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 War tourism and battle spectators

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: War tourism and battle spectators   Sun 04 Feb 2018, 16:39

I’ve been watching this 3-part series on The Crimean War, the narrative of which makes extensive verbatim use of the reports, diaries, and letters (plus sketches and photographs), of those that were there. One thing that greatly surprised me was the apparent numbers of war tourists: ordinary curious civilians who made it a point, not just of going to visit the battlefields after the action, but to witness and experience the conflict at first hand while it was still on-going. A local battle has doubtless always attracted the curious, such as the sightseers who drove out from Brussels in their carriages to enjoy the spectacle of the battle of Waterloo in 1815, or the wealthy citizens of Washington who in 1861 turned up with their picnic hampers to watch the first battle of Bull Run (and eventually got caught up in the rout). However during the Crimea people were travelling all the way from Britain, France and other countries to observe the fighting close up and in all its horror, over several days and sometimes over many weeks.
 
For instance from this series, when the British Fleet in 1854 sailed into the Baltic to bombard the forts protecting St Petersburg, they were accompanied by a small flotilla of private yachts and chartered tourist ships - including that carrying the Rev Robert Hughes, fellow of Magdalene College Cambridge and his brother. While the Royal Navy bombarded the Russian forts at Bomarsund the Hughes brothers got their ship to land them on the beach alongside the disembarking 10,000 French soldiers who were to assault the forts from the land:
"My brother was off soon after dawn and secured an excellent position amongst the French sharp-shooters, where he got a capital view of everything. I followed soon after and quickly came into view of the fort which was blazing away pretty briskly. The brightest colours flew in the merry breeze which was blowing stinking smoke and burnt gunpowder into the eyes of our unhappy foes. This was turning war into a holiday with a vengeance".
 
After three days of heavy bombardment the Russians surrendered. The Rev Hughes entered the ruined fortifications so soon after the fighting had stopped that the bodies of the dead were still there, as this rather chastened diary entry records:
"We passed into a room which had a cold feeling about it I looked round and saw the cold clean silent forms of the dead: the light linen cloths that shrouded the stiffened figures wavered and flickered in the draught, as if stirred by the breaths of those that breathed no more. What did these poor fellows know of the Turkish Question? And yet they had fought and trembled, they had writhed in agony and now, father and brother, maid and mother, were weeping and breaking their hearts for them."
 
Similarly, alerted by the newspapers to the imminent fall of Sevastopol in 1855 after a year of bitter, bloody, costly conflict, tourists flooded into the area by the boatload:



William Russell ('The Times' war correspondent) described such scenes with thinly disguised contempt:
"All the amateurs and travelling gentlemen, who rather abound here just now, were in a state of great excitement and dotted the plain in eccentric attire, which revived old memories of Cowes, and yachting and sea-bathing."
 
There are similar reports of tourists turning up to watch battles of the Franco-Prussian war, the American Civil War and the Boer War (and Thomas Cook for example was organising trips to visit the South African battlefields even before the hostilities were over).

This seems to me to be a rather 19th century phenomena and particularly I suspect related to the existence of a wealthy, educated, informed middle class. Also I suppose it was really only in the second half of the 19th century that international conflicts increasingly relied on ‘total war’, with the whole civilian population being mobilised, involved and affected. Previously, although populations could admittedly be thoroughly partisan and xenophobic, wars were still often seen primarily as disagreements between kings and emperors, and prosecuted solely by their armies: non-combatants, even if they were citizens of an enemy power, were often not seen as being directly involved. Furthermore in earlier centuries I’d have thought most local people were more concerned about hiding themselves and their livestock in the woods rather than on getting a good vantage point, while in the twentieth century military authorities were increasingly keen to restrict any unofficial visits near the front and to censor all reports from any that might have got there. Moreover while the limited range of Napoleonic weapons meant you were probably safe watching from a couple of miles away, by WW1, with poison gas, aircraft, long-range artillery and fast-moving motorised units, that was certainly no longer the case. 
 
Thoughts anyone


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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Sun 04 Feb 2018, 20:15

Meles meles,

 don't you think it all boils down to being curious.

As an example during the second world war and  living in occupied Europe  being a young boy ( aged 8 to 13 years) I watched many a air battle between the German and Allied air force planes when the planes were chasing each other even at low heights.

 German soldiers often  told us to get off the streets and get inside the house or shelters but as soon as they had gone we were outside again watching what was going on.

Why?

