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Old 07-06-2006, 10:45 AM   #41
davem
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davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
I'm not sure we can say that 'pack horses' wouldn't have made good mounts. By the time of the Somme the British army was taking any horses it could get, so its not too far fetched to imagine a trained hunter ending up as a pack horse.

Plus, Cavalry was very much present on the Somme (at least on the British side). Haig intended to use it.

Quote:
War Committee minutes record: 'the horses out in France were of no use now. They were only there for prospective use when we had broken through. We were maintaining in France an enormous number of horses which were temporarily useless.' Haig disputed this - he explained to the British General Staff 'the advance was to be pressed eastward far enough to enable our cavalry to push through into the open country beyond the enemy's prepared lines of defence.'...

Horses were an ever visible feature of the battlefield. The highest British fatalities on the Western Front were the horses, of whom 58,274 were killed during the course of the war, at least 5,000 on the Somme, mostly by artillery fire. (From Somme by Martin Gilbert)
So the presence of Cavalry horses at least makes it possible that Tolkien could have gotten himself a mount. The only questions then are, would he have taken one & ridden out alone? Possibly for reconaissance. And, was it likely he would have encountered mounted German troops? I don't know. Its possible that if the British were using riders then so were the Germans - whatever the condition of the terrain a horse could still negotiate it better than a man on foot or a rider on a motorcycle & a rider would be faster & less noisy than a motorcyclist. One assumes that the Germans would want to be able to access any area where an Allied soldier could reach.

Which proves nothing at all beyond the possibility that the event could have happened.
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Old 07-06-2006, 11:20 AM   #42
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Question

What puzzles me is how any soldier could have found themselves behind enemy lines on the Western Front, save as a result of becoming lost in the confusion of an assault or (in the later stages of the war) as a pilot shot down. Neither situation would have involved being on horseback.

The whole affair was one big stalemate for most of the war with neither side being able to break through the enemy lines and only occasional and modest territorial gains.
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Old 07-06-2006, 11:28 AM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
What puzzles me is how any soldier could have found themselves behind enemy lines on the Western Front, save as a result of becoming lost in the confusion of an assault or (in the later stages of the war) as a pilot shot down. Neither situation would have involved being on horseback.

The whole affair was one big stalemate for most of the war with neither side being able to break through the enemy lines and only occasional and modest territorial gains.
Well, we don't know when the incident (if it actually happened, of course, rather than being a dream of Tolkien's) occurred. I don't see that Tolkien couldn't have found himself in territory which had been occupied by German troops temporarily ('hence behind their lines').

As to my last post:

I know I'm going to get picked up on this, because Squatter was speaking specifically about Infantry units, not Cavalry. The point is though, there was not a specific breed of horse which could be classified as 'pack horses' & a Hunter was possibly available to Tolkien. The fact that Haig intended to use cavalry & that so many of horses were killed means that conditions, though bad, were not so atrocious that horses could not be used.

All I'm saying is, while it was most likely a dream, as Squatter says, it could have happened
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Old 07-06-2006, 12:56 PM   #44
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Question A point to consider...

Does anybody know how the Germans were securing their rearward areas at this point in the war?

I don't know (and unfortunately, don't have time to try and look it up now) but it seems like mounted patrols might not be entirely out of the question.
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Old 07-06-2006, 01:34 PM   #45
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There's an interesting line in The Tolkien Family Album By Priscilla & John Tolkien, following on from the one I gave earlier:

Quote:
'Years later he would compare these experiences with those of his son Michael, a soldier in the Second World War, who endured his share of horrors but was at least part of an army with motorised transport.'
Interesting enough, but what follows is perhaps more relevant:
Quote:
Some remarkable relics survive from that time: a trench map he drew himself; pencil-written orders to carry bombs to the 'fighting line.'
John Garth comments:
Quote:
At the same time Tolkien was appointed battalion signal officer...Tolkien was put in charge of all the unit's communications,...He needed to know the locations & station calls of all coordinating units; to be au fait withthe plans & intentions of Lieutenant-Colonel Bird, the CO; & to keep the Brigade informed about any unit movements or signals problems. But all this information had to be kept a close secret...

