From the Ashes of War

From the Ashes of War

Though World War One ended on 11 November 1918, it continued to have an impact on events in Europe for years to come. Empires had fallen and new nations created, entire regions had to be rebuilt and the workforce drain caused by war contributed to failed crops and famine in parts of Europe.

New political entities including the League of Nations were formed and the Allied Forces, particularly France, were determined to get their reparations from a defeated Germany. In the political uncertainty following the war smaller nations flexed their muscles and the new political forces of communism in the recently formed USSR and fascism in Spain, Italy and German began to emerge.

‘Peace, is it Peace?’ Western Mail 21, March 1919. There was still fear that despite the end of the war, conflict could again engulf Europe. Ben clearly believed that the Bolsheviks, who were fighting in the civil war in Russia along with attempts to spread Bolshevism around the world as well as unreasonable demands being made by nations during the post war talks was forming a dark cloud over the world that was a threat to peace.

‘The League of Nations Coach’, Western Mail 26 March, 1925. In 1924 British Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald (sitting on the right) and French Prime Minister Édouard Herriot proposed to the League of Nations the Geneva Protocol for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes which would establish an international tribunal to determine and rule on international disputes as well as determine who the aggressor in the dispute was.

In late1924 MacDonald lost the election and the new government appointed Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain (to the left of MacDonald) as Britain’s new foreign minister, who had the role of campaigning against the Geneva Protocol which it disagreed with. The new government wanted peace in Europe but believed that the Geneva Protocol would erode national sovereignty and lead to new conflicts over smaller issues. Nations such as Australia and South Africa also protested against the Geneva Protocol as they saw it as a threat against their sovereignty and immigration policies.

In 1925 the Geneva Protocol failed to be adopted by the League of Nations. Instead Britain, France and Belgium negotiated their own security pact with Britain campaigning for Germany to also be included.

‘The Runaway.’ Western Mail 21 February, 1921. In this cartoon Ben Strange is expressing his concern over the perceived casual attitude the Federal Government was taking towards reports that Spanish Influenza, or Spanish Flu, had arrived in Australia. The Spanish Flu would infect over one third of the world’s population in 1918 and 1919 and is estimated to have killed between 20 and 50 million people, compared to an estimated 17 million people who died as a direct result of World War One.

Famine - Stricken Europe

Western Mail 27 October, 1921

A fund for the relief of sufferers in famine-stricken Europe has been open by the “West Australian” at the request of a committee, of which the Mayor (Sir Paul Lathlain) is the honorary treasurer.

The disruption and destruction caused by World War One and the devastation impact of the Spanish Flu in 1919, which killed millions of people in Europe, meant areas such as central and Eastern Europe did not have the food stocks to stave off the drought of 1921 which lead to wide spread famine in the region. The famine in Russian was particularly bad as the region had also experienced a civil war between Bolsheviks and the supports of the Russian Royal Family.

Conditions were so severe that the new Bolshevik Government was forced to appeal for international assistance. Various programs were set up around the world including in Perth, which in a month collected close to a 1000 pounds for the relief effort. The biggest contributor to the relief effort was the United States of America when Congress approved $20 million worth of aid. Things began to improve in 1922 and by 1926 the agricultural sector had recovered back to pre-1913 levels.

When Constabulary Duty To Be Done To Be Done. A Policeman’s Lot Is Not a Happy One…(“The Pirates of Penzance”.)

Western Mail 13 September, 1923

The German chancellor (Dr. Stresemann), in “Die Zeit” discussing the question of Germany joining the League of Nations, said: - “It is obvious that when incidents of real importance arise the League of Nations is simply ignored, and that, as a matter of fact, force continues to be the determinative factor.” – (Cable.)

The League of Nations was formed in 1920 as a response to World War One and as a tool to maintain world peace. Through the 1920s the League faced a number of challenges including allowing Germany to join the League which was initially opposed by France to dealing with a number of disputes.

