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Remembered Today:

Somme & its origins- Martin Middlebrook


burlington

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As per their flyer:

GWENT BRANCH PRESENTS

The best selling author and acknowledged authority on the First World War

Martin Middlebrook speaking on:

The Battle of the Somme and its Origins

Wednesday 25th March 2009 at

The Constitutional Club,

Park Road, ABERGAVENNY

7:30pm

If you would like further information please contact:

Hilary Rees – Secretary

01633 244410 or 07982 186595

hilaryrees@btinternet.com

See you there!

Martin

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I hope anybody who was there can give us a summary of the lecture.

So many, many unanswered questions from that battle.

The Soldier's Death.

trail all your pikes,dispirit every drum,

march in a slow procession from afar,

ye silent, ye dejected men of war,

be still the hautboys and the fifes be dumb!

Display no more, in vain, the lofty banner.

for see! for on the bier before ye lies

the pale, the fall'n,the untimely sacrifice

To your mistaken shrine,to your false idol, Honour.

Anne. Countess of Winchilsea.

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What unanswered questions are you thinking of, exactly? The Somme is probably the most studied, discussed, written-about, battle of them all.

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What unanswered questions are you thinking of, exactly? The Somme is probably the most studied, discussed, written-about, battle of them all.

So has the Holy Bible. For a lot longer than the Somme.

Our holy men and women still try to find answers.

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is this (although not the last posts - interesting though they may become)

on or going to be put on the wfa forum site?

matt

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Could you articulate what the unanswered questions are?

Mr Baker, as the webmaster of The Long, Long Trail and a veteran of this forum I cannot even come close to your knowledge of the GW. I am too young to have ever spoken to the old soldiers or probably even their children.

All I can say is that nobody on this forum, not even you or Nigel Cave, was there in person. This is the common thread that binds us.

The Somme is now left to the readers and the historians who all may have different views and concepts, as did the Generals in their diaries and the common soldier in his letters and scribbled homilies. I am sure if there were no questions, forums like this would not be necessary.

As far as the Somme is concerned the questions as to the choice of the Somme valley as the battlefield is still unclear. The reason for the Big Push is clouded in controversy. Why the battle was ought by the poorly trained men and boys of Kitchener's army is troubling.

Why the actual events on the field was so misjudged by the staff officers is a mystery. Why the battle continued to be fought after the first calamitous day is an enigma. Why was the intelligence that the wire was uncut was ignored is another unanswered question to newbies like myself.

Why the

public never protested in righteous outrage is a final question.

Perhaps as one more learned than I you may have the answers.

The same may be said of Loos, Third Ypres and Suvla Bay where my Great Grandpa lies in eternal rest..

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Thank you. I now see where you are. There is a quite understandable perplexity among many of those who are relatively new to the subject. It is very difficult to square what we can see with benefit of hindsight, with the events that took place and the all too evident horror of it all. It is easy to think that it is a mystery. In fact, the war is documented in detail and the answers to these mysteries are there for all to see if they care to look. It's a question of finding it.

The choice of the Somme is clear and unambigious and explained in the British Official History, which was based on documentary evidence and subjected to review by a great many who were there. The evidence is there for you to see; for example the comments on the drafts are held in collection CAB45 at the National Archives. It has also been covered in numerous published histories.

Same goes for the reason for the battle. It is all absolutely clear - comments as above. The selection of the formations to take part, the state of training, same.

Why the battle continued to be fought after 1 July ... explained as above but you only need to think for a few seconds to answer this for yourself. The Allies were engaged in a vast war; the French Army was under huge pressure at Verdun; the British had committed to play a significant part in the Allies strategic campaign; an enormous force had been assembled; the British Army was under orders to comply with French wishes, if it could do so; the immensely strong defensive first German lines had been penetrated between Montauban and Mametz, and the French had advanced smartly on the British right. And you wish to call it off? I don't think so. Put yourself in the shoes of Haig: you would have been fired, quite rightly and instantly. Or be the Prime Minister, explaining your decision to the House and perhaps more importantly to the French PM, President and High Command. Impossible. How could the world's largest and richest Empire cancel its first strategic attack, after suffering a few tens of thousands of casualties (and it wasn't even sure of that for a few days yet)? The French, don't forget, had lost a million men in 1914 alone.

