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Mud, Blood and Poppycock

I fear that this book will either have you agreeing with it or calling for the author to be burned at the stake.  Gordon Corrigan's style gives this book a sharp and very explosive edge. 'Mud, Blood and Poppycock' is not for the faint of heart, as Corrigan storms through all the reasons why historians like him refuse to believe that the First World War was the futile and bloody waste that many writers beloved of the 'butchers and bunglers' theme would have us believe.

Using hard fact, statistical analysis, and as a serving army officer his personal knowledge of the realities military life, Corrigan shows that 1914-1918 did not result in Britain losing a generation, that its generals were not incompetent butchers, and that cultural events such as ‘Blackadder goes forth' are as historically useful and realistic as ‘Independence Day’. 

This book is one of many that I have read on the First World War and suggests that it will dispel many of the myths - and some do exist - of that conflict. Revisionist history is becoming popular and without doubt there are aspects of WWI that need revision. 

However, the style of writing can raise hackles.  While his arguments can and mostly are well-placed, sometimes he lapses to a 'I was in the army, so I know best' routine, that would annoy any competent civilian, and tends to demolish his credibility.  Indeed, in some places his writing appears extremely immature for someone presenting himself as a historian.

I am not convinced by all Corrigan’s arguments.  I can accept some blunders at the beginnings of a war, but to make constant mistakes, such as repeating attacks, not pressing starting advantages, etc, is the mark of incompetence.  As another example, it is perhaps forgivable to not introduce tanks before 1914, but to completely ignore them or to misuse them until 1917 is the mark of someone who was unwilling to try new things.  Further, the degree of dependence on French command was unjustified; having nearly lost their war in round one, the French then tried to lose the British war as well.   Verdun, for example, would have been better defended with a static defence that made the Germans bleed, rather than trying to recover all lost ground.   

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