Tuesday, July 18, 2006

New World War I Interpretation

Christopher Duffy defends those plucky Brits in his new book. Here is a review:

DURING THE FIRST 24 HOURS OF THE BATTLE OF the Somme - exactly 90 years ago today - the British army suffered its highest-ever number of casualties sustained on a single day. Unbelievably, one half of the 120,000 British troops committed to the battle were killed or wounded, a total greater than the combined British combat losses in the Crimean, Boer and Korean conflicts.

That 1 July massacre has acquired the reputation of being the worst day in the history of the British army and a telling symbol of military incompetence, bloody-mindedness and a pitiful waste of human life. It is difficult to imagine that anything new can be said about it. But Christopher Duffy has managed the impossible and, in the process, offers a major historical revision of what happened at the bloody Somme.

Duffy's secret is to have unearthed the Bavarian military archives of the time, which contain the long-neglected records of the interrogations of British officers and soldiers captured by the German army. These reveal how the events at the Somme shattered the erroneous (and condescending) Prussian image of the British army and ultimately derailed Germany's military strategy. It is a fascinating human story of how two great peoples completely misunderstood each other's character.
(Warning: the last paragraph of the review makes no sense.)


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