Tag Archives: WWI

Hobart Amory Hare Baker

Revisiting Hobey Baker:


Hobey Baker in France during WWI

It was the centenary of Hobey Baker’s death on December 21. Considered the greatest hockey player of his era, Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1914. He was one of the first nine players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a charter member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The annual award for the top U.S. college hockey player, is known as The Hobey Baker Award.

In 1916, Baker joined the civilian aviation corps, and in the summer of 1917, he left for Europe and WWI. In August of 1918, Baker took command of the 141st Aero Squadron. On 21 December 1918, in a heavy rain, Baker took a test flight in a recently repaired Spad biplane, refusing his men’s pleas to take his own plane for the flight instead. A quarter of a mile out, and 600 feet in the air, the engine quit on the Spad. Baker turned the plane, in an attempt to get back to the airfield. The Spad lost altitude, and crashed nose first. Baker was quickly freed from the wreckage by his men, but died within minutes in the ambulance. His orders to return home were in his jacket pocket.

Princeton University’s hockey team recently played Penn State University. Both teams took a field trip to Philadelphia to pay respects to Hobart Baker. Several players left hockey pucks on his headstone. Baker was three weeks shy of his 27th birthday when he died in France.


141st Aero Squadron Insigne: A Princeton Tiger; Courtesy of the National Museum of the USAF

I’ve read several books on Hobey Baker over the years. A new one was recently published. Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review, by Tim Rappleye. I might have to check it out.

—The verse written on Hobey’s headstone:

“You seemed winged, even as a lad,
With that swift look of those who know the sky,
It was no blundering fate that stooped and bade
You break your wings, and fall to earth and die,
I think some day you may have flown too high,
So that immortals saw you and were glad,
Watching the beauty of your spirits flame,
Until they loved and called you, and you came.”


“They Shall Not Grow Old”

A rare movie review:

Director Peter Jackson has a new documentary out: “They Shall Not Grow Old”. In total, Jackson and his team restored over 100 hours of 100 year old archival footage from the Imperial War Museum. They narrowed that down into a colorized account of the British soldier on the Western Front. There is no narrator; recordings taken by oral historians from actual British soldiers who served in WWI take us through this journey of theirs. They tell us their own stories, in their own words. The result is a brilliant, visually impressive film, with more humor from the men than one would expect from those surrounded by war. Make no mistake, the film is also jarring, and brutal at times, as was the First World War. One person sitting near me, stood up and left during the artillery scene, and did not return until the shelling stopped.

I saw the film on Monday. There is a 3D version of the film being shown, but unfortunately, I was not able to see that. I originally went to the 3D showing, but this being Fairbanks, the version’s file was corrupted, so I had to come back for the 2D version.

After the end credits, Peter Jackson returns for a 35 minute discussion on how and why he made the documentary the way he did. It’s well worth staying for the behind the scenes look. Jackson is a man obsessed with detail, and that trait does him, and the film, great service. I’m not a fan of colorizing black & white films, but this is a little different. Black & White was used to film footage during WWI, because that is what was available at the time, color was not even an option. Cameras during that time period, were designed to advance the film by hand, so the various footage that Jackson & Company restored, were all at different frames per second, which certainly complicated the restoration. It really is an impressive undertaking, and I was caught up in the intense ride.

This is a documentary that is well worth seeing. In the U.S., “They Shall Not Grow Old” will be shown on the big screens, nation wide, one more time: December 27.


Armistice Day Centenary

November 11th is the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI. Dignitaries from around the globe, are in France this weekend to commemorate this event.


Scars from the Battle of the Somme

Scars of the First World War can still be seen across Europe.


Photo credit: Frank Hurley/Getty Images

70 million military personnel were mobilized during WWI. Some 9 million combatants, and 7 million civilians died as a direct result of the war. The 1918 influenza epidemic was exasperated by the mass movement of troops. Between 50 and 100 million people died due to the epidemic world wide.


A British soldier stands knee deep in spent shell casings, Front Lines, France


The WWI Cemetery, Verdun, France

The Battle of Verdun took place between 21 February – 18 December 1916. It was the longest and largest battle on the Western Front. French casualties were estimated at between 336,000 – 434,000 men, with 143,000 killed. German casualties were at 379,000, with 163,000 soldiers killed. The battle became known as Die Hölle von Verdun in Germany; The Hell of Verdun.


From: The National Museum of the USAF

Bulgaria was the first to sign an armistice on 29 September 1918. The Ottoman Empire did the same a month later on October 30. Germany signed the armistice at 5am on 11 November, on a railcar at Compiègne. A cease fire was declared at 11am on the 11th of November: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”


Christmas Truce

WWI Christmas 1914

This Christmas is the 100th Anniversary of the Christmas Truce of World War I.

An estimated 100,000 British and German soldiers unofficially ceased hostilities along the Western Front leading up to and including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1914.

Christmas greetings were exchanged, as well as food and souvenirs among the combatants. Even games of football broke out among the two sides in no-man’s land.

The truce was widespread, but far from universal, as at least 250 servicemen were killed from both sides on Christmas Day of 1914. By 1916, the bitter war, mounting deaths and introduction of mustard gas would eliminate any desire for a truce.

Christmas-Truce-1