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17597Re: The Somme, Tolkien, and Black Riders.

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  • William Cloud Hicklin
    Dec 13, 2006
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      The Rev. Mr. Waddington-Feather did reply to a poster on The
      Barrow-Downs forum. I'm pretty certain that he's not a crank
      or a liar, that he really is relating what he remembers of
      what Michael T. told him years ago. The problem is that he
      may have misheard or misremembered, that Michael may have
      misheard or misremembered, and moreover Michael apparently
      wasn't above spinning a yarn.

      I doubt that any such event happened in waking life. Not only
      was Tolkien's duty and the Somme battlefield such that the
      whole story is unlikely in the extreme, but I've also
      determined that the 1 and 2 Leib-Husaren (Totenkopf) were
      nowhere near the Somme in 1916. (That leaves the 17er
      Braunschweig- anybody know where they were?)

      There is a possibility that Tolkien had a nightmare along
      those lines (although I suppose in a classic dream pattern
      that final jump would have led to awakening, not landing).
      Perhaps the subconscious source was war propaganda. After all,
      the association of skull-and-crossbones badges with German
      cavalry must have come from somewhere: and Uhlans* figured
      prominently in "rape of Belgium" stories. In fact, the story
      has some of the flavor of the "tales from the front" the
      British papers loved to print in the early days of the war,
      especially in connection with Mons (where there was a great
      deal of cavalry activity). Additionally, in fall 1914 German
      cavalry still wore their busbys and shakoes, whereas by mid-
      1916 they had gone to standard helmets.

      *Uhlan is a Polish loan-word for lancer, a term which most
      German armies adopted during or after the Napoleonic wars.
      However, in 1914 the IGS issued lances to all cavalry
      regiments, and withdrew sabres soon thereafter; Allied
      soldiers understandably called all German horse "Uhlans,"
      regardless of regiment.
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