According to The Times, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand ‘produced horror and consternation throughout Europe.’ In London, King George V ordered a week’s mourning at court, and in Berlin, Kaiser Wilhelm II was genuinely grieving for his friend ‘Franzi’.

However, in Vienna the response was more varied. The official reaction to the assassination, which was thought to have been instigated by Serbia, was indignant outrage, but this outward appearance was in stark contrast to the privately held thoughts of many.

Franz Ferdinand had not been universally popular. Moreover, some of the decision-makers in Vienna had been keen for a ‘reckoning’ with Serbia for some time, a move that always been opposed by the Archduke, and considered this assassination a golden opportunity.

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In order to understand why the crisis escalated into full-scale war, we must first look at Vienna and Berlin, for it was here that a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was consciously risked and planned. A leading Austrian diplomat (Leopold von Andrian-Werburg) recalled after the war: ‘We started the war, not the Germans and even less the Entente—that I know.’ France, Russia, Britain and Italy entered the stage much later in July 1914, when most decisions had already been taken. Until this point, most European statesmen had been deliberately kept in the dark by the decision-makers in Vienna and Berlin about their plan for a showdown with Serbia. The Austrian Chief of the General Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf welcomed an excuse for a war with Serbia. Other so-called ‘hawks’ in Vienna were also keen to seize the opportunity of waging a war against Serbia whose pan-Slav agitation threatened to undermine the cohesion of the Austro-Hungarian empire.However, first of all it would be necessary to establish how the Dual Monarchy’s ally, Germany, would react to any potential move against Serbia. Therefore, an envoy was despatched to ascertain Berlin’s position.

Count Alexander von Hoyos

 On 5 July, Count Alexander von Hoyos arrived in the German capital with a memorandum and a letter by Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph which explained the Austrian predicament in the wake of the assassination and asked the German decision-makers to support Austria’s plans to seek revenge from Serbia.

Hoyos was assured that Germany would support Austria unconditionally, even if it chose to go to war over the assassination, and even if this might escalate into a European war.

This was Berlin’s so-called ‘blank cheque’ to Vienna. The German Kaiser even felt that ‘this action must not be delayed’, and ‘even if a war between Austria-Hungary and Russia were to result’, the Austrians were reassured ‘that Germany would stand by our side’, as the Austrian Ambassador in Berlin, Count Ladislaus Szögyény-Marich, reported.

Why did Germany’s decision-makers decide to support their ally come what may? In their calculations, the crisis was an opportunity to test the Entente which seemed to be encircling Germany and its weakening ally Austria-Hungary.

They were confident that a war could still be won by the Triple Alliance partners (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), while in the long run, the Entente Powers (Russia, France and Great Britain) would become invincible.

The worry was in particular that Russia would increase its army and improve its railway infrastructure to such an extent that in the near future it would become impossible for Germany to fight a successful war against Russia. Germany would then be helplessly ‘encircled’ by hostile powers in the East (Russia) and West (France, and possibly Britain).

Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg summarised this strategy in July 1914 thus: ‘If war does not come, if the Tsar does not want it or concerned France counsels peace then we still have the chance to break the Entente apart over this.’ Thus Russia would have been defeated—either militarily or diplomatically, before its army increases could take effect.

Sir Edward Grey

Only at the very last minute, when it was clear that Britain, too, would become involved if war broke out, did the German Chancellor try to restrain the Austrians, but his mediation proposals arrived far too late.

Austria had declared war on Serbia on 28 July, and thus set in motion a domino-effect of mobilisation orders and declarations of war by Europe’s major powers, and its decision-makers were unwilling to stop their war against Serbia in order to make negotiations possible.
By 1 August, Germany found itself at war with Russia, as predicted.
By the time Britain had declared war on Germany on 4 August, following Germany’s invasion of neutral Luxembourg on 2 August and Belgium on 4 August (necessitated by Germany’s deployment plan, the so-called Schlieffen Plan), the Alliance powers (without Italy, which had decided to stay neutral) faced the Entente powers in the ‘great fight’ that had been anticipated for such a long time, but whose scale and outcome nobody had quite imagined.

