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Alan Lines

Lions led by donkeys?

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armourersergeant

Where were the WW2 poets to even up the score? All wars are horrific not just ww1. The storming of the breech at Badajoz can surely not have been anymore horrific than the Somme, nor was the fighting any less, comparatively, hard and costly than the trenches, during WW2. The commanders of WW2 learnt their mistakes on the Somme and 3rd Ypres, yet they were not flaw free and had to adapt to a different warfare.

The bottom line for me is this, yes the soldiers had a right to want their Generals to be right all the time, they were the selected few, however they were but human, and humans get it wrong from time to time.

War is the killer, the Generals just decide how amny or how few die today! The politicians decide what wars we fight and get to keep their hands clean.

regards

Arm

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Alan Lines

Thanks for your replies so far. I'm getting the impression that for various reasons the feeling is that little has changed or is likely too.

Personally I started out fairly neutral but am now a fully paid up member of the lions led by donkeys club. I'm sorry but the revisionists seem too desperate to prove their point, i.e Corrigan's Mud, blood & poppycock. (Yes, I have read Laffin and Winter's books!)

Point taken about journalists but I don't think they all are as ill informed as some may think. The one I have marched with at the Cenotaph in recent years has a far greater knowledge of WW1 maters than most people I know, me included.

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armourersergeant
I'm sorry but the revisionists seem too desperate to prove their point, i.e Corrigan's Mud, blood & poppycock. (Yes, I have read Laffin and Winter's books!)

Strangely, whilst i come from the other club, I think this as well. I am willing to see very easily that the Journo's etc do much damage, I am also able to see that certain historians can also do more damage than help. Gordon Corrigan for one to me tries to over simplfy the point and generalises to largely, that you can shoot holes in his argument and thus wastes what he really has to say.

The losers here unfortunately are the men who served and died, but did their jobs and the men who led them, some badly but still loyally, who tired to do a bad nasty job as bvest they could. For I feel to degenerate the commanders is in some way to undermine the achievements of the PBI, who in the main did the job.

I fear the arguement will go on and on, and perhaps thats good, it means we still seek to learn and educate.

regards

Arm

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FAAAEd
Tommy always has, and always will, whinge about his senior officers. It happens today! From his worm's-eye view he can rarely see the bigger picture.

Steady on old chap I take exception to that statement.

Many in the services below commisioned rank, even in my day and myself included, were and are educated and well informed and understood only too well the inherent risks, and why they were present, even in a so called 'cold war'.

With all that, it's no wonder people's opinions get coloured!

Don't they just. ;):unsure:

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FAAAEd
... those bloomin' war poets have got a lot to answer for!

Hum! Now some of those were actually well educated and were there to see what was going on through intelligent and well informed eyes. Many were the junior officers and NCO's who have made telling comments about shortcommings in intelligence assesment and planning.

Clearly the views of Alan Clark et. al. are at the Donkeys end of the continuum but the correct, and complex, view (as is often the case) lies between this and the 'all mistakes made were simply as a part of the learning curve of an organisation fighting a war under unprecendented conditions and whilst trying to expand a small, professional policing army into one of truely continental capability'.

Indeed, reading Alan MacDonald's recent book on the Gommecourt attacks in 1916 re-inforces my own view that many in the upper echelons of the army do have a case to answer. I am sure I don't need to name names.

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Jon Miller
Also how much did the British have to play to the French high commands tune, I have read many times of the British high commands reluctance to fight in some of the battles they had to fight, also there were times when they wanted to end a battles when it was not going well but were asked by French high command to carry on.

I fear that as no-one else has seen fit to comment upon this, it means that it is an unfashionable point to make. But I'd like to agree with Annette - althought I haven't read a great deal, I certainly have come to the conclusion that the situations that the BEF found itself in were often dictated by what Joffre was insisting had to be done to help the French army. I got the distinct impression that such protestations were the reason for the BEF attacking at Loos, an utterly undesirable place to attack. And although a big attack during 1916 had been provisionally planned, the lessening of French support, and the bringing forward of the start time for the Somme attack to several weeks before Haig was really ready to do business, all helped to make the British Army's task all the more difficult.

