11 December 2018

Avery Brundage: president of the American Olympic Committee

Avery Brundage (1887-1975) grad­uated civil engineering from the University of Ill­in­ois in 1909. His links to anti-Semitism were first seen in his university days, where he was pres­id­ent of a fraternity chapter who would accept any Aryan male who did not have a Jewish parent.

Brundage was a fine athlete who won the American National dec­athlon three times. He competed in the 1912 Summer Olymp­ics in Stockholm, where he represented the USA in both pentath­l­on and decathlon, but did not win any medals.

He began to involve himself in sports administration, event­ually at the American Olympic Committee level. In 1928, Brundage was elected AOC president.

Many sports administrators disliked women’s involvement at the top level. So the anti-woman movement was not pleased when, in July 1932, American athlete Babe Didrikson did brilliantly to win two Olympic gold medals in javelin and 80m hurdles. Didrikson was charged with “professionalism” because she had appeared in an advertisement for milk. This was enough for Brundage to vigorously advocate suspension, and thus the poor woman was suspended by the Amateur Athletic Union.

Jesse Owens won the gold medal and saluted the American flag.
German Lutz Long won the silver medal and gave the Nazi salute.

Meanwhile, in 1931, Berlin was awarded the right to host the 1936 Olympics, signalling the country’s return to the glob­al stage after years as an international outsider since WWI.

But soon after Hitler took power in 1933, international pro­tests focused on Germany’s official anti-Semitic policies. Countries feared that the German organisers would prohibit Jewish athletes from participating in the Olympic Games.

In 1934 the AOC president Avery Brundage visited Berlin where his frat­er­nisation with the Nazis was infamous. After a brief, tightly managed inspection of German sports facilities in 1934, Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should continue, as planned. In fact as the Olympics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a Jewish-Communist conspiracy to exclude the USA! But the pro-boycott side said that Brundage was already an anti-Semite who, on his trip to Berlin, took no notice of the oppression of Jew­s.

Avery Brundage was arguing that politics had no place in sport; that the Olympic Games belong to the athletes and not to the polit­icians. He wrote in the AOC's pamphlet Fair Play for American Ath­letes that American athletes should not be­come involved in the Jewish issue. As the Olym­pics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a "Jewish-Communist conspiracy" to keep the USA out of the Games. Jewish community groups in the USA, he said, planned a militant campaign to prevent athletic organisations from permitting their athletes to participate.

Why didn’t all the other countries simply disregard Brundage and go ahead with their own boycott? Because other than the home nation, Germany, the USA had the biggest and most influential selection of athletes. Once the USA voted to participate in Dec 1935, 49 other countries fell in line. 

Avery Brundage and the American athletes passed through the gate into the Olympic Village for the 1936 Games. The German military officers welcomed the group.

In what people saw as an anti-woman move, Avery threw swimmer El­eanor Holm off the 1936 American Olympic team in mid-ocean, app­ar­ently for sipping champagne. Brundage said that it was the Olympic Committee threw her off; there were 20 men on the comm­it­tee and they voted unanimously to do it. He was the chairman of the committee, and it was his duty to announce the decision, which he made clear he approved of 100%.

But even worse was to come. The brilliant black athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals for the USA, foiling Hitler’s intended demons­t­ration of Aryan supremacy. Yet Brundage ruthlessly declared the im­poverished Jesse Owens a professional and suspended Owens from the AAU. This act barred Owens from competing in any sanctioned sporting events in the USA forever. 

The two best American relay runners (Stoller & Glickman) in Berlin happened to be Jewish but were excluded from the race at the last moment. Stoller laid the blame with the American Athletics chief Brundage, who he believed bowed to pressure from Hitler to drop the two Jewish runners.

Two years after Brundage played such a key role in preventing an American boycott of the Berlin games, his construction company was awarded the building contract for the German Embassy in the USA, in grateful thanks.

American Tommie Smith won gold and his teammate John Carlos, who won bronze in the 200-meter race, in 1968. Australian silver medalist Peter Norman is at left.
In 1949, International Olympic Committee vice president Brundage returned to his anti-woman commitment. “I think it is quite well known that I am lukewarm on most of the Olympic events for women ... I think women’s events should be confined to those appropriate for women: swimming, tennis, figure skating and fencing.”

