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
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.