The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part One – 1914

“It is a simple historical fact that the British Generals of the First World War, whatever their faults, did not fail in their duty. It was not a British delegation that crossed the lines with a white flag in November 1918. No German Army of Occupation was stationed on the Thames, the Humber or the Tees. No British Government was forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty. The British Generals had done their duty. Their Army and their country were on the winning side. That is the only proper, the only sensible starting point for the examination of their quality.”

Thus wrote John Terraine in his 1980 book ‘The Smoke and the Fire’, and yet here we are nearly forty years later, and still the debate rages.  Luckily for all of us, far more qualified people than yours truly have aired their opinions over the ensuing years on the competence or otherwise of British Great War generals, including some of you lot, so it isn’t their quality that we shall primarily be looking at during this series of posts, although doubtless we shall touch on it at times.  It is their bravery.  The posts are intended, I hope, to serve as a refutation of the whole ‘Château General’ concept on behalf of a group of these generals who were unable to answer back when it came to the post-war recriminations and character assassinations.  Because, of course,…

…they were dead.

Around one third of the men you are going to meet over the next six posts were either killed in action, or died of wounds received in action; they did not die of sickness, or disease, or old age, or for any reason other than enemy action.  They died because they were close enough to the front lines to be obliterated by a German shell or picked off by the infamous sniper’s bullet.  And every single one of them died before 11th November 1918.  The remaining two thirds are those generals who were wounded during the war; some lightly, some seriously, some to return to command and others not, but surviving, as opposed to being killed, sheer luck in the mayhem of war, surely should not preclude these men from this series, nor does it suggest in any way that their bravery was anything but equal to those who died.

These were no ‘Château Generals’.  Maybe they should have been.

1914 saw the deaths in action of four British generals, the trend continuing into 1915.  By October that year British High Command, after another five generals had been killed in quick time, a sixth captured, and at least three wounded at the Battle of Loos, were becoming increasingly concerned that the deaths of their generals was wasting years of experience that would be required in the months and years ahead and could not be easily replaced, and thus with great common sense, issued an edict that senior officers should not visit the front line, indeed ‘no staff officer was to go nearer to the trenches than a certain line.’  The generals who did stay in their châteaux – the men whose reputations would be trashed by, first, the great Welsh comedian Lloyd George in his 1933 memoirs, and then later, in the 1960s, by Alan Clark and his ‘lions led by donkeys’* and the film ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’, and, moving on a few decades, dare I say it, by Blackadder, which, like it or not, could be seen as a primary influence on a generation’s view of the Great War British generals, and like the rest made no distinction between ability and bravery – were actually obeying instructions, if not orders.

*Clark used the purported conversation between Ludendorff and Major-General Carl Adolf Maximilian Hoffmann (rated by some historians as the finest staff officer of his generation) as the title of his book.  Ludendorff was supposed to have commented that the English soldiers fight like lions, to which Hoffmann responded, “True, But don’t we know that they are led by donkeys.”  Hoffmann appeared to have a serious sense of humour, if that isn’t an oxymoron.  After the war, while touring the Tannenberg battlefield with a group of army cadets, he was reported as telling the students “See – this is where Hindenburg slept before the battle, this is where Hindenburg slept after the battle, and between you and me, this is where Hindenburg slept during the battle”.

These British generals had served their country for many years and in many campaigns and they knew the importance of morale on their troops.  They put themselves in danger because they believed that their presence would help to maintain that morale, and perhaps because many could not get the ‘whites of their eyes’ syndrome out of their system.  These men wanted to be in the thick of the action, as many of them had been in previous conflicts, their very reason d’être being to serve their country in times of war.  And to win.  So we are going to meet some of them in these posts, all human beings with two arms and two legs (at least to begin with), and huge responsibility on their collective shoulders during a war that began with plumed-helmeted cavalry skirmishing on the French border, and turned into the greatest industrial conflict the world had ever seen.

