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jUv? Allied Army Leaders
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Sunday, 24th May 2009
War Pigs

I n the period just before

1917, when Wills produced this set, not only had many people shouted 'Havoc' but plenty had been created and a goodly proportion by the 50 characters depicted in this set. Issued in Feb. it was the first set of the year.

The last set of the year, issued in November, Gems of French Architecture was to signal the ceasing of the card production because of the war until 1922 when in September the first of the Do You Know series was introduced.

devil in the detail

Wills, Allied Army Leaders [1917] 50 cards    

Now I might as well tell you, although no doubt it is going to cause trouble later down the line but there were in fact two printings of this set. The difference is a comma at the base of the card, where the ITC clause lurks.

Printing A: With comma, '...& Ireland), Ltd.'

Printing B: Without comma, '...& Ireland) Ltd.'

See the difference.

...war raged and as the body counts mounted.

The set was being compiled as the war raged and as the body counts mounted so did the awards for some of these leaders so there can be found certain alterations in rank and amendments to the descriptions found on the reverse.

If this is not enough there can also be found differences in the divider used in the dates on the reverse of the cards. For example date formats can be found as 1-1-17 and 1.1.17. I have mentioned this for the sake of completeness as either printing can be collected with both date formats.

This is of interest because on the reverse of the card each has a little banner saying, 'Passed for publication by the press bureau dd-mm-yy.' Which makes the set even more interesting. For the record the censor dates are 30/11/16, 25/12/16 & 7/3/17.

Rather like Murrays I do not recognise the difference between the two sets when it comes to compiling them, the difference just is not significant enough but it is worth remembering the difference does exist.

If anyone is looking to make a set up of one type try getting in touch with the London Cigarette Card Company, they used to differentiate between the two types. They also put a premium on the cards without the comma.

Okay leaving behind the detail for a second lets get dug into the meat of the situation. This really is a wonderfully appointed set. Rich colours, good information, great artwork, interesting subject matter.

old war horses

Wills, Allied Army Leaders.
LEADERS [1917]

Reading the reverse of the cards brings the conflicts of the later part of the 19th century into focus, or at least as much focus as we were allowed to know at the time. We all know what the first casualty of war is. Warfare for the Western World has become a pretty sanitized affair for the viewer.

Technology does the messy stuff for the televisual warrior. I mean the last conflict was played out in the desert, sterile war in sterile environment. War seems to be an exercise in economics nowadays, or at least that is how it is portrayed.

The reality is evolution, has not really improved the human body for taking impacts and blood and bone pretty much looks the same as it did since blood and bone first became a viable evolutionary avenue.

In the early part of this century the bayonet was an effective weapon of war, it was in-your-face horror fought out in mud which consumed the bodies of the dead and dying month after month. Strangely as the threat of war fades away, for me at least, as the armed forces deem me to old to die for my country nowadays I have become less keen on the idea of war, perhaps age has cooled my blood sufficiently.

I am living in a period of unprecedented peace being the first of the Roberts family for a very long time that have not been involved in warfare, the family has quite a history of globlal conflicts and it is not a family tradition I wish to continue.

Now this article can never do justice to the 50 subjects and so I can only pick the bones out of the series.

...obvious that being dead does not stop you being in the set.

By card two it becomes obvious that being dead does not stop you being in the set. General Wielemans died of pneumonia in Jan 1917, which put his death right in the middle of the compilation process of the set. He was Chief of the Belgian Headquarters Staff. What is quite interesting is the title of the card does not allude to the fact the man is dead. This is in contrast with card 5 which is entitled, Late General Gallieni. He died in May 1916, the card giving no further details of how this happened.

Card 16 also has Late F-M Earl Kitchener, K.G.

There is much detail on the reverse of the cards, although there is a considerable propaganda element involved. The Allies tended to be winning the conflicts mentioned.

for king and country

As can be imagined there are a great many Generals in this series but also there is a considerable quantity of Royal Family members. This brings into relief just how many Royal Families there were at the turn of the Century.

In fact the set kicks off with HM King of the Belgians. You have to wait until card 12 before another Royal makes his appearance, this time our very own King George V.

How it happened:
1914 June 28. Archduke Francis Ferdinand and wife, of Austria-Hungary, assassinated by Serbian agitators at Sarajevo, Bosnia.
31. Germany sends ultimatum to Russia to cease mobilization; France receives note from Germany demanding to know if it will remain neutral in war. July 23. Austria-Hungary sends Serbian government 48-hour ultimatum of directions for punishment of agitators.
24. Austria not satisfied with reply to ultimatum by Serbia.
28. Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
29. Russia begins mobilization; Austria bombards Belgrade, Serbia.


Then there is a significant gap but rather like buses you wait forever and then five turn up at once. Card 31 has HM King of Italy. Weighed down under the name of King Victor Emmanuel III he got to the throne after the assassination of King Humbert in July 1900. When Italy declared war in May 1915 King Victor assumed supreme control of the Italian forces.

Card 43 has the likeness of HM King of Montenegro.. Under the name of King Nicholas I he had previous experience of war against the Turks in 1876-8 but World War One saw his country occupied and him living in exile in France.

Sitting right next to him in the set is HM King of Rumania. Rather leaping straight into the action he got to the throne Oct 10th 1914 after the death of King Carol (Why does that not sound as funny as Queen Harold?). It took till August 1916 for Rumania to declare war against Austria. The card notes that this move caused 'the greatest satisfaction in the Allied countries.'

