The making of the weapons of warfare is not always an easy task, and sometimes there is a lot of trial and error. When the different countries decided to begin making tanks, there were as many different styles as countries involved. That might sound like a good thing, but making an effective battle tank is no small undertaking, even in the best of times. Building one under the pressure of war is next to impossible. In fact, given the complexity of the machines, high costs, and stress of combat, I don’t know how they managed to make them work at all. Of course, not all tank designs were failures. There were a number of successful tanks, of course. If there hadn’t been we wouldn’t have tanks today. They would have just given up. Nevertheless, there were also a lot of failures.
Tanks like the Bob Semple Tank, so named for the New Zealand politician tasked with designing it. Sadly, this dud was built with what limited materials or expertise, Semple and his team could get their hands on. The tank was designed after a picture on an American postcard. Basically, it was a tractor wrapped in steel with six machine guns poking out at different angles. Ok, it might have looked like a tank, but that was about it. To change gear, it had to come to a complete stop…not a good way to ward off the enemy. One of the gunners of the eight-man crew had to lie on a mattress to squeeze into the cramped compartments, so he was pretty much done for it if the tank caught fire.
In true Hitler style, the Panzer VII Maus was the largest tank ever built. The size of the tank was its biggest downfall. The tank used too much fuel to be a logical option for a country running low on funds. In addition, the tank was so huge that it couldn’t maneuver through tree covered areas, and it was so slow that it couldn’t catch other tanks. It was also a sitting duck for aircraft looking to bomb it, because it just went so slowly.
The T-35, built in the Soviet Union, was the pride of the Red Army…until it was actually used in combat. This tank was outdated before it was built. A five-turret behemoth, it was a battleship on some seriously slow-moving treads. About the only thing it was good for was looking good in a parade. On the field…well, that was another matter. The T-35 required a 10-man crew to operate and many more to maintain. More than half of the 48 tanks used in the first attack in 1941, broke down before reaching the front.
Of course, there were other duds too. Probably too many to mention here. The tank was a good idea, and the good ones were like a rolling force field. The problem was that the ones that were poorly designed, rather outnumbered the ones that were good. I suppose that is why there are relatively few tank designs.
When we think about war machines, we think of planes, tanks, ships, and even horses, but we very seldom…if ever, think of bicycles. Nevertheless, bicycles were used in a number of wars, and even continue to be used to this day. The late 19th century brought several experiments into the possible role of bicycles and cycling within military establishments, primarily because they can carry more equipment and travel longer distances than walking soldiers could. The development of pneumatic tires coupled with shorter, sturdier frames in the late 19th century led military establishments to investigate the possibility of bicycles in combat. To some extent, bicyclists took over the functions of dragoons, especially as messengers and scouts, substituting for horses in warfare. Bicycle units or detachments were in existence by the end of the 19th century in most armies.
By World War I, the level terrain in Belgian was well used by military cyclists, prior to the onset of trench warfare. Each of the four Belgian carabinier battalions included a company of cyclists, equipped with a brand of folding, portable bicycle named the Belgica. A regimental cyclist school gave training in map reading, reconnaissance, reporting, and the carrying of verbal messages. Attention was paid to the maintenance and repair of the machine itself. The bicycle could be used to ride when it was feasible, and carried when the pat was not suitable to riding. The bicycle made no noise, so unless the trail was littered with twigs, the bicycle make very little noise. Sneaking up on the enemy was possible.
In the United States, the most extensive experimentation on bicycle units was carried out by 1st Lieutenant Moss, of the 25th United States Infantry (Colored), which was made up of African American infantry soldiers with European American officers. Using a variety of cycle models, Moss and his troops carried out extensive bicycle journeys covering between 800 and 1,900 miles. Late in the 19th century, the United States Army tested the bicycle’s suitability for cross-country troop transport. Buffalo Soldiers stationed in Montana rode bicycles across roadless landscapes for hundreds of miles at high speed. The “wheelmen” traveled the 1,900 Miles to Saint Louis, Missouri in 34 days with an average speed of over 6 miles per hour. The bicycles were even used in the paratrooper deployment. These bicycles not only folded up, but they were equipped with an on board rifle. I don’t know how hard it was to handle a gun while riding a bike, but I’m sure it was a relief to have your gun right there.
