013, 07:26
The obsessive in me required that I filled the OU gap so I have been walking in and out of Ypres looking for spots where my grandfather 'worked' in 1917. I use the term 'work' as he considered it a job. Some job sitting behind a Vicker's Machine Gun. It killed most of them. 96 years after he was here and 21 since he died I finally walked the routes and adjusted once again the images I had in my head of the Ypres Salient. And then I found Egypt House up by Houthulst Forrest where he took some scrapnel fragments and he burried two mates. When he was over for the 75th anniversary of the Third Battle of Ypres (known as Passchendale) he marked the spot with a wreath and broke down in tears. I've felt close to the same looking at registers of names in war cemeteries - especially where I know the names from the hours I spent listening to and then recording my grandfather's memoirs - there was ample opportunity for this as he lived into his 97th year, unlike George Wannop, Dick Piper, Harry Gartenfeld and the many, many others typically aged 19-23 who met a horrible death out here. My late grandfather spared no detail. It is fascinating what impressions I constructed as boy and how these adjusted as I became more informed. To my minds eye as a boy this all took place in the landscape of Northumberland somewhere north east of Alnwick with little war damage to farmhouses or pill boxes. IWM photos gave me a black and white, scared, broken and flat though claustrophobic landscape. Being here opens it out again - the Ypres Canal is as wide as the Tyne, not some British slither and finally this 'salient' can be seen as a vast arena ... 20km across? with the escarpment a series of pimples, while on foot the flatness turns out to be crumpled, like sheets on a bed with streams which made it such a mudbath crossing every halfmile or so. With the 100th anniversary of 1914-18 nearly upon us the museums are getting their act together. 'In Flanders Fields' in the Old Cloth Hall, Ypres is the most stunning exhibition I have visited anywhere on WW1 and very much a 21st interactive and multimedia affair. Www.machineguncorps.com is where I'm pulling together photos, maps and links and where in due course I'll put intervies with Corporal Jack Wilson, M.M. MGC.
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Wikipedia is the diving board ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 5 Feb 2013, 14:34

School%2520Pool%2520Wide%2520Angle_1.jpg

... the rest of the Internet is the pool.

I may even skip the diving board these days. I am used to viewing Wikipedia content, but once you get into a subject you may find that a) it is inaccurate b) it is rather thin c) there are choices and selections that build in the bias of the last editor.

So I defer to Britanica, or Google Scholar, then I check the author, or the institution or the credibility of the paper.

You can have huge fun drilling through to the detail.

 

Franz%2520Ferdinand%2520marries%2520Sophie%2520Cozek%25201900.JPG

Here are the newly weds - Franz Ferdinand and Sophie.

I challenged myself to write 60 seconds on the Assisination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and found myself, whether or not I was meant to be there, in the Hapsburg Family blog looking at family photos of historic figures and hearing stories about grandparents and greatgrandparents.

Every morning Sophie Chotek, Franz Ferdindand's non-royal wife, would peel him an apple.

Mmm. Not sure what I'm meant to do with that information!

The power of Wikipedia of course is when you feel suitably informed to go back and correct something. As I got to know all the players in the assassination of 28th June 1914 I was able to go in and correct errors. It said somewhere that Franz was an only child - actuall there is a brother and sister. They, like Franz Ferdinand's father and grandfather the Emperor didn't attend their heir to the Austrian Empire's thone because they thought Sophie beneath their royal status.

Some other nonsense had crept in about Princip eating a sandwhich after the earlier failed attempt to blow Franz Ferdinand up with a hand thrown bomb. (There were no fewer that seven of them up and down the street waiting for thier chance).

It'll be interesting to see what nonsense the film makers bring to the countless revisting and rewriting of this period in history - scripts will have been written, any series will be in production.

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Love and hate and the origins of the First World War

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 18:21

I am close to my THIRD YEAR blogging here. Just the most amazing and crazy journey which, if I remember at one stage had me click on a link at the bottom 'jobs' and end up at the Open University itself. I felt rather like a priest visiting the Vatican ... then decided that being away from home all week made me too miserable. Anyway, I particularly enjoy following the Creative Writing Course as so many students post here. I've had my moments of writing fiction ... and scored one minor hit writing, then directing a short film that was bought by Channel 4. No, it clearly didn't spell the beginnign of a new career. But I so still hanker after constructing a long form story - a novel or screenplay. No amount of writing will get you there, you have to read a lot AND take advice.

