The military strategist

According to the detailed summary in the second part of the referenced omnibus article, probably written by the renowned film journalist Wilhelm Meyer, Ross reflected on the characteristics and consequences of the new ways of warfare.

Directly after returning from the trenches of Verdun senior lieutenant Colin Ross described how fighting in and from the trenches forced  both  soldiers and officers to renounce the practices and strategies of mobile warfare: “Today the bold and cheerful war is well and truly over.” An erstwhile mobile war has been transformed into a positional war.1 Specifically with regard to Verdun, still awaiting occupation, the altered military importance of knolls has to be taken into account, according to Ross. Moreover, the psychological demands of this kind of warfare have to be supported by the hinterland, because only a sophisticated, organizational framework that unites the forces of both homeland and front will  lead to  a positive outcome of the battles. On which note Ross concluded his thoughts with the common call for perseverance (“Durchhalten!”).

Ross’s presentation included all compulsory elements of contemporaneous war reporting: allegedly objective descriptions of strategic considerations, the claim of authenticity based on eyewitness accounts, and the invocation of patriotic sentiments (seen as the organic unity of all sons and daughters of the fatherland).2 However, it is unique  for  its makeup. The third part of the report, which is almost as long as the lecture’s summary, consists of a long list of prominent guests who were invited to Ross’s lecture at the Berlin Philharmonie. The promotion of this event can fruitfully be viewed as a showcase of the business model of the Vossische Zeitungs publisher, Ullstein.3 Ullstein had added this high-circulation newspaper to its publishing empire in January 1914. Since October 1915 the Vossische often featured Ross’s war reports as leads and now, in the summer of 1916, they were going to be published as a book. This business model, then, with its tightly interlocked marketing and financial interests in combination with the mass media techniques of war propaganda, seems to have been very beneficial to Ross’s career and his ‘brand awareness’.

Katalin Teller

gr., my., Anonymous. Von den Kämpfen um Verdun. Der Vortrag von Colin Roß. Vossische Zeitung: 1916 May 10; 238, MA; [4].

Topic: The Great War
Case: Speaking engagements


1 See for a general account Tony Ashworth. Trench warfare 1914-1918. The live and let live system. London: Pan Macmillan; 2000 [1980] (Pan Grand Strategy Series).

2 See Charlotte Heymel. Touristen an der Front. Das Kriegserlebnis 1914–1918 als Reiseerfahrung in zeitgenössischen Reiseberichten. Berlin; Hamburg; Münster: Lit; 2007.

3 For a comprehensive history of the publishing house see David Oels; Ute Schneider eds. “Der ganze Verlag ist einfach eine Bonbonniere”: Ullstein in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: de Gruyter; 2004 [e-book edn.] (Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens – Studien 10).

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