To Blog or Not to Blog..?

When I started to write the Tomahawk Films’ Blog at the end of last year it was partly in response to the fact that some of the superb military magazines I once wrote for have either, sadly, bitten the dust in these tough financial climates or have been bought out by new owners and have subsequently undertaken subsequent changes of direction or emphasis, thus leaving me nowhere to offer my military musings & witterings on myriad subjects based primarily, around both The First and The Second World Wars…

It was also suggested by those that know more about Blogs than I do, (being, as I am, one of the last of the dinosaurs constantly spooked or terrified in equal measure by advances in technologies and all things appertaining to websites), that it would also be a good way to attract additional outside interest, from further afield than those existing & very welcome customer friends and professional film & TV colleagues that have long known of our WW-II German Archive and its musical & film products for the past 27 years of its existence… so, not one to pooh-pooh free advice, I started out last December with my first tentative postings on here… but am now somewhat embarrassed when I look back and realise the amount that I have actually penned during the last 10 months or so…

However I contented myself with the fact that nobody would be actually reading them, for heaven knows what actually goes on out there in the ether & internet-land: in truth thousands could be looking in or, more likely, none at all… and so my various articles could simply be a source of personal pleasure for myself on a quiet ,wet afternoon here at Tomahawk HQ… and that has been my continued thought… until recently when a number of our supporters, such as Malcolm at Mist of Time in Filey,Yorkshire, have kindly got in touch to say that they have been reading (and happily enjoying, for which many thanks), my articles-various.

In particular I am also indebted to several generous e-mails received from pals on both sides of the Atlantic, including recently a welcome one from an old contact, Stephen at Juno Militaria, who e-mailed us to say he was particularly enjoying my Channel Islands musings, being a fellow German C.I. Occupation enthusiast and visitor to God’s own islands… and as a result of my recent Blog Review bought himself a copy of the wonderful newly published Guernsey’s German Tunnels book from the lads at CIOS-Guernsey. (They’ll be delighted with that!)

So from a standing start of effectively nowhere, suddenly word is reaching me that my articles are indeed actually proving of some interest to the collecting & enthusiast world and, so encouraged, I think I will continue as & when the muse suddenly takes me or, more likely, an interesting or relative story pops up in front of me… and to this end, that is exactly what has happened over the last couple of days and thus this current Blog update herein:

Continuing on my out-loud thoughts on the theme of ‘to Blog or not to Blog’, a few days ago I opened up a surprising and most welcome letter from a Mr Mark Barraclough, who is Vice President of Princess Louise’s Kensington Regimental Association in which he mentioned the fact that a good friend of his in The Western Front Association had read my recent Blog on the Grave of First World War Soldier buried in my most beautiful local churchyard here in Twyford.

Very generously, Mr Barraclough’s thoughtful letter offered me some fantastic updates on my background information regarding Private ‘Douglas’ Small, some of which  I’d like to paraphrase and share here as I think any students of World War I who may have read that particular Blog might also like to have this additional gen:

In fact this story is all starting to gather a little momentum of its own since I started tending ‘Douglas’ grave all those years ago, as I have now noticed, firstly that a second Royal British Legion Red Poppy has begun to appear on his headstone alongside mine each November. From where & from whom I have no idea, but I find it a lovely thought that somebody else also wishes to spare a thought for Douglas’ short military service, nearly 100 years ago, at this annual time of Britain’s National Remembrance.

Secondly, (and most excitingly for me) several years ago I once again popped up to the churchyard with brush & bucket in hand ready to give Douglas’ headstone another ‘wash & brush up’ only to be met by a glaringly white headstone staring straight back at me.

