Thursday, September 15, 2016

Today -100: September 15, 1916: Tanks! We got tanks!

It’s a big day on the Somme. The British use tanks for the first time.

Slow (maybe 3 miles per hour) and prone to breaking down and getting stuck, they were still pretty terrifying. Of the 49 tanks, 17 never started, and only 9 made it to the German lines. Still a few kinks to be worked out.

Also on the Somme, the prime minister’s son, Lt. Raymond Asquith, is killed. 37, he was a scholar, lawyer, and former president of the Oxford Union. His father tried to keep him off the front lines by getting him a cozy staff position but he got himself transferred back, with fatal consequences.

And Harold Macmillan, the future prime minister (1957-63), is badly wounded and stranded in a shell-hole in No Man’s Land. While awaiting rescue he read Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound and took morphine, as was the custom. He’ll spend the rest of the war in hospital.

Greek Prime Minister Alexandros Zaimis resigns, evidently pissed off that just as negotiations were beginning with the Entente over Greece possibly entering the war, the Allied fleet showed up to say “Please hello.” King Constantine asks Demetracopulos to form a new cabinet, but he refuses, evidently vetoed by France and Britain.

Cops raid an IWW meeting in Scranton, Pennsylvania and arrest everyone in the hall, 318 persons. There’s a strike at one company’s coal mines.

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