In the crucial last days of July, Britain’s decision-makers were torn between their fear of either Germany or Russia winning a war on the continent. It would have had grave consequences for Britain if Russia had managed to win the war without British support. But if Germany had won, Britain would have faced a Germany-dominated Europe. Grey was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Nonetheless, the ambivalence of Sir Edward Grey’s policy should not really be seen as a cause of the war, not least because his hesitant attitude was motivated by the desire to avoid an escalation of the crisis. Moreover, the British public and the majority of the Cabinet were not ready to go to war over Serbia. Eventually, Belgium’s demise provided a reason to become involved in continental affairs. Until that point Grey had feared that a definite promise of support might have led France or Russia to accept the risk of war more willingly, and had consistently refused to declare Britain’s hand one way or the other.

In France, decision-making was hampered by the fact that the senior statesmen were abroad for many of the crucial days of the crisis. France’s attitude vis-à-vis its Russian ally has been much scrutinized by historians. Did its leaders offer support to Russia too readily, or did they even put undue pressure on their ally to seize this opportunity? France was also caught uncomfortably between two stools, wanting to assure its ally of support while trying to ensure that Britain would support it.

This desire even affected its military plans. Nothing should suggest to the Entente partner that France might be responsible for the onset of hostilities, and mobilisation measures were postponed until reliable news had been received of German moves, while French troops were deliberately withdrawn ten kilometres behind the border to ensure that hostile acts would not even occur accidentally.

For Russia’s decision-makers, having initially been reassured by Vienna’s pretence of calm, the surprise at the ultimatum was all the greater. The text of the ultimatum suggested to Foreign Minister Sergeij Sazonov immediately that war would be ‘unavoidable’. In a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 24 July, the Ministers discussed the fact that demands had been made of Serbia which were ‘wholly unacceptable to the Kingdom of Serbia as a sovereign state’.

Nonetheless, the decision was made to advise Serbia not to offer any resistance to any armed invasion. Vienna was to be asked to extend the time limit, and permission for mobilization was sought to cover all eventualities. On 25 July measures for a partial mobilization were decided on which begun on 26 July. Much has been made of this early decision by historians who attribute war guilt to Russia.

However, Russia’s decision-makers were at pains to stress that this mobilisation did not make war unavoidable. At the same time, the Russian Government was keen to support Britain’s mediation proposals and to press the British government to decide if the country would become involved in a potential war on the side of the Franco-Russian alliance.

The last known surviving British veteran of the World War I trenches is celebrating his 109th birthday. Harry Patch from Wells, in Somerset, will have lunch with friends and family before returning to his residential home for a party. Mr Patch served with the Duke of Cornwall's light infantry and saw action in the bloody Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. "There's no secret to enjoying a long life, just live a clean life," he said.
Mr Patch was called up for service when he was working as an 18-year-old apprentice plumber in Bath.

Shortly afterwards he fought at Passchendaele, where more than 70,000 soldiers died in three months. Heavy rain coincided with the opening assault producing thick, clinging mud. Sharing his experience of the battle, Mr Patch said: "It was mud, mud and more mud mixed together with blood." During the fighting Mr Patch was badly wounded and three of his best friends were killed when a shell exploded nearby. "My remembrance day is on 22 September when I lost three mates," he said.

He served in the trenches as a private from June to September 1917. Born on 17 June 1898, Mr Patch grew up in Coombe Down, near Bath, and left school at the age of 15 to train as a plumber. He was 16 when war broke out and reached 18 as conscription was being introduced and after six months training he was sent to the frontline. He was the number two in the Lewis gun team and his role was to carry and assemble the spare parts for the machine gun and ensure it worked.

The five gunners made a pact not to kill an enemy soldier if they could help it but they would instead aim for the legs. On 22 September 1917 a shell attack exploded above Mr Patch's head killing three of his comrades. Mr Patch was hit by shrapnel in the lower abdomen but survived. During his recovery in Britain, he met his first wife, Ada, in 1918.

They were married for almost 60 years and had two sons, Dennis and Roy, both of whom Harry has outlived. Too old to fight in the Second World War Mr Patch became a maintenance manager at a US army camp in Somerset and joined the Auxiliary Fire Service in Bath. After the war he went back to plumbing and retired in 1963.
Following Ada's death in 1976, at 81 Mr Patch married his second wife, Jean, who died five years ago. His third partner Doris, who lived in the same retirement home, died last year. It was only on his 100th birthday that Mr Patch first came to the spotlight as one of the last veterans of the First World War, when for the first time reporters and television crews visited his care home in Wells, Somerset. His autobiography, The Last Fighting Tommy, written with Richard van Emden, was published in 2007.