In 1952 Brundage became president of the IOC, a hugely powerful organisation. Yet only one year later he was arguing for the elimination of women from all Olympic competition, or from those sports that looked butch. His letter to IOC members that year said: “Many still believe that events for women should be eliminated from the Games, but this group is now a minority. But there is still a well-grounded protest against events which are not truly feminine, like putting a shot, or those too strenuous for most of the opposite sex, such as distance runs.”

From the biography of the Australian athlete Peter Norman (which I’ll review in 2019), Brundage clearly reacted with anger to brilliant black athletes, John Carlos & Tommie Smith. These gold and bronze medal winners both rais­ed their fists at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, in solidarity with other oppressed black athletes in the USA. Brund­age and the IOC ordered the suspension of Carlos and Smith, and threatened publicly to strip them of their medals.

The lack of equality for black athletes remained an issue for the IOC. The committee extracted rock-solid promises of an integrated South African team, before it rein­stated that nation for the 1968 games. However South Africa’s apartheid policy at home remained unchanged, prompting African nations and others to boycott the 1968 games. None­the­less Brundage continued to support South Africa.

In the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Brundage horrified the IOC. Only a short time after the 11 Jewish ath­letes in the Israeli team and 6 others were massacred by Palest­in­ian terr­or­ists, Brundage ordered that the Games must go on. He drew parallels between the Israeli murders and an IOC decision to bar Rhodesia from Munich. Despite Rhodesia’s racist policies, Brundage supported Rhodesia’s inclusion in the Games and took the IOC’s ruling as a personal attack. People were stunned by Brundage’s cruelty.

Brundage retired as IOC president after the 1972 Olympic Games.

08 December 2018

Endell St Military Hospital, London - run by women during WW1

WW1 hospitals were tough, partially because the conditions in which the medical staff had to tend to the terrible injuries were too crowded and poorly equipped.

But necessity was the mother of invention; the wounds inflicted on millions of soldiers drove the search for new medical tech­niqu­es. Technological innovations had a massive impact on survival rates. The Thomas splint, for example, secured a broken leg. In 1914, 80% of all soldiers with a broken femur died. By 1916, 80% of such soldiers survived.

The British Army began the routine use of blood transfusion in treating wounded soldiers, where blood was transferred directly from one person to another. That was until a US Army Dr Captain Robertson realised the need to stockpile blood; he established the first blood bank on the Western Front in 1917, using sodium citrate to prevent coagulation. Blood was kept on ice for up to 28 days and then transported to casualty clearing stat­ions for use in life-saving surgery.

But professional hospitals were needed. In Aug 1914 two women, Dr Flora Murray and Dr Louisa Garrett And­erson, founded the Women's Hospital Corps/WHC whose medical staff was entirely composed of graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women. Because the women anticipated a demeaning reaction from the War Off­ice, Drs Murray and Garrett Anderson applied to the more liberal French Red Cross. The French did allocate the newly built Hotel Claridge in Paris for the women to use as a military hospital! It opened in Sept 1914. 

The Red Cross brought wounded soldiers on stretchers
and the hospital staff took them in via external lifts.

Many wounded soldiers needed surgery as soon as they arrived at the hospital

British teaching hospitals had refused to appoint women to training posts. Yet despite their limited surgical experience, the hospital was successful; French and British authorities' scepticism reduced. Britain’s Royal Army Medical Corps­-RAMC began to treat the hospital as if it were an auxiliary to the British Army, rather than to the French Army.

Then the two doctors were asked to open another hospital at Wimereux, near Boulogne. The Women's Hospital Corps ran both hospitals successfully.

In Jan 1915, a change of policy meant British casualties were evacuated back to the UK, rather than remaining in France. Drs Murray and Garrett Anderson offered the services of the WHC to the British Army. Fortunately the War Office had received favour­able reports of the Corps' achievements. So the two women were per­sonally invited by the Army Medical Servic­es’ director to run a large military hospital in central London, under RAMC auspices. The WHC closed down its two  hospitals in France and returned home.

