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Post by Hero on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 5:43 pm

My workplace are taking a number of us over to France next month to visit the battlefields of the First World War and especially the Battle of the Somme. As part of the trip they've today requested that in groups we do a 15 minute presentation based upon the following:

Describe the events leading up to the 1st World War and its conduct prior to July 1916
Set the scene for the Battle of the Somme
"Lions led by donkeys" - what factors mitigate in the defence of Rawlinson and Haig?

My knowledge of World War I is limited at best and being honest it's mainly based upon Blackadder so I'm reaching out to the v2 collective to see if there is any of you that's a historian on the subject or at least more knowledgable on the matter than myself and could give me few pointers on how I should approach the three points in question?

Any help would be most appreciated!

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Post by Rowley on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 6:02 pm

Don't really know a lot about the first world war. However I have read reasonably extensively on the second world war and I noticed the other day Max Hastings has a first world war book out. If his work on the second one is anything to go by it should be well written and easy enough to follow so may be worth the investment.

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Post by Hero on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 6:06 pm

Cheers Rowley Ill look it up.

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Post by ShahenshahG on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 6:08 pm

Hero wrote:My workplace are taking a number of us over to France next month to visit the battlefields of the First World War and especially the Battle of the Somme. As part of the trip they've today requested that in groups we do a 15 minute presentation based upon the following:

Describe the events leading up to the 1st World War and its conduct prior to July 1916
Set the scene for the Battle of the Somme
"Lions led by donkeys" - what factors mitigate in the defence of Rawlinson and Haig?

My knowledge of World War I is limited at best and being honest it's mainly based upon Blackadder so I'm reaching out to the v2 collective to see if there is any of you that's a historian on the subject or at least more knowledgable on the matter than myself and could give me few pointers on how I should approach the three points in question?

Any help would be most appreciated!
When I read the title I thought it was an appeal to the yanks

http://www.firstworldwar.com/ < this site was pretty handy for my little bro quite recently - obvious I know but still useful

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Post by Rowley on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 6:09 pm

Hero wrote:Cheers Rowley Ill look it up.
All else fails blame the Germans, it's what we Brits normally do.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 7:08 pm

the 1st world war - help needed


America won it........That's all you need to know.

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Post by Galted on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 7:32 pm

If your presentation needs to be in limerick form there's a thread for that.
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Post by ONETWOFOREVER on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 8:23 pm

i believe that it started when a Serbian assinated Ferdinand.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 10:33 pm

assinated............That some kind of gay slang..........

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 10:33 pm

The war to end all wars wasn't it.........


Last edited by TRUSSMAN66 on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 10:34 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : ..)

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Post by Duty281 on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 11:14 pm

I think Switzerland were neutral in this scuffle...

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Post by Bull on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 11:20 pm

Franz Ferdinand who was the arch-duke was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian (Princip) gang member (Black hand gang) their goal was for the Slavs that were part of Bosnia to be combined with Serbia. This lead to Austria's declaration of war on Serbia. Serbia being slavs decided to ask the Russians for help, which they got. Austria then got Germany involved etc. ((It all has to do with the alliance system.)

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Post by Duty281 on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 11:25 pm

Let's see if I remember this right:

1) Serbian independence gang assassinate Austria-Hungary archduke.
2) Serbia apologies, but it isn't accepted.
3) Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
4) Russian Empire (collapses in 1917) declares war on Austria-Hungary.
5) German Empire declares war on Russia, and later, France.
6) Germany invades Belgium to get to France.
7) The British Empire and it's Commonwealth, guaranteeing Belgium's independence, declare war on Germany.

And over the years, Italy, the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, and the USA get dragged into the conflict. Think there's a few more as well.

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Post by Mike Selig on Sat 12 Oct 2013, 10:20 am

I am not a specialist by any means. The new book just out from Hastings is I'm sure worth a read (he is a formidable historian, although a dreadful journalist), but it is worth baring in mind that from what I've heard (indeed from what Hastings himself has said - although I hasten to add I haven't read the book) it is written from a slightly different point of view from the general consensus in that it places a greater share of the blame on Germany and more or less absolves Britain of any blame whatsoever. Although as I say I have absolutely no claim to be an expert on the subject, based on what I have read and been told this seems a bit disingenuous for the reasons I will expand on shortly.

To understand why WWI happened you first have to understand the context, which is basically the clash of European powers. France and the UK had extensive empires ranging around the world, whilst the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians had very little. The Germans in particular pursued an aggressive expansion policy, both in Europe (parts of France, Poland were annexed) and further abroad. The British and the French naturally didn't like that (nor did Russia who were afraid the Germans were coming for them next), although it should be noted that the alliance between the two countries was fairly weak (indeed, Britain and France had almost gone to war a short while earlier over colonies in Africa).

Because everybody in Europe understood that things could "blow up" at any time, they sought to protect themselves by forming alliances with other European countries. Russia and France had an agreement that should one country go to war the other had to follow, similarly for Germany and Austro-Hungary. The idea (or wishful thought) was that no country would dare to attack another with such allies in waiting.

What actually happened of course is that all it ensured was that a minor conflict would be turned into a global one, which is exactly right. Duty's timeline is I believe spot on, although I would add that the assassination of the archduke (and heir to the empire) was almost certainly state-sponsored. Also, for the sake of completion we should say that the Serbian apology wasn't the most heartfelt, and that Austro-Hungary did first issue an ultimatum, which basically amounted to "let us invade your country, or we will declare war" (not much of an ultimatum in fact - it is clear that at this stage Austria-Hungary was committed to war against Serbia).

