Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dreich.....

....and dreich [clicky] just about sums it up nicely - not only the weather but also the lack of any other activity...  

...so work is taking up more time than normal, the weather is continually wet, the light is always dark (both going to and coming from work), and all in all I feel a general ennui towards the whole thing...  give me a beer and a book, and I'm happy...

...so what has captured my thoughts?

This year is of course the 100th Anniversary of the start of WWI so not surprisingly the war features heavily in the media - both positively, and amusingly....

On the positive front this looks hugely interesting - British Army war diaries 1914-1922 [clicky] - is an online resource hosted by the National Archives and consists of diaries from British soldiers in WWI describing life on the front line, the trenches, and the everyday facts of life for a soldier at that time. "Events from the outbreak of war in 1914 to the departure of troops from Flanders and France were recorded in official diaries of each military unit. About 1.5 million diary pages are held by the National Archives and a fifth have been digitised so far." 

I think not...
My wargaming stems from the fact that first and foremost I'm interested in military history*, and also that I am interested in Tommy Atkins rather than the Division or Corps he served in so I'm a follower of Keegan and Holmes - I've found this fascinating for reading at lunchtime....

* It doesn't always follow - we're a broad church, and some are first and foremost gamers, or painters, or modellers, or rule writers..  long may it continue!

On a slightly more amusing note I've found the to'ing and fro'ing between the cognoscenti and the left wing loveys about the 'false history' taught by the likes of Blackadder hugely amusing as each side tries to be more worthy than the other.... the following is typical...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/12/michael-gove-blackadder-first-world-war-david-mitchell

...for what it's worth I think the "Lions Lead By Donkeys" line is condescending and utter cobblers, and I rather lean towards the writings of  John Terraine [clicky] and others who describe an army that learned quickly, but at great cost,  and which technologically, tactically, and strategically, was changed out of all recognition by the end of the war. I listened to a piece on the radio by historian Dan Snow the other day which I thought was very insightful - his view was that Britain went to war in WWI (support for Belgium) for quite possibly better reasons than those we went to war for in WWII (support for Poland), that Germany was as aggressive a super power in WWI as it was WWII, that the aristocracy/upper class proportionally took more casualties than any other social grouping, and that finally the British Army was better trained, and more professional, at the end of WWI than possibly any other time in its history (except perhaps the end of WWII)...  interesting....

On the subject of Blackadder, I can't help thinking that the soldiers of the time might have found it as funny as I do!

What else...   still need to finish off the last two Zvezda Matadors I started before Christmas, and I also need to finish off the third platoon of British infantry, and sort out some supports (anti tank rifles) and then I can set up a little skirmish game...   but not before I set up the John Corrigan Memorial Game I didn't get time to do last year!!

First though, I need to dredge up some 'get up and go'.....  now where did I leave it??

PS. Five days to the Zulu film anniversary - trust you have your armchairs booked, and the beer (an IPA naturally) chilling... 

29 comments:

  1. Yes, I have been rather amazed at the number of people taking Blackadder's view of WW1 as historically accurate! I'm certainly intending to get some more WW1 figures done this year.

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    1. Leagatus - bring them on, but please ensure we have a Mk 1, or one of those truly amazing German tanks that look like an armoured greenhouse as well...

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    2. I'm working on a tank but it's a Mark IV!

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  2. On the Great War, - have you not seen the controversy stirred up by the article in the last MWBG magazine?

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    1. Trebian - I'm not even sure I've taken it out of the postal bag yet.. must get to it... nothing like the site of a bunch of wargamers getting worked up! :o)

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  3. Like you I've found the debate fascinating. I'm feeling some sympathy for those wanting to put the true story forward and then being shouted down for daring to go against popular misconception. I'm not over hopeful that we'll commerate this momentus occasion with the degree of reverence it needs - especially when the BBC commission Paxman to blow the whistle and take us over the top.

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    1. Paul- thirty odd years ago when I was at university all areas of social sciences were taught with a heavy emphasis on Marx - sociology, economics,modern history, they all had the Marxian view - probably not surprising, as the lecturers would have been fresh faced students in the sixties, and that was the fashionable view..... thirty years later and (some of) my fellow students are now in positions in government, public institution, bank, and even BBC... makes it easier to understand the left(ish) leanings of some organisations!

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  4. I don't read much on WW1 but my father gave me a book by Gordon Corrigan who he met on one of these battlefield tour holidays called Mud, Blood and Poppycock. I would recommend it if you can find a copy.

    regards,
    guy

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  5. Guy - that was one of the books mentioned in a review of Terraine's work that I read... thanks for the prompt...

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    1. Corrigan's is one of trhe books cited to me as not being proper history as it is written by an ex-soldier, not an historian. It is a good, robust, read. Better, and more measured, is Gary Sheffield's "Forgotten Victory", but slightly less fun.

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    2. Trebian - never been one for the "not an historian" argument either...

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  6. Unless you were there, and even then of course, History is always a subjective analysis of events from partial and limited sources, often chosen to reflect a viewpoint anyway, that's what makes it such fun and grips so many. The Great War is seared in our nation's consciousness I think, so any commemoration is bound to be contentious in some way and that's what sells books, articles, newspapers, magazines and BBC series.
    Here in GHQ and at OHQ too we plan any number of games from 1914 to 1918 this year. Commemoration? Probably not, rather just a tickled fancy by the anniversary if we are truthful.