As well as launching poppy appeals, he became an agony uncle columnist for lads magazine FHM, had his portrait painted by artist and former England wicket keeper, Jack Russell, and had a special edition cider named after him. In 1999 Mr Patch received the Legion D'Honneur medal awarded by the French government to 350 surviving First World War veterans who fought on the Western Front, dedicating it to his three fallen comrades. At the age of 105 Mr Patch re-visited the Ypres battle field and in 2004 he returned for a BBC series to meet a German veteran Charles Kuentz.

He also visited the British and German cemeteries, placing a wreath of poppies on one of the German graves. In February this year Poet Laureate Andrew Motion was commissioned to write a poem in Mr Patch's honour, entitled "The Five Acts of Harry Patch".

In September 2008 he made his last trip to Langemark for the unveiling of a memorial. Mr Patch believes "war is organised murder" and said: "It was not worth it, it was not worth one let alone all the millions. "It's important that we remember the war dead on both sides of the line - the Germans suffered the same as we did." 

The cultural impact of the war is the aspect most obviously still with us. Poets, writers and other people capable of expressing their experiences have left a body of passionate, dark and stirring work which has dominated our popular memory. For most in the West, The First War One conjures up images of muddy trenches, thousands of young men walking into machine gun fire and the sense of wasted youth.

Despite the efforts of a small group of historians to argue otherwise, World War One is seen as a waste. The physical injuries suffered by soldiers from gas and shell fed the imaginations of the 1920's and 30's cinematic horror boom; there are relatively few films about The Great War, but plenty fed by its consequences.

The First World War can be an immensely depressing subject, especially when explained by writers who argue it ended in a manner which made World War Two inevitable. But historians and students should never forget a view available in the letters and documents of the men who fought, proud men who believed strongly in the cause and did not regard their efforts as a waste.

This is not to say readers should seek out a history which comforts them, rather than convincing them, but they should strive for an accurate picture: the sum total of all World War One casualties was less than those suffered by Russia alone during the Second World War, yet it is the first war we in the West always remember as most horrific.

Manfred von Richthofen

Manfred von Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892 in Breslau, Germany. He died on April 21, 1918 in the skies over Vaux sur Somme in France. He was 25 years old. He was called der rote Kampfflieger by his own people, le petit rouge by the French, and the The Red Baron by the English. In a time of wooded and fabric aircraft, when twenty air victories insured a pilot legendary status and coveted Pour Le Merites, Richthofen had eighty victories, and is regarded to this day as the ace of aces.

In Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
By John McCrae 1915 

 In Flanders fields

Perhaps it will surprise you to learn that the soldiers in both lines of trenches have become very 'pally' with each other. The trenches are only 60 yards apart at one place, and every morning about breakfast time one of the soldiers sticks a board in the air.

As soon as this board goes up all firing ceases, and men from either side draw their water and rations. All through the breakfast hour, and so long as this board is up, silence reigns supreme, but whenever the board comes down the first unlucky devil who shows even so much as a hand gets a bullet through it.

The war's end triggered the abdication of various monarchies and the collapse of the last modern empires of Russia, Germany, China, Ottoman Turkey and Austria-Hungary, with the latter splintered into Austria, Hungary, southern Poland (who acquired most of their land in a war with Soviet Russia), Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as the unification of Romania with Transylvania and Moldavia.

However, each of these states (with the possible exception of Yugoslavia) had large German and Hungarian minorities, there creating some unexpected problems that would be brought to light in the next two decades. The decade was also a period of revolution in a number of countries. The Mexican Revolution spearheaded the trend in November 1910, which led to the ousting of dictator Porfirio Diaz, developing into a violent civil war that dragged on until mid-1920, not long after a new Mexican Constitution was signed and ratified.

Russia also had a similar fate, since World War I led to a collapse in morale as well as to economic chaos. This atmosphere encouraged the establishment of Bolshevism, which was later renamed as communism. Like the Mexican Revolution, the Russian Revolution of 1917, known as the October Revolution, immediately turned to Russian Civil War that dragged until approximately late 1922.


History books record that World War I started when the nations went to war to avenge the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg throne, on June 28, 1914. This is the typical explanation. But the "revisionist historian" knows just what caused and what the purpose was of the conflagration of World War I.

Up until America's entry into this war, the American people had followed the wise advice of President George Washington given in his farewell address, delivered to the nation on September 17, 1796. President Washington said: "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.... Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalry, interest, humour or caprice?' President Washington attempted to warn the American people about getting embroiled in the affairs of Europe.

