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"lions Led By Donkeys" - Topic Close To Billb's Heart


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#41 Yama

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 0504 AM

It really sounds like Blackadder Goes Forth is taken a bit too seriously in this debate :) as I recall, Blackadder the Third had rather unflattering portrayals of Wellington and Nelson, Blackadder II presented Elisabeth as a childish, bloodthirsty tyrant and surely nobody would seriously suggest that 1st series is a historically accurate portrayal of War of the Roses?
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#42 BansheeOne

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 0608 AM

Related: Serbian historians prove Princip not at fault for WW I, film at eleven.

 

Region | January 7, 2014 | 10:11

 

Letter "reveals WW1 plans one year before assassination"

 

ANDRIĆGRAD -- Plans for the start of World War I existed 13 months before the Sarajevo assassination and 14 months before Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

 

This can be inferred from a copy of the letter that Director of the Archives of Serbia Miroslav Perišić presented in Andrićgrad, in the RS, Bosnia.

 

Governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina Oskar Potiorek sent this letter to the then Minister of Austria-Hungary Bilinski on May 28, 1913, and its copy was made public at the history department of Kamengrad (Andrićgrad) on Sunday.

Perišić noted that the letter is of manifold importance for all those engaged in the study of World War I, as it not only uncovers the intentions of Viennese pro-war circles, but also the stands the ruling circles took on Serbs, Croats, Muslims and their relations, especially in relation to Vienna's policy on the Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia, and proponents of the idea of unification of the South Slavs.

“Potiorek's letter is a document that falls into the category of primary sources, as it was created at the time when the event took place and it is one of the most important historical sources when doing a research on the issue of blame and accountability for the beginning of World War I,” Perišić said.

He noted that the reasons for keeping this letter away from the public eye are not difficult to grasp, because its content did not conform to the desired, or fabricated, unscientific picture of the pre-history of World War I.

Up to now, this document of utmost importance has not been available to historians and was not used in research papers, although it was published for the first time in 1928 in the Sarajevo-based daily Večernja Pošta and was kept in the so-called 'cabinet noir' containing the most classified mail, Perišić said.

The copy of this historical document, which is important for shedding light on the immediate trigger and root causes of World War I, is presently kept in the Archives of Serbia, while the search for the original is still under way.

Miroslav Jovanović, a member of the Višegrad-based Ivo Andric Institute Committee tasked with marking the centenary of the start of World War I, said that the Sarajevo assassination was not decisive, but rather the immediate trigger for the outbreak of the Great War which claimed lives of nine million soldiers and five million civilians.

“Austria-Hungary laid the blame for World War I at the door of Serbia and Russia, which was later backed by many renowned historians such as Chris Clark and Sean McMeekin,” Jovanovic said.

Film director and Kamengrad's creator Emir Kusturica said that the re-publication of the letter in “Historical Notebooks” of the Ivo Andrić Institute should improve the historical and media take on the start of the war.

“Numerous assassinations of tyrants made history, and in recent times they even took place in front of TV cameras. The Sarajevo assassination has been misused in historical terms, and served as a screen for persecution of the Serb people and the beginning of the Great War,” Kusturica said.

 

[...]

Kusturica confirmed that he will film a documentary in view of the anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and announced that the Ivo Andric Institute will organize numerous events, promotions of documents and books, and present the truth about the war in international forums.

 

http://www.b92.net/e...07&nav_id=88896


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#43 bojan

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 0711 AM

If it has Kusturica in it, it is made on crackpipe.

 

That noted, he was awfully (un)lucky to do what he did, considering he was described as poor shot with pistol "Barely being able to hit a tree at 10m".


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#44 Ken Estes

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 0955 AM

So, A-H had war plans vs. Serbia? Shocking to say the least. Seriously, it is more ironic that Franz Ferdinand was not liked by the other Hapsburgs and few seriously mourned his passing. As crown prince, he posed serious problems for the government, considering his well known concepts for expanding autonomy for Slavs in the empire, creating a Triple Monarchy by adding the Crown of St Wenceslas and a separate govt for Bohemia to the Empire.


