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"lions Led By Donkeys" - Topic Close To Billb's Heart


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On 21 March 1918, General Sir Julian Byng and General Sir Hubert Gough were attacked by 50 identified German divisions on that single day.

 

By God, those two guys fought off 50 divisions all by themselves? I'd say that puts all those contentions about chateau generalship to rest! Who needs a dirty mass of soldiers when you can just send a couple of plucky generals to win the war for you?

 

I don't really see why the protagonists would have wanted to negotiate on that basis in 1917 any more than they did for real, and IMO it was that line of thinking as pushed by Wilson that actually caused Europe a lot of anguish 1920-1989. The reason Round 2 came in 1939 was not because the Allies were beastly to the Hun, it was because US idealistic interference prevented the Allies from being beastly enough to the Hun by preventing the conflict from reaching its proper conclusion as it did in 1945. As we've seen in numerous places across the globe since 1945, half-measures and wishful thinking merely allow bad situations to drag on and store up trouble for the future, and I'd argue that Wilson's involvement in the "ending" of the First World War was the beginning of that tendency.

 

Frankly, this always strikes me as the equivalent to the modern American whining of "we could have won Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan if we only had taken the gloves off" - except that British politics seem to have a propensity for losing the peace after winning the preceding war, and entirely by their own domestic decisions. I don't see much that was foregone in the armistice and Treaty of Versailles, least of all at Wilson's insistence, other than maybe the French intention to move their border to the Rhine or else create a buffer state there (which they tried anyway). And the most far-reaching French plans were opposed by the UK as much as the US due to the British desire of avoiding a power vacuum in Central Europe with revolutionary Russia to the East.

 

Moreover, there was not much that could have been realistically achieved over what happened anyway. Germany could have been totally demilitarized, but that would not only have gone against the British strategy, but under the treaty provisions it shouldn't have been a credible threat to anybody as it was. It could have been hit with even more reparations, but it couldn't pay them as it was, and again it was the UK along with the US, long after Wilson, who pushed France into eventually having payments cancelled. It couldn't be forced to install a new system of government as after 1945, because it had already done that by itself.

 

Arguably the armistice in France between nominally unbeaten armies was fatal in that it allowed the creation of the dagger stab myth, but even there I can't see what continued fighting would have achieved over the eventual treaty regulations in practice - it would have been a case of "we won't allow you to sue for unconditional peace until you accept unconditional peace!"; and let's face it, after four years of slaughter nobody would have relished the perspective to fight all the way into a country that was already erupting into revolutionary fervor.

 

I guess Germany could have been occupied beyond the Rhineland to drive the message home like in 1945, and maybe split up like Austria-Hungary; but again, that was close to happening anyway with separatism in the Rhineland, Bavaria, Thuringia plus the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the Eastern territories. Unlike in the Austrian empire, nationalism worked for rather than against unity though, so the division would have to be enforced. That would need a post-1945 mindset of sustained continental engagement to be retconned in that was just not there in British post-1918 politics as far as I can see (in fact the traditional strategy of using continental nations as balancing blocks was pretty much diametrically opposed to it).

 

Unfortunately once you allow WW I to happen (which looks pretty inevitable by itself within a few years of the original timeframe given the alliances and the way everybody on the continent was spoiling for a fight over perceived past injuries), I think WW II is an almost inescapable result. What distinguished the outcome of the latter from the former more than anything else was the almost unequivocal acceptance of responsibility by both winners and losers - there was little denying that Germany had started that one, and the Allies realized they had to stay put. Notably, while they bit the sour apple of continued engagement, success arose with a more lenient regime than the hardline approach foreseen by the Morgenthau Plan and similar.

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Major problem of military history of Western Front, or WW1 in general, is that English-speaking world concentrates only on British war literature: what the Germans and French have written about the war is almost entirely untranslated and almost all casual - and many serious - history buffs are completely ignorant about them. And if their conclusions are mentioned somewhere, they tend to be ignored or discredited because of their 'foreigness', apparently only British military historians can be unbiased and neutral. For example, very extensive Wikipedia article about Battle of Somme contains 32 references from English-speaking world, zero from elsewhere.If someone today would write a history on WW2 Eastern Front based only on German sources, he would be laughed off the stage. Yet for some reason, WW1 history runs around in circles recycling same primary sources, arguments and viewpoints, all of which are British.

WWI plays a huge part in the French collective memory and it isn't a happy memory.

As for Germany, most high school students in English speaking countries will at some stage study the war poetry of Sassoon and Owen at the same time reading All Quiet on the Western Front - written by a German soldier about the German side.

 

Find one movie from either country about WWI that isn't about poor soldiers in the mud, the victims of chateau generalship.

 

Using Wikipedia English as a source for lack of non-English sourcing is like using Wikipedia Russia for an article on the T72 and complaining for a lack of English sources.

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Given the German plans for 1917, I don't think any negotiated peace would have been found agreeable. Once Brest-Litovsk is signed in 1918, there will be no agreed peace with restoration of pre-war frontiers, either.

 

Bill, the shining example of militarism is the Dual Alliance, but Sazanov knew that their mobilization meant war. A partial mobilization in just the southern districts might have meant containing the conflict to Serbia, but the Tsar's military advisors would not take that risk. Of course, risk was in everybody's mind and none seemed bearable.

