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Monday, 11 November 2013

11th of the 11th and Typewriters in 1918

Today Australia observes Remembrance Day, notably with a minute's silence at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month. In New Zealand this is known as Armistice Day and in the United States Veteran's Day.  The date of these memorial days marks the cessation of hostilities in World War I, at 11am on 11/11/1918.  The Armistice had been signed at Compi√®gne in France at dawn earlier that day. This year's is the 95th anniversary of the end of the so-called "Great War" - "the war to end all wars". 
It is a poignant event for me, as my family played its part. Less than 16 months before the war ended, my uncle, Walter Gerald Messenger (my father's eldest brother and the son of a previous Robert Messenger) died on the Western Front, on July 22, 1917, of wounds suffered from a sniper's bullet. He had turned just 21 three months earlier. Three weeks after he was killed, Walter Messenger was posthumously awarded a Military Medal for bravery under heavy shellfire during the launch of the attack on Messines, on June 7, 1917.
Walter Messenger had embarked from Wellington for Suez on the Tofua on August 15, 1915, less than four months after the Gallipoli landings. He was 19 and four months old. The New Zealand government wouldn't have let him have a beer or vote, but he was old enough to die for another country's king in another country's war. He is buried at the Pont-D'Achelles Military Cemetery at, Nieppe, Nord, France, right on the Belgium border. Poppies are grown at the cemetery to be placed on the graves of the war dead.
Precipitated by the detonation of 19 enormous mines secretly dug under the front lines - a subterranean cataclysm which killed 10,o00 Germans (history's deadliest non-nuclear man-made explosion) - the Battle of Messines was planned to force the Germans to withdraw from the main battlefront of Vimy-Arras. The primary objective was the strategically important Wyschaete-Messines Ridge, the high ground south of Ypres which the Germans had used as a salient into the British lines, building their defence along its 10-mile length. Winning this ground was essential for the Allies to launch a larger campaign planned for east of Ypres. The initial attack, codenamed ‘Magnum Opus’, was the first time Australians and New Zealanders had fought side-by-side since the Gallipoli campaign. The New Zealand Division was tasked with the capture of Messines and onward, and it was my uncle who, with Harry Minnis, kept communication lines open to Advance Brigade Headquarters and the battalion. Messines casualties included 4978 New Zealanders and 6056 Australians. The Messines detonation of 455 tons of ammonal explosives was heard in London and felt in Dublin.

Now to typewriters at the end of the First World War ...

With the end of World War I, the biggest issue in the international typewriter trade became the fear that the British, American and French governments would "dump" on to markets the typewriters they had acquired for use during the war effort.
Rumours of plans to dump typewriters were aired in Topics in November 1918 but were quickly quashed by US President Woodrow Wilson and by British typewriter industry pioneer and Blickensderfer agent George Rimington.
These articles and advertisements are from Typewriter Topics from the period of November 1918 to January 1919:

At this time, there was really only one designated portable typewriter on the market, the Corona 3 (overlooking the claims of the Blick). The Underwood 3 and the Remington portable were very soon to follow, however:
Visigraph were also talking in terms of bringing out a portable:
One of the more exciting developments was the launch of Richard Uhlig's latest typewriter, the Allen:


Bill M said...

It is really great you can trace your family to your Uncle in WW-1. Too bad he was hit by a sniper.

Interesting the views of some after the war.

Nice typewriter ads.

JanuaryJulie said...

This was a really wonderful post. It's Remembrance Day here in Canada, as well.

Richard P said...

This is an interesting snapshot of the times.

Of course, the push to boycott German goods after the war was short-sighted, since that sort of retributive spirit helped to fuel the resentment that eventually helped the Nazis come to power.