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The Illustrated London News Centenary Year 1942
The Great World War: One Hundred Years of Warfare by Cyril Falls
IN the period of one hundred years which represents the life of The Illustrated London News it has constantly been chronicling and illustrating wars and martial expeditions. In its earliest days there were no photographs to reproduce, and, indeed, the excellent “stills” taken by Roger Fenton during the course of the Crimean War, twenty- two years later, had to be translated through the medium of wood-engravings; the halftone block came another generation later. But the paper as it is today, maintains one close link with old days, in that it still employs drawings to illustrate scenes or contrivances to which a photograph will not do technical justice. In it the tradition of the war-artist still lives, and as such Captain de Grineau went out to France with the B.E.F. in the early stages of the present war. In this century there have been many wars: just how many it is probable that only the most painstaking students realise. There is a disposition to believe that the decades following the fall of Napoleon were an age of peace. This feeling was shared by contemporaries, and when the Great Exhibition opened, it was looked upon as a possible steppingstone to universal peace, so good was progress towards that ideal held to have been in the recent past. Yet, since 1842, when The Illustrated London News first began to chronicle warfare, there had, in fact, been constant wars, especially in Asia, often more than one at a time. They may not have been on a vast scale, but they absorbed something like a third of the small British Army, together with many thousands of the Sepoys in the service of the East India Company. And in one war at least, the First Sikh War, a British Army stood on the very verge of destruction at the hands of by far the most formidable foes we have ever fought in the East until to-day.
In the year of the foundation of this paper, two wars in Asia were coming to an end, the First Chinese War and the First Afghan War. In the latter, we had suffered at Kabul one of the most horrible disasters of our Indian history, and the grandiloquently named “ Avenging Army” had made its way to the Afghan capital to set free the prisoners still remaining alive, to put as good a face as possible on an ugly situation and then to return. Next year, 1843, saw a minor Mahratta war, and the victory of Sir Charles Napier at Miani, which gave us Scinde. Then followed the fierce struggle mentioned above, when we came to grips with the power of the Sikhs, their splendid warriors, and their astonishingly powerful artillery train. At Ferozeshah we came very near to defeat—averted only by refusal to recognise it—which might have had a fatal effect all over India. Nor did one campaign finally defeat the Sikhs. Another war broke out in 1848, and it took the hard- fought battle of Gujrat finally to decide the issue. Meanwhile we had not been idle elsewhere. In 1845 we reluctantly fought the Maoris, with whose aspirations most of the officers sent against them could not avoid sympathising. in 1848 we had our first clash with the dogged, hard- fighting Beer settlers, and that great Peninsular veteran, Sir Harry Smith, one of the best colonial soldiers we ever produced, defeated them at Boomplaats. In 1850 came the Cape War, with Sir Harry Smith again prominent, and in 1852 the Second Burmese War, as a result of which many people in this country heard for the first time of a town called Prome, which was in come prominently into the news again ninety years later.
Ten years: ten wars. It will he seen that the era of universal peace had not arrived yet. And if it be argued that these were distant wars on a comparatively small scale at their largest, and that they did not closely affect people at home, a change in that respect was coming. In 1854 we found ourselves again on the Continent, and again fighting with allies beside us, though now, for a change, they were the French—and the Turks. The Crimean War brought the subject very much to public notice. It filled Hansard and the columns of the Press; it was debated in the streets; it brought about badly needed reforms. And, though it showed that the fighting power of our troops was tremendous, it lowered the great reputation we had gained in the Napoleonic Wars, because it suggested that we were hopelessly week in the realm of organisation. It was not long over before, in 1857, we became involved in what was also to be accounted a great war, and one full of horrors, the Indian Mutiny. That, too, had far-reaching effects, which included the dissolution of the Bengal Army and the end of the Company’s rule.
Then we went back for a spell in small wars. The year 1860 witnessed the Second Chinese War, in which we again had French allies, and the Second Maori War. In 1863 took place the first Indian Frontier expedition, of a type which afterwards became well known, that of Ambeyla. In 1867 we carried out that expedition into Abyssinia generally known as the Magdala Campaign. This was notable for the fine leadership of Sir Robert Napier, which made of it a model of what such expeditions should be. (I fancy it is the first of our campaigns to be recorded in a detailed official history.) It also deserves remembrance because our troops which took part in it were for the first time armed with a breech-loading rifle, the Schneider. In 1873 the Second Ashanti War made a household word of the name of Garnet Wolseley, who had previously commanded the almost bloodless Red River Campaign in Canada three years earlier. In 1878, his rival Roberts, who “doesn’t advertise”—as many people accused Wolseley of doing—became almost equally prominent as the result of the Second Afghan War. Admirably conducted as it was when the operations were under his eye, it included another tragedy, at Maiwand—a name ever sacred to the Royal Berkshire—and it cannot be said that we have been altogether lucky in Afghanistan. In that same year, we had to contemplate another disaster which shocked public opinion, Isandlhwana, in the Zulu War.
Though that was put right by Lord Chelmsford at a moment when his supersession
by Wolseley had been ordered, matters were not going any too welt for us about
this time. In 1881 we again clashed with the Boers, and underestimated them,
with the fatal result of Majuba Hill, at which battle was present a young officer
still alive and well, now General Sir Ian Hamilton. And 1881 saw also the rise
of the Mahdi, which was to result in the tragedy of “Chinese Gordon”
at Khartoum. Affairs went more smoothly in Egypt, with the Bombardment of Alexandria
and Wolseley’s victory of Tel-el-Kebir in 1882; but it was not till 1898
that Kitchener ended the Dervish power at Omdurman. In 1885 we were campaigning
in Burma for the third time— but not for the last. Then there was a short
pause, but in 1891 came Chitral, which made known the name of an adventuruus
young officer called Townshend, There was also another Ashanti campaign. This
time there was no “fashionable jockey up” such as Wolseley, who
had demanded British troops for his expedition eighteen years earlier,
and command the Indian Corps in France, had a more troublesome task. And then in 1897 we had one of the most unpleasant surprises, in the large-scale Tirah operations, when we found the tribesmen armed for the first time with breech-loaders, so that all our elaborate mountain tactics had to be revised in accordance with the increased ranges at which our troops came under fire. However, no mistakes were made on that occasion.