I had hitherto no idea at all that it was white marble underneath all of the moss & age-corrosion so I am veering towards the believe that word has reached whomsoever officially tends British War Graves in this country and that, as a result, Douglas’ was given a striking make-over by the headstone experts. Indeed I popped up again a couple of days ago to get an updated shot to send to Mr Barraclough and his Association and found this make-over has just been undertaken again, though for the life of me I am unable to find out when this happens and exactly by whom as the cleaners seem to sweep in unnoticed and disappear just as quickly,

However I would  certainly love to find out who it is that has now put Douglas’ grave on an official cleaning roster…. at the moment even the Church appears unaware this work is undertaken on their military headstones.

Indeed, if you were to take a short walk around this most stunning of graveyards, you would instantly notice that there are several other official War Grave headstones dotted around, including several nestled under a large tree just off the main footpath; judging by the dates on their head stones, (which range from 1916 to 1921, the camp being de-commissioned in the early 1920s), these would also have been of soldiers similarly garrisoned up at Hazeley Camp who also sadly died during their service there.

So perhaps these graves are also known to the authorities and as such, once I uncovered Douglas’ to also be a military in origin, (as it had been, thus far, languishing ignored & unloved looking for all the world to be ‘only’ a civilian headstone), perhaps the War Graves Commission brought his onto their official cleaning programme… and if this is the case, then I am delighted to have brought his grave to prominence and thence also into their additional loving care!

But to return to Mr Barrowclough’s letter, he kindly wrote..

“I am pleased to tell you that Pte Small’s name is included in the Roll of Honour in the history of The Kensington’s; I would therefore expect his name to appear on the Regimental War Memorial in which you will find in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s town hall. I can tell you that there were 3 battalions of the 13th Londons in WW1 and would be pretty certain that Pte Small would have been in the 3rd Battalion.

At the time of his death in September 1916 the 1st Bn were fighting on the Somme and had lost a significant number of soldiers in the preceding three month and the  2nd Bn were on their way to Salonika, having been in France from July to September 1916. The 3rd Bn in England consisted of the ‘reserves’ – old soldiers and recruits under training and I suspect that Pte Small fell into this last category…”

So now we know a little more about how 18 year-old ‘Douglas’ (as he was always known by his young sister Connie - pictured), came to be posted to Hazeley Camp here in my home village, where he sadly died. To round off this story, for now, I am penning a separate letter to the editor of my local Twyford Parish magazine to see if anybody has seen this War Graves cleaning take place and can shed a little more light on who is behind this additional superb support for Douglas’ headstone.

Of course if I hear anything back I will of report this additional info in another forthcoming Blog, (however if anybody else might be in a position to kindly shed any light on the War Grave Commission’s activities I’d be delighted to hear!)

Meantime my sincere and grateful thanks to Mark Barraclough esq. for his very kind letter for which, and in return, I hope to be shortly sending him copies of my original magazine & local newspaper articles on ‘Douglas’ Grave in the hope this will, in turn, add more information to the PLKR Association’s archive…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

The Music of Prof. Herms Niel…

During the 12 years in which the Third Reich, or Nazi-era, officially existed, military & civilian music was very much allowed to come to the fore of German consciousness under the paternal guidance of Adolf Hitler… and was particularly encouraged and overseen by his arch propagandist, Reichsminister Joseph Goebbels who had, early on, realised the very positive and uplifting effect that such music could have on a people…

Thus not only did Lili Marleen composer & musical genius Norbert Schultze, emanating from the civilian composer ranks, flourish in this highly encouraging atmosphere ultimately created, (so composing ‘Bomben auf Engeland’and some 25 other German classics such as ‘Wir fliegen gegen Engeland’, ‘Panzer rollen in Afrika vor’and Zwei Panzergrenadiere’), but from the military sphere came an even more prolific writer & composer of military marches & evocative soldier songs: Prof. Herms Niel.