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#45 BansheeOne

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 1018 AM

If it has Kusturica in it, it is made on crackpipe.

 

I gleaned that from secondary reporting round here which mentioned that Mr. Perišić went to ground after journalists asked about the alleged ca. 1930 transcript of the original German text rather than the Serbian translation presented (and an Austrian historian wondered why a letter that was sent to Vienna would end up in a Bosnian archive); and apparently the whole inferrence to Austrian war plans was from the writer's statement that Serbia would surely be on the enemy side in the "inevitable war in a few years", while suggesting a bilateral trade, customs and military agreement to reduce that danger.

 

But then as Ken says, it would not exactly be sensational if Vienna actually had detailed war plans in some drawer. As mentioned earlier, everybody was spoiling for a fight (see "inevitable war"), and it was pretty clear Austria-Hungary would take any excuse to teach the troublesome Serbs a "lesson". Even allegations that Franz Ferdinand was sent to Bosnia in the deliberate happy expectation something useful would happen to the bloody liberal airhead are not new.


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#46 Richard Lindquist

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 1043 AM

Franz Ferdinand also was in a "morganatic" (or morganic?) marriage meaning that his off-spring could not inherit (his wife not being "noble" enough).

Austria was not so dead set against a "triple monarchy" if it would save the empire, but the Hungarians didn't want to give up any of their Slavic lands (and relative power as a part of a dual monarchy).
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#47 bojan

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 1043 AM

Even allegations that Franz Ferdinand was sent to Bosnia in the deliberate happy expectation something useful would happen to the bloody liberal airhead are not new.

 

Security measures (or utter lack of them) points to that theory, but since nothing concrete ever surfaced, I would dismiss it.

As I noted, incredible amount of (un)happy coincidences.


Edited by bojan, 07 January 2014 - 1044 AM.

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#48 Colin Williams

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 1127 AM

 

A couple of points -
 
(1) It's pretty clear the anti-war wave of the 30s was due in part to frustrations with the postwar world of the 20s and 30s. People who felt the war was worth the sacrifice in 1925 often held a different opinion in 1935.


I will also note that "idiot generals sacrificing poor soldiers struggling in the mud" -theme is not limited to WW1. I'm pretty sure such works can be found about almost any war. In fact that exactly describes most iconic Finnish war novel, "Unknown Soldier", and not coincidentally, it was subject to similar controversy. But the fact is that many soldiers really did feel that way about the war. Lets not even talk about Vietnam movies...

 

And in Britain the debate between Easterners and Westerners that was carried on both during and after the war focused a lot of attention on the conduct of operations on the Western Front. If Lloyd George, Churchill and others could question the competence of the generals and the generals could question the competence of wartime political leadership, it became progressively more difficult to sell the line that when it came to WW1 everything was just fine.


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#49 swerve

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 1233 PM

...

Actually its all a bit academic. Ultimately it matters not so much about what those who fought in the war actually thought, just that Gove has clearly made an error when he says these are new criticisms. I think we have established that criticism of the war was in place during and immediately after the war. So somehow trying to airbrush history to make out that it was the loony lefts new historians of the 60s and 70s writing lies, it will not do. Personally if they are lies (and in my view there is at least a modium of truth in the criticisms of how the war was fought) they are very old lies indeed. ...

Recently heard of this: http://www.goodreads...sion-of-command

The memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas D'Oyly 'Snowball' Snow 1914 -1918, compiled from his diaries & letters by Mark Pottle & General Snow's great-grandson, Dan Snow. Not read it, but from the reviews, it seems he was highly critical of some aspects of the British conduct of the war, including his own performance.

'The higher staffs had had no practice in command, and although they had been well trained in the theory of the writing and issue of orders, they failed in the practice...Added to this we all suffered from the fault common to all Englishmen, a fault we did not know we suffered from till war revealed it, a total lack of imagination.' 
 

And then there was the rapid, massive expansion, & the filling of innumerable posts with people who didn't know what they were doing, & had to learn it.

'We lost several men on the first night, drowned or smothered. The men had either to stand in water, knee deep, with every prospect of sinking in deeper still, or hang on the side of the trench. Later in the war we should have overcome the difficulty but at this time the men were overworked in keeping the front trenches in order, and we were all inexperienced. 