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spike10764
would you take "Carry on Cleo" as a faithful description of the going-ons of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Marc Anthony?

What ??? :o You mean it's not....oh......... better get a job on a newspaper then :D

Jon- would that be Lions led by Donkeys prodded by Frenchmen. ???

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Gunner Bailey

The Lions led by donkeys 'quote'. does get me mad.

My considered response is:

We started with the smallest army of the lot and had to create a set of new ones. The Germans and the French had larger and better train forces in 1914.

The UK and Empire forces had the smallest number of casualties out of the main participants.

We were always out-numbered.

We always had the low ground.

We always supported the French - no matter what.

We were the source of more innovation than all the other particpants combined.

We never mutinied.

We always learnt from mistakes and got better.

By 1918 we were the best army in the field.

We Won.

If that is leadership by donkeys, what were the French and Germans led by?

Sadly, just accepting that in terrible circumstances our generals and politicians did a great job (not perfect but great), does not sell newspapers.

Gunner Bailey

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Jonathan Saunders
We always learnt from mistakes and got better.

I dont think it is quite true to say "we always learnt from mistakes". We may have eventually learnt from repeating the same mistakes.

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PhilB
Jon- would that be Lions led by Donkeys prodded by Frenchmen. ???

Or, to keep up the animal theme - Lions led by Donkeys ridden by Frogs? Phil B

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PhilB

I don`t like this polarization into Lions led by donkeys or whatever the opposite is. I`m in the moderate camp - Lions sometimes led by donkeys, sometimes by skilled commanders. There must be more like me. What do we call ourselves to distinguish us from the extremists? :( Phil B

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6th Shropshires
I`m in the moderate camp - Lions sometimes led by donkeys, sometimes by skilled commanders.

What do we call ourselves to distinguish us from the extremists

moderates B)

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Jim Clay

QUOTE (Phil_B @ Aug 22 2006, 10:05 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
What do we call ourselves to distinguish us from the extremists? :( Phil B

Boring realists? :)

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6th Shropshires
Boring realists?
:P

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armourersergeant

How about, Revised revisionists

Arm

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AndyMacdonald
The Lions led by donkeys 'quote'. does get me mad.

My considered response is:

We started with the smallest army of the lot and had to create a set of new ones. The Germans and the French had larger and better train forces in 1914.

The UK and Empire forces had the smallest number of casualties out of the main participants.

We were always out-numbered.

We always had the low ground.

We always supported the French - no matter what.

We were the source of more innovation than all the other particpants combined.

We never mutinied.

We always learnt from mistakes and got better.

By 1918 we were the best army in the field.

We Won.

If that is leadership by donkeys, what were the French and Germans led by?

Sadly, just accepting that in terrible circumstances our generals and politicians did a great job (not perfect but great), does not sell newspapers.

Gunner Bailey

With three exceptions, I disagree strongly with everything you say and wonder how much of it can be reasonably justified. However, time is short and I have enough only to address your comments about selling newspapers at present. Sadly, the stenographers (Gibbs et al) in France/Belgium were essentially puppets to Haig's often-flawed agenda. They were neither journalists, nor propagandists. They fell in to the No Man's Land in between and this is reflected in their work. Censorship is understandable in times of war, but the question remains as to when it should start and finish. By his own admission, Haig flunky Gibbs self-censored his work and had cosy little arrangements (usually informally) with some Brass. He wasn't trying to tell the truth, only further his own career. When the rumblings of discontent were heard after the war, Gibbs quickly changed camp and trotted out more popularist tripe. You might say he closed the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Andy M

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Take on me

QUOTE (Phil_B @ Aug 22 2006, 10:05 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don`t like this polarization into Lions led by donkeys or whatever the opposite is. I`m in the moderate camp - Lions sometimes led by donkeys, sometimes by skilled commanders. There must be more like me. What do we call ourselves to distinguish us from the extremists? :( Phil B

In historical circles; post-revisionists.

Jon

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Take on me
I certainly have come to the conclusion that the situations that the BEF found itself in were often dictated by what Joffre was insisting had to be done to help the French army.

