Thursday, July 11, 2013

Comment: The generals of the First World War were heroes, not fools

On the coming revisionism in WW1 History.  Sophie Shrubsole on the first rewrite and the one to come.

It took literature and some key individuals to change history.  As one of my university lecturers once said to me, history does not happen, it is written, and that principle could not be applied more strongly to the case of First World War history.

With the publication of Alan Clark's The Donkeys (1961) and the production of Joan Littlewood's musical Oh! What a Lovely War (1963), a wave of popular history provided the foundation through which all subsequent knowledge of the First World War is filtered - precisely the problem with which we are now faced.  Historians and thespians took the critical words of those men that had a grudge and an agenda to push, namely Lloyd George and Churchill, thus generating the idea that generals were both inept and callous.

But beyond the Blackadder episodes there is a raft of history that is desperate to break into the mainstream.  No one doubts that there were a handful of poor officers at various stages of the command structure who made bad decisions that ultimately cost the lives of hundreds of men.

But as a country, we seem to forget as a matter of course that 1918 brought us victory.  Could this have been possible against the might of Germany's Imperial Army with such incompetent leadership?  Clearly there is another history to expose.

Comment: The generals of the First World War were heroes, not fools

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