'On one occasion one of my staff said to a Corporal of the Engineers, "Now you are an engineer; cannot you devise some method of draining this trench?" to which he replied, "I am afraid, Sir, that I cannot; you see before the war I was a Christmas card maker by trade." 

'The wet trenches soon began to tell on the men's feet...Very soon an average of three hundred men a day were being evacuated, and there was little chance of any of these men returning for months. We did all we could, but the Division rapidly became a skeleton of what it had been.' 

 

So, not donkeys - but  inexperienced in the sort of war they ended up having to fight. And not ignorant or uncaring of the conditions in the trenches, but having great difficulty in improving them.

 

Note the " Later in the war we should have overcome the difficulty but . . . we were all inexperienced."

 

While not published at the time, this shows what some of those who were being blamed were admitting, & one can see how it could lead to the 'donkeys' perception.


Edited by swerve, 07 January 2014 - 1233 PM.

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#50 BillB

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 1818 PM

Stuart Galbraith said:  RE WE Johns was a bomber pilot, and whilst not suggesting his opinion is in any way not worthwhile, its really worth reading 'The Camels are Coming' and comparing it to 'Winged Victory'. One is amusing hyperbole, the other I think I understood more about ww1 air fighting after reading than pretty much anything ive yet read. And it wasnt from Biggles (whom I remain a fan of) let me tell you. 

 

 

Good catch on the bomber pilot bit mate, that’ll learn me to go from memory and FWIW I’ve read Winged Victory and all the Biggles books; I was pretty much weaned on the latter and I’d argue there is a great deal more to them than ”amusing hyperbole” as they touch on all sorts of . I agree that they are apples & oranges but you have inadvertently provided an example that supports my rather than your position and here’s why.  Winged Victory was published in 1934, the year V. M. Yeates died of TB. It went through one edition and was then dropped because they couldn’t find a publisher to take it on, presumably because it didn’t sell; IIRC RAF guys were willing to part with daft money for a copy during the Second World War due to its rarity, and their interest centred on its technical air warfare info rather than for its futility of war message. It wasn’t reprinted until 1961. By contrast W. E. Johns wrote five First World War Biggles novels between 1932 and 1935, individual chapters from which were also published in comics as stand alones. They went into multiple editions through the 1930s and I think the continued in print until at least the 1970s.  The only reason it would remain in print was if it was popular as in sold by the shedload, no mean feat in the Depression & after, and it follows that if it were a mass market success it was because a significant portion of the book and comic buying public agreed with the content. And it’s hard to reconcile liking the content with railing against the futility of the conflict it portrayed. Going back to Winged Victory, note it was republished twenty-seven years after failing to sell.  That was in 1961, right in the thick of the lions-led-by-donkeys pacifist revisionism spearheaded by Clarke, Littlewood et al.  Even the Winged Victory Wiki page (sorry Archie!) admits as much: “…it fits neatly into the canon of so called ‘Disenchanment’ novels, which while well regarded in the present day, were largely ignored [at the time of writing].”

 

 

 

I would not suggest there was nobody post WW1 who didnt think it worth fighting. Indeed you read in the last editorial of the wipers times, they make it damn clear they think it was. I think it was too. But thats not to say that the war was fought for entirely clear, or even real reasons, or even for that matter particularly well. I mean German militarism, has anyone actually looked to compare the size of the British Empire and the German Empire? Supposedly it was a war of colonisation, but the German entreaties to the British not to get involved sent to Asquith make it clear, they didnt have any ambition in that regard. They presumably WOULD have done against Russia (and in fact did, albeit briefly). I digress, I just dont see this perceived German aggression being very evident between 1871 and 1914. Has anyone counted how many colonial wars we fought in the same period? Here is the comments made by Asquith. Im not entirely convinced the German Chancellor was not sincere, albeit totally deluded.  http://firstworldwar...oparliament.htm

 

 

 

Sorry mate, but I think this is off beam.  Imperialism provided a safety valve rather than a cause of conflict for the Great Powers, so the size of respective empires isn’t really relevant altho I suspect you could characterise the German treatment of the territories they occupied in WW1 and what they intended to do had they won as colonialism. As for the lack of German aggression, there’s the naval race sparked by the construction of the High Seas Fleet with all those dreadnoughts with no long-term crew quarters. There’s more, I just can’t think of it off the top of my head and I’m away from the books.

