Britain’s King George V changes royal Surname

Britain's King George V
Britain’s King George V

Jun 19, 1917:

Britain’s King George V changes royal Surname

On this day in 1917, during the third year of World War I, Britain’s King George V orders the British royal family to dispense with the use of German titles and surnames, changing the surname of his own family, the decidedly Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, to Windsor.

The second son of Prince Edward of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark, and the grandson of Queen Victoria, George was born in 1865 and embarked on a naval career before becoming heir to the throne in 1892 when his older brother, Edward, died of pneumonia. The following year, George married the German princess Mary of Teck (his cousin, a granddaughter of King George III), who had previously been intended for Edward. The couple had six children, including the future Edward VIII and George VI (who took the throne in 1936 after his brother abdicated to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson). As the new Duke of York, George was made to abandon his career in the navy; he became a member of the House of Lords and received a political education. When his father died in 1910, George ascended to the British throne as King George V.

With the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914, strong anti-German feeling within Britain caused sensitivity among the royal family about its German roots. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, also a grandson of Queen Victoria, was the king’s cousin; the queen herself was German. As a result, on June 19, 1917, the king decreed that the royal surname was thereby changed from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.

In order to demonstrate further solidarity with the British war effort, George made several visits to survey the troops at the Western Front. During one visit to France in 1915, he fell off a horse and broke his pelvis, an injury that plagued him for the rest of his life. Also in 1917, he made the controversial decision to deny asylum in Britain to another of his cousins, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and his family, after the czar abdicated during the Russian Revolution. Czar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra and their children were subsequently arrested and later murdered by the Bolsheviks.

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Hitler and Mussolini meet in Munich

Jun 18, 1940:

Hitler and Mussolini meet in Munich

On this day in 1940, Benito Mussolini arrives in Munich with his foreign minister, Count Ciano, to discuss immediate plans with the Fuhrer, and doesn’t like what he hears.

Embarrassed over the late entry of Italy in the war against the Allies, and its rather tepid performance since, Mussolini met with Hitler determined to convince his Axis partner to exploit the advantage he had in France by demanding total surrender and occupying the southern portion still free. The Italian dictator clearly wanted “in” on the spoils, and this was a way of reaping rewards with a minimum of risk. But Hitler, too, was in no mood to risk, and was determined to put forward rather mild terms for peace with France. He needed to ensure that the French fleet remained neutral and that a government-in-exile was not formed in North Africa or London determined to further prosecute the war. He also denied Mussolini’s request that Italian troops occupy the Rhone Valley, and that Corsica, Tunisia, and Djibouti (adjacent to Italian-occupied Ethiopia) be disarmed.

Ciano recorded in his diary that Mussolini left the meeting frustrated and “very much embarrassed,” feeling “that his role is secondary.” Ciano also records a newfound respect for Hitler: “Today he speaks with a reserve and perspicacity which, after such a victory, are really astonishing.”

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French troops halt fighting in Artois region

Jun 18, 1915:

French troops halt fighting in Artois region

After several weeks of heavy fighting, including savage hand-to-hand combat, with little success, French troops halt their attacks on the German trenches in the Artois region of France on June 18, 1915.

Artois, located in northern France between Picardy and Flanders, near the English Channel, was a strategically important battlefield during World War I and saw heavy fighting throughout the conflict. Over the course of 1915, the most significant Allied offensives on the Western Front all took place in Artois. On May 9, French and British troops launched a two-pronged offensive around Vimy Ridge and Aubers Ridge respectively. Known as the Second Battle of Artois, the French attack was modestly successful, though the Germans retreated to better lines while inflicting significant casualties. More importantly, the battle convinced French and British commanders alike that the key to breaking through the German lines was twofold: attacking with sufficient artillery along a broad front, and having supporting formations move in behind the lead troops to carry the attack beyond the front lines, enabling the breakthrough to happen in one swift thrust.

The French consequently began to build up a force of 900 heavy guns, over 1,000 field guns and 37 divisions for another major Artois offensive that fall. Meanwhile, fighting continued throughout May and into June, with the French opening up a diversionary assault on the Somme River, some 40 kilometers to the south, in an attempt to secure the village of Serre. In Artois, the town of Neuville St. Vaast finally fell to the French 5th Army on June 9. On June 16, hoping to press their advantage, the French launched further assaults on the German lines in Artois. Over the next 24 hours, French artillery fired over 300,000 shells around Neuville St. Vaast; the Germans still managed to outgun them, as the higher altitude of their lines allowed them to fire on French positions with greater ease. On June 18, the French command called off the battle in Artois, after many small advances and changes of control of territory, as well as some 18,000 French casualties.

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Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

Battle_of_Waterloo_1815

Jun 18, 1815:

Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history.

The Corsica-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoleon returned home from his Egyptian campaign to take over the reigns of the French government and save his nation from collapse. After becoming first consul in February 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoleonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804 was crowned emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral. By 1807, Napoleon controlled an empire that stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.

Beginning in 1812, Napoleon began to encounter the first significant defeats of his military career, suffering through a disastrous invasion of Russia, losing Spain to the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula War, and enduring total defeat against an allied force by 1814. Exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, he escaped to France in early 1815 and set up a new regime. As allied troops mustered on the French frontiers, he raised a new Grand Army and marched into Belgium. He intended to defeat the allied armies one by one before they could launch a united attack.