I suppose we as kids did not realise the danger  and the main reason  more than likely was being curious what was going to happen and being able to tell all  (boasting) about it to others.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Sun 04 Feb 2018, 22:44

Sorry guys, the whole evening busy with Stalingrad, war tourism, with the example of the siege of Ostend and nowadays tourism agencies which promise you a safe journey to a battelfield while the battle rages.

Kind regards to both of you from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 09:56

A little bit more about the Bull Run spectators:

Centreville Picnic

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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 11:42

Simple curiosity ... yes I do understand that, but I still feel there was something about 19th century society that made such an interest not only possible, but attractive and socially acceptable. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't get the feeling that the wars of previous centuries commanded quite the same allure. Yes there were the odd dilletante noblemen who sought out and witnessed some of the major continental conflicts, but usually their presence was incidental them being on the grand tour, studying, working or visiting in a nearby city etc, rather than a conscious desire to travel across Europe specifically to experience it all at first hand. And since the beginning of the 20th century I can't believe many people would want to do so other than in a professional capacity such as news-reporter, documentary-maker, or photographer. Interestingly there was feeling during the Crimean that war correspondents, such as William Russell for 'The Times', were little better than gawking spectators themselves ... although once they started to report candidly on the horrors of the conflict, the incompetence of the leaders, and the failings of the government, they were seen as valuable sources of information and key to getting things changed.

As well as needing to be strong-willed and self-reliant, Crimean war tourists needed a strong stomach ... sketches and watercolours by serving officers and sightseers alike graphically show the slaughter - battlefields strewn with  body parts, rivers running with blood, and the survivors horribly maimed - all in a way that the photography of the time (with its need for long exposure times and heavy equipment) failed to do. There was also the very real risk of contracting cholera or typhoid, which both ravaged all the armies during the Crimean War. To go to witness all this, indeed to be so close that one seriously risked becoming a casualty as well, seems to me to be very odd, unless it was one's job as a reporter. Who really would want to be present at say Paschendale, Iwo Jima or D-Day, just for the sake of curiosity? And yet Paul says there are, "nowadays tourism agencies which promise you a safe journey to a battelfield while the battle rages", so maybe I am completely wrong (as well as being a coward), though I feel sure it must be a rather niche tourism market (although of course if you have the cash these days you can get virtually carried to the top of Everest, flown to the South Pole, or blasted into orbit, so maybe it isn't so odd after all).
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 12:54

What an interesting and disturbing topic.

Perhaps our sanitised version of this is the arty "war photography" of the Sunday supplements. Did this start with the Vietnam War - death as art form? Previous war photography seemed to be factual visual recording, but I'm not sure?

Here is the final verse of Carol Ann Duffy's War Photographer:


A hundred agonies in black and white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.
From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 13:01

Heroic death in war has been a frequent subject in art, but Goya with his depictions of ordinary poor buggers and their ignominious deaths was probably the real forerunner of war photojournalism before the advent of cameras ....

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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 13:37

As now, the earliest war photographers were sometimes accused of creating, slightly dishonestly, "arty" images.

One of Roger Fenton's classic images from the Crimean War, 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' was slightly contrived as he moved some of the cannonballs from the ditch where they'd ended up onto the road to get a better picture. Here are his before and after shots:

  

Some of his photos were also contrived for official propaganda purposes although he himself freely acknowledged this, such as this one of British troops well protected from the cold ... which he described with bitter irony as being taken in the blistering heat of summer 1855, when the long-awaited winter supplies had finally arrived:



And I'm not sure how truthful this one of his is either, but as it shows an injured French Zouvre the presence of a nurse is not entirely implausible as the French army, unlike the British, had professional, uniformed, front-line nurses (Cantinières) attached to every regiment.



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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 13:47

The story of the yacht Deerhound which left Cherbourg to witness the battle between USS Kearsage and CSS Alabama;

Deerhound
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 14:03

Goya's painting for all its brilliance was of course not painted from life, but in my opinion some of the most vivid images from the Crimean War are the simple sketches done in the field, such as this watercolour by Lieutenant Henry John Wilkinson of the 9th Regiment of Foot, showing the chaos and carnage after a fruitless attack on Sevastopol (and he doesn't pull any punches in depicting the mess of severed limbs and mangled bodies).



His sketch was later turned into a rather sanitised engraving and published in the 'Illustrated London News' entitled 'Truce for burial of the dead before Sebastopol 24 March 1855'.

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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 14:53

Did some good come out of it, do you think, MM? Did the raising of public awareness facilitate the work of Florence Nightingale, for instance? The awful photos of what was going on in Vietnam certainly fuelled the anti-war protests.

