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  • +1 to those pointing out that the version we're taught at school and through Blackadder etc is overly simplistic. The generals on both sides were desperate to break the deadlock of trench warfare and fight fast-moving open battles, but until tanks and planes were more advanced there simply wasn't an alternative.
    I'd definitely recommend All Quiet on The Western Front, and Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth - classics. Also recently enjoyed Band of Brigands about the first tank crews.

    Bit off topic, but for WW2, Spectator in Hell should be more widely read - it's not widely known that there was a section for British POWs at Auschwitz, this is a first-hand account of their experiences.
    I have a policy of only posting comment on the internet under my real name. This is to moderate my natural instinct to flame your fatuous, ill-informed, irrational, credulous, bigoted, semi-literate opinions to carbon, you knuckle-dragging f***wits.
  • DesB3rdDesB3rd Posts: 285
    I'll back those who've pointed out the amount "bad history" which surrounds WW1; "Donkeys", Blackadder and just about anything that ever emanated from the mouth or pen of Lloyd George.

    As something of a naval history fan I recognise Massie as a bit like the Alan Clarke of the seas; an entertaining writer but a lot of his work shows poor technical knowledge and often pedals long debunked myths (e.g. the idea that the Turks were all but out of artillery ammunition for the defence of the Dardanelles.)

    I recommend Forgotten Victory: The First World War: Myths and Realities (Gary Sheffield).

    Have also recently finished reading Nicholas Lloyd's Loos 1915 - it's not really an overview (and dry) but good for making the reader understand the nature of the difficulties faced by WW1 commanders, how the experience of battle could be completely misinterpreted while the capabilities of new weapon systems hyped or disregarded.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 65,384 Lives Here
    FWIW there is always a danger when talking about 'wanting to know about x war' that you get bogged down in military history.

    That's absolutely fine if that's what you want but if it's a broader overview and because you are interested in it's wider historical significance it's not always the best medium to do so.
  • FWIW there is always a danger when talking about 'wanting to know about x war' that you get bogged down in military history.

    That's absolutely fine if that's what you want but if it's a broader overview and because you are interested in it's wider historical significance it's not always the best medium to do so.

    That's true, however there is very little broad scholarship written about the social side of things outside of a good military history, which is probably not surprising given the overwhelming singular importance of the war.

    The modern focus on essentially vox pop personal testimonies of the common man can be a bit "can't see the wood for the trees" if overdone and without the addition of broader context.

    Also there is a current tendency to look at things with a very modern perspective/slant and look for similarities with attitudes of people today which tends to obscure the fact that with very few exceptions the broad mass off people 100 years ago (regardless of "class") had a very different set of values than today. And as a result we get a bit tied up in making moral judgements about things that at the time very few people would have seen as being unusual.
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  • GraculusGraculus Posts: 107
    I second Vera Brittain's 'Testament of Youth' as a superb account of what it was like to live through the war.

    Also, to give a foreign perspective Mikhail Sholokhov's 'And Quiet Flows the Don' is a wonderful account of a Cossack village and how they are drawn into and changed by war.
  • It has to be Charley's War( now a graphic novel ) from the comic Battle Action comic of my youth.
    Oh so many memories....of my youth not the war you understand.
  • ProssPross Posts: 34,835
    Thanks again. My own take from what I've read in the past is that the Generals were basically trying to catch up tactically on the rapid increase in weapon technology. No-one had really fought a major war where armies were equipped with machine guns and artillery pieces so they just didn't know how to overcome them. They experimented with things like creeping barrages after previously telegraphing attacks with an intense bombardment and then silence before going over the top. Tanks got invented but no-one really knew how best to utilise them. 20 years later military commanders had realised the importance of keeping moving and attacking in smaller groups but if the Great War hadn't happened they may well have made the same errors.
  • I went on a guided tour of Ypres a few years ago, and asked the guide what is the best book to read about World War one and she said without doubt Birdsong. When she told me it was fiction, I thought won't bother with that, but thankfully I was persuaded to give it a go. Glad I did, it was excellent
  • petemadocpetemadoc Posts: 2,667
    My step father is a war historian and we've made many trips to Belgium over the years. It's not far or expensive and I'd definitely recommend a trip over. Fantastic beer and chocolate too.

