Ground Breaking for the Museum of the American Revolution

This month, the Museum of the American Revolution had its ground-breaking ceremony in Philadelphia. This video provides a little introduction to the project, the significance of the museum’s location, but also a digital tour (from about two minutes in) of the new museum, including some of what will become major highlights of any future visit.

Plans are for the museum to open in 2016, and will no doubt be another interesting stop on the heritage trail in Philadelphia.

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Video shows explosion after large airstrike on Kobane

A video filmed from just inside the Turkish border shows the aftermath of an airstrike on IS positions around the town of Kobane. Interesting to see the number of spectators milling about and cheering the strike, despite the vicious fighting take place just across the border

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New Battle of the Bulge Museum in Bastogne

Last year I walked part of the Battle of the Bulge battlefield, with a particular emphasis on Easy Company. I visited the Mardasson Memorial, just outside of the town of Bastogne, and noticed that a brand new museum to the battle was being constructed.

It seems that the museum is now up and running, and offers a highly-interactive experience – as you can see from the trailer below.

One to see on my next visit!

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Bradley Cooper stars in ‘American Sniper’

The trailer for Bradley Cooper’s biopic of Chris Kyle is here.

It’s different from many of the war-film trailers we’ve seen so far this year (think Fury), as it’s more a single scene playing out. In the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, Cooper plays Chris Kyle, credited as being the most successful sniper in American military history. According to his book American Sniper, Kyle had 160 confirmed kills (which was from 255 claimed kills).

This film will no doubt resonate more with cinema-goers following Kyle’s murder at a shooting range in Texas in February 2013.

Check out the trailer below:

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Whatever happened to… The Archduke’s Children?

This week saw the 100 year anniversary of the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the assassination that sparked the First World War.

Killed alongside his wife, the global consequences of his death are well known. However, I was thinking recently – what happened to his children, orphaned after those events Sarajevo? Well, with a little bit of research I found out!

Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg, had three children, Princess Sophie of Hohenberg, Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg, and Prince Ernst of Hohenberg.

After their parents’ death, the children were taken in by the family friend Prince Jaroslav von Thun und Hohenstein. They lived first in Konopiště, a chateau near Prague in the Czech Republic. However, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War, their inherited lands were confiscated, and the children moved to to Vienna and the Schloß Artstetten.

The children, whilst undoubtedly wealthy, went on to lead far more “normal” lives. Maximilian, for example, received a law degree from the University of Graz in 1926, and became a lawyer, managing the family properties.

Following the Anschluss with Germany in March 1938, both Maximilian and Ernst were departed by to Dachau concentration camp for speaking out against the union, and were supposedly employed in cleaning the latrines. Maximilian was released after six months but Ernst was transferred to other concentration camps and only released only in 1943.

Following this, the Reich authorities also expropriated the family’s properties in Austria in 1939 – but they were returned following the end of the war in 1945. By that point the family had moved to Artstetten Castle, where their parents were buried. When the Allies occupied Austria at the end of the war, Maximilian was elected mayor of Artsteten, and he served two five-year terms.

Ernst died in 1954, Maximilian in 1962. Sophie lived to be 89 years old, dying in October 1990, and outliving both of her younger siblings. All had children, and so this famous line continued, and still endures today despite the torrid age they lived through.

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The trailer for Brad Pitt’s latest war movie is here…

The trailer for Brad Pitt’s new war movie, Fury, has gone live on the internet.

Set in Europe in the closing months of the Second World War, Fury depicts a 5-man Sherman tank crew battling to both win the war, and stay alive.

Co-starring Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña, from the trailer it seems Fury promises the full mix of stunning visuals, terrific special effects and maddening cliches that always seem to occur when Hollywood goes to war against the Nazis.

That said, I’ll be sure to go see it when this hits cinemas in November 2014!

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June 25, 2014 · 12:13 pm

From the People Who Brought You ‘Restrepo’…

This month sees the release of the follow up to the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo, a film about the war in Afghanistan. Made by the same team that produced Restrepo (though the British photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed whilst covering to conflict in Libya in 2011), Korengal features footage cut from the original, whilst also conducting follow up interviews with some of those soldiers featured as they look back on the conflict. The impact of the war on these men is clear, both the negative and the positive, in particular the loss of comradeship and the impossibility of living such an adrenaline-fuelled life ever again; at one point, one soldier says: “I’d go back there if I could.”