This is a self-imposed exercise, finding a story for every day of the duration of the First World War - thats 1568 posts to a blog. This story related to 28th June which triggered it all. Like someone fickling the first domino in a domino cascade .... the world came tumbling down, indeed the second world war and the Balkans conflict are all part of the same mess, indeed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and nationalism in the Middle East probably transcends all of this too.

I should keep on writing - call it 'The 100 Years War' 1914 to 2014.

You are one of the wealthiest and privileged men in the world and likely, by all accounts, to be one of the most powerful men too some day soon, but you are deeply unhappy and married as protocol requires to another European royal.

You are Crown Prince Rudolph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - wanting for nothing and everything. Your are also crushingly unhappy - the privilege a burden.

Then you fall in love and like royals before you the woman becomes your mistress - two years of bliss are doomed when your father the Emperor demands that it ends. Rather than give each other up you commit suicide, shooting first your 17 year old mistress, then turning the gun on yourself.

Love for a girl and hate for the Empire could only be resolved through violence. The year is 1889.

Some two decades later your nephew, the heir presumptive since your own death, appears to have it all - a compromise had been found when he refused to give up the woman he wished to marry in 1890. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, stunningly wealthy, happily married to the Countess Sophie Chotek - the woman he loves, with three healthy children, and trained up through his military career to rule would expect to become the next emperor soon - his grandfather the Emperor Franz Josef is now in his 80s.

Then, on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand's misplaced 'love' for his subjects and his unquestioning love for his wife puts them both in an open top tourer on a formal visit to the Austro-Hungarian provincial capital of Sarajevo.

Hate looms in the form of the 19 year old Gravilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, desperately poor, principled, prepared and determined. Under instructions and guidance from the leaders of the radical Serbian terrorist group 'The Black Hand' he finds himself positioned on the route the Archduke will take back and forth through Sarajevo with six others - armed and eager to kill.

In their different ways both Franz Ferdinand and Gravilo Princip disliked what the Austro-Hungarian Empire represented and how it behaved - both had ideas of how the problem could be fixed - Franz through compromise and accommodation - he tabled a federation of Austro-Hungarian states in 1906 -while both Count Rudolph at one end of the scale and Princip at the other, both felt that two bullets from a revolver were the pill that wold fix everything when others controlled your life in a way that you found intolerable.

Two world wars later, nearly 50 million dead and conflict only recently resolved in the Balkans and if there is a one word lesson to take from the 20th century it is 'Diplomacy'.

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Surgeon Soldier in Iraq – Part 2: Exsanguinating Hemorrhage

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 30 Dec 2012, 12:50

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My lines of enquiry can take me in some peculiar places.

All I wanted to do was write a 60 second piece on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the streets of Sarajevo on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914. (Around 300 words to read, 260 or so out loud for video, even less with pauses)

Not a simple issue, and after a day of reading and several thousand words and enough for a 20 minute documentary I conclude that the story has to begin centuries before with the conquest of the Balkans by the Ottoman Empire ... then first ideas for a Greater Serbian State free not just of the Ottoman Empire, but also of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from around 1901.

There were seven assassins on the street - trained, armed with revolvers and hand-thrown bombs ready to act. It was well organised, the target agreed many months before, the nationalist group behind it already with a successful regicide on its books.

Had the Archduke listened to advice he would not have been in Sarajevo and he most certainly would not have returned to the streets after the first failed attempt on his life when a bomb was thrown at this car but ended up under the vehicle behind seriously wounded several and injuring many more.

The vital thing for all students to understand is that treaties, the Great Powers taking sides, and agitations of many kinds had the players on the field eager to get started. When you've got a fight brewing in the playground and the kids, teachers and authorities are all shouting 'Fight! Fight! Fight!' that is what will happen. The assassination by a lone killer of the leader of the French Socialist Party Jean Jaures, who was determined to find a peaceful solution in late July 1914 indicated the mood - the assassin was considered heroic.