You will perhaps have seen that the attack was renewed on 14 July, with great success. This is rarely mentioned. All the reasons, what happened, and all the decision making is also very well documented.

Intelligence, decisions ... all documented in huge detail. All covered in numerous memoirs, histories, articles and analysis. You only have to search this forum and you'll find hundreds of such things referenced. The actions of the time are not always logically explicable and clearly not always "right" ... but that is human nature and to a large extent the fog of war and the result of communications technology.

My point is, these things are far from mysterious. Puzzling, sometimes, but nothing that is so strongly documented can really be called mysterious.

Your final point, about why the people did not rise up, is a mystery. Don't kid yourself that it would have been on 2 July. Real hardship had barely begun by then. But by mid 1918, with the cumulation of losses, rationing, the restrictions on liberty arising from the Defence of the Realm and Military Service Acts ... yes, why didn't our forebears rebel? Perhaps because that ultimately the belief in the cause, delivered and manipulated though it was by propaganda, was greater than the pain.

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As far as the Somme is concerned the questions as to the choice of the Somme valley as the battlefield is still unclear. The reason for the Big Push is clouded in controversy. Why the battle was ought by the poorly trained men and boys of Kitchener's army is troubling.

Why the actual events on the field was so misjudged by the staff officers is a mystery. Why the battle continued to be fought after the first calamitous day is an enigma. Why was the intelligence that the wire was uncut was ignored is another unanswered question to newbies like myself.

I think, Melanie, that your key point is "newbies like myself." Hopefully you will go on to read widely on these issues and will come to see, as Chris has pointed out, that you are currently labouring under several fundamental misconceptions. What books have you read on the Somme so far?

ciao,

GAC

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yes, why didn't our forebears rebel?

For discussing in a different thread, I suspect, but maybe the fact that we had a parliamentary democracy, with a constitutional monarchy was a good start. We'd killed a King once before, and the after effects of that took a long time to calm down, creating the constitutional set-up alluded to.

Additionally, there was a feeling that "They " suffered as well as "Us" - it was a shared experience. Disgust at profiteers wasn't confined to the working classes, that's for sure, and one can fast forward to Harold Macmillan's shock at a later government's treatment of the miners (he talked about their sacrifices on the Somme, IIRC) to see that the toffs and the working class weren't that far apart. The offcier class, as a generality, was, I suspect, closer to the men than in other countries, and the large-scale promotion of blokes who wouldn't have been allowed near the Mess before 1914 can surely only have served to bring the classes closer.

Additionally, disgust at politicians was now eher enar as great as it is now, and I can't imagine that bankers got the retirement packages they do now.

I suspect this is an issue that we, in 2009, might be tempted to view even more darkly through our current eyes with out present outlook.

Finally, and only half-jokingly, one should never under estimate the beneficial effect of the Haha or of cricket.

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Once again ... I would see great merit in a podcast of this event. iTunes is coming down with Ancient History etc etc ... by comparison, WW1 is virtually non-existent. I realise that permission would have to be sought but how many recordings of the great man speaking on a subject which is of tremendous interest are out there?

Des

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The same may be said of Loos, Third Ypres and Suvla Bay where my Great Grandpa lies in eternal rest..

Being a veteran of Middlebrook-Hodgson Tours, I have ventured to the Somme and Gallpoli with Martin, and know he intended to write a study of the Gallipoli campaign which sadly never materialised. Perhaps you can tell us more of your lost relative on Gallipoli.