The veteran journalist Sebastian Junger, whose book War was a triumph in story-telling, has once again translated combat experience to film, helping the civilian world understand what it is those men in uniform do, how they endure, and how it continues to shape them even if they’re thousands of miles away from a particular place. Physical distance doesn’t always equate to mental perspective

Restrepo was genuinely one of the greatest films on men in war that I’ve seen. If you haven’t seen it already, watch it, and then go watch Korengal. I can’t wait to see it.

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War Movies and the Suspension of Disbelief


Great blog from Jonathan Boff at the University of Birmingham

Originally posted on Jonathan Boff:

(If you want to cut straight to my 3 favourite war films of all time, scroll straight to the bottom).

Where Eagles Dare versus War Horse: why does historical inaccuracy in movies/TV sometimes not faze me at all, and sometimes drives me crazy? How is that I can sit, equably sipping my tea, while Clint Eastwood mows down unfeasibly large numbers of Germans using a Schmeisser with a seemingly bottomless (well, almost) magazine and a barrel which never melts? Yet the mere thought of a horse running up a trench fills me with dread or rage?
I’m an academic historian of the two world wars, which means I get paid (not very much, mind) for raising pedantry to levels of hair-splitting unseen since the heyday of medieval monasteries. For example, I must be one of the last essay markers in the world to pull students up for using a split…

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The Pity of War: A Review

Friday night saw the broadcast of Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War, an interesting Question Time-style debate in which the historical nature of the war was discussed, often vigorously, both in the studio but also online via Twitter. This was an opportunity to present a counter to Sir Max Hasting’s arguments earlier in the week that the Great War was a necessary conflict that Britain was compelled to fight. 

Following on from last month’s battle over interpretations of the war, this debate saw Ferguson put his 15 year-old thesis on the war to a panel of experts, as well as attempting to orchestrate and manage a studio audience. There were some big names included, such as Gary Sheffield, Sir Hew Strachan, David Reynolds, David Stevenson and Heather Jones - though the panel could certainly have been more diverse.

For the programme itself, there was a curious set-up. Ferguson seemed to stand alone, putting his arguments to an audience and the substantial panel, many of whom had already refuted these in their own scholarship. Whilst the point of the programme was to bring these debates to a wider audience, at times it meant that the discussion seemed to lack spontaneity and appeared a little rehearsed – an unavoidable consequence when re-treading old and familiar ground.

Ferguson is undoubtedly a skilled orator to go with his fine scholarship that has allowed him to achieve his level of recognition, both in and outside of academia. However, at many times during the programme it appeared that he was standing alone, unable to elicit much support either from a panel that has previously rebuffed him in print and an audience (whose role was never fully clear) who were well-read and held opinions that did not match his own. By the end of the programme, he certainly seemed to have lost the bought on points – not surprising given the odds he faced!

In terms of a concept of television, however, The Pity of War was certainly an exciting step forward. Historical debate on primetime television is a cause for celebration, let alone the enthusiastic discussions taking place on Twitter alongside it. I would have preferred to see a proper debate though, rather than Ferguson holding chair. To my mind it could easily have been a historical Question Time, even with Dimbleby chairing, allowing big debates about the war to be discussed in greater detail than was otherwise possible.

I would still hope the format is replicated throughout the Centenary period. It would be great, for example, to see a debate about the Battle of the Somme in 2016, with issues such as leadership, tactics and success or failure (in particular thinking of William Philpott) being discussed. Rather than having one historian make his case, it would be ideal to have questions coming directly from the audience, making it a form of televised seminar.

The Centenary programming has already delivered some thought-provoking material and high-quality output, and we haven’t even reached July yet!  The bar has been set high so far, so let us hope that later efforts continue to live up to the standards set! 

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Introducing ‘Shell Shocked Britain': how war trauma casts a shadow across a century


Really interesting blog on mental health and long-term psychological trauma following war.

Originally posted on No more wriggling out of writing ......:

Shell Shocked jacket high res jpeg I know that some readers of my blog (and thanks for that!) already know that throughout 2013 I was writing a book called Shell Shocked Britain commissioned by Pen & Sword History . We are now in the final edit stage, with proof-reading to come before it is finally published in October of this year, marking both the Centenary of the start of the First World War but also the month in which World Mental Health Day falls.

The publisher has given a sub-title to the book –  ‘The First World War’s Legacy for Britain’s Mental Health‘. I cannot argue, as it is exactly what the book is about.

I was thrilled when I was commissioned to write Shell Shocked; not simply because I got my first ever advance and felt truly ‘professional’ as a writer, but because I would have the opportunity to take the Great…

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