I've been through the sixty minutes that take the 19 year old Gavrilo Princip from one side of the Quay Appel at around 10.15 am as the entoruage pass to the opposite side of the Street and the Rue Frans Joseph where he is standing with a revolver by the side of the road when the entourage returns stops in front of him and starts to reverse putting the assassin less that 5ft away from the Archduke and Duchess at around 10.50 am. Princip is a good shot, he's been practising for months. He shot twice - once at the Archduke, then at the Duchess. The first bullet entered the Archduke's neck. piercing the external jugular and lodging itself in his spine. At this short range it suggests that the bullet 'mushroomed' on impact, otherwise it would surely have penetrated the rear seat of the vehicle. The second bullet entered the Duchess's abdomen.

Curious to see it all in my mind's eye I Google away and have ample to read on gunshots to the neck - including medical and surgical papers I can read through the OU Library. A hundred years on a surgeon on hand and a dash to the hospital and the Archduke may have survived - though damage to his spine would have left him a quadriplegic. 65-60% fatality even today. Also a 30% chance of brain damage. Ligation of the vein. Count Harrac was at the Archduke's side put a handkerchief against the wound, what he needed to do was reach in and grip either side of the severed vein.

To save the Duchess it sounds as if a laparotomy would have been required urgently using procedures to control the damage done to the abdomen - such surgery only started to become common place in the 1950s. An 'abbreviated laparotomy with physiologic resuscitation in the intensive care unit and staged abdominal reconstruction' would have done the job - indeed I've just read about people with multiple shots across the abdomen from a machine gun who survive - in 2011. So fly in the air ambulance time machine and bring her out ... or just get there a few moments earlier and stop the whole shenanigans.

This below, for a contemporary take on field surgery in a war zone is a gripping, heartwarming, informed read. I guess after 6 weeks in somewhere like Iraq an US surgeon is ready for Chicago or the Comptons, Los Angeles.

Surgeon Soldier in Iraq – Part 2: Exsanguinating Hemorrhage

 

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Distance Learning 80 years ago

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012, 17:55

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I am reading a 52 piece part work 'World War' edited by Sir John Hammerton and published between 1936 and 1937 with occasional contributions from H G Wells, this alongside various staple and new reads on World War One.

As a piece of learning design what could be simpler? A magazine delivered each week, chapters deliberately left unfinished between parts, photos offering points of interest explained and developed in later issues.

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Perspectives shift of course, just as they had a view on the Napoleonic Wars. However, in many cases 1914 was not dissimilar to a battle of 1814, or 1870.

'Read in a period until you hear its people speak' E H Carr.

I play this trick of falling asleep with an event in mind and courtesy of the painkillers I am currently taking I enter a vivid dream world much of which I can recall.

The problem with WW1 is the clammer of voices, not just what you can read, but the voices you can listen to on DVD or podcasts, indeed I have several hours of my own grandfather in a County Durham accent that those not familiar with the North East would call Geordie and find, at times, incomprehensible.

How does an historian deal with history when the record is everything? Had a soldier gone into battle in 1914 with a video headset what would we do today with years of material? My grandfather, for example, had no leave from the day he left England in early 1916 to his transfer to the Royal Flying Corps at the very end of 1917.

Would the reality be a huge amount of sitting around dealing with the boredom, discomfort and fear?

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This is a map I drew with my grandfather in his 97th year. This and his visit to the trenches the previous year would allow me to retrace his steps, almost by the day between September and end of December 1917.

But why?

A researcher from UCL quizzed me on this some years ago and I had to conclude that for me it was less an obsession with WW1, but rather reminding me of a dearly loved grandparent. I can't see drawing up maps of my grandmother's trips into Newcastle on the tram having the same appeal (or historical record or value).

Gradually online I am connecting with grandchildren of veterans and others interested in WW1 so that there is a component of 'Social Learn' between blogs and Facebook. All the books I read I share on Twitter, which may help promote the book, but is also attracting many like-minds.

At what point do I become so well informed that I could sit an exam without sitting for the qualification?

Can I short-circuit the steps to an MA in History? There are two parts to the degree, but it is the second part, the ellective, that takes me into WW1 territory.

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