A few days ago Dan Snow wrote a piece entitled Lions and donkeys: 10 big myths about World War One debunked on the BBC website. The tone of the article was strange, in that it seemed to be implying that World War 1 was not as bad as everybody thinks and that and that a lot of working class soldiers quite enjoyed it while upper class officers were martyred. The 10 myths were:
- It was the bloodiest war in history to that point. No, it was our civil war in the mid 17th century
- Most soldiers died. No, it was around 11.5%
- Men lived in the trenches for years on end. No, rarely more than 10 days a month
- The upper class got off lightly. No, 17% of officers died, compared to 11.5% of soldiers
- ‘Lions led by donkeys’. No, it was German propaganda. Generals visited the front most days
- Gallipoli was fought by Australians and New Zealanders. Yes, but British & French lost more
- Tactics remain unchanged. Wrong, huge technological innovation
- No-one won. Wrong, Germany surrendered.
- The Versailles Treaty was extremely harsh. It was not harsh, but portrayed as so by Hitler
- Everyone hated it. No, it offered guaranteed food, pay, and comradeship, so long as you avoided death or injury
Not surprisingly several people have taken Dan Snow to task.
In Lions and donkeys: Dan Snow’s 10 myths about World War One debunked by No Glory Lindsey German from the No Glory in War campaign gave her replies while blogger Andrew Dunn wrote a piece The ‘Historian’ ‘Dan’ ‘Snow’ and his 10 Myths of WW1.
One person also commented on Dan Snow’s Facebook page that “It’s more evidence of the Establishment trying to soften up the population to accept warfare as normal.” Another comment on Facebook addressed the title of the article directly:
What the Germans say about the British army is about right, they are the bravest in the world, but led by a lot of asses.
Written on 14th February 1900 by Lieutenant Anderson, 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders besieged at Ladysmith. From here.
Another very personal response came from familyletters.co.uk, a blog that is publishing letters home form 5 brothers caught up in the war; each will be published 100 years after the day they were written. On another page, about the contents of the site, this webiste states:
Those who lived and died during the First World War are not allowed to rest in peace. Modern pundits and politicians steal their stories to score their own points and 100 years on the First World war is still highly politicized. Here people who were there speak for themselves; the letters have not been abridged or edited and are presented exactly as they came down to me.