Two separate biographies

As I have explained on several occasions, apart from his machine gun course on Hayling Island we know nothing specific about George’s training as a lieutenant with the 9th Battalion Ox and Bucks at Fort Brockhurst from the middle of January 1915. I have tried various lines of inquiry without finding anything that could be described as a ‘course’.

This is an example of how the difference between my full-scale biography and the blog keeps kicking in. For chapter 14 of the biography I did not have space to elaborate on George’s training and that level of detail didn’t fit the scale of the last chapter of his life (which one reader has already said is too long). But the day-by-day biography, aka Calderonia, calls for more detail and above all it makes me speculate in more depth.

It niggles me that we don’t know if George had any realistic training in trench warfare as it was by now practised on the Western Front. The way he refers later to military exercises he was involved in suggests that Kitchener’s Army were still rehearsing ‘open file’ warfare, such as George had experienced himself at Ypres. Attack from established, continuous trench lines (‘going over the top’) was totally different, often suicidal, and the British Expeditionary Force had only recently carried out its first offensive of this kind, at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle (see my post of 12 March).

The reason I would like to know if George realised how hopeless trench warfare proper was, is that all writers agree the Third Battle of Krithia was the first battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula to be fought under those conditions. Within days of arriving at Helles, George must have seen what was coming. Was he shocked, or was he prepared for trench warfare of this kind? If he wasn’t trained for it, did he feel he had been deceived and had walked into a trap set by the British generals? Was he angry? Was he afraid?

I increasingly feel I am not suffering from bifurcation and chronotopia (see 30 March), I am simply writing two biographies — one on paper spanning 1867 to 1950, and one on the Web spanning a single year of George Calderon’s life, 1914-15.

Next entry: The Arakan ‘mystery’

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About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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