Mud Blood and Poppycock

#2
Sorry, never heard of it!

Geoff.
 
#3
Me neither, but did you know that the word 'poppycock' is derived from the Old Dutch 'pappe' meaning soft, and 'kak' meaning sh*t.

So it's probably a load of soft sh*te.
 
#5
Yes I've read it and it's a tad revisionist. Could almost be a Neue Arbeit explanation with of course the vast majority of attendees conveniently dead. Just a thought..........
 
#6
Corrigan's book is an excellent piece of popular history - a long overdue appreciation of the British Army's phenomenal achievement in the Great War. "Revisionist" it may be, but then so is most of the work of serious historians researching the British Army in the First World War; viewed objectively the evidence pretty much speaks for itself! For those interested, a very good book by a highly regarded military historian is Gary Sheffield's "Forgotten Victory"(2001). See also on Douglas Haig (anything but the boneheaded buffoon of popular myth), the nature of the Great War and the problems faced on the W Front, and the final victory in 1918 the following 3 books, all by John Terraine:
"Douglas Haig, The Educated Soldier"(1963)
"The Smoke & The Fire" (1980)
"To Win A War: 1918, The Year of Victory" (1978)

Anything by Hew Strachan (who has edited and written extensively on WWI) is also worth a read.
 
#7
Also read anything by John Bourne (Director of the Centre for First World War Studies at Birmingham), or Peter Simkins (former senior historian at the IWM), or Richard Holmes and you get a very different view from the 'old school'. You can also throw in the work of Malcom Brown, Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson ('Command on the Western Front' - their two later books aren't quite as good) and Shelford Bidwell and Dominick Graham amongst others. Many of the earlier 'Donkeys' school of historians didn't have access to the records, and some that have used them have faced damning reviews for ignoring (and in some cases apparently wilfully misrepresenting) the masses of documentation available to them. None of this reveals Haig as a misunderstood genius, but places what he did in context. He made mistakes, some of which had appalling results and some of which he could, perhaps have avoided.

However, as John Bourne pithily puts it: 'Douglas Haig fulfilled the most important criterion of generalship. He won. The scale of his victories was the greatest in British military history. His countrymen have never forgiven him.'

'"Revisionist" isn't a dirty word, Blackadder!'

PS - Mr H; have retrieved your address from my recalitrant PM system; article on its way to you on Monday.
 

cpunk

LE
Moderator
#10
Wessex_Man said:
Corrigan's book is an excellent piece of popular history - a long overdue appreciation of the British Army's phenomenal achievement in the Great War. "Revisionist" it may be, but then so is most of the work of serious historians researching the British Army in the First World War; viewed objectively the evidence pretty much speaks for itself! For those interested, a very good book by a highly regarded military historian is Gary Sheffield's "Forgotten Victory"(2001). See also on Douglas Haig (anything but the boneheaded buffoon of popular myth), the nature of the Great War and the problems faced on the W Front, and the final victory in 1918 the following 3 books, all by John Terraine:
"Douglas Haig, The Educated Soldier"(1963)
"The Smoke & The Fire" (1980)
"To Win A War: 1918, The Year of Victory" (1978)

Anything by Hew Strachan (who has edited and written extensively on WWI) is also worth a read.
But see also Dennis Winter's 'Haig's Command' which actually drew on many more contemporary sources than Terraine did and presents a view that is damning in the extreme.
 
#11
Murielson said:
Damn - thought this was the expose of Poppys experiences with men.
you a bit of a voyeur then mu darling?
 
#12
I read the book last year. It is not bad at all. It does attempt to lay to rest some of the more popular but outrageous claims made against Haig and the others in charge.
 
#13
cpunk said:
But see also Dennis Winter's 'Haig's Command' which actually drew on many more contemporary sources than Terraine did and presents a view that is damning in the extreme.
Er... Yes, but a chap called Jeff Gray (an Aussie historian) tore the book to pieces in a review. If you compare the actual documents with what Winter wrote then the thesis of the book falls to bits. It appears that Winter quotes very selectively from the documents, and, IIRC (I don't have the review to hand) there are places where Winter's omissions change the meaning of the material. I'll try to find an online copy of the review for info.