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    1. Even if you were there (especially if you were there!) history can be subjective. The issue with marking the Great War isn't that it is contentious it's that people are ill-informed. Watching Blackadder or reading Birdsong does not make you an expert on the Great War. To push the point they do not entitle you to an opinion as to what is right or wrong. They're fiction.

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    2. Trebian - going to have to agree to disagree on whether fiction allows you an opinion, as the best fiction has the ability to explain/describe just as much as non-fiction - "Birdsong", "All Quiet on the Western Front", the war poets all help to form an opinion... I wholly accept however that the opinion may be subjective..! :o)

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    3. David - look forward to reading the game reports... commemoration, no.. but while we may only be playing a game on a table top, in our small way I've always thought we remember their endeavours/sacrifices... just how I am... :o)

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    4. Trebian: living in a healthy democracy, as we are lucky enough to do and due to the efforts of so many who went before us, we are all entitled to an opinion, whether that be based on reading history, talking to veterans or merely reading the better works of fiction. now, whether all those opinions are of equal weight is another matter entirely. As to marking the anniversary of the Great War; of course its contentious, otherwise we would n't be discussing it here ~ and elsewhere.

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    5. David - you hit the nail most squarely on the head when you say "whether all those opinions are of equal weight is another matter entirely". The article in MWBG was a plea to wargamers who have read the history to point out to people who haven't that the traditional view of the Great War (as contained in "The Donkeys" and mainly propagated by writers of fiction) that what they may think happened was probably not the case.

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  7. Trebian

    Agree up to a point, I get slightly offended by the dissing of the poets, most of them were killed in action. As for Blackadder, its a great caricature, and like all great caricature it works because it exaggerates a truth.

    I'm all for revisionism, though in this case its really revisionism of the revisionism, the problem is that the pendulum tends to swing to far the other way, it will take time for the new insights to be fully integrated, as we edge closer to an ultimately unknowable truth.

    As far academic spats, Henry Kissenger summed it up, "Academic discourse id so vicious,precisely because the stakes are so small"

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    1. Mel - love that Kissinger quote... and, errr, "vive la difference" :o) One last quote from a boss of mine "perceptions are never wrong"... applies equally to opinions I think..??

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    2. I suppose what I'm saying is I agree a bit more with Trebian than with Guy Halsell on this one, but, no one, (including me(, has nailed it, which for me at least, is what makes the study of history so fascinating.

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    3. Mel - absolutely.. :o)

      History is like standing on the fringe of a huge desert, with only the most basic map, and trying to make your away across to the other side... which guide/guidebook do you trust?

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    4. I wouldn't diss the War Poets. I have them all, and they do provide an interesting perspective. My favourite is Blunden. The issue with the War Poets is that because of the heavy focus on them in Eng Lit courses pupils get their perspectives on the Great War from their English teacher, not their history teacher.

      Steve - we will disagree on the fiction. I've read and enjoyed a number of Great War fiction books, and Pat Barker's are particularly bad. There's good stuff in Gary Sheffield's book on the fiction of the Great War.

      As for memoirs we get a lot of focus on Sassoon, but never anything on Charles Edmonds/Carrington. Memoirs have to be read with care, of course, as the writer doesn't see everything or necessarily understand their role in the great scheme of things. At University a lecturer reminded us of the Polish saying "Lying like an eye witness".

      At least I think it was Polish.

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  8. Meant to add

    Compared to the Royal Navy, the Army was light years ahead in preparing for WW1. I would argue that it was 1917 before we had a navy that was actually fit for purpose.

    People are understandably focused on the Western Front, I await with interest what will be made of The Goeben Affair, Gallipoli, Jutland, Convoys, if those issues ever receive the same level of scrutiny.

    If you have the inclination, take a look at the naval review archive, and do a search just on Jutland, the depth and bitterness of the debate, over many decades may surprise you!

    http://www.naval-review.org/tblcont.asp

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  9. "History is like standing on the fringe of a huge desert, with only the most basic map, and trying to make your away across to the other side."

    Steve, as an old Navigating officer, that's an easy one, I get out my bubble sextant, Nories Nautical Tables, a good Almanac and a decent compass, where would you like to go?

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  10. Afternoon guys

    Dan Snow on WW! myths http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25776836

    Enjoy!

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    1. Wrote this up over at Wargaming for Grownups at lunchtime. You should also look up the "iWonder" featurettes on the Beeb's website too, especially the one on the War Poets.

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  11. Took your excellent advice and had the Zulu movie party Sunday. My friends recited the script whilst I quaffed Spitfire ale, nibbled Double Gloucester and Welsh cheese and viewed the film. Being Yanks we ended with pizza. "No, there's something else; I feel ashamed."

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    1. Jubilo - bravo! It's a little known fact that the Zulu's introduced the pizza to the western world, but it failed to take off due to the poor choice of toppings ("wildebeast and widgety grub" not to everyone's taste); it was left to the Italians to take this little known delicacy and turn it into the world dominating food type it now is!

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