The Sinking of the “Lusitania” 1915.

lusitaniaOn May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort.
As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine. Nonetheless, the menace of submarine attack reduced her passenger list to only half her capacity.
On May 7, the ship neared the coast of Ireland. At 2:10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U 20 slammed into her side. A mysterious second explosion ripped the liner apart. Chaos reigned.
The ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water. Most passengers never had a chance. Within 18 minutes the giant ship slipped beneath the sea. One thousand one hundred nineteen of the 1,924 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.
Walter Schwieger was captain of the U-Boat that sank the Lusitania. He watched through his periscope as the torpedo exploded and noted the result in his log, “The ship stops immediately and heals over to starboard quickly, immersing simultaneously at the bow.
It appears as if the ship were going to capsize very shortly. Great confusion is rife on board; the boats are made ready and some of them lowered into the water. In connection therewith great panic must have reigned; some boats, full to capacity are rushed from above, touch the water with either stem or stern first and founder immediately.”
In the ship’s nursery Alfred Vanderbilt, one of the world’s richest men, and playwright Carl Frohman tied life jackets to wicker “Moses baskets” holding infants in an attempt to save them from going down with the ship.
The rising water carried the baskets off the ship but none survived the turbulence created as the ship sank to the bottom. The sea also claimed Vanderbilt and Frohman.
The sinking enraged American public opinion. The political fallout was immediate. President Wilson protested strongly to the Germans. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a pacifist, resigned.
In September, the Germans announced that passenger ships would be sunk only with prior warning and appropriate safeguards for passengers. However, the seeds of American animosity towards Germany were sown.
Within two years America declared war.
via The Sinking of the Lusitania, 1915.

WWI: Torrens Island Work Camp for German POW’s, South Australia.

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The measures taken against German-Australians in South Australia

During the first World War, German settlers in South Australia and Australia became known as ‘the enemy within’ and extreme measures were put in place to deal with the threat felt by the predominately-British population.
The names of places that had been named by Germans were changed and German settlers were interned or deported and taken to work camps on Torrens Island. Torrens Island detention camp was set up and held 400 german men during the First World War.
German established schools were closed, the German language was no longer taught in schools and German’s lost the right to vote. Because of this German families began to change their name as a means of avoiding persecution and to prove their commitment to their new home.
If you were a German-born resident of Australia you had to register at your local police station, and most German-descendents were treated in similar ways.
German residents of Australia were inflicted with hostile attitudes even if they were naturalised and had sons and brothers fighting for the Australian Infantry Force.
Australian authoritities would target German residents with unjustified searches, survelliance and arrest. During the war 4500 Germans in Australia were interned- 700 were naturalised and 70 were Australian born.
via WW1- The Home Front: Anti-German Sentiment.

Nancy Wake, the ANZAC’s “White Mouse.”

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Despite her future successes as a super agent for Australia and New Zealand during WWII, Nancy Wake had humble beginnings.
She was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1912, but her family moved to Sydney, Australia when she was almost two and she grew up there.
A Maori midwife delivered her and, at the time of her birth, allegedly pointed at a fold of skin on her head and said, “’This is what we call a kahu, and it means your baby will always be lucky. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, the gods will look after her.”
Her childhood didn’t appear to be very lucky. When she was four, just a few short years after the move to Sydney, her father left on a trip to the United States and never returned. This left her frazzled mother to look after six children, of whom Wake was the youngest.
She was constantly butting heads with her mother and, at the age of sixteen, she left home to work as a nurse.
She might have continued working independently in Sydney had it not been for the unexpected inheritance of £200 (about £11,500 today) from her aunt which allowed her to seek out adventure.
Arriving in London in 1932, she started a course in journalism. Her new career took her to Paris, where she lived for a year reporting on the situation in Europe as well as the rise of Nazism.
However, she had time for fun, too, and took full advantage of Parisian nightlife. Soon, the girl from humble beginnings had charmed Henri Fiocca, a French millionaire. They married shortly after the start of World War II and she moved into his mansion in Marseilles.
Wake was a working woman, however, and despised the Nazis. She could not abide sitting back while they marched into France. As such, she joined up with the local Resistance movement, acting as a courier.
She became an invaluable part of the Resistance movement, carrying important messages from one resistance group to another. It took the Nazis a while to figure out they were being duped by a beautiful, outwardly flirtatious woman, but when they did, they hunted her fiercely, eventually even putting a 5 million franc bounty on her head.
However, the Gestapo wasn’t able to catch Wake. Whenever they seemingly had her cornered, she managed to slip away unnoticed.
Because of this, they called her “the White Mouse.” She was very nearly captured once, in an incident that saw bullets whistling past her ears, but she managed to make it over the Pyrenees by herself, once again evading capture. Talking about her close calls, she said, “I never had time to worry.
And I have to admit, though some people won’t believe me, I was never afraid.”
From Spain she made her way to Britain, where she trained for sixteen weeks with the Special Operations Executive. At the end of this intense training, she was something of an expert in explosives, hand-to-hand combat, and weaponry. She was ready for her first mission: to assess resistance groups in France and let London know what each group needed in terms of munitions.
We all know that war was largely a “man’s” game back then, though, and despite parachuting into the forests of l’Auvergne to carry out her duties, she was met with many resistance fighters who couldn’t believe that Britain had sent in a woman for this job.
They refused to treat her with respect—that is, until she challenged the leaders to drinking contests which she nearly always won (in true Australian form. Later, she mentioned that she liked to consume at least six gin and tonics a day). In doing so, she was able to take some 7000 resistance partisans under her wing.
When D-Day arrived, Wake commanded her “troops,” organizing them to fight against the German soldiers rushing to reinforce their fellows at Normandy. She and the resistance fighters blew up bridges and wrecked trains, narrowly escaping capture.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Wake also killed a German sentry with her bare hands to prevent him from alerting the rest of the men that an attack was in full swing. Later, they liberated Vichy which had been in the hands of collaborationists.
It soon became clear that the Allies were going to win the war. Allowed into a recently liberated Paris, Wake and her friends found themselves at the British Officers Club acting a bit rowdy. The waiter serving them boldly proclaimed that he would rather be serving German soldiers than put up with them for another moment.
An angry Wake told him exactly how she felt by “knocking him senseless with a right-hook.”
A fellow waiter came running with a shot of brandy to revive the poor man. Nancy grabbed the shot instead, drained it, and said “Merci” before walking out the door.
After the war, Wake was decorated with medals from the United States, Britain, and France. It was sixty years before she would be granted medals from her native Australia and New Zealand because she hadn’t served with the Australian forces during the war.
via Today I Found Out.