Battlefield scavengers were something quite different, of course. Did the commanders of incredibly disciplined armies - like the Romans - allow such people - scavengers or "tourists" -  anywhere near the battlefields? Or could not even a Caesar stop such activities (hope this is not a stupid question)?

But humans like gawping at disasters - ask any traffic policeman who has to deal with motorway accidents caused by drivers trying to get a good  look at other accidents.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 15:25

Battlefield looting has a long history:

"Waterloo Smile"

a defeat for the Romans, like Lake Trasimene, would allow their opponents, in this case Hannibal's Carthaginians, to obtain high quality Roman weapons and armour.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 15:45

@Temperance wrote:
Did some good come out of it, do you think, MM?

Undeniably much good came directly from the work of Florence Nightingale and others, not just in the practicalities of medical treatment and care, but also in more general terms and a feeling that things couldn't simply be left to the mismanagement and incompetence of many government organisations. Accordingly things did change permanently and mostly for the better.

And only four years after the Crimean War Henry Dunant started work leading to the formation of the International Red Cross. Dunant had by chance - he was certainly no battlefield tourist - arrived to see the aftermath of  the Battle of Solferino (June 1859) and was so shocked by the terrible suffering of the wounded soldiers, and the near-total lack of medical attendance and basic care, that he completely abandoned the original intent of his business trip and for several days he devoted himself to helping the wounded, without discrimination to which side they'd been on. Once eventually back in Geneva he called for the formation of national voluntary relief organizations to help nurse wounded soldiers in the case of war (a cause further boosted by the suffering of troops and civilians during the Franco-Prussian War) ... which lead to the formation of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Organisation. He also called for the development of international treaties to guarantee the neutrality and protection of those wounded on the battlefield as well as medics and field hospitals ... which later resulted in the Geneva Convention.

This was of course a time of wealthy philanthropists and the formation of charitable organisations across many areas of society, not only in Britain but throughout Europe and North America. I wonder if in part the 19th century phenomena of ordinary people heading off to see wars for themeslves wasn't also connected to people feeling that if they could, then they should, try and improve the life of their fellow man, especially when official government bodies often seemed incapable, incompetent or uninterested in doing so themselves when left to their own devices.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 16:03

German fighter plane put on display in various towns and cities in 1940:

ME-109
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 16:51

Are today's equivalent the articles and/or videos featured in "respectable" organs like the Mail Online - those articles which have "Warning graphic content" on some of their main headlines? I never click on such articles, but I am sure there are others less squeamish than I who do - all the time.

The Mail had a field day with some of the more gruesome ISIS atrocities.


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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 18:01

@Temperance wrote:
Are today's equivalent the articles and/or videos featured in "respectable" organs like the Mail Online ...

Indeed, although the Victorian press did these things with so much more aplomb, don't you think?
Like this from 'The Examiner' (9 December 1854):

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

etc...


Or as 'The Times' put it more succinctly a week earlier, "Someone has blunder'd".


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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 18:24

This isn't really what I mean by war tourism as it concerns visiting a battlefield long after the event, but it made me smile. It's from Thomas Cook's 1913 guide for visitors to the site of the battle of Waterloo:

"It is hardly necessary to say that buttons, spurs, helmets or sword-handles can be purchased cheaper in Sheffield or Birmingham, where they are manufactured, than on the field of Waterloo; nor must we forget that the battle was fought in the year 1815, and therefore the numerous guides of about fifty years of age who declare they were in the engagement are not to be relied upon implicitly."
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 22:46

Overseas at the time, I recall the daily - nay hourly tuning in to watch live CNN broadcasts during the Kuwait invasion and then the Gulf war  with intense interest - which is little different from making the effort to be there, I suppose. There was a state of heightened tension where I was living at the time and our FO were concerned about expats  - I was one of several wardens each with a list of about 5o families to keep posted on security and ask of their welfare . living as I have in 3 war zones as Dirk also records, watching air raids and dogfights seems daft but one does it despite having shelters. I was very young for the first one but knew very well what was going on, and the dangers . However, many years on, the targeted straffing of the building I worked in concentrated the mind a bit more for me and the two caretakers to take cover all of a rush.....  yet another adventure I decided my family need not know of at the time. Once in a war you are somehow part of it - not merely a spectator.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Mon 05 Feb 2018, 23:06

@Meles meles wrote:
This isn't really what I mean by war tourism as it concerns visiting a battlefield long after the event, but it made me smile. It's from Thomas Cook's 1913 guide for visitors to the site of the battle of Waterloo:

"It is hardly necessary to say that buttons, spurs, helmets or sword-handles can be purchased cheaper in Sheffield or Birmingham, where they are manufactured, than on the field of Waterloo; nor must we forget that the battle was fought in the year 1815, and therefore the numerous guides of about fifty years of age who declare they were in the engagement are not to be relied upon implicitly."