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Picking up the point of why the people of Britain did not rise up. I believe they did but in the 1920s, during what is known as The General Strike. That was put down using troops where necessary. Why they did not rise up during the war is simply because the people of Britain always thought they were winning. This was a view shared by the troops in the field, a fact commented on by German officers who interrogated prisoners. The troops might have been captured but they were confident that the Allies would win the war. As others have suggested, I think you might do well to widen and deepen your reading. The real unanswered question is why people prefer unsubstantiated myth to documented history. Now that really IS a mystery.

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Picking up the point of why the people of Britain did not rise up. I believe they did but in the 1920s, during what is known as The General Strike. That was put down using troops where necessary.

Er and I always thought it was the TUC leadership who caved in on May 10th and sold the miners out because the strike was becoming too successful and they (unjustifiably) feared a communist revolution.

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You are free to believe all sort of theories, as you wish. Are you saying that troops were not called out?

Re-read your post - you said troops 'put down' the General Strike. I am well aware of the use of troops to move food from the London docks, soldiers camped in London parks etc etc. There were members of the Cabinet who wanted a greater use of troops but the more sensible members resisted fools like Churchill.

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There is a rising and quite unnecessary note of hysteria in your posts on what was very much a passing reference in mine. Have you any comment on my opinion as to why people in Britain did not take part in uprisings during the war?

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What books have you read on the Somme so far?

Oooh a few I would say. Probably in the region of forty or fifty. Started with Vera Britain then onto Lynn MacDonald. most of the Battleground Europe soft covers, The Big Push, First Day on the Somme,Eye Deep in Hell. The memoirs of Haig and French. The Poetry of The Great war, Goodbye to all that. Bird Song. Regeneration.Three Day Road. Corrigan's Blood Mud and Poppycock. Martin Gilbert's The Somme. John Keegan, The Face of Battle, and so on and so forth. British Snipers on the Western Front, being the most recent.

Toured and walked Ypres, The Voges, Gallipoli and the Somme several times.

Compared to you guys I am still a newbie.

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that you are currently labouring under several fundamental misconceptions.

GAC

These being????????????????????????

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What books have you read ...?

Ever read any HF Wood or Q Guff?

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Ever read any HF Wood or Q Guff?

HF Wood, I know is a Victorian mystery writer. I once read one of his books about a murder on a train.

Q Guff is unknown to me. Is he/she an author writing about the Great War?

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These being????????????????????????

Hi,

As far as I can see the misconceptions are as follows:

"As far as the Somme is concerned the questions as to the choice of the Somme valley as the battlefield is still unclear. The reason for the Big Push is clouded in controversy. Why the battle was ought by the poorly trained men and boys of Kitchener's army is troubling.

Why the actual events on the field was so misjudged by the staff officers is a mystery. Why the battle continued to be fought after the first calamitous day is an enigma. Why was the intelligence that the wire was uncut was ignored is another unanswered question."

Cheers,

Pete

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Sorry folks but I think this thread has been hijacked.

If we want a discussion on the lines that have been so well elaborated so far, surely should it not be on a thread other than this one?

I started it purely to publicise Martin Middelbrook's talk at the branch of the WFA I attend. A deep discussion such as has developed has a place of it's very own.

Anyway, seeing as you all have been so assiduous in replying to this thread, may I assume that we will have the pleasure of your company on the night? :D

See you there!

Martin

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I agree that this thread has probably been hijacked. But I don't see a deep 'discussion' developing anywhere. I do see pretty clear signs of trolling however. A 'newbie,' who's read over forty books on the Somme, (more than most bibliographies in specialist books on the Somme list specifically to do with the battle!), but with a handful of random examples given including novels? Also, said 'newbie' comes on and, apropos of nothing, has a pop at respected authors and forum members like Nigel Cave - who has not even participated on this thread. All of that, plus the usual lions led by donkeys guff and anti-war verse quotes makes me think we've no 'newbie' here at all, but an old familiar troll in new guise.

These being????????????????????????

What Pete Hart said (and which I'd also quoted back at you earlier).

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My thoughts too, George.

Martin, I would love a trip to Abergavenny. Where else can you find something that rhymes with orange? But I am afraid I heard MM's talk at Warwick last year.

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