This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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The Clarion Call

04 November 2016

It was supposed to be a modern war.
During the first decade of the 20th century
the nations of Europe fiercely competed with each other
over the size of their artillery pieces;
over the strength of their concrete fortifications;
over the number of dreadnoughts in their naval fleets;
and over the magnitude of their nation's military spending. 

But by 1914 armies still operated
on horse power and boot leather,
just as armies had done since ancient times.

And the call to arms
was blown on military trumpets.

Two dozen mounted trumpeters of
L'Armée Française – Cavalerie Légére – Trompettes de Chasseurs. – L.L.
The French Army - Light Cavalry - Trumpets of the Hunters.
sound the clarion call.
Their gleaming trumpets, blue coats and caps, red trousers,
hark back to an age when valor, gallantry, and chivalry
were proud qualities for any good soldier.

The late summer of 1914 destroyed that sentiment,
and this simple postcard carries
a tremendous weight of historic irony
in the message on its back.

It was posted on 30-10-14, October 30, 1914
from Hagenau, (ELS) (Alsace)
to Nürnberg, Germany.

Hagenau was then a city in the disputed region
of the Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen
or the Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine
acquired by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.
In 1918 it was restored to France
and reverted to its French spelling of Haguenau

The irony of this postcard of French cavalry trumpeters
is that it was posted by a German soldier.

The penciled script is too challenging
for me to make a complete translation,
but the soldier writes to his loving parents
on 29.10.14, just three months after the war started on July 28.
from the Lazarett – the military hospital in Hagenau.

Did he recover?
Did he survive the horrors to come in the next 4 years?
We may never learn what happened to him.
All we can know, is that someone preserved his postcard
through a century of strife and conflicts,
so that we can reflect on just how much
the world changed during that late summer of 1914.   

Thanks to Susanna Rosalie,
who has several times generously provided
translations of my German postcards,
here is the soldier's message in English:
Addressed to:
J. St. Kreisel
Egydienplatz 22
29. October 14
Dear parents, you are
going to be surprised
to receive my little card.
I am sending you
the joyful piece of news
that up till now I
feel quite well. I lie
in the military hospital.
Say hello to everyone.
Special loving greetings to you,
Your Ar. son

What did a troop of French cavalry trumpeters sound like?
In a word –  thrilling!
YouTube provides the moving pictures
with this cavalry fanfare from Saumur, France.



France retains much of the grand pageantry
of its military traditions.
Here is a demonstration of the mounted trumpeters
of the Garde républicaine of France.
The unit plays in their indoor drill arena
and this video gives us a close look
at how the musicians control their horses.
 If you watch to the end you will see
that not all horses appreciate music.



But for pure spectacle
nothing compares to
a parade of a troop of cavalry
led by a band of trumpets and kettle drums.
This next video was taken on 14 July 2014 - Bastile Day,
the national holiday of France.



Try playing all three videos simultaneously
and we recreate something like
the heart stirring noise of battle. 

But by November 1914
the sound of war changed dramatically.
The heroic fanfares of trumpets and drums
were drowned out by the terrifying cacophony
of machine guns, bombs, and shells.
The splendid uniforms and magnificent horses
became relics of a archaic age.

This is my contribution
to the November edition of Sepia Saturday
where everyone answers the call to war & peace.


Susanna Rosalie said...

The translation:

29. October 14
Dear parents, you are going to be surprised to receive my little card. I am sending you the joyful piece of news that up till now I feel quite well. I lie in the military hospital.
Say hello to everyone.
Special loving greetings to you,
Your Ar. son

Adressed to:
J. St. Kreisel
Egydienplatz 22

Mike Brubaker said...

Thank you once again, Susanna. I guessed that it was a simple note but the word Lazarett was a familiar military term that gave the card a special significance, especially coming from so early in the war. It is heartbreaking to think that the soldier's parents saved this postcard for many years because their son never returned home.

Barbara Rogers said...

Trumpets strike to my heart, and my emotions have been thrilled by many a march!

ScotSue said...

As ever a wonderful piece of military history. There is something so stirring about military bands, and even more impressive when they are on horseback. I always enjoy watching on TV in Britain the ceremony of Trooping the Colour where the bands play a key part.

Little Nell said...

Isn’t it wonderful to have a translation? An interesting post and I must admit I too find military bands stirring. As the wife of a serving RAF officer, and later as Headteacher of a school catering for mostly army families, I attended many ceremonies and functions where I could enjoy them at first hand. Do you get to see the any of the televised ceremonies from London for Remembrance Day? The spectacular and moving Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall is something else!

Jo Featherston said...

Can you tell me if bandsmen were employed as such full time or did they have to put down their instruments and take up arms please? Apologies if this is a silly question.

Mike Brubaker said...

Jo - Not silly at all. Military trumpeters and drummers were regular enlisted men with a special position of field musicians in their larger battalion, usually serving withing the headquarters company. The larger band, i.e. with cornets, trombones, tuba, clarinets, etc. was also a group of enlisted men under a non-commissioned officer and similarly attached to the headquarters company. The field musicians might get closer to the front lines but were not combat troops. They were more signal corps, though in some armies the bandsmen also acted as stretcher bearers. But they were not like medics on the battlefield. All musicians had basic weapons training but generally did not carry guns, as I've never seen any photos of bands that were armed. Occasionally in very old photos, the army bandsmen might wear a short sword, but it was only for dress parades.


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