In the coming weeks I’ll actually put up some new content on this old blog, and there will be a new direction in content. My aim is for this to continue being a personal, history centric, blog, but also with a catalogue of tagged posts of content and links to Victorian Curriculum focused content.
It’s most likely that the calendar you’re using today reads something similar to 13/11/2015, has 12 months, 365 days in the year and an extra day every leap year. The Gregorian calendar is the most commonly used civil calendar in the world today. It’s a pretty easy way to understand what time of year it is and when seasons occur, because it’s so regular. But it wasn’t always like this. The Gregorian calendar itself is a revision of an earlier calendar with a similar regularity to it, the Julian calendar (there is only a difference in length between the two of 0.0002% difference between the two, or 10 minutes and 48 seconds each year).
The Julian calendar was created in 46 BCE out of the chaotic calendar of Numa. Over the two centuries leading up to 46 BCE the Numan calendar had come seriously out of alignment, and was roughly 80 days out. Times of crisis, wars, and political squabbling had meant that people had either forgotten to add, or intentionally left out, the intercalary month and religious holidays. The intercalary month was a month inserted between February and March every few years, to bring the 355 day calendar in line with the cycle of seasons. The month and religious days had to be declared by the chief priests of the ancient Roman religion, the Pontifex Maximus. However the Pontifex Maximus had become a politicised position over the centuries meaning that, as mentioned above, the Pontifex Maximus was able to abuse their power over the calendar to leave days out and shorten the period of office for their political opponents. The situation became so bad that Julius Caesar, in 46 BCE, used his power as Pontifex Maximus to completely reform the calendar. He made the year 365 days long, adding an extra day every 4th (leap) year, and created created the months we use today. In order to begin the next year, 45 BCE, in the correct season he added two extra months along with the intercalary month, meaning that 46 BCE had a grand total of 15 months and was 445 days long. Caesar called it ‘the last year of confusion’, but other people just referred to it as ‘the year of confusion’ or ‘annus confusionis’ in Latin.
So, just be thankful that Caesar gave us a calendar that made sense, and that we don’t have to go through a year of confusion like that.
Lt. Henri Desagneaux, later Maj., was an officer in the French 2nd Infantry Regiment during the battle of Verdun, and recorded his experiences in his diary. In these entries, he and his men make their way to Verdun along the sacred way.
Diary: Saturday, 10 June 
At one in the morning, order for departure at 4 a.m. We are to march in the direction of Verdun. That gives us an extra day of life! We are billeted at Rosieres near Bar.
Monday, 12 June
Issoncourt, Last stage before Verdun. There is not much room as car-load upon car-load of supplies and munitions speed past us.
Tuesday, 13 June
Reveille at 2 a.m. At 5, we travel by car and are put down at Nixeville, 6 kilometers from Verdun. We bivouac in a wood in a lake of mud. The guns fire angrily, it’s pouring down. At 3 p.m. we are orderd to stand by to leave. We don’t, however. We spend the night and the day of the 14th waiting, in torrential rain with mud up to our ankles. Our teeth chatter with cold, we are very uncomfortable. Although the troops have been stopping here for the last four months to and from verdun, there is not one single hut or shelter. We camp in individual tents in thick mud. You should hear what the men say about it!
At 5 p.m., order for departure at 6.30. We are going to be quartered in the Citadel of Verdun. Faces are grave. The guns are thundering over there. It’s a real furnace. Everyone realises that perhaps tomorrow death will come. Numerous rumours are circulating; we are going to ‘Mort-Homme’ which has been captured by the Boches; or to the Fort at Vaux . . . What is certain, nothing good lies in store for us.
We arrive at the Citadel at 10 p.m. after a difficult march through the mud.
Desagneaux, Henri. “Lieutenant Henri Desagneaux, French 2nd Infantry Regiment.” In True War Stories: Eyewitness accounts of life on the front line in the words of the ordinary soldier, edited by Jon E. Lewis, 301-3012. London: Magpie Books, 2004.
I was explaining to someone today who thought that it would pretty safe to be in one of the artillery batteries during WWI that it was in fact very unsafe. During WWI the ranging of fire against an artillery battery was perfected with deadly results, often killing everyone in the battery. Unless of course were a crew of Big Bertha (Dicke Bertha) which fired from a huge distance away.
The normal artillery was much smaller and therefore used much closer to the front.
Australia photos as an example.
At the Start of World War I the french were resplendent in their new sky blue uniforms. It was said that they were sky blue so they would blend with the horizon. The reason is more likely one of supply. The original design was for a patriotic uniform using alternate red, white and blue threads that would result in a modern grey colour of uniform. However the red tread was to be supplied from Germany a bit of problem when you are going to war with them. Hence the uniform was made of blue and white thread making the striking sky blue uniform.
It night seem a little bright but look at the uniform it was replacing.
The German poster “Field Uniforms of our Enemies in the West” from 1914 shows the variety of colourful uniforms of the French, British and Belgian armies.
These uniform designs almost date back to Napoleonic times.
The best cavalry sword of all time was the 1908 Pattern sword. Unfortunately it was only introduced to the British cavalry in 1908 just prior to World War I at the end of the effective usefulness of cavalry as a key military unit.
The Pattern sword was designed with a pistol grip that made it excellent of charging. It was brilliantly balanced for use in a charge either slashing or as a stationary point like a spear.
Dura Europos Scutum Shield
As far as I know there has only been one scutum in good condition has ever been found. It was found at Dura Europos, a Roman fort in Syria. It has pictures of an eagle, a lion, and winged gods. It was made in the 200s CE.