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Mud, Blood and Poppycock


Kevin Stillyards
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Has anyone read Mud, Blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan. Is it any good?

kev

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Yes, I have read it. Yes, it is good.

Its one weakness would perhaps be that the myths of World War 1 it dispels could best be described as the "bl**dy obvious lies and fairytales." It appears to be a very detailed book written for the total historical amateur, but written well.

While it appears merely to be a debunker of stereotypes, I couldn't (as a relative amateur) fault the research and effort that went into it. It isn't perhaps as well written, balanced or researched as other matter on the same topic but I wish I'd had a book like this when the teachers at school were filling my head with tripe. At times, Corrigan plays fancy tricks with casualty statistics (lies, damned lies and...), and he does tend to be overly one-eyed occasionally.

If you are an experienced reader in the field of World War 1 history, or a university student of the genre, other books may serve you better. If you are a relative amateur, by all means pick it up. It would be a good lead-in to other works.

If you have always held the view that WW1 was an endless series of futile British charges (swims?) through mud against impregnable barbed wire and machine guns, that the survivors were executed en masse without trial for their cowardice in not pressing their attacks through, that the Germans came through without a scratch and only capitulated because they were betrayed by their government/starved by the blockade, that the British cavalry waxed fat on massive resource infusions in the rear while their infantry colleagues starved and died, that the Generals spent all their time luxuriating in chateaux getting pissed (drunk) and becoming annoyed because the maps blocked their view of the whisky decanters, etc etc etc.... you should read this book.

Terraine's "To win a war" made me angry when I read it, because I'd been brought up on a diet of continuous Allied failures brought to an end by the starvation of their enemy (only to find that it wasn't so). I think this book would have had much the same effect if I had read it first.

If you are a historical revisionist in the "it wasn't as disastrous as some make it out to be" camp, if you enjoy defending Haig, if you find some purpose or strategic justification in the Somme or 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele), there's nothing much new: you will leaf through this book, nodding and saying "Yes." It's good material to bring your blood pressure down after a morning spent reading "The Donkeys." :P

The author is an ex-soldier, which lends his defence of the conduct of the war somewhat more credibility. Perhaps his most important service to the reader is to set the happenings, decisions and beliefs of the time in their proper historical context (especially as regards the willingness of men to sign up for the war).

Anyone who's spent any significant time discussing the Somme/Passchendaele and other "futilities" on this board, and can do so in a calm, rational manner that's backed up by existing material, could probably wait for their library to acquire a copy (or do as my fiancee's mum does, and request it as an acquisition!).

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Thanks for the reply Justin. I am in the "revisionist" camp and from your post I expect this book would reinforce my own views.

Thanks kev

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There has been considerable discussion about this book on the forum. Use the 'search' facility to find it.

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  • 2 years later...
Thanks for the reply Justin. I am in the "revisionist" camp and from your post I expect this book would reinforce my own views.

Thanks kev

I enjoyed this book but I am biased,as I "worked" with Gordon. I like the way he says what he thinks and to hell with it. Controvercial yes,but many of us would like to be too but worry about upsetting the system!

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I like the way he says what he thinks and to hell with it.

Regardless of all the positive revisionists ever (Terraine, Neillands to an extent, Corrigan etc.), if more junior officers (at staff and field level) had been like this, Britain would have won the war a lot sooner and MB&P might never have needed to be written! There may have been a Marshal's baton in the knapsack of every Napoleonic French soldier, but sadly there was not a Currie or a Monash or a Plumer in the soul of every British divisional commander!

I feel sorry for them. They blundered and they squandered and they messed things up, true, but I do not think there is a man of them, from Haig to the lowest Private, who could not have put his hand on his heart and truly say he tried his best. The least we can do is to demolish the outright myths where they exist, and explain the reasons for the failures, rather than just write them off as the doings of aristocratic blithering idiots. In the end, I suspect that MB&P is the result of Corrigan's anger at people who either blindly or maliciously develop or perpetuate myths about an organisation in which he has served and of which he is proud, and about people (who he no doubt sees as his predecessors in some ways - they were all lieutenants once) who are no longer here to defend their good names.

On the topic of such men: Gough, of course, was the last of the BEF Army commanders to die, in the 1960s. I wonder if he ever looked at what was available to the army of (what is still essentially) our age, and dreamed of what he could have done with it in his.

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Has anyone read Mud, Blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan. Is it any good?

kev

If I were you I would read our previous thread(s) on this book before you invest your money.

Regards,

Jon S

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I enjoyed this book but I am biased,as I "worked" with Gordon. I like the way he says what he thinks and to hell with it. Controvercial yes,but many of us would like to be too but worry about upsetting the system!

The next time you see him can you tell him that what he says is very interesting but could he please say it without waving his arms around so much, its very off-putting. Decent book though.

Andy

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I have a copy in the bin.

stevem

Ihave read M<B & P and found it useful but a bit biased - once a soldier always a soldier sort of thing. In an attempt to read some sense into my search for my father's experience in 55th Division I also read Citizen Soldiers (forget who author was) which was a sociologists viewof WW1. I read both about the same time and of the two I thought M,B & P was probably closer to the truth. I recall my father telling me how he had been ordered to cut his officer's hair and was put on a charge for not wearing his steel helmet although the two of them were in full view of the Germans. Having heard other similar stories it seems there were some officers who should not have been.

Kevin Keeley :blink:

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The next time you see him can you tell him that what he says is very interesting but could he please say it without waving his arms around so much, its very off-putting. Decent book though.

Andy

He is like it all the time! -Its refreshing when you have a boring day and he comes in to your office-you certainly wake up!

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I have a copy in the bin.

stevem

Hey Steve-dont bin your books! At least use them on the fire, you can then at least get some benefit from them!

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