Following the outbreak of war on 4th August 1914, the first British troops would find themselves crossing the Channel and disembarking at the French ports within just three days.  The Battle of Mons would follow on 23rd August, and at the Battle of Le Cateau, on 26th August, the British would suffer their first reported General Officer casualty when Brigadier-General Frederick William Nicholas McCracken D.S.O., G.O.C.* 7th Brigade, 3rd Division (above), was incapacitated by a shell blast.  McCracken would return, as a Major-General, to command 15th Division in 1915 and, from 1917, XIII Corps as a Lieutenant-General; indeed many of the wounded men you will meet during these posts were able to return to duty, and did so, some following severe injuries, many to be wounded again.  Most of those generals wounded more than once have been placed in this chronological list at the date of their last wound, their previous wounds mentioned in the text where I am aware of them, although doubtless there are other cases that I have yet to uncover.

*General Officer Commanding

Brigadier-General Robert Scott-Kerr, G.O.C. 4th Guards Brigade, 2nd Division (left), would be the second general to be wounded, and the first to be permanently put out of action, when he was badly shot in the thigh by a machine gun on 1st September 1914 at Villers-Cotterets as the retreat from Mons continued.  Although he would survive his injuries he would not return to overseas duty, holding a command in the Home Forces until 1918.  Next to him in the centre is Brigadier-General Neil Douglas Findlay, C.R.A.* 1st Division, killed on 10th September 1914 aged 55, and the first British General Officer to die in action in the Great War.  Whilst selecting positions for his artillery near Priez, south of Soissons, a group of returning infantry passed close by, attracting German shell fire, one nearby shell burst mortally wounding Findlay, who died soon after. He was buried initially in Courchamps churchyard, his body later moved to Vailly British Cemetery.  And on the  right, Brigadier-General Richard Cyril Byrne Haking, G.O.C. 5th Brigade, 2nd Division, wounded by shellfire on the Chemin des Dames on 16th September 1914.  Haking would return to command XI Corps, controversially, at both Loos in 1915 and Fromelles in 1916, and for a period in 1919 he was Chief of the British Armistice Commission.

*Commanding Royal Artillery

Following the Miracle of the Marne in early September 1914, where the French and British Armies halted the German advance on Paris, the Race for the Sea saw both sides turn north.  The flatlands of French Flanders would be the scene of the second British general to die.  On 14th October 1914, at Vieille Chapelle, about five miles away in the direction in which we are looking in the above photograph, Major-General Hubert Ion Wetherall Hamilton, G.O.C. 3rd Division, while personally reconnoitering to find out why his left flank was not advancing, was hit in the forehead as a salvo of shells burst over him and his fellow officers, killing him almost instantly.  Originally buried in La Couture churchyard that night, his body was soon repatriated to England, and on 21st October 1914 he was buried in St. Martin’s churchyard in Cheriton, Kent. He was 53.

On 31st October 1914, with the First Battle of Ypres at its height and a German breakthrough still thought possible, the commanders of the British 1st & 2nd Divisions, Lieutenant-General Sir Samuel Lomax (left) and Major-General Sir Charles Monro (right) arranged a meeting at Hooge Château (bottom left in 1914, bottom right in 1915), less than two miles behind the front lines (Haig and his staff had, incidentally, vacated the château only shortly beforehand).  An eye witness recalled seeing the approach to the château packed with cars, a sure sign to the Germans on the ridges to the east that something of interest was taking place.  At around 1.30 in the afternoon the first shell landed in the château’s gardens; many within rushed to the window to see the damage, seemingly unaware of the danger.  Monro used the interruption to leave the room for a discussion with his Chief of Staff, which probably saved his life.  The second shell burst just outside the window, sending blast and  jagged shards of metal tearing through the room and the men within it.  One, maybe two, more shells hit the château, but the second shell had done the damage.  Lomax was severely wounded and evacuated, eventually to England, where we will encounter him again in a later post.  Monro, standing in the doorway, was concussed but otherwise unhurt.  Lomax’s Chief of Staff, Colonel F. W. Kerr, and another senior staff officer, Major George Paley, were killed, as were Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Percival, who was virtually blown to pieces, Captain Rupert Ommanney, and artillery officer Major Francis Chenevix Trench*, all 2nd Division, and a number of others were injured, two of whom, Captain Graham Shedden of the Royal Garrison Artillery and Captain Robert Giffard, Lomax’s A.D.C., would shortly die.

