Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Great War: April 29, 1919

A hundred years ago, the world was in the period between the Armistice, signed on November 11, 1918, which brought an end to the fighting in World War I, and the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, which formally ended the world's first global conflict. In the spring of 1919, the local newspaper was still filled with news of the war--of treaty negotiations and of soldiers returning. In the Columbia Republican for April 29, 1919, the article that struck me was this one, which demonstrated once again that a hundred years ago Hudson was always up for a parade.    

The parade as to assemble at the "bell corner," where Green Street intersects with Fairview Avenue and an upended bell served as a watering trough for horses. The bell was still there in April 1919, but it wasn't destined to be there for long. Early in 1922, the bell trough was removed from the intersection and placed in Rogers Park, the little traffic island park that now houses Hudson's own "Olympic torch."

My curiosity was piqued by the Whippet tank, wondering first what it was and then why it was passing through Hudson. My first question was easily answered. The following is quoted from the website Owlcation
The Mark A Whippet was a British medium tank which first saw combat in March of 1918 during the massive German Spring Offensive. They were meant to take advantage of the holes made in German lines by their much heavier and slower cousins, the Mark IV and Mark V tanks. While hundreds of heavy tanks could achieve such breakthroughs, they were too slow and prone to breakdown to exploit their successes. The dream of massed cavalry pouring through enemy lines and disrupting their rear had been killed early on in the war. Flesh could not stand up against machine guns and fields of barbed wire. The Whippet's job was to act like a mechanized cavalry, a job it performed extremely well.
Even more information about the Whippet tank was found in this video from The Great War series.

What the Whippet, a British tank, was doing in Hudson remains a matter of speculation. In 1919, the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum was being established at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. (The museum didn't actually open until 1924.) A World War I British Whippet was part of the museum's collection, which in 2010 was moved to Fort Lee, outside Petersburg, Virginia. 

Could it be that the Whippet tank that passed through Hudson was on its way to the museum in Aberdeen, Maryland?

Of course, another question raised by the article that appeared in the Columbia Republican on April 29, 1919, is this: "What site was selected by the local committee for the demonstration of "ditch digging, going over embankments and traveling along and snapping down small tress in the way"? 

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