 

 

 

See here is the issue. Whilst many remained convinced of the need of the war (and when Germany invaded Belgium I personally am of the opinion we were right to get involved) I dont detect the same kind of feeling about HOW it was fought. You have to ask the question, would we have had a world where women were enfranchised with the vote, where unions became massively more powerful due to increased membership leading up to the General Strike? None of that makes much sense unless the the authority of the British establishment had been near fatally weakened by how the war had been fought. People were dissatisfied by the status quo, partly because they would have seen what they perceived to be pretty inept leadership in the initial stages of the war (I mean the British Army damn near ran out of shells. Can you see the German Empire doing that!)  John French might have had his reputation somewhat rehabilitated, but he was not as far as I can tell thought much of at the time, least of all by Whitehall. And then we come to Gallipolli, because nobody is going to convince me that was particularly well planned or led. Churchill in my view may have had his reputation somewhat unfairly tarnished by it, but the military leadership that undertook that mission clearly had their measure counted, and were found wanting. It strikes me as curious that somehow the British Soldiers who took part in that operation, and the early war fighting, somehow are perceived to have had faith in their leadership, whereas its pretty clear Commonwealth forces who took part (least of which being Australia) look at the same operation as the day Australia grew up. Partly because of the heroism shown by their young men, and partly because I suspect they realised the mother country was longer the moral authority it had made itself out to be. IE, we cocked it up. Can you imagine any other military of the world looking at a map of Gallipolli and staying 'hmm looks like a nice flat place to land'.

 

Fair one, but arguable from a number of standpoints. That aside, simply framing or identifying faults in the way the war was conducted isn’t really very useful. You have to then identify why it was at fault and more importantly, if there was a viable alternative. And a lot of the faults tend to fall away when you apply that yardstick rather than one constructed from the 20-20 hindsight that comes with a century of distance. Some folk in here (TN) have recently said as much in other threads (Colin Williams springs to mind).

 

 

 

I dont doubt what you say is true, that there was a clique of anti war sentiment, and interestingly that times nicely with the growth of communism in British high end Universities. Fair point, and its a point worthy of further study.  I would point out the vast majority of people who fought in that war never wrote down their memoirs or what they thought. We can only look at the growth of trade unionism and militancy and say 'this doesn't look like people particularly impressed by the establishment who lead them to war'. It also to some extent explains the war wearyiness of the late 30s. I detect a similar theme in the United States, France and Germany interestingly enough. Britains political establishment, yes and its military establishment to some extent, were arguably weakened post WW1. And none of that makes much  sense unless there was a belief they had screwed up in some way, and it certainly explains the rise of the Labour party in the same period. Lets be fair here, it took until 1918 to make a unified military command. That to me doesnt look like particularly straight thinking. Ditto trying to stop production of tanks in 1918 so they wouldnt have too much of a tank production establishment when peace was declared.   The British public are pretty good at knowing when they were sold a pup. The war may have been fought to reasons that ultimately proved productive, but thats not the same as they thinking it couldnt have ended a lot sooner or even better been avoided. Thats just my personal interpretation, but it seems to be a view borne out by a lot of  literature written in the 1920s. I doubt they were all part of that Oxford club.

 

Well I think it was me that pointed out that most folk back then didn’t write memoirs. J What literature written in the 1920s, and how widely was it published and distributed outside a very small and narrow intellectual elite? I’ll bet a £ to a pinch of dung it’s not remotely close to the mass market stuff I’ve mentioned and all that implies. For example, how many War Poets are there compared with the number of men who served in France and Flanders. In any other context such a skewed comparison would be dismissed out of hand. As for the rise of trade unionism, militancy and the Parliamentary Labour Party, I’d say the evidence suggests different. The former two were there well before 1914 and indeed begat the latter, and the unholy alliance between the miners, dockers and railwaymen that was to cause so much drama across the C20 was made then too. Plus, if folk were so disenchanted with the Establishment I should’ve thought they would have flocked to the Labour Party as they had clean hands, but that wasn’t the case. There were seven elections between 1918 and 1939, Labour only formed two administrations, only one of them was from an election and even that was a minority win due to Liberal support, and both only lasted a matter of months. That looks more like folk sticking with the Establishment they knew rather than a public considering it had been sold a pup.

