Australia and the US were allies during the Second World War, though that wasn’t always apparent in the relationship between GIs and Diggers.
This is the story of one especially bitter encounter.
It was not only in wartime Britain that American GIs were regarded as ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’. Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is situated on the coast of the south-eastern edge of the state.
In 1942, following his escape from the Philippines, General Douglas Macarthur set up a headquarters in the city and tens of thousands of US troops were camped close by, swelling the population of the 300,000 or so Australian inhabitants of the Greater Brisbane district.
With their smart walking-out uniforms, their movie-star accents, their better pay and their access to various luxuries, they were a hit with many young women: at least that was how the ‘Diggers’ saw it.
In addition, while the Australians were not known for treating aboriginals particularly well, they took exception to the segregation and the denigration that white GIs inflicted on their black brothers in arms.
The situation became explosive when Macarthur made some critical remarks about the fighting capacity of the Australians; and when the first US units engaged alongside Australians in New Guinea performed poorly, the Australian soldiers’ hostility intensified.
Australian troops in both world wars had a reputation, not always deserved, for disliking rules and spit and polish, for showing disrespect to any officer that they considered pompous and inefficient and for behaving generally in a disorderly fashion.
They had little time for military police (MPs) and in Brisbane they were particularly hostile to the US version – ‘Snow Drops’, after their white helmets or, to the Diggers, just ‘provo [provost] bastards’.
On Thanksgiving Day, 26 November, an American private was invited to have a ‘comrade-in-arms’ drink with some Australians. He had already had one or two.
As the group walked towards a pub in the city centre they were stopped by two US MPs who demanded to see the GI’s pass and ordered him to do up his shirt buttons. The Diggers demanded that ‘their mate’ be left alone.
One of the MPs struck an Australian with his baton, which was the cue for the Diggers to turn on the MPs, punching and lashing out with their brass-buckled webbing belts.
The MPs were chased to the American PX (Post Exchange, a retail store somewhat similar to the British NAAFI) in Creek Street and a stand-off developed as the Diggers, whose numbers rapidly grew to, perhaps, 500, demanded that the ‘provo bastard’ who had hit their mate be handed over to them.
As it became clear that no one was going to be handed over to face the crowd the situation began to calm down. At this point a US army weapons carrier drove up, containing two MPs, one of whom was waving a riot gun, essentially a 12-gauge shotgun.
The Australians demanded that he put the gun down. An Australian gunner, Edward Webster, who had already seen action in the North African campaign, seized the barrel and the gun went off, mortally wounding him. It is unclear whether the MP had deliberately pulled the trigger, but another two shots were fired, with the pellets wounding another seven Diggers and an Australian civilian.
After the initial shock of the shooting of Gunner Webster, the Battle of Brisbane began, spreading out from Creek Street and making it dangerous to be seen anywhere in the city in a US army uniform. Estimates vary widely about the numbers involved in the fighting, from 2,000 to 4,000.
Eleven GIs were seriously injured, one with a fractured skull. Australian MPs appear to have been reluctant to get involved; there were 110 of them in the city, as opposed to 800 of the US Provost Corps. A picket of Australian signallers was deployed, with unloaded rifles, to try to bring the situation under control.
Later, Australian troops, including men from Webster’s anti-tank unit, were ordered on to the streets with loaded weapons to bring some order. No further shots were fired and eventually the fighting appears to have run out of steam.
Three Australians were eventually prosecuted as ring-leaders of the trouble. All three were found guilty and jailed for a few months.
In July of 1518, in full view of her neighbors, Frau Troffea for no apparent reason began to violently dance in the streets of the city of Strasbourg.
There was no music and her face betrayed no expression of joy. She appeared unable to stop herself from her frenzy.
Had this remained an isolated incident, the city elders may have put it down to madness or demonic possession, but soon after Troffea began her dancing, a neighbor joined in.
And then another. By the end of a week more than 30 people were dancing night and day on the streets of the city.
And it didn’t stop there. By the time a month had passed, at least 400 citizens of Strasbourg were swept up in the phenomenon.
Medical and civic authorities were called in once some of the dancers began dying from heart attacks, exhaustion, or strokes.
