Forgotten Victory: the First World War Myths and Realities by Gary Sheffield (2001)

29 March 2012

‎”Forgotten Victory: the First World War Myths and Realities” (2001) by military historian Gary Sheffield is part of a new-ish revisionist school, setting out to overturn all the cliches about WW1 eg pointless war, lions led by donkeys, carnage battles etc.

In snappy chapters he shows how

  • the image of the Great War was created by a tiny handful of junior officer poets and memoirists and handed down by generally left-wing, pacifist types in charge of English culture from the nancy poets of the ’30s to Joan Littlewood’s ‘O What A Lovely War’ in the ’60s, to Blackadder in the ’80s, Sebastian Faulks’s ‘Birdsong’ etc
  • how Britain had to enter the war and, if it was to do so, did best to enter early
  • how the general staff systematically learned lessons that made the British Army, by 1918, the best fighting force in the world
  • and how – as his title suggests – though we Brits tend to obsess about the great disasters – the first day of the Somme, Passchendaele – we did, actually, comprehensively win the damn war.

NB This is the second or third book I’ve read which emphasises that the Australians were the toughest fighters of the war, followed by the Canadians. The Aussies sound amazingly brave and tough. And that disses General Pershing, the American commander who, refusing to listen to the Allies, insisting on doing things his own way, repeated the mistakes of 1915 and ’16 and unnecessarily losing thousands of his troops in the process.

‘Forgotten Victory: the First World War Myths and Realities’ on Amazon

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