But in 1914, it was not to be. There were those who were secretly planning America's involvement in World War I whether the American people wanted it or not.

Gurkha recruiting takes place once a year in Nepal. The British Army maintains a skeleton recruiting structure based on the British Gurkha Camp at Pokhara, in the West of Nepal. In a process that begins in September each year, local recruiters, known as Galla Wallahs, recruit a specified number of young men from their respective areas in the hills of both west and east Nepal. The pool of young hopefuls is further reduced at a second stage in the process.

Here, senior retired Gurkha officers select a final tranche of potential recruits at a number of hill selection sites. These individuals then move down to Pokhara where a stringent and demanding final selection process is conducted by British and Gurkha officers. Once selected, the lucky few are flown to the UK to start recruit training and a career in the Brigade of Gurkhas. The number of Gurkhas recruited depends on the Brigades annual manning needs. The figure is currently around 230. Last year there were 28,000 applicants for 230 places.

Modern battlefields are littered with debris, which the avid collector of Militaria may find tempting to take home for the sake of posterity. But beware! Many of the unexploded battlefield munitions remain highly dangerous and a number of fatalities happen each year.

My own particular interest is in the Great War, or World War One. I have spent many a holiday on the battlefields of the Western Front, trench map in hand, following the line of advance during the Battle of the Somme. The fields are simply littered with unexploded shells and other debris, such as bullets, barbed wire, shrapnel balls and grenades.

Each year, when the local farmers plough the fields, more unexploded munitions come to the surface. They are simply collected together by the farmer and placed in the corner of each field. In the run up to the first day of the battle on 1st July 1916 the British artillery fired 3 million shells at the German lines and one third of those shells, an astonishing 1 million of them, were dud and failed to explode. They simply buried themselves in the mud. But they remain dangerous and are still taking lives today.

Only last year two members of the Somme Bomb Squad were killed when a shell detonated when it was being cleared from the battlefield. A retired British Army Officer, and Militaria collector, was killed recently when a hand grenade blew up in his face. He had brought the grenade home from the Western Front in his luggage and, sadly, the central heating in his home had dried out the explosive charge causing it to detonate spontaneously.

The risks are very real and I would strongly advise any collectors, on the Western Front and elsewhere, to leave any unexploded ordnance well alone. Anything containing an explosive charge that has not been decommissioned remains highly dangerous, however old it may be!

The same warning applies if you find unexploded shells being sold, either locally to the battlefield or on the Internet. I know that some local people on the Somme have extensive collections of munitions and some sell them to tourists. Do not buy them! Similarly, if you see them for sale on the Internet, check with the seller to ascertain whether the item has been made safe. If it has not, do not buy it and perhaps email him and tell him it is dangerous.

But it is not only munitions that come to light on the Western Front each year. On the Somme alone over 75,000 British soldiers remain missing and unaccounted for. They are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing but, occasionally, some are found even now. Whenever this happens every effort is made to identify them and sometimes it is possible to locate relatives. A full military funeral is then accorded the fallen soldier.

Harry Patch, the last British army veteran of World War I, has died at 111, the nursing home where he lived said Saturday.
The Fletcher House care home in Wells, south west England, said Patch died early Saturday. "He just quietly slipped away at 9 a.m. this morning," said care home manager Andrew Larpent. "It was how he would have wanted it, without having to be moved to hospitals but here, peacefully with his friends and carers." Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the whole country would mourn "the passing of a great man." "The noblest of all the generations has left us, but they will never be forgotten.

We say today with still greater force, We Will Remember Them," Brown said. Prince Charles said "nothing could give me greater pride" than paying tribute to Patch. "The Great War is a chapter in our history we must never forget, so many sacrifices were made, so many young lives lost," he said.

Patch had been the last surviving soldier from the British army to have served in the 1914-1918 war. The only other surviving U.K.-based British veteran of the war, former airman Henry Allingham, died a week ago at age 113.
The Ministry of Defense called Patch "the last British survivor of the First World War," although 108-year-old Claude Choules of Australia is believed to have served in the Royal Navy during the conflict. Born in southwest England in 1898, Patch was called up for military service in 1916 when he was working as a teenage apprentice plumber. After training he was sent to the trenches as a machine-gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. A few weeks later, in one of the bloodiest battles of the war at Passchendaele, near the Belgian town of Ypres, he was badly wounded and three of his best friends were killed by a shell explosion.