    As you drive around the countryside is littered with war graves, Tyn cot and the Menin gate . . . . well I don't have any words to describe them.

    A guided tour is probably a good idea as is reading some of the recommended books before going. You will almost certainly have a direct family member who died in the war and if you do some research you'll be able to find their grave or memorial. For me the great war was about normal people like you and me being taken from all corners of the commonwealth to face unimaginable terror and almost certain death. Hard to imagine today.
  • dj58dj58 Posts: 2,197
    100 Days to Victory: How the Great War was fought and won. By Saul David (Hodder £20)
  • natrixnatrix Posts: 1,111
    No Glory: The Real History of the First World War is worth a read http://stopwar.org.uk/shop/no-glory
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  • Ouija wrote:

    You jest but that's where most peoples knowledge of WW1 comes from.
  • ProssPross Posts: 34,835
    Ouija wrote:

    You jest but that's where most peoples knowledge of WW1 comes from.

    I found it quite ironic watching Tony Robinson in a Time Team special excavating a WWI bunker the other day. Really interesting programme (professionally as well as the civil / structural engineering side of how they built it was impressive).
  • GiraffotoGiraffoto Posts: 2,078
    When you've read up on all the battles in all the theatres of operations, you may want to read A Line in the Sand, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, any history of the Soviet Union and a number of other titles to see how that remote period of history is still affecting us. That's the trouble with history, there's more of it being made all the time.
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  • natrix wrote:
    No Glory: The Real History of the First World War is worth a read http://stopwar.org.uk/shop/no-glory

    Main problem is that it has an agenda, although to be fair that's made pretty clear in the advertising. History to fit an agenda, no matter how "honourable", is not a good thing.
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  • natrixnatrix Posts: 1,111

    Main problem is that it has an agenda, although to be fair that's made pretty clear in the advertising. History to fit an agenda, no matter how "honourable", is not a good thing.

    True, but it does give a good background to the build up to the war and why it started. Something which tends to get glossed over by other books.
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  • Paulie WPaulie W Posts: 1,492
    natrix wrote:
    No Glory: The Real History of the First World War is worth a read http://stopwar.org.uk/shop/no-glory

    Main problem is that it has an agenda, although to be fair that's made pretty clear in the advertising. History to fit an agenda, no matter how "honourable", is not a good thing.

    All history has an agenda otherwise what would be the point?!
  • dabberdabber Posts: 1,869
    I just happened to see this today, Quite appropriate I thought.....

    If World War I was a bar fight......

    Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint. Austria demands Serbia buy it a complete new suit because there are splashes on its trouser leg. Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view. Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

    Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

    Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

    Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.

    Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

    Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in compelling it to do so.

    Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that this is sufficiently out of order that Britain should not intervene.

    Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what is Germany going to do about it?

    Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action.

    Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

    Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

    Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.

    France and Britain punch Germany.

    Austria punches Russia.

    Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.

    Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over.

    Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there.

    Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

    Australia punches Turkey, and gets punched back. There are no hard feelings because Britain made Australia do it.

    France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting.

    Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

    Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.

    America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.

    By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered.

    Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault. While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.
    “You may think that; I couldn’t possibly comment!”

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  • And that about sums up the mentality of the entire thing.
  • .....and Britain feels so ashamed about getting Australia & New Zealand to hit Turkey that it forgets to remember that it lost around four times as many dead as the pair of them at Gallipoli.
  • Paulie W wrote:
    natrix wrote:
    No Glory: The Real History of the First World War is worth a read http://stopwar.org.uk/shop/no-glory

    Main problem is that it has an agenda, although to be fair that's made pretty clear in the advertising. History to fit an agenda, no matter how "honourable", is not a good thing.

