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How the other half lived


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#1 skipman

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 09:47 PM

Wauchope's History of the Black Watch. (9th Battalion) About 8th August 1916, Fricourt. Chapter IV July 1916-March 1917

" Further up, however, things were very different, and here, in the areas just taken from the enemy, vast and well-equipped dug-outs were found. It was extraordinary to note the comfort in which the enemy had lived for the past two years right up in their front line. In one instance, the German commander at Fricourt had a dug-out consisting of several rooms, all completely furnished with beds, kitchen, etc., in which he had not only his wife and daughter, but the latter's govorness to stay with him. "

Surely a Commander could not have had his family anywhere near the front line?

Mike

#2 hazel clark

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 09:55 PM

I also read about that in another book (can't remember the reference) but took it to mean that they came to visit rather than lived there. However, I was, like you, shocked at the level of comfort although in the book i read it was all furniture filched from the French inhabitants of the region.

hazel C.

Wauchope's History of the Black Watch. (9th Battalion) About 8th August 1916, Fricourt. Chapter IV July 1916-March 1917

" Further up, however, things were very different, and here, in the areas just taken from the enemy, vast and well-equipped dug-outs were found. It was extraordinary to note the comfort in which the enemy had lived for the past two years right up in their front line. In one instance, the German commander at Fricourt had a dug-out consisting of several rooms, all completely furnished with beds, kitchen, etc., in which he had not only his wife and daughter, but the latter's govorness to stay with him. "

Surely a Commander could not have had his family anywhere near the front line?

Mike



#3 truthergw

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 10:12 PM

Wauchope's History of the Black Watch. (9th Battalion) About 8th August 1916, Fricourt. Chapter IV July 1916-March 1917

" Further up, however, things were very different, and here, in the areas just taken from the enemy, vast and well-equipped dug-outs were found. It was extraordinary to note the comfort in which the enemy had lived for the past two years right up in their front line. In one instance, the German commander at Fricourt had a dug-out consisting of several rooms, all completely furnished with beds, kitchen, etc., in which he had not only his wife and daughter, but the latter's govorness to stay with him. "

Surely a Commander could not have had his family anywhere near the front line?

Mike

I suspect there is a bit of conflation going on here, Mike. Commander of what? A divisional commander's quarters would be well back from the front, the sort of place that on our side played host to royalty, politicians etc. The command centres may well have been in bomb proofs but that is not to say that that is where he entertained guests. There are photographs of dugouts with ' all the comforts of home' but they are unlikely to have played host to wives, daughters and governesses. An officer senior enough to have a family visit was likely to be a corps commander and inhabit a chateau some ten miles behind the lines.

#4 centurion

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 11:22 PM

There are illustrations of British officers dug outs on quiet parts of the front with a bedroom, sitting room and dining room (and a piano). One should not generalise.

#5 skipman

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 06:46 AM

Ok, thanks all. I wonder if there are any other examples of " conflation " in the volumes? Not sure who wrote chapter 9, but Wauchope must have ok'd it. Anyway, it's still a damn fine read.

Cheers Mike

#6 truthergw

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 09:32 AM

There are illustrations of British officers dug outs on quiet parts of the front with a bedroom, sitting room and dining room (and a piano). One should not generalise.


Most of us on the forum have come to realise that, as you say, it is dangerous to generalise. This was a big war with millions of soldiers and hundreds of miles of trench spread over more than 3 years. There was room for many strange things and exceptions to almost every rule. That said, I have wondered whether some of the pictures were not put up jobs and staged for a laugh. These were, in many cases, groups of undergraduates stuck in a hole in the ground and undergoing endless hours of boredom, cut off from the usual amenities. Student rags and traditional events like the Boat Race were noteworthy for the inventiveness of the stunts they got up to apart from the obligatory knocking off of bobbies' helmets. In a quiet sector, with not much doing, I do not think laying on a special show for a visiting photographer would be beyond the realms of possibility. The different approaches to trench building would also have an affect. The Germans with the use of conscript and slave labour, building a defense line to withstand the worst the Entente could throw at them while the Entente and particularly the British, seeing trenches as a jumping off line and being careful not to make them too comfortable. As I said to Mike, we would need to be careful to distinguish between the front line proper and a divisional or corps level HQ which might not have moved for quite some time and where there was labour to enlarge a dugout and make it at least endurable. I still think that most high level commanders would have jibbed at a piano as a permanent fixture in a front line trench.

#7 Siege Gunner

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 09:42 AM

I have no difficulty crediting the description of the 'luxury' of a senior German field officer's dugout, or the claim that German officers' families visited them 'at the front', as I've encountered both before, but the two together, as described, sound like a bridge to far. German families did not have the obstacle of needing to cross the Channel and could get to the nearest major town, say 15-20 miles behind the front, with comparative ease, especially in the southern reaches of the WF which were closer to Germany. There they could be accommodated in relative comfort and safety, and be visited as and when duties allowed or opportunities presented themselves.

In the course of four years of war, some bold German officer of sufficient rank, married to an intrepid wife, is bound to have taken her somewhere close to the front lines, perhaps to a secure vantage point in a quiet sector, but having a wife, child and governess actually living in a dugout anywhere near "harm's way" does seem implausible.

#8 Steven Broomfield

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 09:44 AM

Is "governess" some form of euphemism?

#9 skipman

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:53 PM

Is "governess" some form of euphemism?


I see what you mean, and quite possibly.

Mike