 

DB, the only German war plan active is a modified Schlieffen Plan. War with anybody means attacking France, through Belgium. This is what is meant by militarism. William actually faltered at one point in his mobilization and asked if they could only move against Russia. The GS said it was not possible, but Gen Groener, who headed the RR office of the GS in 1914, wrote postwar that they could have done it. There are more mistakes.

Yes Ken, but the Russ had the option of waiting for developments after partial or full mobilisation (at least until logistics & disease rendered it unsound) whereas the Germans did not, as you point out in the last para. IIRC Groener meant that it was technically possible to stop the attack into Belgium but doing so with virtually all the German Army either on trains or enroute to/from railheads as per the Schlieffen Plan would have left Germany pretty much helpless in the face of attack. I can therefore see why the German GS referred to stopping short as being impossible; as you say risk was in everybody's mind and what can be seen as a mistake in hindsight may not have been quite so apparent under the conditions prevailing at the time.

 

BillB

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Yes Ken, but the Russ had the option of waiting for developments after partial or full mobilisation (at least until logistics & disease rendered it unsound) whereas the Germans did not, as you point out in the last para. IIRC Groener meant that it was technically possible to stop the attack into Belgium but doing so with virtually all the German Army either on trains or enroute to/from railheads as per the Schlieffen Plan would have left Germany pretty much helpless in the face of attack. I can therefore see why the German GS referred to stopping short as being impossible; as you say risk was in everybody's mind and what can be seen as a mistake in hindsight may not have been quite so apparent under the conditions prevailing at the time.

 

BillB

 

 

The Russians theoretically had the option to hold in place, but as their mobilization had originally been called to the defence of Serbia, at the moment the Austrian army crossed the Serbian frontier around mid-August, the Russian army would either have to advance into Galicia immediately thereafter or Russia would face a humiliating stand-down. From the German perspective, having called their own mobilization to pursue war with Serbia, the Austrians seemed likely to barrel ahead, and that the Russians would begin their advance immediately afterwards.

 

In terms of the argument on 1 August concerning the Schlieffen Plan, the impetus for the showdown had been the sudden premise of British neutrality. When this possibility was removed by Lichnowsky later that evening, the focal point of the dispute between Bethmann and Moltke disappeared, and the original plan continued.

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Bill, I have often wondered what G thought they would do but have not discovered his original writing on it, not that it was a high priority for me. I can only imagine he thought the complete deployment plan would have been effected, bringing the bulk of the army to the BE-FR frontier, after which new orders would have sent the trains and troops across to the Russian frontier, a la Waldersee Plan. Technically, they could have done that, trusting to the forts and BE neutrality to hold in the west while the Waldersee Plan was resurrected on the fly. Given the slow pace on the E front by the principal Russian commanders, it might have worked.

 

But the problem is still militarism, and as you pointed out, the Germans wish for an early settlement vs France and Russia, overruling diplomacy while they have the advantages they perceive as fading over time. So, yes, no mistakes were made in their frame of reference and they did what they intended all along.

 

Ken

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Frankly, this always strikes me as the equivalent to the modern American whining of "we could have won Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan if we only had taken the gloves off" - except that British politics seem to have a propensity for losing the peace after winning the preceding war, and entirely by their own domestic decisions. I don't see much that was foregone in the armistice and Treaty of Versailles, least of all at Wilson's insistence, other than maybe the French intention to move their border to the Rhine or else create a buffer state there (which they tried anyway). And the most far-reaching French plans were opposed by the UK as much as the US due to the British desire of avoiding a power vacuum in Central Europe with revolutionary Russia to the East.

 

Moreover, there was not much that could have been realistically achieved over what happened anyway. Germany could have been totally demilitarized, but that would not only have gone against the British strategy, but under the treaty provisions it shouldn't have been a credible threat to anybody as it was. It could have been hit with even more reparations, but it couldn't pay them as it was, and again it was the UK along with the US, long after Wilson, who pushed France into eventually having payments cancelled. It couldn't be forced to install a new system of government as after 1945, because it had already done that by itself.

 

Arguably the armistice in France between nominally unbeaten armies was fatal in that it allowed the creation of the dagger stab myth, but even there I can't see what continued fighting would have achieved over the eventual treaty regulations in practice - it would have been a case of "we won't allow you to sue for unconditional peace until you accept unconditional peace!"; and let's face it, after four years of slaughter nobody would have relished the perspective to fight all the way into a country that was already erupting into revolutionary fervor.

 

I guess Germany could have been occupied beyond the Rhineland to drive the message home like in 1945, and maybe split up like Austria-Hungary; but again, that was close to happening anyway with separatism in the Rhineland, Bavaria, Thuringia plus the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the Eastern territories. Unlike in the Austrian empire, nationalism worked for rather than against unity though, so the division would have to be enforced. That would need a post-1945 mindset of sustained continental engagement to be retconned in that was just not there in British post-1918 politics as far as I can see (in fact the traditional strategy of using continental nations as balancing blocks was pretty much diametrically opposed to it).