As an eventual Musikmeister with the Reichsarbeitsdienst (German Labour Service), he was born Hermann Nielebock on April 17th 1888 in the small Brandenburg village of the same name and, on leaving school as a young man, he served his musical apprenticeship in the small band of the town of Gethin between 1902 and 1906.  In 1906 he then joined the Imperial German army, and was enlisted as a trombonist in the band of the First Infantry Guard Regiment (1. Garderegiment zu Fuss) at Potsdam, eventually seeing service throughout  the whole of the First World War as an acting sergeant and band-leader, before being finally demobbed, after war’s end, in 1919.

In the very tough years that followed the end of the Great War, Herms Niel managed to earned a living as a civilian band-master and composer until the dawning of the Third Reich, whereupon he immediately joined the fledgling Sturm Abteilung in 1934 as a troop-leader, before receiving his promotion to band-leader of the Reichsarbeitsdienst training establishment which had been established at Potsdam and when his work as a composer of many famous Third Reich soldier songs really took off…

In 1941 he was awarded the academic title of Professor of Music, and throughout the Second World War his musical credits and composition output was completely unmatched and very soon he became Nazi Germany’s best loved composer of military marching songs, remembered for creating some of the classic, and indeed most famous and widely known tunes of all, including: Hannelore, Engelandlied, Es ist so schön, Soldat zu sein, Edelweis, Das Frankreichlied, Jawoll, das stimmt, Jawoll and the Kriegsmarine’s Heut stechen wir ins blaue Meer and the Luftwaffe’s soaring anthemFallschirmjägerlied…

In addition to his obvious prowess as a world-renowned composer, one little known fact was that Herms Niel also invented and devised a fanfare trumpet. Known as the ‘Herms-Niel-Doppelfanfare’ in E & B Flat, it was manufactured in 1938 by Ernst Hess Nachf., a famous accordion factory & musical instrument dealership in the heart of Germany’s musical instrument manufacturing region of Klingenthal.

However it is his for his most prodigious military musical output that he will be forever remembered by legions of very grateful military music enthusiasts the whole world over.

To this end Tomahawk Films were again in action in Germany once again several years back seeking out and acquiring as many of his original & most stirring compositions on pre-war schellack 78rpm records as we and our contacts over there on the continent could find…

Having then let archival audio-engineer Simon ‘Woody’ Wood loose in the Dubmaster studio for a further session of his superbly skilful schellack restoration and renovation, we were delighted to be able to add another evocative & stirring Third Reich ‘soldier song’ CD collection to the Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive.

Simply entitled: Musik von Herms Niel, this very stirring CD collection features 15 of his most famous compostions & best-loved soldier songs including Gerda-Ursula-Marie, Marsch des Gebirgsjaeger, Matrosenlied & Es geht um’s Vaterland, all of which are performed, under his musical direction, by the professional Third Reich Labour Service musicians of his Reichsmusikzug des RAD….  and course no self respecting Herms Niel collection would be complete without the military music enthusiasts’ most famous & most oft requested WW-II German marching & soldier song of all time… Erika..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

Collecting Nazi Song-lyric Postcards…

When I started out on the long road of producing & digitally re-mastering Third Reich/Nazi-era military music over 25 years ago, I never for one minute imagined that, through Tomahawk Films, we would have the pleasure of not only selling hundreds of thousands of such historical important albums to collectors & enthusiasts around the world, but that I would also embark on a personal 7 year journey of study that would result in my reference book entitled: Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-45 or indeed a new hobby: The German Soldier Song…!

Basing my reference book around the soldier-musicians of the Nazi era, in the course of my research I happened upon a couple of picture postcards sent back from German soldiers fighting in the icy wastes on the Russian Front in 1941 to their loved ones manning the ‘Home Front’ back in Germany and though I was interested in the military Feldpost stampings on the back, it was the front covers that really captivated me, featuring as they did two popular songs of the day, Rosemarie and the famous Wir fahren gegen Engeland..!

Despite having been a collector of Third Reich militaria since that days of my small museum back in my early teens, I had never come across such cards before and immediately set about trying to find a source and so visited my very first postcard collector’s fair in late 1996, armed with my two Third Reich period song cards, which I proceeded to show to any dealer who could spare the time to talk to me.