One Monday morning Tolkien was ordered to go with one other Subaltern ... & five sergeant majors to set up battalion headquarters in trenches yet further north...They found the front line itself badly blown in & impassable by daylight...
Proving what? Well, he compared his wartime experiences to those of Michael - seems likely they discussed their experiences together; he drew maps of the trenches, so its at least possible that he went out personally to survey the territory - possibly on horseback; he was responsible for providing vital information to his superior officers about troop locations & what the enemy was up to; He was ordered right up to the front line to set up Battalion HQ - how did they get there? Horseback?

Again, not a shred of proof that the incident described actually happened, but enough to make it a possibility at least.
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Old 07-06-2006, 03:01 PM   #46
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You know, davem, despite all of the scholarly evidence presented herein, and even as I express my horsemasterly doubts amongst the shreds of possible supporting evidence, what keeps bubbling to the surface of my brain seems to be, "yeah, but wouldn't it be cool if it WAS true."

If I stop & think about it as a writer, for a moment, then what I ask myself is "I wonder if I have any dreams of my own that could turn into mind-blowing chase scenes."

Dependant upon calling, perhaps.

And it's the phrase "big-boned hunter" that makes it vivid.
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Old 07-06-2006, 03:22 PM   #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30
You know, davem, despite all of the scholarly evidence presented herein, and even as I express my horsemasterly doubts amongst the shreds of possible supporting evidence, what keeps bubbling to the surface of my brain seems to be, "yeah, but wouldn't it be cool if it WAS true."
Exactly my feelings. Well, the 'sensible' part of me veers towards it being a dream, but I do like the idea of it actually having happened. Looking at the 'evidence' I don't think we can dismiss the possibility.

Whatever, we shouldn't let the truth get in the way of a good story.
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Old 07-06-2006, 04:35 PM   #48
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More reflections on horses in the war.....

I once read that an astounding two and a half million horses were treated in vet clinics for injuries sustained from the war; about a half million of these died. These figures may or may not be precisely accurate but they certainly suggest that the animals were fairly widespread at the front. (Figures are for all injuries and deaths, not just the British.) There were a handful of cavalry charges as late as 1918, despite the fact that these were virtual suicide. Tolkien, however, was unlikely to be involved with those.

Most of the horses were used for transporting materials to the trenches. In that day and time, horses and mules were more reliable than lorries that were prone to breakdowns. Here is a description of one war horse:

Quote:
He (Sailor) would work for 24 hours a day without winking. He was quiet as a lamb and as clever as a thoroughbred, but he looked like nothing on earth, so we lost him. The whole artillery battery kissed him goodbye and the drivers and gunners who fed him nearly cried."
I suppose it is remotely possible that JRRT could have found himself on horseback bringing something up to the trenches and that he managed to get lost. Although the front as a whole was fairly stationary, there were very rare instances when one side fell back and the other went forward, leaving a short stretch of trenches in different hands.

Here is a photo of horses being loaded onto the boats and sent to the front: here. Anyone see that big boned hunter?

Maybe a dream, maybe real....who can really say?
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Old 07-06-2006, 05:58 PM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I don't see that Tolkien couldn't have found himself in territory which had been occupied by German troops temporarily ('hence behind their lines').
Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
Although the front as a whole was fairly stationary, there were very rare instances when one side fell back and the other went forward, leaving a short stretch of trenches in different hands.
But in such cases, the area in which Tolkien would have been stationed would no longer be behind exisitng enemy lines, and so the chances of him coming across any German soldiers in the manner described, let alone cavalry riders, would be negligible.

While I appreciate the romantic appeal of wanting to believe the tale true, and while the possibility that it did happen cannot entirely be dismissed, the weight of evidence points to it being extremely unlikely. Given the conditions in the trenches and the effect of such conditions on the men serving at the front, however, it is not at all unlikely that such a dream would come to seem real to Tolkien, perhaps even to the extent that he later genuinely believed it to have happened.
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Old 07-06-2006, 06:15 PM   #50
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davem, out of curiosity, is there some correspondence you had with the Friar that you didn't publish here? The email you posted from him doesn't clarify whether he intended dream or reality for his anecdote.
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Old 07-07-2006, 03:53 AM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
davem, out of curiosity, is there some correspondence you had with the Friar that you didn't publish here? The email you posted from him doesn't clarify whether he intended dream or reality for his anecdote.
Only a quick one mentioning that he intends to put the letters in his archive. Didn't want to pester him. The way I read his original BBC post it seems he got from Michael that it was an actual event.