The Endell St Military Hospital in Covent Gardens opened in May 1915 in the form­er St Giles workhouse, previously used by the Met­rop­olitan Asylums Board to house destitute enemy aliens and Cont­inental refugees. The hospital blocks were 5 storeys high, linked by a glass-covered passageway. Part of the workhouse was C18th, but the children's home behind the main buildings was modern.

To prepare the buildings for use as a hospital, extensive struct­ural alterations were needed. External lifts capable of carrying stretchers, electric lighting, ward kitchens and bathrooms were ins­talled on each floor, and operating theatres, X-ray rooms, laborat­ories, dispensaries, mortuary and storerooms were created. The Hospital had 520 beds.

Established to treat only male patients, it was almost entirely staffed by women - 15 doctors, including visiting specialists. Dr Murray was the Doctor-in-Charge, while Dr Garrett Anderson was the Chief Surgeon. The nursing staff comprised a Matron lent by the New Hospital for Women, Assistant Matron, 28 Sisters and 60 female nursing ord­erlies. The sisters' uniform was of a blue-grey washable material with scarlet shoulder straps and the orderlies wore white.

Other staff included a dispenser, two masseuses, transport officer, stew­ard, quartermaster, clerks, storekeepers, cooks, cleaners and a male orderly on each floor.

The RAMC was convinced that the Hospital would soon close. But be­cause of its proximity to major railway termini, casualties poured in via ambulance trains. 30-80 casualties would be received daily, often late at night. Soon the number of beds had to be increased to 573.

Officially an Army hospital, new military admissions were operated on immediately; surgeons sometimes performed 20+ operat­ions a day! Many patients needed major abdom­in­al surgery, some with head injuries required craniotomy and a great proportion were orthopaedic cases with compound fractures of long bones. As the war progressed, specialist units were estab­lish­ed by the War Office, and patients with head injuries or femoral fract­ures were diverted to the specialist units. However, a large number of amputees were still admitted to the Endell St Hospital.

The 17 wards were wide and bright for up to 40 beds each, with windows on either side. The walls had colour, and the bedcovers could be warm, striped Army blankets. Additional luxuries eg reading lamps provided more comfort. The wards were also decorated with flowers, replaced daily by volunteers, who also brightened the courtyard with displays of flowers in window boxes. The women had created a soft, home-like atmosphere.

While most military hospitals had volunteers who ar­ranged books, games and ent­er­tainments for their patients, many professionals in central London prov­ided free entertainment on this hosp­it­al’s stage. Sports days, the library and needlework classes were popular. In Jan 1917 Queen Alexandra visited.

Dr Flora Murray and Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson in the centre 
plus dog

Ward rounds

The Hospital was a great success. In fact in Aug 1917 another new section was opened, with 60 beds set aside for women. And the timing was perfect. In 1918 new legislation gave the vote to women over 30. The Hospital staff celebrated this event by raising the Women's Social and Political Union flag in the Hospital courtyard.

Orig­in­ally intended as a temporary measure, the section for female patients finally closed in Jan 1919, by which time c2,000 women had been admitted for surgical or medical treatment. In December 1919,  the remaining parts of the hospital closed and later demolished.

Photo credits: BBC

04 December 2018

Australian soldiers in WW1 with their dogs etc

Animals made an important contribution to Australia’s mil­itary history during WW1. Homing pigeons were used as a comm­unication tool: they were silent, difficult to intercept and not greatly affected by gas or noise. They could carry messages over long distances, from the Front Line back to Britain [and in turn, the Germans trained hawks to kill any carrier pigeons they saw].

Early in WWI, cavalry horses were considered essential offensive elements of a military force. But over the course of the war, horses’ vulnerab­il­ity to modern machine gun and artillery fire reduced their ability on the battlefield. Thereafter they were mainly used for logistical support as better suited than mechanised vehicles to travelling though deep mud and over rough terrain. Light draught horses were used to pull light artil­l­ery, wagons and ambulances and to carry supplies and munit­ions. Heavy draught horses of a sturdier type were teamed together to pull the larger artillery pieces. Don­k­eys, camels and mules were used to transport sold­iers, weapons, ammunition and food.