 

Unfortunately once you allow WW I to happen (which looks pretty inevitable by itself within a few years of the original timeframe given the alliances and the way everybody on the continent was spoiling for a fight over perceived past injuries), I think WW II is an almost inescapable result. What distinguished the outcome of the latter from the former more than anything else was the almost unequivocal acceptance of responsibility by both winners and losers - there was little denying that Germany had started that one, and the Allies realized they had to stay put. Notably, while they bit the sour apple of continued engagement, success arose with a more lenient regime than the hardline approach foreseen by the Morgenthau Plan and similar.

 

I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about the British propensity for losing the peace and most of the last para apart from you missing the beginning of the Cold War having a lot to do with it too, but my position is a long way from the whining you refer to and you are being a tad selective I think.

 

The key point is that had hostilities continued until the German Army in the west had been destroyed in the field then there would have been no victory parade, no ambiguity about who had lost and likely therefore less ambiguity as to who started it, which would not only have been a good thing from an international perspective but to German domestic advantage too. The German Army carried much if not most responsibility for the outbreak of the conflict and the damage it inflicted on Germany, but as it was they were able to walk away with their privileged position in German society pretty much intact. They deflected the Allied antipathy to the Kaiser by dropping their role as the bulwark of absolutism like a hot potato, they adroitly avoided domestic responsibility for the consequences of defeat by handing it to Ebert et al and thereby set them up to take take the flak for Versailles, they kept their hands clean in the crushing of the German Revolution by using the Freikorps as a proxy, to the extent that the German people were happy to elect a field marshal as president. And behind that until 1933 they ran rings round the German government and the Allies by preparing for round two via shell companies in Spain and Sweden and co-operating with the Soviets; I think the rise of Hitler and his merry men has conveniently obscured the degree to which the German military were determined to have round two. Had the German Army been comprehensively defeated in the field in 1918 rather than being allowed to disengage and trot off home like an undefeated force then things may well have turned out rather differently; I suspect that the Weimar Republic might have stood a better chance if the public opprobrium it attracted had been directed at the real culprit and with post-1945 style demilitarisation. :)

 

BillB

 

Edited to add: and ref your bit about US whining in the first para, the key difference there is that the gloves had already come off and the German Army in the west had been comprehensively beaten in 1918, principally by the British in the 100 Days. They were making a fair job of a fighting withdrawal I'll grant you, but the amount of prisoners alone show that the game was up and only the Armistice saved them from total collapse. So there! :P :)

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Major problem of military history of Western Front, or WW1 in general, is that English-speaking world concentrates only on British war literature: what the Germans and French have written about the war is almost entirely untranslated and almost all casual - and many serious - history buffs are completely ignorant about them. And if their conclusions are mentioned somewhere, they tend to be ignored or discredited because of their 'foreigness', apparently only British military historians can be unbiased and neutral. For example, very extensive Wikipedia article about Battle of Somme contains 32 references from English-speaking world, zero from elsewhere.

If someone today would write a history on WW2 Eastern Front based only on German sources, he would be laughed off the stage. Yet for some reason, WW1 history runs around in circles recycling same primary sources, arguments and viewpoints, all of which are British.

I've seen this stuff from you before, can't remember if we went around on it. Either way, I disagree and would like to see some evidence of British military historians discrediting stuff for 'foreignness'; unless by 'buffs' you mean internet blowhards, in which case seriously, what do you expect? Methinks you are dressing up some obscure personal grudge as something it is not.

 

That aside, two points. First, the stuff by British mil historians is written for primarily British consumption, so what language would you suggest it should be written in? How many Finnish books on the Winter War or the Eastern Front deal with things from the Soviet perspective, or are published in English? I dunno about Germany but there are mountains of French writings on the First World War but very little if any of it deals with anything other than the French perspective, or has been translated. According to your logic I ought to be railing against Francophone discrimination...

 

Second, I think you need to take Archie's advice and step away from Wikipedia, and then mebbe dig a little deeper. Jack Sheldon has written five properly researched and referenced books on the German Army on the Western Front using German sources in addition to several smaller battlefield guides, and Hew Strachan's The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms is noteworthy because AFAIK it is the first work to examine the matter from the perspective of *all* the participants using primary source material from all of them too; that's why it runs to over 1200 pages. They are just the ones I'm familiar with off the top of my head, I expect there are others. Not many I'll grant you, but more than enough to sink your contention I think.

 

BillB

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The key point is that had hostilities continued until the German Army in the west had been destroyed in the field then there would have been no victory parade, no ambiguity about who had lost and likely therefore less ambiguity as to who started it, which would not only have been a good thing from an international perspective but to German domestic advantage too. The German Army carried much if not most responsibility for the outbreak of the conflict and the damage it inflicted on Germany, but as it was they were able to walk away with their privileged position in German society pretty much intact. They deflected the Allied antipathy to the Kaiser by dropping their role as the bulwark of absolutism like a hot potato, they adroitly avoided domestic responsibility for the consequences of defeat by handing it to Ebert et al and thereby set them up to take take the flak for Versailles, they kept their hands clean in the crushing of the German Revolution by using the Freikorps as a proxy, to the extent that the German people were happy to elect a field marshal as president. And behind that until 1933 they ran rings round the German government and the Allies by preparing for round two via shell companies in Spain and Sweden and co-operating with the Soviets; I think the rise of Hitler and his merry men has conveniently obscured the degree to which the German military were determined to have round two. Had the German Army been comprehensively defeated in the field in 1918 rather than being allowed to disengage and trot off home like an undefeated force then things may well have turned out rather differently; I suspect that the Weimar Republic might have stood a better chance if the public opprobrium it attracted had been directed at the real culprit and with post-1945 style demilitarisation. :)

