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Remembered Today:

Soldiers` attitude to privelege


PhilB
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From "Blighty" by G.J.DeGroot:-

Senior officers were under no illusion that this was a democratic war which required them to share the suffering of their men. Along with power went privilege. The fact that his men slept in muddy holes was no reason for Haig to decline a soft bed in a luxurious château. Grouse, salmon, fine wines and the best brandy were sent to him by rich friends at home. Nor did he perceive anything wrong with sending whole lambs and butter from the army stores to his wife so that she would not have to endure food shortages. Luxuries were the confirmation of high authority. In the same sense, extravagant rewards were perfectly justifiable after the war. Already in 1916, Haig assured his wife that 'a grateful nation will not allow me to have a smaller income than I am receiving now! So we will be well enough off to make ourselves comfortable.' Few objections were raised about the luxuries Haig enjoyed during the war, or the rewards he received after it. These were the accepted standards of his class and rank. Greater restraint would have seemed peculiar.

Now, I suppose it`s possible that the PBI, wet through, cold, hungry and fed up, raised "few objections" about the luxuries of the gilded ones, but I do find it hard to imagine. Do you think the above piece fairly reflects the then current attitudes? Phil B

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Do you think the above piece fairly reflects the then current attitudes? Phil B

The then current attitudes of the upper middle class?

Probably. It was a time when the divisions between social classes were much more apparent than today. And I can well imagine Haig thought nowt about it. Similarly, I expect the "lower orders" would have "known their place" and probably not grumbled too much (or, at least, not too seriously).

John

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Two Major-Generals debating whether the rank and file minded being cold, wet and hungry while the top brass dined on quails and slept in feather beds?

:)

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Philip, old chap....that's the difference between then and now.

Now, we two pretend MGs can debate it. Then, the real MGs wouldnt have given a toss whether the troops minded or not.

Harters

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But Harters, what about "Noblesse Oblige"? If it doesn`t oblige one to care about the hardships of the lower orders, what exactly does it suggest? :( Phil B

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Phil

That's an entirely different issue. I have no doubt that the High Command would have wanted conditions for the troops to be as good as possible but I really doubt that they would have have been bothered if the troops "minded" the actuality.

Bit different had our troops acted like the French on the verge of mutiny (and actual mutiny) to force improvements in conditions. That's when High Commands start to be bothered.

My point is that Tommy will, certainly, have grumbled about his conditions. And wanted better food, more leave, fewer lice. But there will have been an acceptance that life was different for the toffs/gaffers/officers - just as it was in Civvie Street.

John

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Gentlemen, Major-Generals,

Sorry for the jibe, which was a 'cheap shot', but intended to be thought-provoking. The privileged circumstances of nobs and senior officers were nothing new - it had been like that for 1000+ years. The reaction of 'Tommy' will have depended on where he came from - 'Tommy' from the town probably had thoughts on the matter, but 'Tommy' from the country would have taken it in his stride. I doubt whether the average man in the trenches knew much about the living conditions of the folk at GHQ. They probably just hated anyone who had dry socks and could go for a sh** without being shelled.

Mick

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In a nutshell........................ ;)

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Phil,

I fully accept the Field Marshal Haigs's living conditions during the War were much better than the men he led.

Whether they were jealous is open to question.Yes, I am sure they would have preferred his bed,etc.I am not so sure about his food because I would suggest many of the things he ate would have been completely alien to them.

Whilst it does not come directly from the point you raise there may be by implication a criticism of the Field Marshal's lifestyle during the War.We have often debated his tactics but if we leave them to one side for the moment,would he have been a better tactician had he lived in the same conditions and ate the same food as his men?Equally would they have accepted the responsibilty that went with sleeping in his bed and eating the food he ate?

I am British and as this is predominately a British and Commonwealth Forum I have an understanding of the British High Command's lifestyle during the War.I do not however have much of an insight into other War Nations High Commands' lifestyle and whether these were more expansive than Haig's.Possibly Colleagues may wish to comment.