I can't think of any serious historian of the First World War who regards Winter's book as being anything other than one of the shoddiest pieces of scholarship masquerading as a serious history published in the last thirty years (including those who regard Haig as a blundering idiot).

On the positive side, the original paperback edition is very absorbant and good for mopping up coffee stains.
 
#14
There are several writers publishing thin derivative populist history under the "revisionist banner" who have little to add -except to their bank accounts. Corrigan's book is one of the few works of military history I have ever abandoned half way through. Its a rehash (like Robin Neilands aplogia for British Generallship) Both Corrigan and Neillands build straw men to shoot down with very thin arguments supporting the over blown revisionist line. I was at Neillands book launch at RUSI. The panel put forwards the full revisionist manifesto.

WW1 unavoidable and a good thing...
Only complaints about WW1 was through nancy boy poets and commies. No real Britis regretted the sacrificed generation....
The last 100 days proves how fantastic the British army really was.....

John Keegan wrote a fair answer to this line in his history of the Great War.

Much better. to read something new.

The German Army on the Somme 1914-1916 by Jack Sheldon really doies add something - the under analysed German view of this battle. Its a bit of a challange for the revisionists. If the Brits were so good - how come the Germans often managed to do more with less? (This is based on German Regimental histories and medal citations -but so is a lot of British history) I hope Sheldon is doing somehting similar for Yres and Vimy Ridge.
 

Ventress

LE
Moderator
#15
The author is a respected Battlefield Guide and I found the book put to bed some of the old myths we so love about the WW1.

Bit like most Military myths, its nice when they are discredited with such good arguement.
 
F

fozzy

Guest
#16
Ventress said:
Have just read Corrigans book, any thoughts from other readers of it?
Enjoyed it immensely - long overdue challenge to the "lions led by donkeys" mantra. Like Holmes's "Tommy", I felt it gave a very good expalnation as to the basics.
 
#17
Doing postgrad research on the 1914-18 experience of a county regt I came up against the received view of the British Army of WWI as a bunch of brave but hapless victims led by buffoons. The more one delved into the archives (most untouched by anyone for 70+ years - this was late 1980s),and talked to people who were there, the less sustainable the traditional interpretation became, but my research supervisor was having none of it. He was quite incapable of moving beyond the "it was hell and futile" line of thought; discussions were conducted in an increasingly emotional manner (by him) and he appeared to take the view that anyone who didn't toe the "party line" was some sort of war mongering fascist. So much for the spirit of academic inquiry, rational analysis/ debate and objective evaluation of evidence. Needless to say, completion of the thesis proved impossible - and yes, I am bitter! Realise now that I should have gone to King's Coll, London or Leeds rather than staying on familiar turf in "one of the UK's leading research universities" as the old place bills itself today.

I didn't set out to prove some preconceived opinion/ grind an axe; had that been the case then his attitude would have been entirely justified. The tenets of historical research were applied rigorously at all times and I WAS SURPRISED by what I was discovering, but it seemed that I was expected to interpret the research data in a manner conducive to supporting the comfortable preconceptions of 1960s vintage academic historians whose views were shaped by "Oh, What a Lovely War!" and 6th Form reading of Wilfred Owen et al.

Ran into similar problems with my undergrad dissertation on the American soldier in the Vietnam War; a deconstruction of the myths and stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood and the mass media, but at least in this case my supervisor was prepared to consider the evidence objectively and concede points when the sources were unimpeachable. Even then, however, the rather grudging award of the highest grade was "in recognition of the rigour of your methodology and should not be taken as endorsement of your forthright and controversial conclusions".

Since that time a new generation of so-called "revisionists" (stupid term really as any proper historian should be engaged in a constant process of revision/ re-interpretation - it's what it's meant to be about!) have managed to generate a degree of academic respectability for military history (esp WWI studies) but unless you've experienced it it's hard to convey just how hostile most British academic historians have tended to be re mil history/ war studies. It is very telling that people like John Keegan (RMAS; now "freelance"), Denis Winter (schoolmaster when he wrote "Death's Men") and John Ellis ("Eye Deep in Hell") were not ensconced in British universities (and indeed had not done PhDs: Keegan's doctorate is a DLitt awarded for published work - likewise David Chandler, RIP) when they produced their seminal works.