Back at home, he returned to work as a plumber, got married, raised a family and didn't start talking about his war experiences until the 21st century. He outlived three wives and both of his sons. Patch was one of the last living links to "the war to end all wars," which killed about 20 million people in years of brutal fighting between the Allied Powers — including Britain, France, and the United States — and Germany and its allies. Only a handful of veterans remain of the estimated 68 million mobilized.

There are no French veterans left alive; the last living American-born veteran is Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia. The man believed to have been Germany's last surviving soldier has also died. In recent years he and his dwindling band of fellow survivors became poignant symbols of the conflict.

Last year he, Allingham and British naval veteran Bill Stone attended remembrance ceremonies in London to mark the 90th anniversary of the war's end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The three frail men in wheelchairs laid wreaths of red poppies at the base of the stone memorial. Stone died in January.
At a remembrance ceremony in 2007, Patch said he felt "humbled that I should be representing an entire generation."

"Today is not for me. It is for the countless millions who did not come home with their lives intact. They are the heroes," he said. "It is also important we remember those who lost their lives on both sides." Patch said he did not speak about the war for 80 years. But he came to believe the casualties were not justified. "I met someone from the German side and we both shared the same opinion: we fought, we finished and we were friends," he said in 2007. "It wasn't worth it."



Grandson to Grandma
Was Granddad ever a soldier?
I mean a soldier in the war.
I know he's got some medals
But what's he got them for?
When Granddad was a soldier
Did he have a gun?
Did he march up and down shooting folk?
I bet that was lots of fun.
Grandma to Grandson
Yes Granddad was a soldier
And he went off to fight
To fight for King and Country
And for us and what was right
I've seen Granddad clean his medals
And wrap them nice and neat
He put them in his suitcase
And marches down the street
Yes to Dunkirk they go
To march with pride and medals show
Their fallen comrades to recall
Terrible price paid by them all.
So when you see Granddad with his medals on his chest
Take his hand and say - I am proud of you, and the rest
For it was men like him and those that fell
That saved us from a world of hell.
Frederick (Dusty) Rhodes

Henery Allingham


On 18 July 2009 Allingham died of natural causes aged 113 years and 42 days. At the time of his death, he was the 14th oldest verified man of all time.

Henry William Allingham (born 6 June 1896) is, at age 112, a super centenarian World War I veteran and Britain's oldest living man. He is the oldest ever surviving member of any British Armed Forces and the oldest surviving veteran of the First World War. Allingham is the oldest ever English man and the second-oldest ever British man after Welshman John Evans. On 13 February 2007, he became the UK's second-oldest living person—he also holds the record for being Europe's fifth-oldest living person and the oldest male.

He is the joint second-oldest living man in the world, and is the oldest living white male. As of April 2008, he is validated as one of the 25 oldest people in the world, tied with American man George Francis, and, as of October 2008, he ranks among the 20 oldest men ever and the 20 oldest Britons ever.

He is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, the last surviving member of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the last surviving founding member of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Since 2001, he has become the face of the World War I veterans association and makes frequent public appearances to ensure that the horrors of World War I are not lost to modern generations. Due to his longevity and his World War I service he is also the recipient of many honours and awards.


Through distant mists of memories,
I hear them call my name;
Those who served beside me,
On a battleground of pain.
Nothing left but memories,
Of those forever young;
Lives that ended suddenly,
What would they have become?
What price they paid for freedom,
The sacrifice untold;
Yet, here they are in memories,
Not one will 'ere grow old.
For I shall keep their names alive,
Until my flame is gone;
Then pass the torch to those who will,

Remember....The Forever young.
Allison Chambers Coxsey, ©2000

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) (30 November 1874 24 January 1965) was a British politician known chiefly for his leadership of Great Britain during World War II. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. A noted statesman, orator and strategist, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a prolific author and a talented artist.

During his army career Churchill saw combat on the Northwest Frontier, in the Sudan and during the Second Boer War, during which he also gained fame and notoriety, as a war correspondent. He also served in the British Army on the Western Front and commanded the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

At the forefront of the political scene for almost sixty years, he held many political and cabinet positions. Before the First World War, he served as President of the Board of Trade and Home Secretary during the Liberal governments. In the First World War he served as First Lord of the Admiralty, Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air and during the interwar years, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and led Britain to victory against the Axis powers. His speeches were a great inspiration to the embattled Allied forces. After losing the 1945 election, he became the leader of the opposition. In 1951, he again became Prime Minister before finally retiring in 1955. Upon his death the Queen granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of statesmen in the world.

