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Alan Tucker

Worrying development

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Alan Tucker

WFA Bulletin has an editorial today which does not bode well for 2014.

Peter Simkins attended a meeting on November 24 of the British Commission for Military History. One of the speakers was Andrew Murrison, the Prime Minister's man for the Centenary (Con, Westbury). Pete Simkins had this to say about what he heard...

"Murrison's speech was profoundly depressing from my point of view. It was full of references to Sebastian Faulks and Pat Barker rather than to Gary Sheffield or John Bourne and we were treated to the usual politically correct stuff about Walter Tull and Edith Cavell so that we got the novelists, the poets, black soldiers and women all featured - but not the architects of victory such as Haig and Foch. The members of the British Commission for Military History (some of them also in the WFA) gave him a fairly rough ride and several delegates called for some acknowledgment of the 100 Days, pointing out that nearly all of the anniversaries proposed by Cameron/Murrison were 'negative' ones such as Gallipoli, the first day on the Somme etc - also that he hadn't mentioned Amiens etc. My strong impression was that he isn't going to change his or the Government's mind".

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keithmroberts

Depressing isn't it. It looks as if the view of the great war espoused by those in power came from a damaged playground copy of a "Horrible History" , or is that unfair to the series.

I emailed Dr Andrew Murchison MP some days ago, urging the potential lasting value, as a tribute to all who served, of making funds available for the digitisation of the pension record cards in conjunction with the WFA and possibly the IWM. I received an immediate auto-response, which has sadly been followed by a deafening silence.

I have a horrible feeling that only photo-opportunities matter, which is why I shall not be struggling to visit anywhere on an exact centenary date.

Keith

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KevinBattle

Unfortunately, no real surprise is it?

Has to appease all sorts of pressure groups and he doesn't seem to be the man to stand up and say "Be Proud, this is what they sacrificed their lives for - give them the recognition NOW for what they lost" That means woolly platitudes afraid of upsetting or offending any fringe factions so we'll be lucky if the actually allow the word "War" to be even mentioned..... I despair

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exuser1

Is it a surprise ? Of course not , the powers that be will use this as the normal photo call looking somber at various do's then disappearing off to the free drinks ,anyone who saw the shambles at Ypres on 11th November 2011 and witnessed the Olympians junket will be aware of what's in store for 2014, with a few exceptions of today's politicos what interest have they in the Great War ? Be prepared for the usual outpouring of hand wringing ,we are all friends now speech ,every soldier a warrior poet blah blah !

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Jim Hastings

No not a surprise at all, sadly and despairingly. I'll be teaching then and plan to counter such negativities and stereotypes, but I knew I'd be against the current.

Annoying and frustrating!

Jim

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Dragon

Though I hope that government and others will take the opportunities to widen public interest and knowledge, the fact is that Sebastian Faulks and Pat Barker have demonstrated the ability to speak to hundreds of thousands of people, while some of the academics mentioned have not.

What is the evidence that planning has been swayed by a desire to pacify minority groups? Is there a planning trail to read? I am disturbed by the suggestion in the quoted speech that women are a mere fringe interest group.

Gwyn

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Steven Broomfield

But on the other hand, every time someone complains about (say) movies like the appalling War Horse we are told that anything is better than nothing, and if it gets people interested in finding out the 'truth' (whatever that is), it must be a Good Thing. By that criterion, anything about the centenary must be a Good Thing.

Personally, I think it's b&ll&cks, but does anyone really expect that the government - any government - is going to stand against the mawkers, the PC brigade or the illiterate?

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martin14

I have an opinion on this topic.

We have all seen how PC mad the UK has become, you can read about it everyday in the papers.

It should not be a surprise to anyone that this will try to infect it's way into any commemorations of WWI.

pointing out that nearly all of the anniversaries proposed by Cameron/Murrison were 'negative' ones such as Gallipoli, the first day on the Somme etc

Well, Gallipoli was a failure.. a famous, spectacular one. So were most of the engagements of WWI.

Mons, Messines, Arras, Somme, Passchendale, all tactical failures. Where are the real victories ?

I understand the First Day of the Somme, to anyone who objects, let's remember the rest of the campaign didn't go any better,

the memorial at Thiepval attests to that.

Speaking of which, the vast majority of WWI memorial sites are commemorations for the dead..

Menin, Tyne Cot, Verdun, Passchendale, even Vimy is not a 'happy' place.

These are the famous places that the kids are visiting these days, these are the memories they will

take away from the visits.

Speaking as a Canadian, I think we will get some special events for Vimy, Beaumont Hamel,

maybe Passchendale, and if we are really lucky the 2nd Battle of Ypres, where the Germans first used gas

and the Canadians held the line. That gives us one serious commemoration every year from 2015 - 17.