For some inexplicable reason, these men believed that the cure for the dancing was more dancing, so they erected a wooden stage for the dancers and musicians were called in.
This all sounds like some archaic bit of folklore, but the dancing plague of 1518 is clearly chronicled in medical, civic, and religious notes of the time.
Modern researchers pore over those notes to develop theories as to what caused this bizarre incident.
One of those theories postulates that the dancers were the victims of mass hysteria: instances when more than one person believes they are afflicted by an identical malady — often during times of extreme stress within the affected community.
The Strasbourg incident occurred during a time of rampant famine and malnutrition and subsequent deaths.
But 400 people? A well-known recent incident generally seen as an example of mass hysteria is 1962′s “The Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic” which affected only 95 people.
A second theory is in the realm of agriculture.
The condition called Ergotism occurs when grains of rye are attacked by a specific mold.
Eating the infected rye can lead to seizures, although the movements of Strasbourg’s afflicted looked much more like traditional dancing than seizures of any sort.
A final school of thought states that the dancing was in result of some kind of religious ecstasy caused by veneration of Saint Vitus, the patron saint of epilepsy.
Some World War One conscientious objectors were sent to work camps. The conditions at one facility in Aberdeenshire saw it closed down months after a young man died from pneumonia.
By the second year of the war, the initial flood of volunteers had slowed to the point where Britain was forced to introduce conscription for the first time in its history.
The Military Service Act, which came into force in March 1916, allowed for objectors to be exempted from service on religious, moral and political grounds, but their appeals were judged by a military tribunal.
Thousands of objectors were sent to do “work of national importance”, such as farming, and many more performed non-combat duties, such as working as ambulance men or stretcher-bearers in war zones.
Others were forced into the army, and when they refused orders, they were sent to prison.
There was much public criticism over able men sitting in jail when they could be doing useful labour.
So a project was devised under which the men would break rocks in the north of Scotland for use in road construction.
Some were sent to a camp in Ballachulish in the Highlands.
The men faced tough work and poor conditions, but at least they were housed in huts.
Other “conchies” were sent to the camp at Dyce, Scotland
They lived in army surplus tents that leaked in the rain and worked smashing granite in the nearby quarry.
Aberdeen University historian Joyce Walker says about 250 men, most of them sent up from England, were taken to the work camp.
She says: “They were scholars or academics, students, teachers, shopkeepers, labourers, the whole range of human endeavour.
The public mood was not sympathetic to conscientious objectors (COs), with many considering them traitors and cowards whose presence was an insult to the north-east men who had left to fight on the front.
Local newspaper the Aberdeen Journal wrote a virulent editorial attack on them in September 1916, soon after the camp opened.
It said: “A conscientious objector in war-time is a degenerate or worse, who is out of harmony with the people of the nation which protects him in peace-time and defends him in war-time”.
Eleven Aymara indigenous women, ages 42 to 50, who worked as porters and cooks for mountaineers, put on crampons – spikes fixed to a boot for climbing – under their wide traditional skirts and started to do their own climbing.
These women have now scaled five peaks: Acotango, Parinacota, Pomarapi and Huayna Potosí as well as Illimani, the highest of all, in the Cordillera Real range.
All are higher than 19,500ft (6,000 meters) above sea level Bolivia’s cholita climbers scale highest mountain yet.
Photographs by David Mercado/Reuters
Aymara indigenous women Lidia Huayllas, 48, and Dora Magueno, 50, stand near Milluni lake, with Huayna Potosí mountain in the background.
On the morning of July 14th, 1789, a group formed of craftsmen and salesmen decided to fight back and ran to the Invalides to steal some weapons.
The mob stole 28,000 riffles there, however no powder was to be found.
The crowd knew that a pile of powder was stocked in the Bastille, a prison that was a symbol of the King’s absolute and arbitrary power.
So they decided to attack it.
At the time of the storming, the Bastille was only guarded by a few soldiers. There were 80 “invalides”, veteran soldiers wounded in the field and around 30 grenadiers from the Swiss mercenary regiments.
Marquis Bernard-Rene de Launay was at the time governor of the “Invalides.
The Storming of the Bastille and the Arrestation of Governor de Launay. Source: Anonymous.