Card 38 has HIH Grand Duke Nicholas is the Tsar's second cousin. A most capable of strategists the card suggests he had a real flair for the job.

Card 39 has HIM Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. This card explains the existence of the preceding card in so much that Nicholas II found it impossible to assume the role of supreme head of the Russian Army and this post was given temporarily to the Grand Duke. However this role was taken over by the Tsar on 5th September 1915.


Things were about to get very interesting in Russia.

Now remember the date of issue Feb 1917. Things were about to get very interesting in Russia, 8 March, 1917 revolution breaks out, March 15 1917 the Tsar abdicates and by the end of the year he and his family were slaughtered by Lenin. The card also fails to mention that the first three years of World War One had seen Russia suffer 8 million casualties and 1 million desertions. Mind you that is still a couple of million shy of the numbers Stalin would kill in 1928-38.

Card 48, HM King of Serbia. Now this country has never really been free of conflict and is forever in the news for that reason. In 1908 Austria annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. The most noble of all has to be card 48, HRH Crown Prince Regent of Serbia who being the second son of the King got to be crown prince because his elder brother renounced the throne in 1909.

The card recounts the disastrous retreat of the Serbian army of Nov 1915 when the Prince Regent 'went on foot like the humblest of his men, and shared their hardships.' Still this is a country that glories in losing even more than Britain does.

This links with the last card of the series which shows Field Marshall Putnik, Serbia's foremost military figure. In the retreat of Nov 1915 he was too ill to walk and had to be carried over the mountains in a chair. He is described as the late on the descriptive detail of the card, although not as such on the title.

propoganda war

Leaving behind the Royal Families of Europe it is time to have a look at the lesser mortals.

Card 18, FM. Sir D Haig, GCB. The card notes he reached the position of Com.-in-Chief in Dec 1915 having succeeded General French, who appears on card 15, FM Lord French, GCB. Allow me to give the text of card 15 in full:

Lord French was born in 1852, and was educated for the Navy. It was as Maj-Gen, in command of Sir G. White's cavalry round Ladysmith that French first came into prominence. He was Chief of the Imperial Staff 1911-14 and on the outbreak of war assumed command of the British Forces, and will be specially remembered for his masterly conduct for the retreat from Mons. He led the British Armies until his resignation, Dec 1915, when he was appointed to command the troops in the United Kingdom.  

Reality check:

Maybe as they say in a particular game show, 'the clues are there...' Educated for the Navy, masterly retreat, resignation. The truth was this man is now probably best known for very high casualty rates and 'Oh what a Lovely War' which was a film inspired by his follies. Unable to adapt to the modern era of war he was thankfully forced from any position he could kill the men under him. He is now a figure of much black humour.

Haig was a man, pretty much in the same mould actually. Huge losses were incurred under his leadership and perhaps he is best known as the name in the centre of the poppies which are bought every November to remember the dead of past conflicts.

...bad form to suggest there was anything outdated and hopeless about our leadership.

We do have to remember the time this set was issued and it would definitely have been bad form to suggest there was anything outdated and hopeless about our leadership. Like most conflicts it would be all about who made the least mistakes or, as was the Russian approach, who could pile the bodies the highest before having to give-up.

sheer madness

In fact a good number of the cards remind the smoking public of many a successful evacuation. For example card 19, Gen Sir CC Munro, KCB reminds us of Oct 1915 when he replaced Sir Ian Hamilton in Gallipoli and got the troops out of that one.

Mind you not before 33,532 troops had been killed as they tried to scale almost sheer cliffs, trapped between the Turks and the sea. Indeed 8,587 Australian troops died in this confrontation and today April the 25th is well, and deservedly. remembered as Anzac Day. This definitely was not one of the young Winston Churchill's better ideas.

The French leadership deserves some brick bats.

I cannot allow the Brits just to take the stick in this set. The French leadership deserves some brick bats. In fact so good was their leadership the French army suffered many many mutinies as the army lost all faith in the leadership policies which just kept needlessly marching men to their deaths day after day. Card 11 has General Petain who was due for retirement at the outbreak of war.

french farce

The card remembers him for his 'heroic defence' of Verdun. The fact he had kept his army out of the major conflicts in an effort to bolster flagging morale leaving the British to fight for French soil seems not to get a mention. Particularly not mentioned was how he sat on his hands as almost a quarter of a million men of the British Army were killed in Ypres.

The losses at Verdun were to be the undoing of General Joffre which is unfortunate as this man was actually a commander of no small ability, he gets his likeness on card 6.

The history of the Second World War rather dominates the map of 20th Century conflicts. In a large part this is because of America's, or at least Hollywoods involvement in churning out endless war films in which John Wayne wins the Second World War.

It can therefore come as a surprise to discover some of the allies in the First World War. So there it is card 33, Lt-Gen Baron Kanwo, 'one of our Japanese Ally's most brilliant leaders.'

Being cynical they were one of best 'allies' in the Second World War when the unnecessary bombing of Pearl Harbour brought a reluctant US into the Second World War later down the time corridor.

As I said though this really is a set which deserves to be in everyone's collection, or at least wish list. A true card classic and represents an insight into the war to end all wars as it actually unfolded.