Spanish Flagship explodes at the Battle of Gibraltar, 1621.

Depicting what was probably the most decisive moment of the Battle of Gibraltar, this remarkable painting by Dutch artist Cornelius Claesz van Wieringen, is also an extraordinary attempt to capture the gruesome realities of an explosion.
Figures are shown flung through the air from the force of the blast, some severed in two — a torso here, a pair of legs there — and the choppy seas are strewn with blood and bodies.
For a long time the piece was mistakenly attributed to Hendrick Vroom, under whom Van Wrieringen studied. In 1621, the Admiralty of Amsterdam commissioned a painting from Vroom of the battle, which they planned to present to Prince Maurits, the commander-in-chief of the Dutch army.
Not happy with the extortionate sum demanded by Vroom, they turned to his pupil Van Wrieringen. Before he was given the commission Van Wrieringen had to paint a trial piece to see if he was up for the job, and it is thought that this is most likely to be this work.
The authorities apparently were not too put off by the gore, as they ordered a modello of the composition, which now lives in a private Dutch collection.
Source: The Explosion of the Spanish Flagship during the Battle of Gibraltar (ca. 1621) | The Public Domain Review

“Kindness in Action”.

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Bedded down somewhere in the Pacific during the mayhem and fierce fighting against the Japanese army during World War II, this American soldier takes time out to show some kindness by feeding a banana to a battle weary goat.
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Australia’s Sikh Heroes.

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Harjit follows the Sikh practice of wearing a turban and not cutting his hair or beard, but he talks with an accent that puts him in the league of Paul Hogan.
Harjit’s passion for breaking down prejudice led him to co-found the organisation Australian Sikh Heritage, which aims to promote the ties Australia has with Sikhs.
“One part of that rich shared heritage is with Anzacs and the Sikhs, and then a very important touch point in WWII being Manmohan Singh,” he says.
Sikh religion branched off from Hinduism around 500 years ago with the concept of the saint-soldier.
As well as a moral code the religion instructs followers to fight for truth and justice. Both world wars provided many Sikhs with a welcome opportunity to practice the soldier side of their beliefs.
“Sikhs are only two per cent of India’s population; however they contributed one-third of the million people that went from India as part of the volunteer army in WWI,” Harjit says.
Sikhs fought alongside the Anzacs at Gallipoli with the 14th Sikh Regiment suffering possibly the highest casualty rate of any force during the Gallipoli campaign, with only 4 survivors.
“379 Sikh officers died on the 4th of June in 1915; it virtually wiped out the 14th Sikh Regiment,” says Harjit.
These Sikhs were mostly from India, but research by Australian Sikh Heritage has also identified ten Sikhs from Australia who served as part of the Australian Imperial Force during WWI.
In WWII Australians and Sikhs found themselves fighting on the same side once again. While the Sikhs’ biggest role in this war was in Europe, they were also active closer to Australia.
But one of the great mysteries for Sikh military history has been traced back to Broome, in North Western Australia.
Manmohan Singh was the first Sikh to train to fly, and became well known before WWI when he participated in a competition to become the first person to fly from India to England.
As an accomplished pilot, Manmohan Singh was one of the first group of Indians to travel to England to join the Royal Air Force in 1939.
After hunting submarines in the Atlantic from a Sunderland flying boat, he was promoted to Flying Officer and given command of a Catalina flying boat in the Philippines.
But as the Japanese forces advanced south through Asia, Manmohan Singh was forced to withdraw south along with other allies. He eventually landed his Catalina on Roebuck Bay at Broome, which was thought by many to be out of range of Japanese planes.
Manmohan Singh was onboard his flying boat moored on Roebuck Bay on the morning of 3rd March, 1942.
Nine Japanese Zeroes fitted with detachable, long-distance fuel tanks strafed his plane along with 22 others that day. Manmohan Singh died during that action.
via Remembering Australia’s bearded, turbaned war heroes – ABC