 

BillB

 

Edited to add: and ref your bit about US whining in the first para, the key difference there is that the gloves had already come off and the German Army in the west had been comprehensively beaten in 1918, principally by the British in the 100 Days. They were making a fair job of a fighting withdrawal I'll grant you, but the amount of prisoners alone show that the game was up and only the Armistice saved them from total collapse. So there! :P :)

 

 

Hence my reference to the fatal impact of the armistice in France. However, my point remains, could the outcome really be changed by not allowing the Germans to sue for peace before pushing into Germany proper? The brass already know they're beaten, and the terms are already as tough as they're going to get; the Rhineland is occupied even before the Treaty of Versailles. When the Scheidemann government gets threatened with Entente troops invading the rest if they don't sign the latter, one idea is to leave Western Germany to them without a fight and retreat to an Oststaat (Eastern and Western Prussia) as a heavily armed resistance center, not nominally part of the Reich and not under its diplomatic obligations (this idea is actually already floated in December 1918 to deal with Polish territorial demands). The ultimate reason for acquiescence is the devastating supply situation due to the continueing allied sea blockade.

 

What if the Entente continues fighting, not even giving the German government the chance of a tough-termed armistice, but the German army don't play but just withdraw in their face, citing the plight of the civilian population which suddenly becomes the responsibility of the occupation troops in a country which may at best greet them with the passive resistance experienced by the French in the Ruhr occupation, at worst rife with competing non-governmental armed bands, from communist revolutionaries to nationalist Freikorps which keep fighting each other for years in the real world? I'm sure whatever stronghold the old forces might throw up can eventually be cracked, but it will not be a happy situation for anybody involved; I don't think it's so clear-cut the outcome would be any better (I once devised a what-if in which Germany crumbled after WW I; the point was that Hitler then needed some additional years for internal Anschlüsse, so that WW II could ultimately be fought with more advanced technology :D).

 

And obviously the emerging Cold War had a decisive impact on the situation post-1945; but since the British rationale behind allowing a stable Germany post-1918 was also to avoid a power vacuum possibly filled by the USSR, I contend that the main difference is still the change from the traditional balance-of-power policy to long-term continental commitment. :)

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That aside, two points. First, the stuff by British mil historians is written for primarily British consumption, so what language would you suggest it should be written in?

Uh, I'm not sure I ever suggested otherwise and I don't understand where you got such an impression??

 

How many Finnish books on the Winter War or the Eastern Front deal with things from the Soviet perspective, or are published in English?

There used to be very little Soviet war literature translated to Finnish, because such literature didn't exist. Soviet historians dealt Winter War as a non-event. There were some Soviet histories which dealt with Continuation War and they were indeed translated to Finnish and studied by Finnish academics. However they tended to be quite generic in nature and of limited use for detailed research. Situation has changed somewhat in recent two decades.

 

Not many Finnish military history works (which are a huge body of literature!) have been translated to English: there simply is no market for them. Quality translation is expensive. Exceptions are mostly aviation literature, which are sometimes made straight to English or Finnish-English editions: for example Red Stars series by Geust et al: JoeB used to sometimes refer to it.

 

But this actually brings up very point which I was making: in early '90s aviation historians began to put together comprehensive picture of aerial warfare over Fennoscandia using primary sources from all belligrent countries (Russia, Finland, UK and Germany), allowing them to cross-refer and compare AAR's and combat claims. Results were kind of embarrassing for everyone involved: it turned out that many claims, presented as facts in previous research, were in reality complete fantasy! Every air force had demonstrated massive optimism, or outright lied about their exploits in the front. No amount of re-analysis or myth-busting based on previous work could have revealed this. It was possible only when access was gained to sources of opposing side. Many books which I had read in the '80s were rendered obsolete.

 

I dunno about Germany but there are mountains of French writings on the First World War but very little if any of it deals with anything other than the French perspective, or has been translated. According to your logic I ought to be railing against Francophone discrimination...

Well, I don't read French myself, and I don't know to what extent French historians have studied German or British sources so I can't comment their possible perspective bias.

Little, if any, French war literature has been translated to Finnish. Translating English literature tends to be cheaper.

 

Second, I think you need to take Archie's advice and step away from Wikipedia, and then mebbe dig a little deeper. Jack Sheldon has written five properly researched and referenced books on the German Army on the Western Front using German sources in addition to several smaller battlefield guides, and Hew Strachan's The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms is noteworthy because AFAIK it is the first work to examine the matter from the perspective of *all* the participants using primary source material from all of them too; that's why it runs to over 1200 pages. They are just the ones I'm familiar with off the top of my head, I expect there are others. Not many I'll grant you, but more than enough to sink your contention I think.