To bring it more slightly up to date.I am aware that in WW2 Montgomery preferred spartan living conditions during his active war-front service but I am aware that some of his Allied Colleagues lived in Grand Houses in the UK and France.I am certain these were required for staff and planning purposes but I would suggest these Generals did not live on the Field Rations supplied to the fighting troops.Should we be too critical of one WW1 Field Marshal before looking closely at the lifestyle of his Compatriots both in WW1 and WW2 and I suppose most conflicts since?

George

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I`m not criticizing the generals` superior lifestyles, George. I expect a general, or any other commander, or any soldier for that matter, to live as comfortably as he can manage. Within limits. The question I raised was - would the PBI "raise few objections" about luxurious lifestyles and army stores (whole lambs and butter) sent to wives? What would happen to an OR found selling army stores? Phil B

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It would have been individual. If a person was brought up thinking that the class system was right and just then it would have been a natural occurance for the generals to have good lodgings and share the largesse. After all, isn't that what they have done since Lords and Ladies began. But a soldier who was a free thinker might have quite a bit more to say.

There are instances of Aussies butting in where they were not wanted, because they did not see what gave men the right to have better rations or living conditions than they.

I think, I'd have to look up which one, a an Australian high ranker told his officers to share the life of the private, as it would lead to a more cohesive unit and a better understanding of what was required by the men.

Sorry if the above is a bit confusing, but you will get the gist.

Cheers

Kim

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Phil,

The first thing to say would an OR "nicking " stores admit to it in his diary/letter :D

Clearly there is a Class Difference.For example I have a "ticket" issued to an Uncle when going home on Leave entitling him to a Sugar Ration.I am sure the F.M. did have to be issued with one when he came Home.

Whilst I agree there are inconsistencies of treatment between the Officer and OR Classes.The only thing I have read about OR's becoming upset with their "Betters" was when queuing up for cigarettes, after coming out of the trenches.They became resentful of Base Wallahs who tried to jump the queue but were mollified when an Officer rode up on an old bike and joined the back of the queue.They recognised him as the then Prince of Wales.

George

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They became resentful of Base Wallahs who tried to jump the queue but were mollified when an Officer rode up on an old bike and joined the back of the queue.They recognised him as the then Prince of Wales.

George

Shows that some gentlemen had compassion and tact. Maybe the others should have taken his example.

:)

I bet that won him a lot of admiration.

Cheers

Kim

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Kim,

I know from talking to my Parents about the Abdication Crisis he was greatly respected within the Country not only for his War Service,which he always felt he should be allowed to do more(Bit like the current tensions with Prince Harry possibly serving in Iraq/Afghanistan) but also for the concern he showed for the circumstances of the Country and Empire post-War.

George

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Just out of interest where did Gen. Monash kip at night, in dug-outs or somewhere a little nicer, did he eat the same grub as the ranks or did he eat a little better.

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would a man who as rised from the ranks to become a General :unsure: say no to a nice bed in a chateau ? would he turn down roast lamb and ask to a tin of bully instead ?

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6th S,

Phil's original point is,Was it fair for Senior Officers to apparently purloin Official Rations for their Families use and not be punished when an OR,if caught flogging rations, would be severely punished.

I am quite happy to defend Senior Commanders' actions when considering the responsibilities they had equally I would expect an OR, if caught selling food, to be severely punished as his criminal actions could mean that his mates in the Front Line would be even hungrier.

To my mind it is irrelevant where General Monash slept and what he ate.

You raise an interesting point though,Were Field Marshal Haig and his Senior Generals ever served Bully?I can't anser that question and I suppose the GHQ Menus have long since disappeared :D

George

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Hi George

I guess I was just trying to point out that human nature is human nature, those at the top get away with alot and those at the bottam moan about it, but if the man at the bottom fines himself at the top he is not going to act like he is still at the bottam :unsure:

Annette

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Hi George

I guess I was just trying to point out that human nature is human nature, those at the top get away with alot and those at the bottam moan about it, but if the man at the bottom fines himself at the top he is not going to act like he is still at the bottam :unsure:

Annette

Annette,

Very true.

I can only add that from my reading of the difference between the WW1 and WW2 Generals,the WW2 Generals did not forget their experiences as Junior Officers in WW1.

In fairness to the WW1 Generals, they had no previous World War experiences to draw upon.

George

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