Meles meles,

already that late again. I started my late evening with writing on Jiglu to Nielsen, who had some serious difficulties this weekend,
And now I will only mention the two items that I mentioned yesterday.

And now is my further message gone without warning Twisted Evil

I start again:

Yes, as you said in one of your messages it were only as in the example of the siege of Ostend, the miltary strategists, some generlas and noblemen who visited the battlefield. And they could do that in security, especially at the Spanish side, while the distance to be save was not that big as from the height of the Fort Albertus in that siege. If I have time I will show some paintings.
http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_bie001200401_01/_bie001200401_01_0103.php
"Vele kwamen dan ook het gevechtsterrein bezoeken, zowel uit nieuwsgierigheid (ramptoeristen avant la lettre) als om professionele redenen, om te studeren en nieuwe kennis en ervaring op te doen op het gebied van krijgs- en geneeskunde. Tijdgenoten vergeleken deze uitzonderlijke gebeurtenis met de belegering van het antieke Troje."
(Many came then also to visit the battle field, as well out of curiosity (disaster tourists avant la lettre) as for professional reasons, to study or to get new knowledge and experience on the field of military science and medecine. Contemporaries comparized this exceptional event with the siege of the antic Troy)

And I forgot the Shakespeare. I first saw not the link with the siege of Ostend...but now the Curtain and the battle plays as the battle of Turnhout and the connection with Vere, the Englishman, who would later in Ostend...
https://goo.gl/TR9thA


And about the nowadays battle tourists...you can never guess what all exists nowadays Wink ...
http://www.warzonetours.com/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/middle-east/syria/articles/Syria-warzone-tours-planned-by-Russian-travel-company/


And I started my inquery as always with:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_tourism

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Tue 06 Feb 2018, 16:36

At least apocryphally, spectators may have played a major part in defeating the last invasion of mainland Britain. http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofWales/The-Last-Invasion-of-Britain/
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Tue 06 Feb 2018, 21:12

@Meles meles wrote:
And only four years after the Crimean War Henry Dunant started work leading to the formation of the International Red Cross. Dunant had by chance - he was certainly no battlefield tourist - arrived to see the aftermath of  the Battle of Solferino (June 1859) and was so shocked by the terrible suffering of the wounded soldiers, and the near-total lack of medical attendance and basic care, that he completely abandoned the original intent of his business trip and for several days he devoted himself to helping the wounded without discrimination to which side they'd been on.

The middle decades of the 19th century certainly do seem to have been a cusp in terms of the transition from the romanticisation of war and chivalry to confronting the realities of increasingly mechanised warfare in an industrialised age. Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace makes for an interesting case study in this respect. Written in the 1860s, the novel is set during the Napoleonic War and features its own battlefield tourist in the form of the character of Pierre Bezukhov, a wealthy Muscovite dilettante who in 1812 goes out of the city to watch the Battle of Borodino and (in keeping with Priscilla's comment about warzones turning spectators into participants) ends up helping as a munitions porter and is profoundly shocked and affected by the carnage he witnesses.
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PostSubject: Re: War tourism and battle spectators   Tue 06 Feb 2018, 23:42

Leo Tolstoy was an artillery officer during the Crimean War serving with a battery of guns defending Sevastopol - so he knew all about the horrors of war. Some of the episodes in War and Peace were based on the short descriptive essays, Sevastopol Sketches, that he wrote while besieged in the city during 1854-55.

Victor Hugo has a similar philosophical digression about the nature of war with his description of the battle of Waterloo in Les Miserables. He had visited the battlefield in 1861 and his evocation of the battle accounts for quite a large chunk of the second volume of the whole five-volume novel. Tolstoy met Hugo in Paris shortly after Les Miserables was first published in 1862 and greatly praised the work for its philosophical themes. Despite his father being a general under Napoleon I during the Peninsular War, Hugo never saw any military action himself, although he was in Paris during the Prussian siege of 1870 and described the food shortages and shelling. He was also an early and enthusiastic advocate for the creation of a United States of Europe as a means to prevent war between European states.
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