*unlike Percival, it seems it may have been blast that killed Trench, who although still breathing when found, showed ‘no signs of suffering on his face’ as he died.

Both Shedden and Giffard are buried in Ypres Town Cemetery, Shedden (above) apparently dying later on the day of the tragedy, and Giffard (below, his grave pictured just as the snow began to fall) a day later.  The five other men who were killed can be found in the cemetery extension.

Apart from Monro and his Chief of Staff only one officer present, 1st Division’s Colonel Robert Whigham, later to become a general himself, would escape serious injury.  The Hooge Château disaster was probably the worst single incident to affect British divisional command during the entire war, and how inescapably ironic, bearing in mind our subject matter, that all the men killed were actually inside a château at the time.

Later that day, on Haig’s agreement, Brigadier-General Edward Stanislaus Bulfin (top) was informed by Brigadier-General Sir John Edmond Gough V.C., Chief of Staff 1st Army, who would himself be killed in action the following year, that Bulfin was to replace Lomax.  The very next day, 1st November, Bulfin was wounded in the head and side by a shell near the Menin Road, somewhere in the region of the photograph, although he would soon return to command 28th Division at Second Ypres and later at Loos.  And one day later, on 2nd November, Brigadier-General Harold Goodeve Ruggles-Brise, G.O.C. 20th Brigade, 7th Division (bottom), was wounded by shell fire in both arms and the shoulder-blade near Gheluvelt; he too would return to action, commanding 40th Division from the Battle of Loos onwards.

Bulfin, third from right and by now a Lieutenant-General commanding XIII Corps, pictured with other staff officers in Jerusalem in March 1918.

As November progressed, two more British generals would die and another would be wounded in less than 48 hours, all three within a few miles of each other.  On the left, Brigadier-General Norman Reginald McMahon D.S.O., G.O.C. 4th Bn. Royal Fusiliers, 3rd Division, who was killed on 11th November 1914 at Herenthage Wood, east of Hooge, on the south side of the Menin Road.  In the face of severe German pressure McMahon, whilst rallying his troops, was seen to sink to one knee and begin to remove his leggings, as if hit in the leg.  As he did so a shell exploded nearby, killing him instantly.  His body was lost in the subsequent fighting and his name can be found on the Ploegsteert Memorial.  He was 48.  Later that night, in the early hours of 12th November, Brigadier-General Charles Fitzclarence V.C. (centre), aged 49 and G.O.C. 1st Guards Brigade, 1st Division, was killed during an attack at Polygon Wood, hit by fire from the German trenches on the west edge of the wood.  His body was not recovered and his name now appears on the Menin Gate, the highest ranking officer among the 54,000 names (hence he is today referred to as O.C. Menin Gate) to be found on the memorial.  The same day, 12th November, Brigadier-General Frederick Charles Shaw, G.O.C. 9th Brigade, 3rd Division, on the right, was wounded by shell fire east of Hooge, although he would return for the Gallipoli campaign the following year.

As the first winter of the war set in, the opening months of conflict had seen the deaths of four British generals, alongside another eight wounded, if you include Monro, as I have.  And this, as it would turn out, would be just the very tip of the iceberg.

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37 Responses to The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part One – 1914

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    Thank you for the post. I learnt a lot

  2. Nick Kilner says:

    Sobering reading, and I have no doubt an eye opener to many who still harbour thoughts of the first world war as lions led by donkeys. In fact I’ve always felt that very phrase to be something of an oxymoron, as you ‘lead’ from the front.
    I very much look forward to further posts

  3. Sid from Down Under says:

    Very informative and again indicative of your thorough research, Sir

    I hope your future posts also include who and why the “over-the-top” strategy was used for so long.

