Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby GregB » November 10th, 2011, 7:57 am

Yes, that's a neat coincidence - I like that sort of thing, it lends a sort of unexpected symmetry to things. Incidentally, on your previous post (about General Pershing), there's a short scene from Richard Attenborough's excellent film, 'Oh, What A Lovely War!", which shows the arrival of the American forces in Europe to the accompaniment of the song, 'Over There', with the egregious Haig and his incompetent staff now being displaced by the Americans, nicely symbolised by Pershing taking the map from the English:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lToeetw7 ... re=related

That really is a good film to see, especially after reading Gilbert's book and at this time of the year. (There are lots more clips on youtube, as you can see.)

Do continue with your posts here when you start the second volume on World War Two; I've enjoyed adding my own observations.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby Sprocket » November 10th, 2011, 8:48 am

Interesting clip - thanks. Now I know where the 'Go compare' advert tune comes from!
I saw the stage version of OWALW in about 1970, at the Library Theatre in Manchester. I remember a scene in which Haig pointedly ignores someone with whom he's had an argument, and then boasts about it to his cronies - "Did you see how I cut him?", etc. Hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered, and his main concern is his petty feud.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby GregB » November 12th, 2011, 8:42 am

Here's an interesting link. It shows the first hundred photos of a project by the Imperial War Museum to record all those who fought in World War One. (There's no article - it opened straight up from a Yahoo main page link and brief summary.) I think it's good to see the faces (and uniforms, some so rudimentary) of the men who are, otherwise, just statistics. There's something touching about their clean-cut innocence.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/imperialwa ... /lightbox/
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby Sprocket » November 12th, 2011, 9:05 am

Thanks for the link - I've bookmarked it. Fascinating - Fied-Marshal Sir John French, all the way down (or up) to ordinary Privates. A few famous surnames along the way - a Sebag-Montefiore and a Cecil, the latter with the given name Packenham, so probably related on his mother's side to the late Lord Longford. Some of the older men are wearing uniforms which look as though they were old-fashioned even in 1914 - presumably they were veterans of South Africa or earlier campaigns.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby Sprocket » November 12th, 2011, 5:27 pm

GregB wrote:Here's an interesting link. It shows the first hundred photos of a project by the Imperial War Museum to record all those who fought in World War One. (There's no article - it opened straight up from a Yahoo main page link and brief summary.) I think it's good to see the faces (and uniforms, some so rudimentary) of the men who are, otherwise, just statistics. There's something touching about their clean-cut innocence.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/imperialwa ... /lightbox/

This project has just been mentioned on the London regional news on BBC1.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby Sprocket » November 13th, 2011, 12:58 pm

I'm now half-way through the penultimate chapter, one of two dealing with the immediate aftermath of the war. Interesting factlets: Lloyd George was remarkably prescient: he cautioned the other victorious heads of state and government against imposing excessively harsh penalties on Germany and her allies, for fear of fomenting resentment, and even possibly a second major war. Unfortunately, the French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, was much more bullish, and wanted very severe penalties imposed on them, and he, and those who agreed with him, won the day, with what unfortunate consequences the world now knows and regrets.
The collapse of the Central Powers, leading to their surrender, was unexpected until shortly before it happened, and in the last few chapters dealing with the war, there is much discussion of the Allied top-brasses' plans for offensives in 1919 and even 1920, which seems a bit surreal in retrospect. Pershing didn't want to accept the surrender of the Central Powers - he wanted to fight on until they were utterly defeated on the battlefield. That sounds callous and ruthless, but may have been wise - the fact that Germany was defeated at least as much by rebellion and mutiny within Germany as by defeat on the battlefield fed the myth, which the Nazis later exploited, that Germany might have won, had it not been betrayed from within.
The fighting didn't completely stop everywhere on November 11th - due to the primitive communications of the day, some of the remotest fronts didn't hear of the armistice until considerably later: fighting in East Africa didn't end until Nov. 21st.
At two minutes to 11 on the 11th, one German machine-gunner fired off a complete belt of ammunition in a single burst, then stood up, took off his helmet, bowed to the British opposite him, and retreated to the rear, which struck me as a rather gallant action.
It seems that Gilbert wrote his two complimentary histories of the world wars in reverse order: the WW2 one, which I will start when I finish this one, was first published in 1989, the WW1 one in 1994.
According to yesterday's 'Guardian', Armistice day, instituted in 1919, was originally supposed to be more of a celebration of peace than the solemn, and - let's face it - decidedly mawkish remembrance of the dead that it became. Originally, it was going to be a public holiday, and the two minutes' silence, first observed in 1919, was only added at the last minute. If you believe Julian Fellowes - which you would be foolish to do - its first foreshadowing came a year earlier, when the Earl of Grantham assembled all his family and servants, and told them to observe silent remembrance while the clock struck 11.
Last edited by Sprocket on November 13th, 2011, 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby Pondero » November 13th, 2011, 2:43 pm

I don't think it a mawkish celebration of the dead as you say Sprocket. It is Remembrance Day and we honour the dead for the sacrifices they made for our freedom which we enjoy today. I look forward to the history of the 2nd World War which you are about to start.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby Sprocket » November 13th, 2011, 3:05 pm

Yes, of course we do, and quite right too - but it can and often does tip over into mawkishness.
Anyway, I'll give you a running commentary on the WW2 volume.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby GregB » November 13th, 2011, 3:21 pm

Sorry, but I must demur (referring to Pondero's last post.) I'm the last to deny tribute to the men who died in the Great War but it seems to me that their precious lives were squandered by a fossilised, self-serving, unimaginative, class-bound military structure which was prepared to allow millions of ordinary men, living out their rightful lives in family and work, to be sacrificed on the altar of their own incompetent, leaden military egoes.

I listened to part of the BBC World Service broadcast from Whitehall this morning and I was frankly sickened by the unthinking, routine, par-for-the-course floral offerings by the mostly parasite members of the British royal family (the family firm knows how to save its necks!), not to mention the stock cliché - which I abhor - that these men "gave their lives". Oh, come on - they were robbed of their lives by inept politicians and generals who callously used these young men as disposible cannon fodder for the sake of some high falutin' concept of honour.

As for Steve's remarks about the nature of the German defeat in 1918, Pershing was absolutely right in insisting on the battlefield defeat and unconditional surrender of all German forces, thus humiliating the Prussian military machine, and so denying the revanchist parties, like Hitler's NSDAP, the churlish opportunity to invoke the 'stab in the back' myth, leaving the German forces intact in their pseudo-dignity rather than being decisively defeated, as they really were. Mistakes of history...and another generation through the meat-grinder.
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Re: Martin Gilbert's histories of the world wars

Postby Sprocket » November 13th, 2011, 11:55 pm

I agree almost wholeheartedly with Greg's post above, but demure slightly about the Royal family: Andrew may be a dickhead, and Phil the Greek may have spent most of his life walking a few paces behind Madge, but both of them saw action, in WW2 and the Falklands respectively, and both put themselves in real danger. Nevertheless, we should get rid of the monarchy and have a republic.
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