Well if so, that's great! Maybe my knowledge of state of WW1 research is obsolete: books I'm familiar with are older generation, mostly 'popular works', only non-English sources they quote tend to be memoirs, little if any mention to academic work from other languages. Which I view as inexcusable, since such works were available.

 

I wouldn't dismiss Wikipedia out of hand. Whilst it's not scientific body of work and there can be weird bias and messy edits, many articles have their main body of text written by expert on a subject: they tend to reflect state of research. Archie's example was poorly chosen: T-72 article in Russian Wikipedia actually has relatively better spread of sources than English article on Somme...

Btw: English Wikipedia lists Somme as "British/French victory", French Wikipedia considers it "indecisive", German Wikipedia says "Offensive aborted/indecisive" :)

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A couple of points -

 

(1) It's pretty clear the anti-war wave of the 30s was due in part to frustrations with the postwar world of the 20s and 30s. People who felt the war was worth the sacrifice in 1925 often held a different opinion in 1935.

 

(2) Whether or not British generals were "donkeys", it is objectively true that the British war effort on land was severely hampered by entering the war with a small professional army that was badly decimated in the first few months of fighting (thereby sacrificing the core leadership for a larger army) rather than a large conscript force run by a professional general staff of long experience and supported by a sizable arms and munitions industry. They were bound to be "behind the curve" relative to the Germans and French for at least part of the war.

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Ref: BillB's post, this whole thread I learned more on WW1 history from that post than any other book or documentary on the topic I've read/watched. Of course, my literature and documentary record of WW1 is very very slim....

 

Thank you all.

Edited by TomasCTT
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A couple of points -

 

(1) It's pretty clear the anti-war wave of the 30s was due in part to frustrations with the postwar world of the 20s and 30s. People who felt the war was worth the sacrifice in 1925 often held a different opinion in 1935.

I will also note that "idiot generals sacrificing poor soldiers struggling in the mud" -theme is not limited to WW1. I'm pretty sure such works can be found about almost any war. In fact that exactly describes most iconic Finnish war novel, "Unknown Soldier", and not coincidentally, it was subject to similar controversy. But the fact is that many soldiers really did feel that way about the war. Lets not even talk about Vietnam movies...

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It really sounds like Blackadder Goes Forth is taken a bit too seriously in this debate :) as I recall, Blackadder the Third had rather unflattering portrayals of Wellington and Nelson, Blackadder II presented Elisabeth as a childish, bloodthirsty tyrant and surely nobody would seriously suggest that 1st series is a historically accurate portrayal of War of the Roses?

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Related: Serbian historians prove Princip not at fault for WW I, film at eleven.

 

Region | January 7, 2014 | 10:11

 

Letter "reveals WW1 plans one year before assassination"

 

ANDRIĆGRAD -- Plans for the start of World War I existed 13 months before the Sarajevo assassination and 14 months before Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

 

This can be inferred from a copy of the letter that Director of the Archives of Serbia Miroslav Perišić presented in Andrićgrad, in the RS, Bosnia.

 

Governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina Oskar Potiorek sent this letter to the then Minister of Austria-Hungary Bilinski on May 28, 1913, and its copy was made public at the history department of Kamengrad (Andrićgrad) on Sunday.

Perišić noted that the letter is of manifold importance for all those engaged in the study of World War I, as it not only uncovers the intentions of Viennese pro-war circles, but also the stands the ruling circles took on Serbs, Croats, Muslims and their relations, especially in relation to Vienna's policy on the Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia, and proponents of the idea of unification of the South Slavs.

“Potiorek's letter is a document that falls into the category of primary sources, as it was created at the time when the event took place and it is one of the most important historical sources when doing a research on the issue of blame and accountability for the beginning of World War I,” Perišić said.

He noted that the reasons for keeping this letter away from the public eye are not difficult to grasp, because its content did not conform to the desired, or fabricated, unscientific picture of the pre-history of World War I.

Up to now, this document of utmost importance has not been available to historians and was not used in research papers, although it was published for the first time in 1928 in the Sarajevo-based daily Večernja Pošta and was kept in the so-called 'cabinet noir' containing the most classified mail, Perišić said.

The copy of this historical document, which is important for shedding light on the immediate trigger and root causes of World War I, is presently kept in the Archives of Serbia, while the search for the original is still under way.

Miroslav Jovanović, a member of the Višegrad-based Ivo Andric Institute Committee tasked with marking the centenary of the start of World War I, said that the Sarajevo assassination was not decisive, but rather the immediate trigger for the outbreak of the Great War which claimed lives of nine million soldiers and five million civilians.

“Austria-Hungary laid the blame for World War I at the door of Serbia and Russia, which was later backed by many renowned historians such as Chris Clark and Sean McMeekin,” Jovanovic said.

Film director and Kamengrad's creator Emir Kusturica said that the re-publication of the letter in “Historical Notebooks” of the Ivo Andrić Institute should improve the historical and media take on the start of the war.

“Numerous assassinations of tyrants made history, and in recent times they even took place in front of TV cameras. The Sarajevo assassination has been misused in historical terms, and served as a screen for persecution of the Serb people and the beginning of the Great War,” Kusturica said.