That said, re WWI it is possible that even a giant like Keegan (who re-wrote the book on military history with "The Face of Battle") could be wrong. He is a generalist rather than Great War specialist and most of his work is synthesis/ reinterpretation of published works - he does this brilliantly, as I'm sure we'd all agree, and writes beautifully, but he has never undertaken sustained archival research on the 1914-18 war and is also, IMHO, a bit of a romantic re the British Army, which leads him to endorse the old "lions led by donkeys" line a little too readily. I note that others on this thread have drawn attention to the fact that Winter has come in for some pretty severe criticism re what appears to be rather selective use of sources.

Corrigan's book, in my opinion, is an extremely good popular work providing an excellent synthesis of the latest "revisionist" views. If you want to read the views of a mainstream academic mil historian of unimpeachable credentials, go for Gary Sheffield.
 
#18
I must admit I tend to subscribe to the revisionist view of WW1, based on reading measured contemporary accounts (e.g. "General Jacks Diary", discussed on another thread) and using my own military experience to read between the lines. To this I add a healthy scepticism for the works of any author - no matter how scholarly - who hasn't himself (ahem, herself) served. Even military authors have no real right to sling mud: Haig and his contemporaries went from commanding polished professional peacetime brigades, to commanding 3 1/2 million citizen soldiers - in the space of a year or so. Given that none of our post-WW2 commanders have ever led more than a weak division on combat ops, and then not in general war, I doubt very much that any of them would perform better if time-warped back to 1915/6.
 
#19
OK we are ALL "revisionists" compared to the parody of the Great War Portrayed in Blackadder and Oh what a Lovely war or John Laffin's Butchers and Bunglers. But these aren't serious historical theories. One is a good satirical comedy, the second was a polemic musical and the third a development of the Austrlian national myth.

Sure there is scope to write books which debunk popular innacurate factoids - but it obscures other more interesting issues. We don't define our view of history of , say Normandy, by offering a revisionist view ot Saving Perivvtae Ryan? (Though I am sure there will be a market nche out there for a book about the Truth about WW2. Hey guess what. It started before 1941, the Americans didn't capture the enigma macxhine the Brits woin the Battle of Britian and fought in Normandy!)

Its right to correct the popular misconceptions about the competence and achievements of the British Army and specific officers. However, the simple big story- "bloody - pointless - incompetence" of the popular view of WW1 is foundfed in truth.

- Was there a way to win the Great War other than through attrition? Was there a way to end the war except through exhaustion oif will and manpower by one side or the other? What was the point of the battles - apart from killing more of the enemy than he killed of us? Even successful well managed battles shuch as Vimy Ridge cost the Canadians 8.6k casualties - only 1 k less than the allied losses on D Day. The Great war was big and bloody as was WW2 -except the Soviets did most of the allied dying.

- Did the post war generations believe that the benefits of victory justified the casualties? Its very hard to see how by 1935 many people would have thought that we had a land fit for heros.

- Sure the Haig wasn't as incompetent or stupid as he has been portrayed. However, he certainly did put pressure on his supbordiates to attack even when they were very unhappy about the likelyhood of success. Its very hard to look at, say, the six weeks of ill co-ordinated attacks around High wood in the Somme without drawing some conclusions about butchery and bungling.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#20
Pteranadon writes - "However, the simple big story- "bloody - pointless - incompetence" of the popular view of WW1 is foundfed in truth. "

Dinosaur by name...

I don't know where the 'incompetence' comes from. These were men doing their very best, and, if that wasn't good enough, they can hardly be accused of incopmpentence. They were "competent" in what they did, and in most cases very good indeed.

No point in going into an argument here, but Wessex Man's post earlier expresses a sensible and logical viewpoint. Pteradodon, go back to the 'sixties, please, it's where you'll be most comfortable.
 

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