On June 16, 1815, he defeated the Prussians under Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher at Ligny, and sent 33,000 men, or about one-third of his total force, in pursuit of the retreating Prussians. On June 18, Napoleon led his remaining 72,000 troops against the Duke of Wellington’s 68,000-man allied army, which had taken up a strong position 12 miles south of Brussels near the village of Waterloo. In a fatal blunder, Napoleon waited until mid-day to give the command to attack in order to let the ground dry. The delay in fighting gave Blucher’s troops, who had eluded their pursuers, time to march to Waterloo and join the battle by the late afternoon.

In repeated attacks, Napoleon failed to break the center of the allied center. Meanwhile, the Prussians gradually arrived and put pressure on Napoleon’s eastern flank. At 6 p.m., the French under Marshal Michel Ney managed to capture a farmhouse in the allied center and began decimating Wellington’s troops with artillery. Napoleon, however, was preoccupied with the 30,000 Prussians attacking his flank and did not release troops to aid Ney’s attack until after 7 p.m. By that time, Wellington had reorganized his defenses, and the French attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes later, the allied army launched a general advance, and the Prussians attacked in the east, throwing the French troops into panic and then a disorganized retreat. The Prussians pursued the remnants of the French army, and Napoleon left the field. French casualties in the Battle of Waterloo were 25,000 men killed and wounded and 9,000 captured, while the allies lost about 23,000.

Napoleon returned to Paris and on June 22 abdicated in favor of his son. He decided to leave France before counterrevolutionary forces could rally against him, and on July 15 he surrendered to British protection at the port of Rochefort. He hoped to travel to the United States, but the British instead sent him to Saint Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Napoleon protested but had no choice but to accept the exile. With a group of followers, he lived quietly on St. Helena for six years. In May 1821, he died, most likely of stomach cancer. He was only 51 years old. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, and a magnificent funeral was held. Napoleon’s body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe and entombed under the dome of the Invalides.

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Update: New Pictures Added to the Website 6-17

 

New Pictures have been added to the Pages:

  • Heinkel He 115 Recovery
  • Tiger 1 Replica
  • Field Marshall Günther von Kluge – Information Added
  • Hetzer
  • Oorlogsmuseum Museum – Overloon, Netherlands
  • Battle of Kursk
  • Eastern Front
  • Falaise Pocket
  • Battle of Normandy
  • Battle of France – 1940
  • Fuhrer Adolf Hitler
  • Orders of Battle – Wehrmacht Divisions
  • Panther
  • Panzer III
  • German Heer (Army) Photos
  • Panzer IV
  • Tiger 1
  • SS – Schutzstaffel
  • Order of Battle – Waffen-SS Divisions

Enjoy!

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British and Allied troops continue the evacuation of France, as Churchill reassures his Countrymen

RAF personnel being evacuated from Brest.
RAF personnel being evacuated from Brest.

Jun 17, 1940:

British and Allied troops continue the evacuation of France, as Churchill reassures his Countrymen

On this day in 1940, British troops evacuate France in Operation Ariel, an exodus almost on the order of Dunkirk. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill offers words of encouragement in a broadcast to the nation: “Whatever has happened in France… [w]e shall defend our island home, and with the British Empire we shall fight on unconquerable until the curse of Hitler is lifted.”

With two-thirds of France now occupied by German troops, those British and Allied troops that had not participated in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk, were shipped home. From Cherbourg and St. Malo, from Brest and Nantes, Brits, Poles, and Canadian troops were rescued from occupied territory by boats sent from Britain. While these men were not under the immediate threat of assault, as at Dunkirk, they were by no means safe, as 5,000 soldiers and French civilians learned once on board the ocean liner Lancastria, which had picked them up at St. Nazaire. Germans bombers sunk the liner; 3,000 passengers drowned.

Churchill ordered that news of the Lancastria not be broadcast in Britain, fearing the effect it would have on public morale, since everyone was already on heightened alert, fearing an imminent invasion from the Germans now that only a channel separated them. The British public would eventually find out—but not for another six weeks—when the news finally broke in the United States. They would also enjoy a breather of another kind: Hitler had no immediate plans for an invasion of the British isle, “being well aware of the difficulties involved in such an operation,” reported the German High Command.

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Portuguese army sees first action in Flanders

Portuguese troops loading the Stokes Mortar.
Portuguese troops loading the Stokes Mortar.

Jun 17, 1917:

Portuguese army sees first action in Flanders

On June 17, 1917, the Corpo Expedicionario Portugues (CEP), or Portuguese Expeditionary Corps, goes into action for the first time in World War I, on the battlefields of Flanders on the Western Front.

With the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914, Portugal entered the war on the side of the Allies in order to secure international backing of its colonial holdings in Africa. While Portuguese participation in the war was at first limited to naval support, Portugal sent its first troops–an expeditionary force of two divisions, or some 50,000 men–to the Western Front in February 1917.

On June 17 of that year, the CEP saw its first action of the war, against the Germans in Flanders, Belgium. From the beginning of the fighting, the Portuguese troops, fighting alongside the British, were plagued by problems, including negative reactions to the poor rations and harsh weather on the battlefield and low morale due to the fact that they were fighting far from their native land, on behalf of a foreign cause. On April 9, 1918, the CEP saw action again against Germany near the town of Lys, during the major German offensive of that spring. During the Battle of Lys, one Portuguese division of troops was struck hard by four German divisions; the preliminary shelling alone was so heavy that one Portuguese battalion refused to push forward into the trenches. All told, the victorious Germans took more than 6,000 prisoners at Lys and were able to push through the Allied lines along a three-and-a-half mile stretch. By the time World War I ended, a total of 7,000 Portuguese soldiers had died in combat.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History