 

[...]

Kusturica confirmed that he will film a documentary in view of the anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and announced that the Ivo Andric Institute will organize numerous events, promotions of documents and books, and present the truth about the war in international forums.

 

http://www.b92.net/eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2014&mm=01&dd=07&nav_id=88896

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If it has Kusturica in it, it is made on crackpipe.

 

That noted, he was awfully (un)lucky to do what he did, considering he was described as poor shot with pistol "Barely being able to hit a tree at 10m".

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So, A-H had war plans vs. Serbia? Shocking to say the least. Seriously, it is more ironic that Franz Ferdinand was not liked by the other Hapsburgs and few seriously mourned his passing. As crown prince, he posed serious problems for the government, considering his well known concepts for expanding autonomy for Slavs in the empire, creating a Triple Monarchy by adding the Crown of St Wenceslas and a separate govt for Bohemia to the Empire.

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If it has Kusturica in it, it is made on crackpipe.

 

I gleaned that from secondary reporting round here which mentioned that Mr. Perišić went to ground after journalists asked about the alleged ca. 1930 transcript of the original German text rather than the Serbian translation presented (and an Austrian historian wondered why a letter that was sent to Vienna would end up in a Bosnian archive); and apparently the whole inferrence to Austrian war plans was from the writer's statement that Serbia would surely be on the enemy side in the "inevitable war in a few years", while suggesting a bilateral trade, customs and military agreement to reduce that danger.

 

But then as Ken says, it would not exactly be sensational if Vienna actually had detailed war plans in some drawer. As mentioned earlier, everybody was spoiling for a fight (see "inevitable war"), and it was pretty clear Austria-Hungary would take any excuse to teach the troublesome Serbs a "lesson". Even allegations that Franz Ferdinand was sent to Bosnia in the deliberate happy expectation something useful would happen to the bloody liberal airhead are not new.

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Franz Ferdinand also was in a "morganatic" (or morganic?) marriage meaning that his off-spring could not inherit (his wife not being "noble" enough).

 

Austria was not so dead set against a "triple monarchy" if it would save the empire, but the Hungarians didn't want to give up any of their Slavic lands (and relative power as a part of a dual monarchy).

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Even allegations that Franz Ferdinand was sent to Bosnia in the deliberate happy expectation something useful would happen to the bloody liberal airhead are not new.

 

Security measures (or utter lack of them) points to that theory, but since nothing concrete ever surfaced, I would dismiss it.

As I noted, incredible amount of (un)happy coincidences.

Edited by bojan
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A couple of points -

 

(1) It's pretty clear the anti-war wave of the 30s was due in part to frustrations with the postwar world of the 20s and 30s. People who felt the war was worth the sacrifice in 1925 often held a different opinion in 1935.

I will also note that "idiot generals sacrificing poor soldiers struggling in the mud" -theme is not limited to WW1. I'm pretty sure such works can be found about almost any war. In fact that exactly describes most iconic Finnish war novel, "Unknown Soldier", and not coincidentally, it was subject to similar controversy. But the fact is that many soldiers really did feel that way about the war. Lets not even talk about Vietnam movies...

 

And in Britain the debate between Easterners and Westerners that was carried on both during and after the war focused a lot of attention on the conduct of operations on the Western Front. If Lloyd George, Churchill and others could question the competence of the generals and the generals could question the competence of wartime political leadership, it became progressively more difficult to sell the line that when it came to WW1 everything was just fine.

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Actually its all a bit academic. Ultimately it matters not so much about what those who fought in the war actually thought, just that Gove has clearly made an error when he says these are new criticisms. I think we have established that criticism of the war was in place during and immediately after the war. So somehow trying to airbrush history to make out that it was the loony lefts new historians of the 60s and 70s writing lies, it will not do. Personally if they are lies (and in my view there is at least a modium of truth in the criticisms of how the war was fought) they are very old lies indeed. ...

Recently heard of this: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11536716-confusion-of-command

The memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas D'Oyly 'Snowball' Snow 1914 -1918, compiled from his diaries & letters by Mark Pottle & General Snow's great-grandson, Dan Snow. Not read it, but from the reviews, it seems he was highly critical of some aspects of the British conduct of the war, including his own performance.

'The higher staffs had had no practice in command, and although they had been well trained in the theory of the writing and issue of orders, they failed in the practice...Added to this we all suffered from the fault common to all Englishmen, a fault we did not know we suffered from till war revealed it, a total lack of imagination.'

 

And then there was the rapid, massive expansion, & the filling of innumerable posts with people who didn't know what they were doing, & had to learn it.

'We lost several men on the first night, drowned or smothered. The men had either to stand in water, knee deep, with every prospect of sinking in deeper still, or hang on the side of the trench. Later in the war we should have overcome the difficulty but at this time the men were overworked in keeping the front trenches in order, and we were all inexperienced.

'On one occasion one of my staff said to a Corporal of the Engineers, "Now you are an engineer; cannot you devise some method of draining this trench?" to which he replied, "I am afraid, Sir, that I cannot; you see before the war I was a Christmas card maker by trade."

