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Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War (Cassel Military) by [Corrigan, Gordon]
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Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War (Cassel Military) Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Length: 464 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

'... convincing and highly revisionist... Myth after myth about [the generals] collapses before Corrigan's minute and wittily presented research... Corrigan peppers his book with statements that read outrageously at first but which he then backs up with devastating statistics ... This punchy book does not go over the top.' (Andrew Roberts MAIL ON SUNDAY 28/9/03)

'This fine revisionist book on the First World War amounts to a frontal bayonet charge on a well dug-in enemy, with no quarter given. The title 'Mud[...etc]' gives a hefty hint as to the book's content: a highly effective rebuttal of the "Lions led by Donkeys" school... Corrigan is a combative, persuasive and very readable historian.' (Gary Sheffield THE INDEPENDENT (2/8/03))

'Gordon Corrigan has set out to expose this popular view, or myth as quite simply not in accordance with fact. To this task he brings a mass of evidence coupled with an ability to write clear, crisp, highly readable narrative.... MUD(etc) should be in every school library - and studied with an open mind by all who teach the young about the Great War.' (Correlli Barnett DAILY MAIL (18/7/03))

'..this is no mere hagiography or turgid, blow-by-blow account of battles which, frankly often seem repetitive. Corrigan's book is a fascinating read because he sets it up as a trial by jury. Each chapter (and they can be read in what order you please) takes a specific 'myth' of the Great War and subjects it to a test of evidence. The result - even if you want to disagree with Corrigan's overall thesis - is gripping.' (George Kerevan THE SCOTSMAN (19/7/03))

'Corrigan has fashioned a pugnatious case, stripping away many of the misunderstandings and falsehoods that have settled as if they were established truths in the popular imagination.' (Graham Stewart THE SPECTATOR (9/8/03))

'The generals were all incompetent buffoons who didn't care who they sent to their death. That's the accepted view of British leadership in WW1. Not so says Gordon Corrigan in his revisionist account of the war.' (LIVING HISTORY (Aug 03))

'Any historical novelist planning a novel about the First World War who doesn't buy this book deserves Field Punishment Number One.' (HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW (AUG 03))

'It is hard to quarrel with arguments so clearly and rationally presented, arguments well sustained by detailed evidence from official records... The seriousness of the author's theme is, however, pleasantly lightened by shafts of humour and the inclusion of amusing asides... This readable yet scholarly book will provoke discussion but may have come too late to change received opinion of the Great War.' (SOLDIER (lead review) Aug 03)

'Corrigan's depiction of the army grounded in his own experience. A fascinating and refreshingly different book.' (THE ARMOURER (Sept/Oct 03))

'This is a welcome addition to the revisionist view of World War One. Corrigan tackles head on the myths propounded by author such as Alan Clark... he produces a more balance view of the events of 1914-18... A good argumentative tone is struck thoughout the book.' (MILITARY ILLUSTRATED (Oct 2003))

'Gordon Corrigan's Mud Blood and Poppycock offers a witty and revisionist history of Britain and the Great War.' (HISTORY TODAY (November 03))

Book Description

The true story of how Britain won the First World War.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3199 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New Ed edition (20 Dec. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A7ZJRYI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #210,443 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback
Nearly a century after it started, the First World War continues to provoke major debates among historians. One major and rather popular contention has been that it was a futile war, fought by incompetent generals, who were happy to cover their shortcomings and sheer lack of imagination by feeding more and more men into the hellish mincing machine of the Western Front. In the classic description of the British Army by German General Hoffmann, the British Army were "lions led by donkeys". This was typified by "The Donkeys" of Alan Clark.

However, a cursory reading of WW1 histories reveals that, while there was indeed incompetence and lack of imagination in plenty (on both sides), things were never this simple. A long time ago, John Terraine pointed out that WW1 was unique in that, for the only time in history (a) armies were so big that a commander could not see the whole battlefield, and (b) there was no way of effective communication with the army. Thus, once an attack was set in motion, there was no way to control it, or even to stop it if it went wrong. More recently, Niall Ferguson has pointed out that, contrary to popular myth, many soldiers had a "good" war, and even enjoyed the experience.

Both sides were operating in completely unknown territory; they had envisioned a war of movement, with the outflanking movements beloved of generals since before Alexander (just look at the Schlieffen Plan), and both were taken by surprise when they found themselves stuck in a version of siege warfare in which outflanking was impossible, apart from attacking somewhere else entirely (e.g. Gallipoli). So, when your enemy digs in and goes completely on the defensive and his flank can't be turned, your options are limited.
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Format: Paperback
There's a lot worth reading in this book for anyone seriously interested in WW1. The author brings his military experience into good use in describing a lot of things many authors take for granted the reader knows - the structure of armies, the various ranks, how trenches were constructed, and so on. For someone like me who has never done any form of military service, this was very enlightening.

Also his analysis of army records to find out how soldiers actually did in the trenches - their rotas, use of reserve lines, R&R etc -was, to me, completely new. (He does, however, cite them uncitically, assuming that the records reflect the reality, which may not always be true)

So why the modest rating?

Firstly, this is not a well-written book. I found the author's style stiff and stuffy, with his attempts at humour all falling flat.

More serious, though, is that the author seems hell-bent to defend absolutely everything the army did in WW1. I have long been a convert to the "revisionist" view of WW1 - I agree entirely with the author that the "lions lead by donkeys"/"senseless slaughter & stupid generals" view of WW1 should be consigned to the dustbin of history - but time after time, the author seems to simply ignore any evidence contrary to his book's thesis.

I could cite many examples of this, but three will suffice:
(1) In the "Kangaroo Courts" chapter, the author apparently rubbishes any claims of misjustice. He partially does this by one of the oldest tricks in the book, i.e. putting up a straw man to demolish, in this case the cases of three executions "often cited" as unjust. The author rubbishes them and proceeds, with faulty logic, to virtually dismiss all claims of injustice.
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Format: Paperback
Corrigan's book is an excellent effort to try and debunk some of the myths surrounding WW1 and in particular, to defend the British General Staff's handling of it.

One face value, this would seem to be a difficult job - one would feel it would be easier to defend Harold Shipman than Field Marshal Haig, but Corrigan makes an excellent attempt at it, supporting his views by statistics.

He also tries to give the reader "the big picture", that the British effort on the Somme was required to take the pressure off the French at Verdun; and that acting as part of a coalition the British staff were not always given a free hand.

Nonetheless, like all revisionist histories, this book cannot be read in isolation. It is true that whilst the British generals were not the "donkeys" of popular myth; they still made some gruesome mistakes. 1st July 1916 on the Somme was still a disaster.

I would recommend that this book is read in conjunction with other histories of the war. Basil Liddell Hart's is very much a "standard" text giving the traditional viewpoint. Another good read is Heinz Guderian's "Achtung Panzer!". As well as his prophetic work on armoured warfare, this gives a German view of the British in WW1 and is an excellent companion to Corrigan's book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An outstanding book, exceptionally well-referenced, by an author who knows through practical military experience and knowledge of military history exactly what he's talking about.

A great antidote to the nonsense fed to us by 'received opinion'.
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