 

 

 

As for Tony Robinson, IMHO I think it pretty clear he has done more for the study of history (and the popularisation of it) than pretty much anyone else I can name over the past 20 years in England, with the exception of Simon Schama and David Starkey. Besides, it appears Gove has entirely misunderstood how Blackadder is used when teaching. An eminent TV historian the other day (I cant remember her name im ashamed to say other than she is intelligent and rather cute) suggest it is used to start debate, just as it was when I was doing my GCSE history. Ie, they show Blackadder and say 'is that how it really was, British Generals were unengaged and remote?' And in the ensuing debate, point out evidence of which im sure you have seen plenty, of British Generals doing their bit and getting killed on the frontline. In short, Gove got the wrong end of the stick. Not for the first time. After all, Ive seen Schools TV Programmes using 'Up Pompei' as a piece of evidence to ask 'is this how it was?' And the answer is  'no its not, but it doesnt mean we cant have fun with it by learning'. It reminds me of the smugness shown by right wing politicians in the 1980s over Allo Allos where some of them tried to have it taken off the TV as being disrespectful to the wartime generation. Which overlooked that more than a few (my Grandfather among them) thought it was hilarious. 
Work calls. Dammit, who invented this whole idea of working for a living. Im a man of leisure at heart I tell you. 

 

 

 

Again, I disagree. All Comrade Knight of the Realm Robinson is interested in is peddling his lefty tripe while feathering his nest like a proper champagne socialist; that “rebuttal” he put up to Gove’s justified and correct comments clearly illustrates his dearth of knowledge and that he totally missed the point due to his ideological blinkers. That may be the theory of how to use the prog as a teaching tool but I’d put money on most usage being far more lazy given the general attitude to the war I’ve seen in most of the schools I’ve been in. The lions-led-by-donkeys thing is taken as read with little to no analysis, and if you doubt there are raftloads of folk out there who think Blackadder is a factual documentary do a Google search for the Gove story in the Grauniad or Indy and read the reader comments at the bottom. The level of plain ignorance paraded as informed comment is enough to make you weep.

 

Agree about the work bit tho. :-))

 

BillB 


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#51 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 0455 AM

Can we please get the mega-quoting under control?

quoting four, page-long posts for a single paragraph reply is unnecessary and painful to read, especially on tablets.
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#52 BillB

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 0557 AM

One last thing, you cant really accuse Time team of promoting a leftist agenda. They did a really good job of illustrating a little known action during the battle of the somme that, due to good staff planning and a highly capable development team, proved unlike much of the rest of that battle to be highly successful.

 

Rest of it on 4on demand, though you may have a job finding it if you are outside the Uk. Well worth watching though, a completely terrifying weapon.

Indeed, but Time Team is not a history prog Stuart, it is an archaeology prog and Robinson is merely the celeb frontman; does he even appear in the one about the Somme flame thrower?. Whether or I was talking about stuff Robinson's Crime & History TV series.  :)

 

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#53 sunday

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 0558 AM

Stuart: new keyboard owed!


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#54 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 0642 AM

Buy a bigger screen you tightwad. :P


This quote-inception crap is becoming a joke where one quote will contain four full posts inside of quotes inside of quotes of quotes.
Plus when people are quoting 700 word posts just to reply to one sentence it is pointless as people are perfectly capable of reading the original.
Highlight what you're replying to for reference or leave it.
Plus you're just wasting electrons and warming the planet.
Congratulations, you just killed a baby seal through lazy quoting.
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#55 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 0837 AM

Needs moar quotes inside of the quotes!!!
If you're not going four quotes deep someone might still be able to see the original point and we can't have that!
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#56 BillB

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 1430 PM

Stuart Galbraith wrote:   Im pretty sure he was in that one, he was present in the dig on the Western Front when they recovered the bits of the flamer if memory serves. Though i concede, those two fellas at the flamer demonstration were really center stage, the chap in the 'digger' hat has been in numerous WW1 dig programmes and seems to know his onions (or toffee apples).