'The wet trenches soon began to tell on the men's feet...Very soon an average of three hundred men a day were being evacuated, and there was little chance of any of these men returning for months. We did all we could, but the Division rapidly became a skeleton of what it had been.'

So, not donkeys - but inexperienced in the sort of war they ended up having to fight. And not ignorant or uncaring of the conditions in the trenches, but having great difficulty in improving them.

 

Note the " Later in the war we should have overcome the difficulty but . . . we were all inexperienced."

 

While not published at the time, this shows what some of those who were being blamed were admitting, & one can see how it could lead to the 'donkeys' perception.

Edited by swerve
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Stuart Galbraith said: RE WE Johns was a bomber pilot, and whilst not suggesting his opinion is in any way not worthwhile, its really worth reading 'The Camels are Coming' and comparing it to 'Winged Victory'. One is amusing hyperbole, the other I think I understood more about ww1 air fighting after reading than pretty much anything ive yet read. And it wasnt from Biggles (whom I remain a fan of) let me tell you.

 

 

Good catch on the bomber pilot bit mate, that’ll learn me to go from memory and FWIW I’ve read Winged Victory and all the Biggles books; I was pretty much weaned on the latter and I’d argue there is a great deal more to them than ”amusing hyperbole” as they touch on all sorts of . I agree that they are apples & oranges but you have inadvertently provided an example that supports my rather than your position and here’s why. Winged Victory was published in 1934, the year V. M. Yeates died of TB. It went through one edition and was then dropped because they couldn’t find a publisher to take it on, presumably because it didn’t sell; IIRC RAF guys were willing to part with daft money for a copy during the Second World War due to its rarity, and their interest centred on its technical air warfare info rather than for its futility of war message. It wasn’t reprinted until 1961. By contrast W. E. Johns wrote five First World War Biggles novels between 1932 and 1935, individual chapters from which were also published in comics as stand alones. They went into multiple editions through the 1930s and I think the continued in print until at least the 1970s. The only reason it would remain in print was if it was popular as in sold by the shedload, no mean feat in the Depression & after, and it follows that if it were a mass market success it was because a significant portion of the book and comic buying public agreed with the content. And it’s hard to reconcile liking the content with railing against the futility of the conflict it portrayed. Going back to Winged Victory, note it was republished twenty-seven years after failing to sell. That was in 1961, right in the thick of the lions-led-by-donkeys pacifist revisionism spearheaded by Clarke, Littlewood et al. Even the Winged Victory Wiki page (sorry Archie!) admits as much: “…it fits neatly into the canon of so called ‘Disenchanment’ novels, which while well regarded in the present day, were largely ignored [at the time of writing].”

 

 

 

I would not suggest there was nobody post WW1 who didnt think it worth fighting. Indeed you read in the last editorial of the wipers times, they make it damn clear they think it was. I think it was too. But thats not to say that the war was fought for entirely clear, or even real reasons, or even for that matter particularly well. I mean German militarism, has anyone actually looked to compare the size of the British Empire and the German Empire? Supposedly it was a war of colonisation, but the German entreaties to the British not to get involved sent to Asquith make it clear, they didnt have any ambition in that regard. They presumably WOULD have done against Russia (and in fact did, albeit briefly). I digress, I just dont see this perceived German aggression being very evident between 1871 and 1914. Has anyone counted how many colonial wars we fought in the same period? Here is the comments made by Asquith. Im not entirely convinced the German Chancellor was not sincere, albeit totally deluded. http://firstworldwar...oparliament.htm

 

 

 

Sorry mate, but I think this is off beam. Imperialism provided a safety valve rather than a cause of conflict for the Great Powers, so the size of respective empires isn’t really relevant altho I suspect you could characterise the German treatment of the territories they occupied in WW1 and what they intended to do had they won as colonialism. As for the lack of German aggression, there’s the naval race sparked by the construction of the High Seas Fleet with all those dreadnoughts with no long-term crew quarters. There’s more, I just can’t think of it off the top of my head and I’m away from the books.

 

 

 

See here is the issue. Whilst many remained convinced of the need of the war (and when Germany invaded Belgium I personally am of the opinion we were right to get involved) I dont detect the same kind of feeling about HOW it was fought. You have to ask the question, would we have had a world where women were enfranchised with the vote, where unions became massively more powerful due to increased membership leading up to the General Strike? None of that makes much sense unless the the authority of the British establishment had been near fatally weakened by how the war had been fought. People were dissatisfied by the status quo, partly because they would have seen what they perceived to be pretty inept leadership in the initial stages of the war (I mean the British Army damn near ran out of shells. Can you see the German Empire doing that!) John French might have had his reputation somewhat rehabilitated, but he was not as far as I can tell thought much of at the time, least of all by Whitehall. And then we come to Gallipolli, because nobody is going to convince me that was particularly well planned or led. Churchill in my view may have had his reputation somewhat unfairly tarnished by it, but the military leadership that undertook that mission clearly had their measure counted, and were found wanting. It strikes me as curious that somehow the British Soldiers who took part in that operation, and the early war fighting, somehow are perceived to have had faith in their leadership, whereas its pretty clear Commonwealth forces who took part (least of which being Australia) look at the same operation as the day Australia grew up. Partly because of the heroism shown by their young men, and partly because I suspect they realised the mother country was longer the moral authority it had made itself out to be. IE, we cocked it up. Can you imagine any other military of the world looking at a map of Gallipolli and staying 'hmm looks like a nice flat place to land'.