One of those challengers was the Corfu Incident, started in August 1923 by the murder of three Italian officials who were overseeing a border dispute between Albania and Greece. New Italian Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini, blamed Greece for the deaths and gave Greece 24 hours to meet a number of demands which included an apology and 50 million lire compensation. On August 30 Greece had agreed to most of the demands which was enough of an excuse for Mussolini to order the Italian Navy to bombard the Greek island of Corfu, followed by the landing of a few thousand troops.

Greece appealed to the League of Nations to intervene but Mussolini declared the League did not have the ability to handle the incident and that Italy would withdraw from the League if it intervened. Instead Mussolini demanded that the informal ‘Conference of Ambassadors’, made up of the more influential members of the League, handle the matter. The ‘Conference of Ambassadors’ reviewed the situation and ordered Greece to take responsibility for the deaths and to pay the 50 million lire to Italy, which they did. On September 27 the Italian troops withdrew from Corfu.

In this cartoon Strange is showing the League of Nations as a slightly befuddled policeman, who is a caricature of Lord Cecil Roberts one of Great Britain’s chief advocates for its formation and was involved with the League right up to its dissolvent in 1946 to make way for the United Nations. Strange is clearly showing the League as unable to deal with the Corfu Incident.

Tempting Goods

Western Mail 27 January, 1921

The Strasbourg correspondent of the Paris “Matin” asserts that the Government possesses documents which prove that the Hohenzollerns have been preparing for a ‘coup d’etate’. They planned to smuggle the ex-Crown Prince of Germany into the country, in order that he might enter Berlin at the head of troops loyal to the old regime.’

Ben Strange is commenting on a French newspaper story that German Monarchists were looking to install the Crown Prince of Germany Wilhelm as the head of a new German Empire to replace the floundering and unpopular German Republic. Strange clearly believes this is unlikely as the League of Nations, represented by the policeman, and the small dog are making sure the Price doesn’t get his hands on the ‘Tempting Goods’.

The validity of the story has some issues including that it originated in France, who was still very hostile towards Germany and it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the German Empire.

Image caption - ‘Flirtation’ Western Mail December 6, 1923. Ben Strange revisits the story about the German Crown Prince looking to restart the German Empire when on November 9 German Chancellor Gustav Stressemann gave permission for Wilhelm to return to Germany as a private citizen, as long as he promised to stay out of politics. Wilhelm kept this promise right up to 1926 when he had a visitor to his home named Adolf Hitler.

Dangerous Occupation

Western Mail 1 March, 1923

On January 11, 1923 French and Belgium troops occupied the Ruhr Valley in Germany in an attempt to seize goods following Germany’s default on its cash compensation payments enforced on it by the Treaty of Versailles. Ben Strange is expressing his and other nations concern, that an economically week Germany and the seizure of the Ruhr Valley, with its important industrial infrastructure, coal deposits and forests, would lead to European instability. The French soldier is a caricature of French Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré who ordered the invasion of the Ruhr Valley out of frustration at the default of payments, and his belief that Great Britain was encouraging Germany’s defaults as a way to dismantle the Treaty of Versailles.  Poincaré believed an economically strong Germany, would rearm and threatening France again. Germany invaded France in 1940.

In Praise of Beauty

Western Mail, 28 February 1929

Sir Thomas Legge (Medical Inspector of Factories) in a lecture on physical beauty before the Society of Arts in London on February 17 said that the most handsome men the world had ever seen were found among the first 100,000 Australians who came over during the war. All of them seemed to conform to the highest class of beauty, having narrow faces, straight foreheads and noses, high cheek bones, short upper lip, strong chins, thick hair and magnificent figures. MORE PRAISE FOR THE DIGGER.

Are the crowd admiring or laughing at the Australian soldier as they admire their reflection, and who is holding the handbag? One of the legacies of World War One was that of the ANZAC soldier who was portrayed as strong and healthy and a superior specimen than those found in Britain. Ben Strange is poking fun at this belief following the very strong and flattering statement by Sir Thomas Legge in 1929 about his memories of the ANZAC soldiers who came to Europe during World War One.