    I ask because I presume it was the Generals who devised and authorised this type of warfare that lost so many lives. No matter how brave a General we must never forget the sacrifice of the foot soldiers following futile orders.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Quite right Sid. And thank you. Here at theBigNote, however, I think it fair to say that we do all we can to remember the foot soldiers, whatever nationality, and have done in almost every post for more than eight years now, and it seems to me time that the generals had their say. And as some of their tactics are certainly questionable, whoever devised them, these posts are about those generals as men – were they men who were happy to see their soldiers falling in droves in front of the German machine guns as they quaffed wine in some chateau far to the rear, or were they, when the chips were down, men who led by example. Wait as the numbers rise. At the end of these six posts perhaps all of us will have a clearer notion. We shall see.

  4. Morag Sutherland says:

    Good morning from Brora
    As regards blind obedience of going over the top
    It was pointed out in recent documentary on BBC that society was so structured that men would not question orders. If they did they faced being shot so not much choice really

  5. Sid from Down Under says:

    Thanks and hello Morag – I understand why the men did not question orders (my Great War father was one) but am sure to learn from Magicfingers’ future posts more about why the Generals perceived and persevered with these suicidal orders until they were much later convinced to use a different strategy that led to the end of WW1 and to strategies used to this day.

    There were brave Generals, great Generals and compassionate Generals but I also suspect there was an “elite” who cared not much for the destiny of their foot soldiers. All types I am sure we will be treated to in-depth analysis by our magical MJS.

    • Nick kilner says:

      I think it’s interesting that the D-Day landings are not discussed in the same way. They were no less suicidal than any frontal offensive of the First World War. In point of fact ahead of the attack the American command were reportedly anticipating almost 40% losses on the first day, something that wasn’t revealed until relatively recently. And just to put that into perspective, casualties for the first day of the Somme were around 20%. The same strategy was used, an artillery barrage followed by men running over open ground toward machine gun emplacements, so why then is it not looked upon in the same light? Perhaps simply because it was a success, and the majority of WW1 attacks that are discussed are those which are considered failures. That doesn’t mean to say that they all were, but we do tend to focus on the disasters.
      You ask why those in command continued to send men over the top, and to me the answer is fairly obvious. At some point, in order to kill your enemy, you have to leave the relative safety of your own defences and find them. Their bunkers were too deep for our artillery to destroy, in some cases over 100 feet deep, and had artillary penetrated that far they would simply have gone deeper still. Realistically there was no other way to get at them. Tactics and weapons changed and developed as a result of both failures and successes. Smoke screens, poison gas, the creeping barrage and the use of Russian saps, not to mention tanks were all developed to try and keep men alive, because that really was best all round. Apart from anything else failure could be hugely damaging to reputations, just look at what happened to Winston Churchill as a result of the Gallipoli campaign, so to imply that they didn’t care if their men were slaughtered is very wrong in my opinion.
      The other thing that I think will come as a surprise to many is how infrequently men were actually sent ‘over the top’. According to his own memoirs Harry Patch ‘jumped the bags’ just four times in the two years that he served. This form of attack was not something that was done on a daily basis, fundamentally I suspect because if it went badly then the inevitable counter attack was likely to be catastrophically successful, and that was a double blow to the man or men in charge.
      Don’t get me wrong, these were men who made some serious mistakes and without a doubt cost the lives of more men than they should have, but would any of us have done better given what they knew?

      • Sid from Down Under says:

        We’re getting off subject with WW2 comparisons because D-Day was not trench warfare. However, one statistical comparison, on 1st July 1916, first day of the Battle of the Somme, 19,240 British fatalities. WW2 D-Day 6th June 1944, 2,500 Allied fatalities. No comparison.

        The Battle of Hamel 4 July 1918 was effectively the turning point for WW1 when “over the top” was consigned to history courtesy of a brilliant Colonial “civilian soldier”.

        Before then a number of “born to rule” British Generals have much to answer for.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Sid, with reference to your previous comment, we will certainly come across generals who had no business being in command, that’s for sure, but who put them there? And why? All to come.