 

Fair one, but arguable from a number of standpoints. That aside, simply framing or identifying faults in the way the war was conducted isn’t really very useful. You have to then identify why it was at fault and more importantly, if there was a viable alternative. And a lot of the faults tend to fall away when you apply that yardstick rather than one constructed from the 20-20 hindsight that comes with a century of distance. Some folk in here (TN) have recently said as much in other threads (Colin Williams springs to mind).

 

 

 

I dont doubt what you say is true, that there was a clique of anti war sentiment, and interestingly that times nicely with the growth of communism in British high end Universities. Fair point, and its a point worthy of further study. I would point out the vast majority of people who fought in that war never wrote down their memoirs or what they thought. We can only look at the growth of trade unionism and militancy and say 'this doesn't look like people particularly impressed by the establishment who lead them to war'. It also to some extent explains the war wearyiness of the late 30s. I detect a similar theme in the United States, France and Germany interestingly enough. Britains political establishment, yes and its military establishment to some extent, were arguably weakened post WW1. And none of that makes much sense unless there was a belief they had screwed up in some way, and it certainly explains the rise of the Labour party in the same period. Lets be fair here, it took until 1918 to make a unified military command. That to me doesnt look like particularly straight thinking. Ditto trying to stop production of tanks in 1918 so they wouldnt have too much of a tank production establishment when peace was declared. The British public are pretty good at knowing when they were sold a pup. The war may have been fought to reasons that ultimately proved productive, but thats not the same as they thinking it couldnt have ended a lot sooner or even better been avoided. Thats just my personal interpretation, but it seems to be a view borne out by a lot of literature written in the 1920s. I doubt they were all part of that Oxford club.

 

Well I think it was me that pointed out that most folk back then didn’t write memoirs. J What literature written in the 1920s, and how widely was it published and distributed outside a very small and narrow intellectual elite? I’ll bet a £ to a pinch of dung it’s not remotely close to the mass market stuff I’ve mentioned and all that implies. For example, how many War Poets are there compared with the number of men who served in France and Flanders. In any other context such a skewed comparison would be dismissed out of hand. As for the rise of trade unionism, militancy and the Parliamentary Labour Party, I’d say the evidence suggests different. The former two were there well before 1914 and indeed begat the latter, and the unholy alliance between the miners, dockers and railwaymen that was to cause so much drama across the C20 was made then too. Plus, if folk were so disenchanted with the Establishment I should’ve thought they would have flocked to the Labour Party as they had clean hands, but that wasn’t the case. There were seven elections between 1918 and 1939, Labour only formed two administrations, only one of them was from an election and even that was a minority win due to Liberal support, and both only lasted a matter of months. That looks more like folk sticking with the Establishment they knew rather than a public considering it had been sold a pup.

 

 

 

As for Tony Robinson, IMHO I think it pretty clear he has done more for the study of history (and the popularisation of it) than pretty much anyone else I can name over the past 20 years in England, with the exception of Simon Schama and David Starkey. Besides, it appears Gove has entirely misunderstood how Blackadder is used when teaching. An eminent TV historian the other day (I cant remember her name im ashamed to say other than she is intelligent and rather cute) suggest it is used to start debate, just as it was when I was doing my GCSE history. Ie, they show Blackadder and say 'is that how it really was, British Generals were unengaged and remote?' And in the ensuing debate, point out evidence of which im sure you have seen plenty, of British Generals doing their bit and getting killed on the frontline. In short, Gove got the wrong end of the stick. Not for the first time. After all, Ive seen Schools TV Programmes using 'Up Pompei' as a piece of evidence to ask 'is this how it was?' And the answer is 'no its not, but it doesnt mean we cant have fun with it by learning'. It reminds me of the smugness shown by right wing politicians in the 1980s over Allo Allos where some of them tried to have it taken off the TV as being disrespectful to the wartime generation. Which overlooked that more than a few (my Grandfather among them) thought it was hilarious.
Work calls. Dammit, who invented this whole idea of working for a living. Im a man of leisure at heart I tell you.

 

 

 

Again, I disagree. All Comrade Knight of the Realm Robinson is interested in is peddling his lefty tripe while feathering his nest like a proper champagne socialist; that “rebuttal” he put up to Gove’s justified and correct comments clearly illustrates his dearth of knowledge and that he totally missed the point due to his ideological blinkers. That may be the theory of how to use the prog as a teaching tool but I’d put money on most usage being far more lazy given the general attitude to the war I’ve seen in most of the schools I’ve been in. The lions-led-by-donkeys thing is taken as read with little to no analysis, and if you doubt there are raftloads of folk out there who think Blackadder is a factual documentary do a Google search for the Gove story in the Grauniad or Indy and read the reader comments at the bottom. The level of plain ignorance paraded as informed comment is enough to make you weep.

 

Agree about the work bit tho. :-))

 

BillB

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