Simpson walking alongside his donkey,
bearing a wounded soldier, 1915.

Austral­ian soldiers also adopted a variety of familiar animals as mas­cots and pets. Far from home, the men shipped in wallabies, kang­ar­oos, rabbits, possums, cockatoos and kookaburras, all dependable comrades.

But from my perspective, dogs were always the most important an­im­al- both personally and medically! British families gave their pet dogs to the army so they could carry messages in special tubes on their collars. And dogs could track the enemy and locate injured soldiers. They were fast, diff­icult to shoot at, and they also caught rats!

The Germans also made extensive use of messenger dogs, who were considered almost as valuable as men and equally vulnerable to poison gases. Respirators for dogs were therefore created from ersatz fabric which could be soaked in a protective solution. Most dogs would have been reluctant to have the mask put over their muz­z­les, so the rabbit fur lining may have served as an encouragement.

As the network of trenches spread throughout the Western Front during WWI, so did the number of dogs. Many different breeds of dog were utilised but the most popular were medium-sized breeds such as Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds because of their superior strength, agility, terr­itorial nature and trainability. Other breeds associated with WWI were Terriers, often employed as ratters, trained to hunt and kill rats in the trenches.

Military dogs fulfilled a variety of roles, depending on their size, intelligence and training. Working dogs were first used by the Royal Australian Engineers in 1918, as messengers in the trenches of France for Aus­tralian sappers. Their soldier-controllers were called Military Working Dog Handlers.

Sentry dogs were trained to bark loudly when they perceived an unknown or suspect presence in a secure area eg a camp or military base. Scout dogs, on the other hand, were highly trained and possessed a quiet and discip­lined nature. They were used on foot patrol, and utilised their keen sense of smell to detect the enemy, often up to a kilometre away. Unlike sentry dogs, scout dogs were trained to be silent; to stiffen their bodies, raise their hackles and point their tail if the enemy was in the vicinity.

Casualty dogs were trained to locate the wounded on battle fields. Equipped with medical supplies for those soldiers able to tend their own injuries, mercy dogs would remain with severely wounded soldiers, accompanying them as they died. Messenger dogs proved to be highly dependable in the dangerous job of conveying mes­sages. Running more quickly than a person, particularly over rough terrain, dogs were less visible a target for enemy snipers.

Animals generally endured worse conditions than the soldiers, often exposed to weather with inadequate shelter. 1916 was Europe's worst winter for more than 30 years, yet horses were not even issued with rugs. Like their carers, animals were subjected to artillery fire and gas attacks. Special nose plugs for horses were developed to enable them to breathe dur­ing a gas attack; gas masks were later developed for both dogs and horses.

The dogs’ vital roles included sniffing out enemies, carrying supplies, finding the wounded, delivering messages and first aid supplies. So of course anim­als served & died, with the nation’s soldiers. Some 9+ million animals (c8 million horses and 1 million dogs) perished or were wounded in the Great War, said Nigel Allsopp in his book, Animals At War

Pozieres dog and handler 
Photo credit 

Modern memorials
In Nov 2004 the Animals in War Memorial was unveiled in London’s Hyde Park. The inscription says: “This monument is ded­ic­ated to all the animals that served and died along side British and allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time. They had no choice.”

The Australian Soldier Park, established in 2008 in Beersheba is dedicated to the memory of the Australian Light Horsemen in Israel as part of General Allenby's conquest of Palestine. The memorial statue of  the light horseman and his brave horse is surrounded by documents on aluminum boards

As a project for the centenary of ANZAC in Pozieres France, a Memorial Park was built. Pozieres was part of the land that Charles Bean desc­rib­ed as “a site more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth’”. The Park provided a suitable memorial to those soldiers, and inc­l­uded a small sandstone with a war animal bronze plaque and a poem.

In 2014, Ewen Coates made a commemorative sculpture showing an Explosive Detection Dog/EDD and his handler in the Australian Defence Forces. The resulting sculpture at Canberra’s Aust­ral­ian War Memorial commemorates the service and experience of all EDDs and their handlers involved in  Australia’s military conflict.