The battles of Neuve Chappele, Loos, the Somme, Arras were all influenced in some way by the French High Command. It was in Haig's instructions to support the French Army, and he remaind a loyal ally throughout, as did his predaccessor, French.

My view is that the British Army, like the French and German, did undergo a 'learning curve' during the 1914-1918. Generalship went from its low points in 1915 and 1916 to its high points in 1918 and I think that lessons were learnt on the Somme and at Third Ypres. However this is not to say that mistakes were not made or that lessons were always learned quickly. Furthermore I have always looked at the wide ranging attritional effects of the battles of the Somme and Third Ypres as justifications of those engagements, however clumsy a weapon attrition actually is, I have to say that I often get the impression that some revisionists neglect attrition and simply focus on the 'learning curve.'

The Generals wore down the German army to a considerable degree, and by August 1918 they were able to reap the rewards of this strategy. I have always seen the British and French role on the Western Front as being fairly similar to the role of Russian forces during the Second World War (although without such tremendous losses), in that they had to play an important part in wearing the German Army down.

Jon :)

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enoch beard

whats the best term' learning curve ' or 'bleeding white' of british army?

i have the view that the naval blockade had more to do with victory than the generals

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armourersergeant

Enoch,

Whilst I too think that the Naval blockade did have a major part to play in the winning of the war, it was in my opinion just one aspect and part. I think there is far too much of Haig won the war or Haig butchered his way to Germany, or the navy did it.

The war was won by nations of which naval and land forces combined to victory. The navy could not have won without Haig and the army and vise versa.

regards

Arm

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Take on me
whats the best term' learning curve ' or 'bleeding white' of british army?

i have the view that the naval blockade had more to do with victory than the generals

It didn't. The First world War was a total war and therefore everything was interlinked, as Arm points out the Army could not have won without the navy and vice versa, neither could have won without the impact of the French, Americans or the collapse of Germany's allies and the threat posed to Germany by a potential Allied thrust from the south. It is not a coincidence that the Allied armies were on the offensive and sweeping away everything before them, albeit at heavy cost, when the German High Command accepted the armistice.

Indeed the actions of the Alied armies had a clear effect on the German High Command in 1918. After the Grand Offensive of late September 1918 the German Command began negotiating and after the British victory at the Sambre on the 4th November 1918, General Groener advised the German cabinet that an armistice was imperative or military collapse imminent. With the army as good as defeated, though not routed, the German Generals had no choice but to seek armistice. Although I do want to make it clear that I am not putting forward a 'Haig won it all view.'

As for the 'bleeding white' of the British Army it is worth pointing out that if the British were going to fight a large body of German troops in order to gain victory heavy casualties were inevitable. Unlike during the Second World War the British did not have an ally like the USSR who would cause 80% of German losses.

Jon

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John_Hartley

QUOTE (Phil_B @ Aug 22 2006, 10:05 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
What do we call ourselves to distinguish us from the extremists? :( Phil B

Historians

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Jonathan Saunders
The navy could not have won without Haig and the army and vise versa.

But it is reasonable to conclude the Royal Navy would have remained undefeated even if Haig had been defeated in F&F, whereas it is disputable that Haig could have "won" without the successful Royal Navy blockade.

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Take on me
But it is reasonable to conclude the Royal Navy would have remained undefeated even if Haig had been defeated in F&F, whereas it is disputable that Haig could have "won" without the successful Royal Navy blockade.

True. But the Royal Navy could not have won without British military victory on the continent. Furthermore if Haig's huge army had been defeated in France and Flanders, chances are that morale on the Home Front might have taken a dsisastrous blow. Moreover victorious in Europe the Germans would have held the strategic initiative while the British would not have had the land forces neccessary to take the fight to the enemy, although she would have been protected against German invasion.

Although I have now descended well and truly into the realm of the hypothetical.

Jon

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Jonathan Saunders
whats the best term' learning curve ' or 'bleeding white' of british army?

i have the view that the naval blockade had more to do with victory than the generals

Amongst the current academics the term Learning Curve is out of vogue. They now use Learning Process ie. sometimes the process of learning was absent, or at least until much later in the war.

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