  6. Nick kilner says:

    Apologies, 20%, not 9%. MJS, you need to add an edit after idiocy feature lol

    • Magicfingers says:

      Heh heh. Done. Now if I’d deleted your message above too no one, apart from all those who have already read it, would know about your idiocy (to which I too am prone, but I can change it whenever I fuck up). I have to say I am pondering on the whole D-Day thing – don’t tell Sid, but I think I can grasp the similarity between a bunch of blokes attacking from boats (over the side as opposed to over the top) through the waves and sand (read mud) towards entrenched Germans (because they certainly were) up the beaches, and WW1 tactics.

      • Nick kilner says:

        Thank you kindly for the edit, I’d like to put it down to having a senior moment but i’m not sure I’m old enough to qualify for one of those just yet, sadly it was just a brain fail lol.

        • Sid from Down Under says:

          Trench warfare aside, Gallipoli has been mentioned but if we expand to other seaboard deaths let us not forget the Dunkirk evacuation with 3,500 deaths (1,000 more than D-Day).

          Neither in regards deaths should the Battle of Stalingrad be overlooked along with Stalin’s Order No. 227. Most historians acknowledge the Soviet’s eventual success precipitated the beginning of the end of WW2, not D-Day as the war movies would have us believe.

          Using the Pacific War as an example, after naval and air bombardments seaborne land attacks, like D-Day, were the only way forward. On the other hand, the WW1 land Battle of Hamel proved “over the top” futile. Why it took so long for the Generals to awake is something I look forward to later posts addressing.

          Then we have the Korean War attacks by “Chinese hoards” (my National Service trainers were ex-Korea and told some amazing stories).

          Seems like leaders both political and military in all countries were guilty with the military commanders determining operational tactics.

          • Magicfingers says:

            No argument there. The real problem with discussing the generals’ tactics is that I am not really qualified to do so. I have no military background (as some of you do, National Service or otherwise) and I don’t think my amateur musings are appropriate when it comes to discussing tactics. You know more about tactics than me anyway! So I am sorry to disappoint, but there will be no in-depth tactical analysis – and let’s be fair, there are enough books on the subject. But there are few, if any, that deal with their bravery, the men beneath the uniforms, and how they reacted under pressure, which is what I am attempting to do here.

          • nick kilner says:

            Hi Sid,
            in truth I’m not sure exactly how the battle of Hamel proved going ‘over the top’ futile. The attack was a success, in part because of the combination of tactics used, but it still required men to go over the top. In point of fact many were killed by friendly fire as a result of one of the tactics used. I suspect this was probably due to worn barrels amongst the artillery, as well as some confusion amongst the American troops.
            I certainly think that there are very obvious comparisons between the D-Day landings and trench warfare on the western front. Infantry making frontal assaults over open ground, preceded by artillery fire intended, but for the most part failing to soften up enemy defences. Right down to men facing unbroken lines of barbed wire. Those in command were expecting it to be a bloodbath, that much is clear, but they were never scorned for it in the way that WW1 generals often are. I think thats very interesting. And as you rightly say, that type of attack was for the most part the only way forward, both on the French coast and in the trenches of the western front.
            Of course we have to also look at the fact that with the initial successes and then the retreat of the german Spring offensive, the war had suddenly become far more mobile than it had been really since the race to the sea in 1914. I think to some extent, that made massive trench systems redundant, particularly with improvements in tanks and artillery and so a change occurred almost organically in the final months of the war.

          • Sid from Down Under says:

            Gidday Nick,
            With respect, Hamel involved more than softening up with artillery. Certainly not the “old” going over the top suicidal tactics. Following excerpts are by people far more knowledgeable than mere moi.
            The Battle of Hamel on July 4, 1918 lasted only 93 minutes but was the turning point for Allied victory in World War I. It was the first time Allied forces coordinated an all-arms battle with tanks, aircraft, artillery and machine guns.
            The coordinated approach provided a model for larger offensives during August and September which ultimately lead to victory in November 1918.
            Appalled at the horrific casualties and “ghastly inefficiency” of World War I combat, Monash, a 53-year-old former engineer from Melbourne (a citizen, not a professional soldier) adopted the view that the infantry’s role was “not to expend itself upon heroic physical effort, but to advance under the maximum possible array of mechanical resources, in the form of guns, machine guns, tanks, mortars, and aeroplanes …to the appointed goal.”
            “Hamel, certainly from the British and Commonwealth point of view, is the first time in which these all came together very very successfully.”
            “The significance of Hamel rests not in the size of the victory or the territory gained but in the fact that it showed how to fight a battle”
            “For the history of the First World War, Hamel stands at the top of the learning process”
            Initially it took some convincing the British professional hierarchy but these tactics, devised by Sir John Monash, are widely credited with devising strategies that turned the surge of World War I against the Germans after years of death-dealing stalemate.

            Here’s me now on my soapbox: Monash was the first military commander in 200 years to be knighted on the field of battle. The King knighted Monash outside Villers-Bretonneux in August 1918, a rare battlefield honour (my father was there – on the sidelines)
            I find the following indeed an honour: Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who was an officer in World War I, credited Monash as “the best General on the Western Front in Europe”.
            An remarkable man who, because of his background, had to overcome much prejudice. He returned to his civilian career after The Great War.

          • Nick Kilner says:

            Don’t get me wrong, he was clearly an excellent strategist, and I suspect he learnt a lot from studying what had effectively been the birth of the Blitzkrieg three months earlier. Many I’m sure were still wondering where it all went wrong and thanking god it had stopped! I love the fact that he was knighted, that must have really put some noses out of joint! Interesting though that it was done on the battlefield rather than in London, and part of me wonders if that was because of the prejudice against him for being not only Jewish but a ‘bloody colonial’ to boot. Notably Currie was also knighted on the battlefield, and he of course was Canadian, so the cynic in me says that it was actually an honour ‘reserved for the colonists’ and perhaps done to avoid them rubbing shoulders with English knights, which just wouldn’t do at all.
            What Monash didn’t do however was to prove going over the top futile, or consign it to history, far from it. The frontal assault was an integral and inescapable aspect of trench warfare, and was one of the tactics Monash himself employed at Hamel. There were actually reports of Australian soldiers attacking machine gun emplacements with fixed bayonets in scenes more reminiscent of 1914. So whilst his brilliant idea of combining existing tactics was successful, it certainly didn’t get around the issue of men going over the top. That type of attack didn’t really end until the war did, so I’m afraid it is a point on which I simply cannot agree. What he did prove beyond any shadow of a doubt was that it could be done better.
            I feel we have hijacked this post for long enough, and I don’t wish to detract from MJS’s posts any further so with respect I think we shall have to agree to disagree on this one.

          • Sid from Down Under says:

            I agree, we’ve hijacked more than enough of this post but it is interesting – however you and I must be reading from different pages. I’ve not read anywhere that Monash learned from Blitzkrieg nor its birth three months earlier. So much is written about “Blitzkrieg” and its misconceptions that no wonder views can vary.

            The theory is attributed to Field Marshall Alfred von Schlieffen in the 1870s but not developed until between WW1 and WW2. The idea was to strike deep behind enemy front lines to secure decisive victory without actually needing to destroy or even engage the opponent’s major forces. While I disagree, some say Monash was the father of “Blitzkrieg”. He certainly shook the top brass with his concept, which worked. Of course troops continue to go “over the top” (so to speak) but not in the manner used by the Brits before Hamel. Some Magicfingers posts describe horrendous examples. Like Monty in WW2, Monash was known for his humanitarian concern for troops.

            Interestingly, British Tank Corps Chief of Staff J.F.C Fuller spelled out his ideas for using coordinated armour, air power, mobile infantry and artillery forces in his books Reformation of War (1923) and Foundation of the Science of War (1928) but his work was largely ignored in Britain but was studied by German commanders such as Rommel. Also, Hans von Seeckt augmented von Schlieffen’s doctrines with technological advances. His ideas, combined with concepts taken from Fuller’s works were used by Heinz Guderian in 1938. Poland 1939 was true Blitzkrieg.