 

That would be Peter Barton, the other guy is archaeologist Tony Pollard from Two Men In A Trench; he works out of Glasgow Uni. Barton has done some good stuff on telly and bookwise, his Unseen Panoramas  book with the IWM is pretty good. OTOH he does talk pish sometimes.   :) 

 

Ref the toffee apples, nice one, I see what you did there.  ;)  :) 

 

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#57 bojan

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 1953 PM

...Related: Serbian historians prove Princip not at fault for WW I, film at eleven.

 

Anyway, forgot about that, but if anyone wanted to dig some interesting facts they should look at correspondence that went between Pasic and British embassy. I read published part, and British really though that A-H will back down after Serbian response to ultimatum. Also they assured Pasic that in case of A-H agression vs Serbia they would do anything, including use of military force to prevent any kind of occupation or loss or independence of Serbia.

Problem is that for rest to be published, someone would have to dig up archives that are in total and utter chaos (boxes after boxes of unlabeled papers w/o any semblance of order), so making overblown statements and fascinating lies is way easier.


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#58 nigelfe

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 2316 PM

 

There was an interesting article by a social historian in the RUSI Journal about a dozen years ago.  The point made was that conscription resulted in all sorts of people who were never going to volunteer finding themselves on the W Front, including a fair number of what today would be called 'luvvies'.  For these people it was a total and utter culture shock, and hence much of the 1920s writing.  For the industrial working class it wasn't that bad, they got three meals a day, sudden death wasn't a stranger (industrial OH&S was unheard of) and their immediate managers (ie company level officers) shared the risks, took an interest in them and looked out for them.

 

As for the generals, they were forever riding/driving around visiting their troops (not lurking in chateaus) and were open to novel ideas (who first used tanks? ah the 'donkeys').  The reality was there was no simple bloodless solution to the situation on the W Front. 

 

There was no linear road of events in mid 1914, its best to think of these events as a set of interlocking mechanisms each with its own logic.  However, my own view is that the root cause was the failure of the revolution in 1848 (and the ensuing survival of the three autoracies until 1917/8), and its consequences were not really closed until 1989.

Fair one ref the last two paras and especially the last, but the first bit is looking at the past through modern glasses I think and more importantly it totally misses arguably the most significant development of that era. The BA didn't leap from BEF to conscription, there was also the New Army raised by Kitchener, and the fact that the latter reflected every facet of British society from top to bottom blows a bit of a hole in that theory I think.

 

No, I think the thesis is sound.  It doesn't really matter whether they were volunteers or conscripts, the vast majority of soldiers were working class, not least because that was the demographic.  I'm not sure that agricultural labouring was a lighthouse of good OH&S.  What is abundantly clear is that for the middle classes the trenches were an unimaginable experience, and it was from these people that the 'luvvies' of the 1920s were drawn.  I do suggest that if you are actually interested in the subject then find the original article.

 

On another matter, I'm not sure that any British general or staff officer in the 20th century experienced a war that met their expectations.  The basic reason for this is that mostly the British did not start them, hence did not have the initial initiative to shape them (which may or may not have been possible for the initiator).   


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#59 Tony Evans

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 0023 AM

 

On another matter, I'm not sure that any British general or staff officer in the 20th century experienced a war that met their expectations.  The basic reason for this is that mostly the British did not start them, hence did not have the initial initiative to shape them (which may or may not have been possible for the initiator).   

 

 

I think it's more accurate to say that, in the case of total war at least, nobody gets the war they expect. War turns out to be a highly interactive process that educates all participants as they go along.


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#60 sunday

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 0335 AM


I think it's more accurate to say that, in the case of total war at least, nobody gets the war they expect. War turns out to be a highly interactive process that educates all participants as they go along.

 

Those who does not kill, of course.


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