(BTW, his email address is not a secret - I found it just by Googling his name)

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Old 07-13-2006, 12:26 PM   #52
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Re: Dancing amid the Hemlocks.

Do we know when the 'Dancing' took place? Garth states it was in the Spring of 1917 (in the Encyclopedia article I linked to) but Richard C West in his essay 'Real World Myth in a Secondary World in the collection Tolkien the Medievalist, seems clear it took place in November 1917, & so questions whether it could have happened in exactly the way decribed - Roos is on the North Sea Coast & in November it would have been absolutely freezing. In a note to the essay West notes that he has recieved personal correspondence from Christina Scull to the effect that at that time of year there would not have been any flowers in bloom, & 'the weather would not have been conducive to dancing', & he therefore puts the whole thing down to Tolkien conflating a number of different incidents. West is drawing his date of November 1917 from Carpenter's biography (which is not too clear on the chronology of events).

What we have to say is that if the event is supposed to have taken place in November 1917 it didn't happen exactly as Tolkien says it did (no flowers & Edith dancing in an overcoat!)

Carpenter states the event took place after the birth of John in Nov 1917, while Garth in the article states it was in spring of 1917.
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Old 10-30-2006, 02:19 PM   #53
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Tolkien's cavalry chase

Again, no proof of anything here but a "denial of disproof": it appears that Totenkopf or skull-and-crossbones badges were worn by the Prussian 1st and 2nd Life Hussar regiments, which were attached to the Prussian Guard- and If I've read John Garth's book correctly, the Prussian Guard was the corps Tolkien's division faced on the Somme. As already posted, all German cavalry were issued lances, and it was a common Allied mistake to therefore call them all "Uhlans."
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Old 10-31-2006, 02:43 AM   #54
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Pipe Dread Horsemen

To be honest I've been thinking that a lot of my comments about that were rubbish for some time. Basically I misread the original post as simply a dream rather than a nightmare brought on by actual events. There's no particular reason why Tolkien would have made up a wartime adventure, and it's no more unlikely than a lot of other things that happened on the Western Front. Thanks for the information about German cavalry insignia: of course skulls and crossbones are popular motifs in military badges, and it was always unlikely that British lancers were the only ones to adopt them.
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Old 11-03-2006, 12:45 PM   #55
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Seems more or less a good place to drop in this nugget of info, though it relates to WWII and Tolkien...

There's a book out by Adrian Gilbert (POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe) which includes a look at those Allied PoWs held in German and Italian camps who were fortunate enough to be kept occupied with educational opportunities - one of which was to take a Literature exam which was set by Tolkien, Lewis and Leonard Rice-Oxley.

In the new Companion & Guide there's an entry thus:

Quote:
12 March 1943: Tolkien chairs an English Faculty Board meeting. He, C.S. Lewis & Leonard Rice-Oxley are appointed to be examiners of Allied prisoners of war in German & Italian camps who have worked at the Board's set syllabus. Tolkien submits a scheme for an English course for Navy & Air Force cadets he has drawn up after consultation with tutors. This is approved, & he is appointed director of the course. He will hold this office until March 1944 - Tolkien also attends a General Board Meeting.
Very interesting that Tolkien not only helped with the PoW educational scheme (and interesting that I never knew some PoWs were so well treated - the bad things we just assume that happen in war!), but was also involved in setting up English courses for cadets. I wonder how long this English course was used, and if it continued after the war? If so then my father will have taken Tolkien's English course in the RAF. Yet another example of how Tolkien served his country - in two wars.
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Old 11-07-2006, 10:52 PM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Re: Dancing amid the Hemlocks.



What we have to say is that if the event is supposed to have taken place in November 1917 it didn't happen exactly as Tolkien says it did (no flowers & Edith dancing in an overcoat!)