Explosive Detection Dog sculpture
in Australian War Memorial Canberra

Australian Soldier Park in Beersheba Israel
dedicated to the Australian Light Horse regiments and their horses

01 December 2018

"The Alfred Munnings: War Artist 1918" exhibition, Britain then Canada

I wanted to focus on WW1 anniversary exhibitions in this blog before the end of 2018. So today we will examine Canadian soldiers and horses in Europe, and next post we will examine animals in the Australian army camps in Europe.

From a young age Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) loved drawing. His art was further developed through his apprenticeship as a lith­og­rapher in Norwich and by attending night classes at Norwich School of Art. By the time Munnings set up his first studio in Mendham, Suffolk in the late 1890s, he had already exhibited at London’s Royal Academy. Munnings travelled extensively to enhance his knowledge of art and techniques. He visited continental galleries, studied in Paris and was based in Cornwall with other well-known artists like Laura and Harold Knight.

Exhibition catalogue
Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918
Now in the National Army Museum in Chelsea

Thanks to the Canadian War Museum for the following details. It was WW1 that was the making of him because soldiers and horses always had a special relationship. Munnings was denied service in the British army because of a blind eye, but he found work examin­ing horses for diseases and parasites as they arrived to supply cavalry and transport units the programme acquired 44 artworks from Munnings, which are now part of the Canadian War Museum.

In the early part of WW1, Canadian soldiers were rarely featured in official images. But in 1916, a Canadian newspaper mogul became that country’s wartime publicist in London. Sir Max Aitken later Lord Beaverbrook used his considerable political influence and personal fortune to create the Canadian War Memorials Fund. The programme employed British, Belgian and Canadian painters, photo­graph­ers and sculptors to capture the Canadian war effort, at home and overseas. Mun­nings was commissioned by the Canadian War Memorials Fund as an official war artist.

Sold­iers, horses, battles and ruined landscapes were made when Munnings joined Lord Beaverbrook’s art initiative in 1918. Munning's time in the final year of WW1 was an embedded artist with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, on the Western Front. Munnings wanted to cap­t­ure the fighting front and logistics behind the scenes. With 45 paint­ings of the Canadian Cavalry hung in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1919, Munnings became a household name.

Eight million horses suffered and died in WW1. So in 2014-5 The Lightbox Gallery in Surrey ran an exhibition, exploring how the horse was depicted in war, both heroically and as beast-of-burden. Some of the leading British artists of the day were on show, including William Roberts and Sir Alfred Munnings. A social history display looked at the care and training of the horse and local effects of the requisition of horses during WW1. Lightbox Gallery said about Munnings that he had the ability, like no other artist, to exquisitely depict equestrian subjects, capturing their rippling muscles and sheen of colour.

Now a new WW1 exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea has been developed by the Canadian War Museum (Ottawa) in partnership with The Munnings Art Museum (Dedham) and The Beaver­brook Canadian Foundation. Paintings regarded as one of the most important collections of war art anywhere have gone on display together for the first time since they were exhibited in 1919.

The exhibition Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918 shows his mas­t­ery of equine subjects, portraiture and landscapes. It features 40+ original paintings from Munning’s time with the Canadian Expeditionary Force late in WW1.

His impressionist paintings highlighted the role of horses in mil­itary operations, while capturing the beauty of these animals in the war-affected landscapes of France. And it was this impress­ionism that made him the C20th’s greatest equine artist and this exhibition reminds people of the importance of horses in WW1.

Munnings, Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron, 1918

Munnings, Moving the truck another yard, 1918

Munnings went to the Battle Front to paint his subjects. Although modern weaponry made cavalry almost obsolete by WW1, he saw that horses still played an important role in transport. So this exhibit­ion features rare paintings of soldiers and their mounts at rest, at work and in battle.

The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation’s Collection of War Art, established in 1960 by Lord Beaverbrook, has a long history with the Museum and loved that the Canadian artworks was returning to Britain. Appropriately it was Alfred Munnings who produced evocative images of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and the Canadian Forestry Corps.

After London, the exhibition will move to the Munnings Art Museum in Dedham Essex in March 2019; the elegant country manor that was the artist’s home and studio. Then will make its North American debut at the Canadian War Museum and a cross-Canada tour.