As far as the 100 days goes, I will only say that it isn't 2018 yet... so there is time.

It behooves each and every member of this forum to get off their collective asses and do something to try

and influence the governments program of events, some of which would still be in the developmental stage.

Sitting in front of your computer, moaning about an unanswered email ain't gonna cut it.

Individually, and in small groups, you must make your voices heard for things to be done in a proper way.

Force an answer.. floods of letters, phone calls, even going to visit your local big cheese in charge of whatever.

There are serious levels of knowledge on this forum, it's even a bit intimidating for a part time dabbler such as myself.

That knowledge needs to be used and exploited to push your reps.

If you don't, then the PC hacks will win, Haig will be elevated to the level of a War Criminal ( if that hasn't already happened )

and many things that these men fought and died will be gone.

I will also state IMO this will be the last chance, after 2018 WWI will be relegated into the same list as Waterloo, Hastings, etc.

Down, out, no one gives a damn.

The Belgians have already decided to forget WWI as fast as possible, they are in it for the tourist dollars.

Don't worry about upsetting the Germans, our failures would hardly be seen as German 'victories', and vise versa.

Most of the politicans will be in it for the photo op, and to dole out some dollars / pounds for specialized groups for

certain events.. we should be getting some of that money, because it usually goes to the revisionist PC brigade.

You can choose.

OK, my rant is over, time to look for a shell hole to dive into. :)

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Dragon

Phrases like 'PC' and 'the politically correct brigade' aren't helpful in addressing anything in what could be still be a productive dialogue with opinion formers and policy makers.

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Chris_Baker

Surely the tone for this was set many decades ago. State, church and the Royal British Legion adopted a position that remembrance of the Great War is essentially funereal. It is all about the dead. There is nothing about the millions who served and survived. There is nothing about those whose lives were shattered for the long term. And goodness me, shudders down Whitehall to suggest that there were men who had the best time of their life and found unparalleled comradeship. There is nothing "politically correct" in Britain's weird refusal to admit the success it achieved in 1918. It is of great regret to me that the "revisionist" efforts dating from the 1960s onwards has had so little effect on this. I'm not sure that letters to the MPs and committees planning centenary events are going to make much difference now.

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Dragon

Influence on a regional level, maybe?

It seems to me that the main interest of a huge portion of GWF membership is dead people. I imagine quite a few local authorities are being persuaded to focus on local dead as 2014 approaches.

Gwyn

Edited by Dragon

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martin14

Phrases like 'PC' and 'the politically correct brigade' aren't helpful in addressing anything in what could be still be a productive dialogue with opinion formers and policy makers.

You're missing the point.

It's not to bash their agenda, it's to promote ours.

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Dragon

So how does using a totally meaningless catch-all phrase like 'politically correct' do anything except reinforce the impression that the writer is too lazy to formulate a precise idea in promoting a desirable agenda?

The original quotation dismissed anything populist as 'politically correct' and pandering to fringe groups instead of analysing the reasons behind not doing things the way he thought they should be done.

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exuser1

It will be interesting to see how the French will look at this on a national level ? For one thing there will be huge military parades showing off Frances military forces and celebrating the defence of Verdun ,yes some will morn but Frances Veterans will celebrate ,if our local remberance parades here are any thing to go by politically correct they will not be !

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bruce

Just maybe for once, the French have got it right!

Bruce

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John_Hartley

So how does using a totally meaningless catch-all phrase like 'politically correct' do anything except reinforce the impression that the writer is too lazy to formulate a precise idea in promoting a desirable agenda?

It doesn't. It's one of those meaningless phrases used these days seemingly to insult folk with whom the writer disagrees but is unable/unwilling to articulate the reasons for disagreement in any useful form. In the context of this thread, it is distinctly unhelpful. But, then, I always think it's distinctly unhelpful. That said, I usually understand the implication of what's been said and am usually happy to be described as being very "politically correct".

By the by, I'd also agree with your earlier comparision of the Sebastain Foulkes effect on the public consciousness with the effect of the "learned historians".

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Kate Wills

OK then, let's have a wish list.

Alan mentioned a call for the Last 100 Days, which is the sort of title marketing folk would give their eye-teeth to invent, and also I would be the ideal lead-up to a culmination event marking the Armistice.

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SteveMarsdin

I'd also agree with your earlier comparision of the Sebastain Foulkes effect on the public consciousness with the effect of the "learned historians".

Gwyn, John, and so would I but it doesn't mean I agree that the Government should follow their lead; it would be a sad day if the main drivers to a commemoration of such an important event were fictional novelists.

