In 1916, with the hated English overlords distracted by the First World War, a group of Irish revolutionaries decided that the time was ripe to rise up, overthrow the Sassenach and declare an independent republic of Ireland. However, the Irish forces were massively outnumbered by their colonial rulers, and to add insult to injury, the English also had a massive technological superiority.
The uprising began on Monday, March 24 of 1916 in Dublin – the day after Easter. It would last for a grand total of six days before it was put down. Most of its leaders were captured, and thence imprisoned or executed for their parts in the revolt. However, as the first major uprising since 1798, it reinvigorated the Irish independence movement, and the next – and ultimately successful – Irish rebellion began only three years later.
The Somme river derives its name from a Celtic word meaning ‘tranquil’. Which just goes to show that the Celts were crap at predicting the future. It was at the mouth of the Somme that William the Conqueror’s forces assembled to invade England in 1066; the battles of Agincourt in 1415 and Crécy in 1346 were both connected to crossings of the river; and the valley was the site of some of the most important battles that halted the German Spring Offensive in 1918.
But the largest battle ever fought there was the Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916 and November 18 the same year. It was an offensive mounted by British Empire and French combined forces against German emplacements in France. The Somme would be a landmark in many ways: it was the first battle to demonstrate the importance of air power in modern warfare; it saw the first battlefield deployment of a tank; and finally, it was the single bloodiest battle of the entire First World War, claiming upwards of a million lives in total. While it ended in victory for the Allied forces, the heavy cost in lives has made it a contentious issue in history ever since.
Broken Heroes — Saxon
For King and Country — Eric Bogle
Born Frances Rose Shore in Winchester, Tennessee, Dinah Shore almost didn’t become a star. She studied at Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1938 with a degree in sociology, but the pull of the stage was too great. She worked hard at her musical career for a while, with reasonable success, but it was television that made her a household name.
As the host of “The Dinah Shore Show” from 1951 to 1956 and “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” from 1956 to 1963, she was a weekly presence on American television. By the end of her career, in 1992, she had won three Emmys for her work on the small screen. Shore was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1993, and died in 1994 a few days short of her 78th birthday.
Best known for his tales of Teyve the Dairyman, Sholem Aleichem was a Jewish writer born in Russia in 1859. His real name was Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich – Sholem Aleichem was a pen name he used, a play on the Yiddish expression “Shalom aleichem” (which means ‘peace be with you’). His stories of Teyve are best known in English by the title of their musical adaptation “Fiddler on the Roof”, which came to pass after he emigrated to New York City in 1905.
Aleichem died of a combination of tuberculosis and diabetes, still working on his latest novel “Motl, Peysi the Cantor’s Son”. He was 57 years old, and despite having been in America only a decade or so, his funeral was one of the largest in New York history, with over 100,000 mourners in attendance, and his will was read into the Congressional Record and published in the New York Times.
Better known respectively by their noms du plume, Ann Landers and Dear Abby, Esther Pauline Friedman and Pauline Esther Friedman are perhaps the two best known advice columnists in American publishing history. Eppie’s “Ask Ann Landers” column ran from 1955 to 2002, while Paulione’s “Dear Abby” ran from 1956 until the present, although Pauline’s daughter took over the writing of it from 2000.
The twins were highly competitive, and writing two such similar columns led to a cycle of recriminations and reconciliations between them, but it didn’t stop either of them from becoming two of the most influential women in America. Both were refreshingly frank and unsentimental about dealing with people’s problems, but always empathetic. Eppie was more left-leaning, favouring, among other things, the legalisation of prostitution and equal rights for homosexuals, while Pauline’s characteristic style was marked by her brevity and somewhat abrasive humour. America felt that it could tell them anything, and both women were known to publish only some letters – the more personal and difficult problems would often receive direct letters (occasionally, in cases of great urgency, telegrams) in reply to their missives.
Rasputin is one of the legends of the Twentieth Century. He was definitely real, but has been imputed with supernatural powers since at leat 1890. A popular preacher in his native Russia, he came to international prominence in 1905 when he was summoned to the imperial palace to heal Prince Alexei. His success in doing so led to him having great influence over the Tsarina, and, it was rumoured, the Tsar.
There were rumblings against him from quite early on, but they only became truly serious as it became clear that Russia’s involvement in World War One was becoming increasingly disastrous. A group of aristocrats led by Prince Felix Yusupov, were alleged to have poisoned him with a dose of cyanide large enough to kill five people, then shot him in the head. Still not dead, Rasputin attacked Yusupov, and the conspirators clubbed him, tied him up and dumped the body in the Neva river.
It is unclear how much truth there is to this – the poisoning in particular has been disputed. He was definitely shot in the forehead and dumped in the river, and he definitely died. But his death, like his life, remains controversial and disputed.
Sir Roger Casement was still a young man when he toured colonial Africa and South America in the early years of the 20th century. His first hand experience of the evils of imperialism and racism radicalized him, and upon his return to his native Ireland, he broke his ties with the British establishment, becoming a founder of the Irish Volunteers, a revolutionary group dedicated to Irish independence.
Upon the outbreak of World War One, Casement attempted to bring his forces in on the German side (with the understanding that Ireland would be granted independence after the British were defeated) but negotiations foundered, although the Germans did agree to supply the Irish rebels with 20,000 rifles. However, the attempt to deliver them was intercepted by the British, and Casement was arrested three days before the Easter Rebellion of 1916, convicted of treason and stripped of his title. He was executed later that year, and his body was not returned to Ireland until 1966, where he was buried in a state funeral with full honours in the Republican section of Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
Manfred von Richtofen won his first aerial combat with Jasta 2 in the skies over Cambrai, France, on 17 September, 1916. Between that day and his death in 1918, he shot down another 79 aircraft – and that figure includes only confirmed kills. If unconfirmed kills are included, his tally may have exceeded 100 kills.
Nor was von Richtofen merely a force to be reckoned with on his own – as leader of the Flying Circus, he and his men killed a total of a total of 644 enemy aircraft. It was at this time that he became known as the Red Baron.
He was eventually shot down himself on April 21, 1918, although who fired the fatal shots has never been confirmed.