It was supposed to be "The War to End All Wars." For over four years World War One raged on, leaving in its wake a toll of death and destruction such as the world had never seen. These are the images of that time, an eternal testament to all those whose lives were lost or forever altered by "The Great War."

The gas mask as we know it today evolved from inventions over time that were intended for use by deep sea divers, fire

fighters and mine workers. A popular misconception about the gas mask was that it was invented by Garrett A. Morgan in 1914. Morgan’s invention didn’t resemble anything remotely like today’s mask and was simply a hood with a breathing tube that hung to the floor so a fire fighter could draw breath from the lower, cleaner layers of air while fighting a fire. It was later adapted for mine rescues where the tubes could be manipulated to avoid flooded mine tunnels or gas filled pockets. The question of who invented the gas mask is to this day not easily answered.

WW1 definitely started the mass production of modern gas masks designed to protect soldiers from chemical attack. Without WW1 and the use of chlorine and mustard gas as a weapon by the German Army, gas masks would have not have taken up such a prominent place in the history of the world.

Ellie Targett

The extraordinary story of a war hero's flight to freedom from the Nazis has been revealed by his daughters, after they retraced his steps and reclaimed the shoes he wore on the epic 200-mile trek.

Sixty years on his daughter Ellie Targett, a radio presenter in Herefordshire, and her sister Yule, who lives in Devon, set out on foot to retrace their father's daring escape, meeting some of the people who helped him along the way. Mrs Targett recalled the emotional moment when his battered lace-up shoes were returned to her in a brown paper bag by a family who had sheltered him.

They had kept the shoes as a reminder of the young man they had found hiding in a frozen mountain hut. "There wasn't a dry eye in the house," said Mrs Targett. "The whole lot of us wept, we never said a word." Mr Somme, a Norwegian, had been caught photographing a strategic German torpedo station during one of his many spying missions for the Allies in 1944.

He was arrested and put on a passenger ship to take him to a German camp but before the vessel could sail, he escaped his bonds and crept past his sleeping guard.
The marine biologist wore the brown shoes as he walked past his captors guarding the harbourside, giving them a cheeky wave goodbye to allay suspicion.

He continued to wear them on the first part of the 200-mile escape through the mountains. He avoided leaving footprints in the deep snow drifts by walking through icy streams and leaping from tree to tree, a trick he learned as a child. But as he faced climbing the perilous mountains to freedom, the shoes could take him no further and a 19-year-old named Andre who had helped shelter him from the Germans, offered to swap them for his new boots.

It was the teenager's sister, Selma, who kept the shoes and returned them to the daughters when they retraced their father's footsteps in 2004. Mr Somme's daughters learned the details of their father's journey when he wrote a record of his escape from the Germans, who tortured and executed his brother Iacob, a leading member of the resistance.

The children, who were born after the war, read their father's memoirs and decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his trek by following his eight-week journey.

Their father braved bears and wolves during his route over ancient reindeer paths thousands of feet up in the mountains. After escaping to Sweden the scientist met and married their English mother Primrose, but he died of cancer in 1961 when the children were still young. His family then moved from Norway to Dartmouth, Devon.

The daughters have published their father's story in his own words, and now show off the shoes during their presentations. "They go everywhere with me," said Mrs Targett. "People are very moved when they hear the story but it really hits home when they see papa's shoes because they know we are talking about a real man." Mrs Targett and her sister were the only members of a party of five who managed to finish the trip in 2004 and a year later they published their father's tale, together with details of their own journey.

With the country at war and all able-bodied men needed to fight, there was a shortage of labour to work on farms and in other jobs on the land. At the same time it was becoming increasingly difficult to get food imported from abroad, so more land needed to be farmed to provide home grown food. The Women's Land Army provided much of the labour force to work this land.

The advertising slogan read, 'For a healthy, happy job join The Women's Land Army'. In reality, the work was hard and dirty and the hours were long. Some of the girls received training before they were sent to farms; the farmers themselves trained others. The Timber Corps was set up to teach women to make pit props, necessary for working in mines, which then had to be loaded onto lorries and transported to the mining areas.

The girls of the land army looked after animals, ploughed the fields, dug up potatoes, harvested the crops, killed the rats, dug and hoed for 48 hours a week in the winter and 50 hours a week in the summer. As there was not enough machinery to go round they often had to work with old fashioned equipment, such as horse drawn hand ploughs, and to harvest crops by hand.

Womens land army poster

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