Russia arguably jumped to Serbia's defence a bit too quickly. As to Britain's role, there has been some characterisation of it as a noble defense of poor neutral Belgium which not to put a fine a point on it is rubbish. From the moment France and Germany were at war it was probably inevitable that Britain would join on France's side, firstly because of existing alliances and secondly (and probably more importantly) because of the geopolitical situation of the world at the time. Britain were concerned by Germany's expansion both at home and abroad. It is here where I respectfully differ from Hastings's viewpoint: he seems to argue that Britain were primarily motivated by the wish to counter Germany's admitted wish to annex most of Europe, whereas I (and a lot of other historians) tend to think they were motivated more by preserving their large overseas empire. You should read Hastings's book (I will when I get around to buying it) as well as others and make your own mind up.

It is easy to criticise this system of alliances in hindsight as something which inevitably led to a global conflict, but in defence of the powers of the time, nobody had yet envisaged such a thing.

The point is wars had been far from uncommon in recent history (France and Germany/Prussia had fought a lot of times already in the previous century) but they had mostly been local conflicts. Everybody (or almost everybody; it is fairly well accepted that Germany was spoiling for a bit of a scrap) was tired of local conflicts, but everybody could sense another coming (for the reasons of tension described above). The view was to form alliances to prevent a local conflict from happening at home, but people were seemingly oblivious that this meant you would have to become involved in any local conflict involving one of your allies. The truth is nobody really knew what would happen when war would eventually break out.

Indeed, it is this continuing paradox - WWI was something which everybody was waiting for but nobody expected - which provides some mitigation for the action of the leaders of the country, and indeed the military leaders, at least in the early days.

Once it did break out, there was a view in some circles that it was just a succession of local conflicts (Fr and eventually the UK vs Germany, Germany and Austro-Hungary vs Russia) which would be fought as all conflicts had been. Again in hindsight it is easy to criticise, but whilst the Allied powers have seemingly borne the brunt of the criticism for the way they conducted the war in the early stages, there are equal stories of German or Austro-Hungarian incompetence. The simple hard truth is that 200 deaths per day for 6 months for a conflict involving just 2 countries is not that great a toll; of course when it is for a 4 year world war involving however many countries it involved... plus of course because of advances in technology the daily death count ended up much higher than for previous conflicts.

So the real criticism is that leaders did not adapt quickly enough to the reality of the situation. They were perhaps understandably caught off-guard by the scale of a global war (which nobody had ever experienced before) and the destructiveness of the new weapon technology (which nobody really knew of, because it hadn't been used extensively before), and there is genuine mitigation for that. What there is not much mitigation for is why when the reality of things did become clear, both sets of powers remained engrained in the same tactics which essentially consisted of collective suicide.

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Post by Hero on Sat 12 Oct 2013, 4:35 pm

Thank you Mike and everyone else

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Sat 12 Oct 2013, 4:54 pm

This is how it started - The wealthy Mrs. Teasdale insisted that Rufus T. Firefly be appointed leader of the small, bankrupt country of Freedonia before she would continue to provide much-needed financial backing. Meanwhile, neighboring Sylvania attempted to take over the country. Sylvanian ambassador Trentino tried to foment a revolution, woo Mrs. Teasdale, and to dig up dirt on Firefly by sending in spies Chicolini and Pinky.

After failing to collect worthwhile information about Firefly, Chicolini and Pinky infiltrated the government when Chicolini was appointed Secretary of War after Firefly saw him on the street selling peanuts. Meanwhile, Firefly's personal assistant, Bob Roland suspected Trentino and counselled Firefly to "get rid of that man at once" by saying "something to make him mad, and he'll strike you, and we'll force him to leave the country." Firefly agreed to the plan, but after a series of personal insults exchanged between Firefly and Trentino, the plan backfired and Firefly slapped Trentino instead. As a result, the two countries reached the brink of war.
It escalated from there.
Hail Freedonia!

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Post by Bull on Sat 12 Oct 2013, 5:01 pm

JuliusHMarx wrote:This is how it started - The wealthy Mrs. Teasdale insisted that Rufus T. Firefly be appointed leader of the small, bankrupt country of Freedonia before she would continue to provide much-needed financial backing. Meanwhile, neighboring Sylvania attempted to take over the country. Sylvanian ambassador Trentino tried to foment a revolution, woo Mrs. Teasdale, and to dig up dirt on Firefly by sending in spies Chicolini and Pinky.

After failing to collect worthwhile information about Firefly, Chicolini and Pinky infiltrated the government when Chicolini was appointed Secretary of War after Firefly saw him on the street selling peanuts. Meanwhile, Firefly's personal assistant, Bob Roland suspected Trentino and counselled Firefly to "get rid of that man at once" by saying "something to make him mad, and he'll strike you, and we'll force him to leave the country." Firefly agreed to the plan, but after a series of personal insults exchanged between Firefly and Trentino, the plan backfired and Firefly slapped Trentino instead. As a result, the two countries reached the brink of war.
It escalated from there.
Hail Freedonia!
I don't get it.

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Sat 12 Oct 2013, 5:06 pm

It's the plot of Duck Soup https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dsw9jYU_rJI

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