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John_Hartley

Steve

By co-incidence , in the time lag between my earlier post and now, my copy of the WFA Bulletin has arrived. It includes a transcript of Cameron's speech on the subject which notes that, as well as Foulkes, the advisory committee (to be chaired by the Culture Secretary) will also include Tom King and George Robertson (both ex- Secretaries of State for Defence), Jock Stirrup & Richard Dannatt (both respected retired Chiefs of the General Staff, I believe) and Hew Stachan (emminent military historian). I'd have thought these were exactly the sort of folk who would bring their differing life experiences to the subject in a very beneficial way.

John

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Dragon

I didn't think it should be the main drivers, but these writers have connected with people and I bet lots of people have come to an interest in the Great War because of fiction with a Great War context. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. To a point, plans have to take account of where people are. Otherwise they'll just drive by, look in and drive on none the wiser, probably thinking that all the war stuff is not for them. If the anniversary is to be inclusive, the powers-that-be can't pitch it all at something way beyond people's experience, and experience includes fiction and poetry.

I'm not being condescending, by the way. History just isn't some people's thing any more than I would be wildly excited at being taken to a conference on plate tectonics. I did say that I hoped that government and others would take the opportunity to broaden people's knowledge.

Gwyn

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SiegeGunner

... as well as Foulkes, the advisory committee (to be chaired by the Culture Secretary) will also include Tom King and George Robertson (both ex- Secretaries of State for Defence), Jock Stirrup & Richard Dannatt (both respected retired Chiefs of the General Staff, I believe) and Hew Stachan (eminent military historian).

It's a great pity that Richard Holmes is not still with us ...

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Khaki

There is a huge difference between interest (ours) and awareness (theirs), in their case awareness is relatively dormant and is awakened from time to time by events, such as , the passing of the last veterans etc. I do not expect that my intensity of interest is or will be shared by others who do not have the same passion. I can admire a collection of, let's say uniforms of another conflict however it is 'fleeting' , so it is with most people, to whom the Great War is a piece of the historical jigsaw puzzle (albeit a big piece) that is our world.

I do not ever expect to overhear a casual conversation about Amiens or the merits of the "pals battalions" whilst I am riding on public transport, those conversations are for us to have here. So don't be too downcast on the apparent lack of this or that, I am cheered by the continual stream of visitors including schools to the old battlefields. The participation of public awareness is still there, just refrain from measuring it against ours.

khaki

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hazelclark

There is a huge difference between interest (ours) and awareness (theirs), in their case awareness is relatively dormant and is awakened from time to time by events, such as , the passing of the last veterans etc. I do not expect that my intensity of interest is or will be shared by others who do not have the same passion. I can admire a collection of, let's say uniforms of another conflict however it is 'fleeting' , so it is with most people, to whom the Great War is a piece of the historical jigsaw puzzle (albeit a big piece) that is our world.

I do not ever expect to overhear a casual conversation about Amiens or the merits of the "pals battalions" whilst I am riding on public transport, those conversations are for us to have here. So don't be too downcast on the apparent lack of this or that, I am cheered by the continual stream of visitors including schools to the old battlefields. The participation of public awareness is still there, just refrain from measuring it against ours.

khaki

Well said! my mother told me that my interest in the past is "unhealthy".

H.C.

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KevinBattle

If we focus on what should be celebrated, isn't the fact that the "Contemptible little army" stopped the advance of the Germans just long enough for defences to be made at the Marne and thus halt the drive on Paris? That the British Regular Army was practically destroyed to aid our Allies in France and Belgium should be appreciated, even if the tactics employed once it went to trench warfare were to cost the British forces dear. That makes the achievements of capturing Vimy Ridge and other similar areas where all the advantages lay with the Germans all the more admirable.

The fact that the Germans held virtually all the high ground so that attacks had of necessity to be over unfavourable ground should still celebrate those advances won so dearly.

The introduction of the tank was a major step forward, even if the commanders did not understand its limitations and did not exploit its strengths to the best advantage, but after 4 years of fighting over the same few miles, virtually nothing short of helicopters could have made much difference.

That the spirit of the "Tommy" stood up to appalling living conditions and still was able to fight, attack or defend against some of the most pulverising artillery bombardments and the use of gas should be commemorated, as well as the privations engendered by sharing the same moment to moment dangers to forge a comradeship that few ever forgot.

To say that the GWF is mainly concerned with the Dead is grossly unfair, it simply is a fact that the records are there to assist recreate a life (or lives) lost which don't exist to the same extent as for the living. That so few of the living wanted to be reminded of the horrors is understandable but also regrettable as families now are desperately anxious to know what their forebears did, where they were and all kinds of extraneous information that all adds to our knowledge.

I just don't want all these many hundreds of thousands of otherwise normal people to be given less credence than say Walter Tull just to appease a minority.

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auchonvillerssomme

I'm not sure how the goverment are going to get away with not mentioning Germany or Austria, at least when discussing WW2 they can call them Nazis.

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