August 01, 2014

War is declared - on page 7

July has been weird. About a week ago, all news related to the looming war had pretty much abated. Every headline related to possible conflict was centred on
Ireland regarding Home Rule. Then Austria issued Servia with a totally unreasonable ultimatum in response to Franz Ferdinand's assassination. Servia acceded to 8 out of 10 provisions, but apparently that isn't enough, and Austria has has moved from stern words to invading and capturing Belgrade (which is only just across the Danube from Austria's southern border, but still, it was the capital until a few days ago). Articles stating that war has been declared have happened about 3 times (including here, here and here).

At the moment, everything is slowly mobilizing to war while still sort of attempting to look like the want peace. My interpretation is that this is a stalling tactic while they call up reserve troops and move everything around to where they want it to be. A calculation in one article indicates it may take 3-6 weeks before the Russians can actually do anything meaningful militarily. However, it looks like they'll invade somewhere - and it's a little difficult to know where, as they share an extremely long border with Germany (which runs through what is currently Poland) and with Austria (through a place called Galacia, which I hadn't heard of before). I have been referring to my great-grandfather's Atlas (published 1908) in order to get a sense of where everything is.

If Russia gets involved, Germany says it will as well. Belgium is professing neutrality (fat lot of good that will do them). France and Britain (generally referred to as England), appear to be hoping very hard to not get into a war, but it is difficult to determine what agreements they've made with Russia - so maybe they'll get pulled in as well.

One of the themes in the reportage is a fondness for explaining how many troops and ships and so forth each side has. I can't help thinking that this 'numbers game' must have influenced how people made the decision to enlist. After all, you're just getting your side's score up.

A minor point, all the news comes over the wires. And there are notes pointing out that you can't get messages through the wires around Servia and Hungary. You also can't use secret languages. The 'wires pages' (page 7) are basically a collection of bits of news which has arrived in Wellington over the wires - and the date (or time if it was less than 12 hours before going to print). The individual bits sometimes contradict or update each other. There's a sense in reading the local papers of looking at something through the gaps in a fence. Also, so far there isn't much locally-generated content. New Zealand is still largely out of the way, though it has been pointed out that as part of the British Empire, if England is at war, so are we. The only other local news has been

Today's news included the first reported deaths. 800 Servian and 200 Austrians.

My overall impression is that the war is like a massive accident happening in slow motion. I want very much sometimes to take key players aside and explain what a spectacular mistake they're making - which is of course completely pointless. At the moment there are 4 royal families who are bent on this war, and not one of them will survive it. It is also worth noting that a lot of the language is based on images of speed and fire. I'm no longer surprised that people at the time thought it would be over by Christmas.

Austria calling up reservists from Northland's Dalmation population. In response, they have started an independent slavic society.

Before the war skewed my reading patterns these bits were interesting:

Tohunga supression. You have to read the article. I'm still struggling to respond to this one. And more.

They've started the 100 year project on Kapiti.

Joseph Pulitzer's obituary.

The USA is considering Self-government for the Philippines.

Boxing; is apparently a manly sport.

There are reports that Radium doesn't actually cure cancer.

Someone invented super-low quality Skype.

The East coast is already eroding quite badly.

White Horse temperance hotel burned down in Ngahauranga. I did not know there had been an hotel in Ngauranga, nor that it used to be spelled that way.

Meanwhile, Te Aro School looks set to move up to the Terrace Gaol site.


Hunting to Hounds, anyone?

Bewildering entertainment from the Savage Club (including the leader of the opposition Sir Joseph Ward!). Wellington has a bone fide glee club (2nd article). Which is good because apparently Sappho is awesome.

You can't escape America Cup coverage, even in 1914.

Posted by carla at August 1, 2014 11:33 PM