Carpenter states the event took place after the birth of John in Nov 1917, while Garth in the article states it was in spring of 1917.
Hmmmm... perhaps the event in the spring was the cause of the birth of John in November......
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Old 07-08-2007, 12:53 AM   #57
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Makes you think

http://sacnoths.blogspot.com/2007/07...-in-somme.html
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Old 07-08-2007, 08:54 AM   #58
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What an interesting find! We were so lucky that fate didn't have it in for Tolkien - we would never have known his name let alone anything else - and all that this entails such as no Downs, no friendships forged on Tolkien - I would not know davem, or any of you...that is a very sobering thought. How fates decades down the line can rest on something like that...

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Old 08-02-2007, 03:21 PM   #59
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I was looking up some history of the 55th West Lancashire Division during WWI (more here if interested: http://www.1914-1918.net/55div.htm ) and I was drawn onto other paths as you do online.

I found myself at the website of the Lancashire Fusiliers' Museum: http://www.fusiliersmuseum-lancashir...tory_hall.html

On their Hall of Fame page you'll find some bits about Tolkien and GB Smith. Interestingly, they are keen to include in their collection any items linking to either of the two men. Obviously such items would be a considerable attraction for a small museum (and one which is seeking to move to better premises) so if anyone knows of any Tolkien/Smith/WWI artefacts that might be loaned or even donated please get in touch with them!

And also of interest, here is a website run by former servicemen of the Lancashire Fusilers, and the link to the hall of fame (and infamy, as it includes a scary serial killer!) http://www.lancs-fusiliers.co.uk/FamousinfamousLFs.htm

It's interesting to wonder who might have been a comrade of Tolkien's, looking at those who were his contemporaries - including one dearly loved and missed British Icon, Jack Howarth AKA Albert Tatlock from Coronation Street!
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Old 08-02-2007, 03:43 PM   #60
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My great-grandfather was at the Somme in the Black Watch. He got shot up so badly they thought he was dead. They actually wrote his name in a book of the fallen but he survived though he limped for the rest of his life. It's hard to imagine nowadays, the crap that the lads on the Western Front had to put up with. Puts it all in perspective.
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Old 09-16-2007, 01:18 AM   #61
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Another aspect of the horrors of war - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...#StartComments
Quote:
The make-up of British society had changed irrevocably - as Isie Russell-Stevenson discovered to her horror.

Towards the end of the war in 1918 she received a message to say that her husband, Hamilton, would be returning home from the Front.

Wearing her prettiest dress, Isie waited eagerly at the docks for his boat to arrive.

But the dreamed-of moment turned suddenly to nightmare.

Hamilton appeared on a stretcher, mangled and clearly dying. Isie took him home and nursed him and not long afterwards he died.
Can 't help thinking of the Marine recruiters in Farenheit 911 who went up to a guy in the street & asked if he wanted to enlist:

"I have a wife and kid." he told them.

"All the more reason to enlist." one replied.

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Old 10-28-2007, 07:47 AM   #62
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Not the Somme, but

A new TV movie about the loss of Rudyard Kipling's son in WWI. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...=1766&ito=1490
I was particularly struck by the poem Kipling wrote after Jack died. Anyone else reminded of the lament for Boromir?

'My Boy Jack' (1916)

'Have you news of my boy Jack?'
Not this tide.
'When d'you think that he'll come back?'
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

'Has any one else had word of him?'
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

'Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?'
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind -
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
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Old 08-26-2008, 06:03 AM   #63
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Interesting piece from Martin Gilbert about Tolkien & the Somme http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/in...&pagename=Arts
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Old 07-15-2016, 08:18 AM   #64
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Boots One Hundred Years

I came across this thread during a rummage through some disused corridors of the forum.

My inner historian compels me to point out that we are now at the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

/removes hat
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Old 07-21-2016, 07:31 AM   #65
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White-Hand Thanks for unearthing this thread

Thanks for unearthing this thread, Kuruharan, sadly relevant for the reason you gave.

Tolkien's old school, King Edward's in Birmingham, have produced 2 documentaries: One on Tolkien himself, another on his friend and fellow T.C.B.S. member Robert Gilson, who did not survive the War:

http://www.tolkiensociety.org/2016/0...-of-the-somme/
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