    All history has an agenda otherwise what would be the point?!

    :D:D
    Dabber wrote:
    Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.
    For a fascinating look at the relationship between Germany and Turkey and the whole "Great Game" read The Berlin-Baghdad Express by Sean McMeekin.
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  • I have been visiting the WW1 Battlefields for many years and run informal trips to Northern France & Belgium, for what it's worth here are my recommended read's:
    - Before Endeavors Fade by Rose Coombs MBE - Considered 'The Bible' for those visiting the Western front
    - First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook
    - Albert Ball VC by Chaz Boyer (RFC Stuff)
    - Damn the Dardenelles by John Laffin
    - Passchendale by Nigel Steel & Paul Hart

    And for an overall the latest Max Hastings is outstanding. And for an up to date photographic/coffee table book have a look at: Remembered-The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by Julie Summers with superb photos by Brian Harris.
    If anyone wants advice re visiting the Western Front, let me know and I'll be happy to help.

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  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 65,384 Lives Here
    Hopefully we can at least all agree Gove is a bell end after his comments.

    (though hopefully most of us knew that already)
  • natrixnatrix Posts: 1,111
    Hopefully we can at least all agree Gove is a bell end after his comments.

    (though hopefully most of us knew that already)

    Agreed. Glad I'm not teaching his kids (that's Mrs Natrix job - she is so not looking forward to parents evening :lol: )
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  • Paulie WPaulie W Posts: 1,492
    Hopefully we can at least all agree Gove is a bell end after his comments.

    (though hopefully most of us knew that already)

    Gove is close to the most objectionable Tory of the last 30 years which is saying something.
  • owenlarsowenlars Posts: 719
    Read the Lynn MacDonald books.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyn_MacDonald
  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,674
    Paulie W wrote:
    Hopefully we can at least all agree Gove is a bell end after his comments.

    (though hopefully most of us knew that already)

    Gove is close to the most objectionable Tory of the last 30 years which is saying something.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/ar ... s6FnuRg9K8
    Saying ‘I hate Michael Gove’ now works as a kind of password that grants one entry into the inner circle of polite society.
  • Paulie WPaulie W Posts: 1,492
    bompington wrote:
    Paulie W wrote:
    Hopefully we can at least all agree Gove is a bell end after his comments.

    (though hopefully most of us knew that already)

    Gove is close to the most objectionable Tory of the last 30 years which is saying something.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/ar ... s6FnuRg9K8
    Saying ‘I hate Michael Gove’ now works as a kind of password that grants one entry into the inner circle of polite society.

    Or makes you a good judge of character...
  • I have been listening to a free audio book and am in awe of the conditions he experienced.

    https://librivox.org/over-the-top-by-arthur-empey/

    There are other books about the great war also.



    Over the Top
    Arthur Guy EMPEY (1883 - 1963)
    Arthur Guy Empey was an American who responded to the sinking of the Lusitania by enlisting with the British Army to fight in France. His experiences in the trenches, including his ultimate wounding and convalescence, became this book. When published in 1917, it was a major hit and helped the recruiting effort when America entered the Great War.

    If you've heard of the horror of trench warfare in WWI and want to see it from below dirt level, Empey offers it all here.
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  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,674
    Paulie W wrote:
    bompington wrote:
    Paulie W wrote:
    Hopefully we can at least all agree Gove is a bell end after his comments.

    (though hopefully most of us knew that already)

    Gove is close to the most objectionable Tory of the last 30 years which is saying something.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/ar ... s6FnuRg9K8
    Saying ‘I hate Michael Gove’ now works as a kind of password that grants one entry into the inner circle of polite society.

    Or makes you a good judge of character...
    Which is precisely the problem - the assumption that everyone who votes the same way as me is noble, pure and intelligent, whereas everyone who votes the other way is a nasty idiot. Statistically a bit unlikely isn't it?
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