107 episodes

A journey through the Great War

Footsteps of the fallen Matt Dixon

    • History
    • 4.8 • 18 Ratings

A journey through the Great War

    Croisilles - a journey through a cemetery

    Croisilles - a journey through a cemetery

    In today's podcast, we visit Croisilles cemetery near Arras to discover the personal stories of some of the men who lie within.

    Many of the men who lie dead in the cemetery were killed in the actions against the formidable German strongpoint of Tunnel Trench which ran just to the east of the village.  We look at the Sassoon poem "The Rear-guard" which documents his experiences of being underground in the troglodyte kingdom the Germans created.  We hear about two British sappers, found dead on a staircase without a scratch on them, and discover the stories behind the "Soldiers Medal" the DCM.

    We discover a connection between an officer and the infamous "Bodyline" series between England and Australia, meet a fly-fishing expert who lost his life in a costly raid on the German lines, and hear about an officer, who features in one of the Great War's finest personal narratives, who foresaw his own death.  Our episode concludes at the grave of a British officer whose death provided a stark reminder of the destructive power of artillery.

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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Suvla - catastrophe in the salt marsh

    Suvla - catastrophe in the salt marsh

    In today's podcast, we make a welcome return to the battlefields of Gallipoli and look at the fighting at Suvla.  It was a disaster that spelled the end of a disastrous campaign.

    Ian Hamilton, the commander of the British Mediterranean Force had been dealt a bad hand by the British Government.  Short of trained soldiers and supplies, and forced to fight on a battlefield defended with almost fanatical idealism by Turkish soldiers under the inspirational command of Mustafa Kamal, the campaign was flawed from its inception.

    Our podcast looks first of all the wider Gallipoli campaign, examines the plan and logic behind the offensive, and discovers some of the problems that senior command had in fighting in such an inhospitable landscape.  Hamilton wanted new blood for the campaign but was provided with a Corps Commander with little to no battlefield experience, Lt General Frederick Stopford.  Stopford was an indecisive man who allowed the plan to be diluted by the machinations of his staff.

    We look at the landings at Suvla and discover a litany of command failings that cost the British thousands of casualties for no material gain.  We also hear about Fred Potts VC, who remarkable exploits earned him the nickname of the "Shovel VC"

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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Carnoy - a story on the Somme

    Carnoy - a story on the Somme

    Welcome to our first podcast of 2023!

    In today's podcast, we are off to Carnoy on the Somme, a farming hamlet between Mametz and Montauban that was the scene of terrific fighting on the 1st of July 1916. Dominated by the massive Pommiers Redoubt, this area of the front line was one of the few successes for the British that fateful day.

    We meet Captain Wilfred "Billy" Neville who brought footballs back from England for men of the 8th East Surrey's to kick across No Man's Land towards the Germans.  We hear about a wounded officer who was more concerned about a broken bottle of whisky than a serious wound to his arm and then look at the Pyrrhic victory that was the explosion of the Kasino Point mine.  We discover the story of the remarkable CO of the 12th Middlesex who was decorated for gallantry three times and finally encounter the mysterious "Mark VII", author of a superb personal memoir who resigned his commission as an officer to become a conscientious objector and a leading member of the Pacifist movement.

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    • 1 hr 1 min
    "No War today" - a soldier's view of the Christmas Truce

    "No War today" - a soldier's view of the Christmas Truce

    Welcome to our Christmas episode of Footsteps of the Fallen.

    The Christmas Truce has often been portrayed as a mass act of rebellion by soldiers tired of fighting, who wilfully disobeyed the instructions of senior officers not to fraternise with the enemy.  The commander of II Corps issued an order on the 5th of December 1914 forbidding any form of ceasefire or armistice with the enemy.  Yet, within his Divisions, seven battalions reported fraternisation with the enemy on or around Xmas day.  If, as it is portrayed, the Truce was a direct contravention of orders, then it seems highly likely that it wouldn't be mentioned or recorded in the various official records kept by Battalions, Brigades, and Divisions.

    In this episode, we look at how the truce was reported by the men who were involved in it and question whether the impromptu armistice really was a mass act of collective indiscipline as is so often reported.  We look at how the Truce was reported in the various war diaries of the regiments who were involved and discover a tale where fact and popular fiction are sometimes hard to differentiate.

    I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year - Footsteps of the Fallen will be back on Sunday 15th January 2023.

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    • 1 hr 13 min
    The Leipzig Redoubt

    The Leipzig Redoubt

    In this latest podcast, we look at the fighting for a small but heavily defended German strongpoint on the Somme battlefield, which proved to be one of the only successes for the British in this sector on the 1st of July 1916, the Leipzig Redoubt.

    We begin by looking at John Masefield whose seminal work The Old Front Line provided a remarkable view of the Somme battlefields and describes in detail the redoubt.  Masefield had worked as a hospital orderly in a French military hospital where he associated with some of the greatest minds of English literature and art, and his eloquent prose describing the Somme battlefields was all the more remarkable when one considers it was written on the battlefield itself.

    We look at the fighting in and around the salient which was described as resembling an abattoir at the end of the first days of fighting, with the men of the Highland Light Infantry paying a particularly heavy price for its capture. 

    We meet Percy Machell, a force of nature who single-handedly raised the so-called Lonsdale Battalion, which was all but annihilated by German machine guns.  We look at the actions of a sport-loving NCO who was awarded a posthumous VC for his actions in the redoubt and hear about the introduction of a new weapon of war, the push pipe bomb which proved highly effective against German positions.

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    • 59 min
    Trench Talk - Sarah Wearne: epitaphs of the Great War

    Trench Talk - Sarah Wearne: epitaphs of the Great War

    In this latest episode of Trench Talk, it's a real pleasure to be joined by the writer Sarah Wearne, whose 30-year odyssey to study the epitaphs of the Great War culminated in the publication of three collections of epitaphs, The Somme, Passchendaele, and The Last Hundred Days.

    In this wide-ranging chat we talk about Helen's quest to track down some of the more unusual and unique epitaphs of the Great War, how epitaphs were chosen, the different approaches to commemoration by the various nations, what epitaphs can tell us about societies views of memory and commemoration, and of course, hear the personal stories behind some of Sarah's personal favourites. 

    • 53 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
18 Ratings

18 Ratings

brion brigman ,

1915

Great podcast. I love that he does a lot on the battles of 1915 an oft forgotten year in the Great War minus Gallipoli. Thanks for providing the content

greed freedy 🥵 ,

Dissatisfied

Just not good enough

jay michaelson 867 ,

Well done

Very well spoken, easy to understand with great flow. Appreciate the unique detail behind the battles. Keep it up!

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