          • Nick kilner says:

            I think to say that Monash would have learned nothing from the German Spring offensive does the man a great disservice. I guess that’s something else on which we shall disagree.

          • Sid from Down Under says:

            We certainly do disagree Nick – there is far more to Monash’s prowess than the German Spring Offensive you refer to. As do many, I hold Monash in the highest regard and would never do him a disservice – in fact the exact opposite. Space here does not allow me to expand so as of this reply I’m going silent on the subject.

  7. Nigel Shuttleworth says:

    Another thoroughly researched, extremely informative and thought provoking post MJS. Any failures in the leadership before and during the Great War, as with the lead up to the Second World War, were not those of the Generals but of the ruling elites, the politicians, news editors and thought-formers – an amoral, self-serving, feckless flock of cretins back then, just the same as today!

  8. Magicfingers says:

    Ding ding!! End of Round One.

    • Nigel Shuttleworth says:

      Ref, would you say our two word pugilists are level on points? Can’t wait for Round Two – Seconds out . . . . !

      • Sid from Down Under says:

        Far from it Nigel and please, we’re not “pugilists”. Unfortunately a few paragraphs have no hope of keeping in context the remarkable life and accomplishments of the brilliant Monash. My favourite is Roland Perry’s biography “Monash the outsider who won a War”. Includes when he conceived his battle theory, the difficulties getting it accepted by British High Command (eventually succeeded with help) then the planning and executing of Hamel took much longer than Nick’s 3 months assumption (also his assumption why he was knighted in the field). Problem is it’s 656 pages which cannot be condensed into a few paragraphs! The biography by Geoffrey Serle is a mere 602 pages (first published in 1982 with multiple reprints. Even I’ve not read that one). There are numerous other books on Monash. Google this Australian born Prussian Jewish heritage amazing man, a civilian soldier who taught the professionals how to do it then after WW1 returned to a continuing incredible life in civvy street.

        • Well from where I sit in the cheap seats it certainly looked like pugilism! Funny old world though, as I have mentioned on here in the past my great Uncle 2nd. Lt.G.H.Frischling who died on 14th. August 1918 whilst out on night patrol just to the northwest of the Marker Stone on the Kemmel – De Klijte rd, was, like Monash, also of Prussian Jewish heritage. He served with the Bermondsey 12th East Surreys and kept his German surname in the British Army which was unusual to say the least.

          • Nick Kilner says:

            Hahaha, just a good old fashioned, healthy debate. I’ve lost track of the number of men credited with singlehandedly winning wars, but credit where credits due Monash was certainly a great help.
            Now I really do think that’s time we moved on, there are far more interesting things afoot 😉

          • Sid from Down Under says:

            Ha ha indeed – Nick you should quote sources when making such comments then if you truly believe “it’s time we moved on” (as I have determined simply because space here does not allow full disclosure) then you should cease making begrudging comments about the brilliant Monash who taught the Brits how to win a battle and ultimately the War ….. and remove yourself from the conversation. Those wiser than I have written many in-depth analyses about his brilliance which I commend you read.

          • nick kilner says:

            As i’ve already said Sid, to me there are more interesting things afoot, but I’ll certainly bear it in mind ;-). Im always happy to give sources when quoting anyone directly btw, but thats not something I’ve done during the course of our conversation on here so it wouldn’t really be appropriate. Now I really do think we’ve given good old Monash sufficient air time on a post that may or may not actually include him. We shall have to wait and see if he gets a mention.

          • Sid from Down Under says:

            Interesting about your great uncle, but otherwise I’ve not even had time to warm up, let alone put my gloves on! To give Monash his due respects is far beyond the scope of this Magicfingers Dead Donkeys post thus I consider it disrespectful to MF to continue this line of conversation on his post. Being respectful, I’m signing off on this one and commend others do likewise.

  9. Philip Davies says:

    Hi Magicfingers. Can I just say your posts are excellent, well researched and very informative. Well done. Should be a book!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks for taking the trouble, Philip. You’re a gent. My missus would agree with you on the book idea, too……

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