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THE DONKEYS [Hardcover]

Alan Clark
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; 2nd Impression edition (1961)
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.2 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,782,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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52 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Professor Michael Howard summed this book up as "a worthless history", Dr John Bourne; the University of Birmingham justly cites it as "preserving historical writing about the Great War in its ridiculously protracted adolescence". This is generous. Clark is an agenda driven politician with an appalling grasp of the First World War.
Firstly, Clark lied about the title. The German General he claimed attached this phrase to the British Army had not said that at all. Clark admitted this before his death.
The British Army was a Colonial police force in 1914, with a core of highly trained men. By 1918 it was the most sophisticated Army in the World. British Generals began a learning curve in 1914 which reached its peak in 1918. Most of them had never commanded above Division level before. They were learning on the job. The Battles of Loos, Neuve Chappelle, the Somme and Ypres were a part of this learning process. The British Armies had not operated in such masses since Napoleon. They did not have the experience of the French or Germans. But within four years had matched and surpassed them in terms of tactics and technical quality.

The inconvenient truth for Clark is - the Allies won and the British played a vital part. He dismisses this as a result of numbers, and blockade. In fact it was three massive attrition damage done to the German Army on the Western Front that forced Germany to seek an armistice. It was the losses at the Somme, which force the German economy to move to total war in order to stave off defeat that was the driving force for the collapse.

There is much more: But Clark's 'work' is not scholarly or academic it just plays on casualties and the "six inches of ground won". Claiming Chateaux Generals threw away thousands of lives "doing the same thing" - utter nonsense.

For those who want to become academics - try reading Gary Sheffield's Forgotten victory.
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Nonsense, but a compelling read.
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In the limited number of pages that Alan Clark has allocated himself he covers enough of the details of the battles in British section of the the Western Fronf in 1915 to present a clear picture of them and (with some notable exceptions) the massive incompetence of the officer class at that time. The narrative is necessarily repetitive with wave after wave of brave young men being directed to attack impregnable defensive positions in battle after battle set against the ruthless politicking of senior officers and generals. It is written with some style and the fact that it was written by a right wing Tory keeps it from being just another book attacking the establishment. I would have liked to see some investigation into why the "guilty" parties (Haig,, French, Rawlinson et al) kept on and on acting like they did but that would probably have taken a book of this length for each one of them. .
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3.0 out of 5 stars Towser`s view 27 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A thoughtful, detailed, stand-out record of the horrors & some of the ineptitude of the Great War. A scholarly work by a multi-faceted man (sadly missed) but somewhat text-bookish and turgid. More reference book than exposition: hence three stars.
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62 of 93 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A dated and discredited approach 20 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Alan Clark's The Donkeys was the inspiration for Oh! What a Lovely War, the play that captured the antiwar mood of the 1960's and helped turn the First World War in popular mythology into the futile war of 'mud and blood.' Writing in 1961, before the opening of the documentary evidence under the 50 year rule, Clark relied heavily upon the ideas of his patron, Basil Liddell Hart. This is a shame, since Liddell Hart's bias against the quality of the generalship during the War largely stemmed from his own frustration at never having proceeded beyond the rank of Captain. In castigating the failure of British generals to adapt tactically and strategically to a very different set of circumstances, Liddell Hart and his followers failed to explain how the British Expeditionary Force ultimately led the Allies to victory in the Hundred Days in the autumn of 1918.
The availability of the documents in the Public Record Office at Kew Gardens has shown, instead, that the British Army adapted at every level to the new constraints of trench warfare. The disastrous results of the offensives in 1915, which are the subject of this book, stemmed from the virtual destruction of the old professional army and the difficulties of training and assimilating the New Armies. Once, however, that was achieved, tactical innovation proceeded at a fast pace. Enterprising officers within the British Army, led by Arthur Solly Flood, Director of Training, GHQ, adapted (between the summer of 1916 and spring of 1917) the tactical principle of small-unit, fire and movement and all-arms approach combining infantry and artillery in a deep battle that led the BEF to victory in 1918.
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25 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Compare with another 3 May 2003
By A Customer
Fluently written as ever with Alan Clark. Very powerful...but how much is real and how much more building on the sterotypical view? I suggest looking at another view such as that in the much more recent and excellent "Forgotten Victory" by Gary Sheffield would help balance the picture.
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25 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Use By Date Reached ! 3 Aug 2004
By A Customer
1915 appears to be the forgotten year as far as the Western Front is concerned, with a limited number of books available which focus on events in that year.

Seeking to go beyond the coverage of the more general histories of the Great War, I picked up a copy of the "The Donkeys" and settled in for an entertaining read......and yes it is entertaining, but regretably that entertainment comes from the exaggerated writing style, value judgements, and hearsay that has been injected into the narrative. It's a polemic made palatable by a racy journalistic style.
As a "history", the book has been made redundant by the opening of the archives since the book was written at the beginning of the '60s. The subsequent outpourings of newer histories, even where 1915 and the British attacks are covered as part of a general review of the war, have much more to add to an understanding of the conflict in that year than this book.
It's "Use By Date" has clearly been reached!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Alan Clarke at his very best. I read his diaries and was engrossed. This volume tells it all in terms of the futility that the Army hierarchy made of the Great War.
Published 12 months ago by Allen Blackwell
1.0 out of 5 stars Despicable
This book is despicably bad. It is, perhaps, the very pinnacle of the cultural myth but it is not history.
Published 17 months ago by SerjeantWildgoose
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight into leadership
A good bit of research into a period of particular ineptitude during the first WW. Frightening how leaders did not have the insight to adjust policies when they blatantly did not... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ms. C. Wetwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
One of the saddest moments in our military history, expertly told by one-day-to-be-famous Tory MP. Brilliant condition and excellent price for a 50yr old 1st edition - can't... Read more
Published on 15 Feb 2012 by P. Higgs
2.0 out of 5 stars overrated
The book was described as being in Very Good condition. This is fantasy, as the book is heavily used, a library reject I would guess. Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2011 by Terry Oreilly
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL THE KING'S HORSES & ALL THE KING'S MEN ...

1 of the classic works on the 1914-1918 War.

The literary equivalent of a 5. Read more
Published on 20 Mar 2010 by Ajax Bardrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read, a polemic rather than a history
If you read this as a polemic - something that puts forward the case agaist the British generals, an opening sally rather than the last word on the subject, this is an entertaining... Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2010 by E. ELSBY
1.0 out of 5 stars Money-making from poor history
Alan Clarke was not a historian. He just needed some money for his castle and his philandering. So hid did zero research and dashed of this tripe. Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2009 by Rogthedodge
4.0 out of 5 stars Always astounds me
Alan Clark (loathed) writes this piece and is the last person you would think of criticising the generals . Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2008 by Kenny S. Queen
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