We now come to a war which was witnessed by a few senior officers still serving, such as Generals Wavell and Wilson, the Second, or “Great” Boer War. It gave the journalists and the illustrators a great deal of work, and it was followed by the new reading public with an interest which had not been accorded to much greater conflicts of the past. While it was still in progress, we sent a detachment to China, which formed part of an international force destined to suppress the Boxer Rebellion. And in the same year, 1900, we began a very small war which may be said to have lasted, off and on, for twenty years, against that wily and resourceful foe, the misnamed “Mad Mullah” of Somaliland, who died after all in his bed, probably of influenza. Meanwhile, the clouds were banking up for a storm such as the world had not known for a hundred years, for a struggle which was to see, for the first time in our history, vast British and Imperial armies fighting on the continent of Europe. On the whole, the First World War was not particularly favourable for the war correspondent and the war artist. Their palmiest days were over, because it had now been discovered that uncensored articles and drawings could be of great service to the enemy’s intelligence service. Henceforth they were to be rigidly controlled. But the length of the combat and the diversity of the theatres gave them certain opportunities, of which they made good use. After the war there was a reaction, and the public took so little interest in the combats which formed the aftermath that there was not much encouragement to deal with them. Yet in the year immediately following the end of the great struggle, 1919, we were engaged in three campaigns of some importance, North Russia, Afghanistan, and Waziristan, to say nothing of the civil trouble beginning again in Ireland. Next year there was the revolt in Iraq. In 1930 there was the Burma rebellion. Nor is this record of a hundred years nearly complete. Many minor incidents have been omitted.
In any case, the wars and campaigns which have been mentioned are only those in which we ourselves took part. There are a great number more in which we were not involved, but some of which, especially the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, were closely followed in this country. My grandmother was economising—or so she thought—in Belgium in 1870, and my father used to tell me how, as a small boy, he had been carried for miles on the shoulders of a Belgian sergeant on the march to protect the frontier and Belgian neutrality. This naturally aroused my own childish interest in that war, and I can well remember digging out bound volumes of The Illustrated London News to study the drawings. It is impossible to enumerate half of the other foreign wars; in fact, it would require a good deal of research to record all those which have taken place in South America. But a few of the most important may be enumerated. Palmerston, in his administration which began in 1859, was very largely preoccupied with keeping Britain free of no fewer than five conflicts: the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, the American Civil War of 1861-65, already mentioned; the Polish insurrection of 1863, the Mexican revolt, and the disgraceful attack of Prussia and Austria on Denmark in 1864. In 1866 Prussia overthrew Austria. Four years later, the great German machine under Multke was turned against France with like result. In 1877 began the Russo-Turkish War, which led to the famous Congress of Berlin. In 1905, Japan first tried herself against a European Power, and came successfully out of the contest with Russia. In 1912 and 1913 were fought the two Balkan Wars which were among the most important pointers in the greater struggle about to come. On a secondary plane are the Serbo-Turkish War of 1876, the Serbo-Bulgar War of 1885, the Sino-Japanese War of 1895, the Graeco-Turkish War of 1897, the Spanish-American War of 1898, and a number of important French and Italian colonial campaigns.
These conflicts have been reflected in the pages of The Illustrated London News. And though in the last century there has been a considerable revulsion against war itself in the popular mind, it may be said that this paper has owed a great deal of its popularity to the depiction of ‘war.
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The Illustrated London News - Centenary Year 1942
On Saturday May 14th 1842 the very First edition of The Illustrated News was published
On May 16th 1942 the Centennary edition was published. Because of Wartime restrictions this edition was a low key, lightweight publication but with a promise of something more lavish to come when wartime restrictions were over.
Although lightweight in comparison to its 90th anniversary issue in 1932, nevertheless it contained snippets from the very first edition and historical comment by Arthur Bryant.
CENTENARY Celebrations of the centenary of the Illustrated London News in 1942 were curtailed by the fact that Britain was once more at war and there were paper restrictions in force: the price went up from 1/-- to 1/6d between 1939 and 1942 (vols. 194-207).
The offices of the ILN were also damaged in the bombing of London. The paper’s war artist, Bryan De Grineau, was honoured by the appointment of official War Artist and there was once again a comprehensive coverage of events.
Cyril Falls, the historian, provided a valued blow-by-blow analysis of events as they occurred. Advertisements in the ILN evinced a suitably martial tone, with slogans like ‘How to win your war of nerves’ (Sanatagon) and ‘Viyella For Service’ (Viyella shirts).
To Our Readers
This issue marks the hundreth anniversary of the Illustrated London News. It had been our intention to celebrate this important occasion with one at least of the elaborate and exhaustive Special Numbers for which the Illustrated News has become famous. All the plans were laid before the war, and we have no hesitation in saying the the special number would have been one of the most important ever produced. But, unfortunately, paper restrictions have stepped in, and are good intentions have perforce come to naught.
So, till the war is over, this special number must remain in abeyance. When conditions become normal once again, we shall, we trust, make up for the delay by the publication of a record worthy of the centenary of the first illustrated newspaper.
Number 2893 - Volume 111