Unfortunately the general reaction was one of complete mystery, but undaunted I continued to then trudge around as many postcard fairs as I could; even so I only managed to elicit the odd one or two of these rather lovely Third Reich period lyric cards, (which sadly were usually dog-eared or damaged), and the odd, rather attractive First World War card, but I could still obtain no further thoughts from UK dealers as to just how many types of these specific music-related cards there may have been…

Then a year or so later, with just 20-odd cards to my name, two of my new Third Reich music-collector friends, John in the States and Stuart here in the UK,, found that they too were beginning to pick up similar song-cards and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so alone in my pursuit of knowledge!

Exchanges of the limited information available and sometimes swaps of our precious stock began to take place between my two collector pals, whilst two new American dealers I had located, Tom & Greg, very kindly began seeking out such cards, though with the pencilled Deutsche-Mark prices still left on the back of many, it was becoming obvious that they were mostly coming in directly from Germany!

Several years into my study, I was beginning to see a pattern emerge and even at this early stage, (which was still primarily as a part of my research into German military music), and get a feel for what cards had been  printed during the Third Reich: ornate cards, plain cards, coloured cards, those that were overtly political & propaganda-based, some that were purely military, whilst others of a more civilian nature offered the words to the most famous songs, and others not so well known; indeed some were gentle in their picture content whilst others represented a German people fully committed to the defence of the Third Reich…

In addition the same names of card producers, such as Horns-Verlag of Gotha, Robert Franke of Hamburg, Greishaber und Säuberlich of Stuttgart and Verlag. J. Bottger of Bad Godesberg were beginning to turn up with some regularity amongst the production details on the backs of the cards.

Despite my on-going research, there was still a strange ignorance on this subject and even a well-known publisher of superb works on WW-II who has produced three volumes of Third Reich Propaganda Postcards was perplexed. Apart from a handful of cards devoted to the Horst Wessel Lied he entirely ignored the German Soldier Song postcard as a genre and on questioning him why this should be, received the answer that his work only revolved around propaganda cards, deeming my cards to be purely German military only which I found odd..!

So though no further forward, at least somebody well versed in German postcards had actually categorised my song card collection and knowing that he deemed them to be German military was fine, but where were all the listings (and dealers), for such cards and where were all the wonderful illustrations in other collectors’ written works for me to compare my growing collection?

The other imponderable was the apparent random pricing structure, as  apart from the interest and value attached to the overtly political Horst Wessel Lied song cards with their obvious Nazi link, it often appeared that dealers placed a card value based more on what is/was on the back of the card, i.e. the franking and/or the actual postage stamp, rather than the song & picture details contained on the front; for  example I once paid slightly over the odds for two cards bearing songs that weren’t particularly unusual because both cards, when turned over, bore the imprint of the ‘SS Standort Hospital’ at the Dachau Concentration Camp..!

This as a former school-boy stamp collector myself, I quite understand and this has since played to my advantage when I have been fortunate enough to pick up other cards with Nazi songs and imagery that I considered to be scarce, but because they were unissued and blank on the back I was offered them for merely a couple of pounds each, precisely because the dealer in question had seen nothing on the back, such as a stamp or Feldpost imprint, though which he could value the card higher!.

As with my general Third Reich militaria collecting days, I have built up and then sold several Nazi-era song card collections, and am back on the hunt again but as before  I try only collect mint-to unissued condition postcards where possible, ( a number of which are featured in my III Reich Military Music & Bandsmen Book), whereas dog-eared, damaged or defaced cards do not normally find a permanent in my Archive after they have served their research purposes, though after many years of searching, the number of new cards turning up is much more limited,

However I know of at least one new collector, (Ian up in Scotland), that started acquiring these wonderful soldier song cards as a direct result of seeing those featured in my book, so that is at least 4 of us I now know for sure are collecting such cards… Happy Days!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013