The first known use of the bicycle in combat occurred during the Jameson Raid, in which cyclists carried messages. In the Second Boer War, military cyclists were used primarily as scouts and messengers. One unit patrolled railroad lines on specially constructed tandem bicycles that were fixed to the rails. Several raids were conducted by cycle-mounted infantry on both sides; the most famous unit was the Theron se Verkenningskorps (Theron Reconnaissance Corps) or TVK, a Boer unit led by the scout Daniel Theron, whom British commander Lord Roberts described as “the hardest thorn in the flesh of the British advance.” Roberts placed a reward of £1,000 on Theron’s head…dead or alive…and dispatched 4,000 soldiers to find and eliminate the TVK. While scouting alone on a road near Gatsrand, about 3.7 miles north of present-day Fochville, he encountered seven members of Marshall’s Horse and was killed in action.
Years ago, most women didn’t work. In fact, the women who taught school were considered to be of reduced circumstances. The same was thought of women who had to turn their homes into a boarding house. Of course, we all know that times have greatly changed now. Most women work, and many in jobs that require high levels of education, as well as women in oil field jobs and other jobs that used to be considered for men only, and even in combat. Nevertheless, in the 1800s and even in the early 1900s, women working was not so common.
That said, there were a few forward thinking people who saw the future in a way that others didn’t. My great grandparents, Carl and Henriette Schumacher were two of those forward thinking people. They wanted to make sure that their children got a good education, including the girls. Because their parents felt that way, all of their girls got the kind of education they had, and if they needed to, the girls could take care of themselves as well as their brothers could.
My Great Aunt Mina, felt like she and her younger sisters needed to be able to do all of the clerical work that any office could need to have done. For that reason, they were able to get jobs that in many ways were better than some men could get…not that they were paid better than the men in most cases, but these girls were not simply left in the secretarial pool with other women who couldn’t run equipment that was more complicateed than a typewriter. The Schumacher girls were better at using much of the machines than their male counterparts, and were often called to train the men. I guess when you think about it, the training that my great aunts got was so far ahead of their time that people probably thought their parents were crazy.
I can’t say that my great aunts were never homemakers, just that if they needed to, they could easily support themselves. Their training did help them out in the years that they were taking care of their parents. They needed to have a job to have enough money to take care of them in the way they needed. While Mina was married, Bertha and Elsa didn’t get married until after her parents passed away. Even then, they had to take care of themselves for a while before they met and married their husbands. Then, their husbands didn’t live for very many years, so the girls had to take care of themselves again. I guess this proves that even back then, women needed to have an education that would allow them to take care of themselves if they ever have to.
These days there are machines that can cut, bail, and stack hay with ease, but in times past, it was not so easy. There were machines that cut the hay, but then it had to be thrown up on a wagon with a pitchfork and hauled to where the haystack was going to be placed, unloaded and thrown up onto the haystack by hand using the pitchfork again. Then someone had to be up on the top leveling it out so that the ha could be stacked higher. It was no easy job, and the more people you had helping the better off you were. It was definitely not a job for one person, and definitely not for wimps. The farmer and his crew had arms of steel, because hay is not light, no matter how it looks. I have helped move hay bails, and found out for myself that it is not a job for lightweights.
My dad’s family spent a lot of time making hay when they owned the farm in Minnesota, and my Uncle Bill helped his wife’s family too over the years that they owned a farm. Load after load, they worked the weekend away. Moving the hay from the hayfield to the stack behind the old barn, where it would stay stacked until it was needed. It was hard work, but Uncle Bill was on his days off, and so they wanted to get as much done in the time they had before he had to go back to work in the shipyards. I haven’t had the impression that it was a job that any of them enjoyed very much, but rather it was a job that had to be done, so they did it. I think I can agree with Uncle Bill when he said that he was glad when hay making time was finally over. Now that we don’t raise cows, I can honestly say that moving hay around in any form, is something I don’t miss. I think it must have taken a very determined person to work a farm the way it had to be done back in the days when there weren’t all the machines there are these days. The work is hard enough these days, even with all the machines, so imagine what it would be like without them. No wonder those people were so strong.
And after the hay was stacked, you had to use a pitch fork again to move it to where you needed it for the animals. So, now the whole process is reversed, as they haul the hay off of the stack, thereby bringing about the need to make more hay the next summer. Of course it is all necessary, and that is why farmers and ranchers do it. The hay is needed for the animals. This whole process causes me to really respect the farmer and rancher…especially the ones from days gone by because theirs was one really hard job.