By Robert A Doughty
Publication Date: 2008
Making considerate but vigorous use of the secondary literature, Doughty prefers to base his analysis on primary sources. He relies a great deal on the official history of the French army, a neglected work whose documentary volumes, he rightly observes, make it the most valuable of all the official military histories of the war. He supplements this with shrewd use of the French military archives and the private papers, published memoirs, diaries, and correspondence of the leading figures.
The French army that emerges from his account exemplifies the range of tactical and strategic responses to the nature of warfare in 1914–18. Refuting more pessimistic assessments, Doughty portrays a pre-war army that had acquired the manpower base (universal military service), equipment (the seventy-five-millimetre field gun), and offensive doctrine to enable it to absorb the shock of the German invasion—once it had abandoned its own headlong plunge into Germany. In one of many sharp and judicious assessments of French commanders, Doughty gives Field Marshal Joffre full credit for his flexibility in fighting the Battle of the Marne, which defeated the German war plan.
Thereafter, the French faced an industrialized war dominated by the defensive. Doughty appropriately conveys the pressures on the generals—the widespread belief that only an offensive could overcome the enemy, the demand for results from a civilian government that remained firmly in charge, and the requirements of coalition warfare on a grand scale. Doing nothing was not an option, but doing something constructive was almost impossible. Joffre grasped the need to retool the army with heavy guns. Yet this alone could not bring victory, and France could ill afford the human loss involved in Joffre's mass offensives. By the end of 1915, France had already lost half of its 1.4 million soldiers who would die in the war.
A further process shaped all of the above options. In 1915, Joffre envisaged the industrialization of warfare as the addition of material to human resources. But following the Nivelle offensive (and the trend was evident before), it meant, instead, the replacement of men by matériel. The second miracle, after the Marne, was that which saw France become an industrial powerhouse, developing tanks, aircraft, artillery, and chemical arms in profusion and adopting the tactics appropriate to them. Although Doughty does not use the term, the French army embarked on a “learning curve” such as that long claimed for the British army during the war.
A strength of this book is the steadfastness with which it sets its own, command-centred limits. But this also means that the chaos and carnage appear only on the margins (as at General Headquarters itself) and that while morale is taken into account, the soldiers' experience is not—although issues such as material conditions and military justice (briefly treated in relation to the mutinies) would have provided a way of doing so. Furthermore, if the Allies are dealt with, the enemy is largely ignored. This leaves unexplored the issues of what the French learned from the Germans and what each side meant by a concept such as “attrition”. Nonetheless, the ability of historians to write about these and other issues has been enhanced by the skill and clarity with which Doughty has explained the ideas and actions of the French generals who controlled the destinies of millions of soldiers.
Sunday, 18 March 2012
Saturday, 3 March 2012
|Image courtesy of Titanic 100 Halifax|
Some seem very touching, educating and respectful, others some may consider to be downright distasteful. So just how do we remember and commemorate the Titanic? What do you think? Personally I'm with noted Titanic survivor Eva Hart:
'She was such a beautiful ship, that's how people should remember her'
Eva Hart, survivor.
Britain's National Archives has launched a microsite dedicated to all things Titanic, including a timeline, eyewitness accounts and biographies of some of the passengers.
Harnessing the writing power of the creator of Downton Abbey, ITV has made a four-part mini-series, at a cost of £10 million with each episode of the series focussing on a different character.
Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown until 1922, the final port of call for the RMS Titanic is marking the centenary with a series of events from early April 2012, everything from Dinners to rowing challenges.
Halifax, Nova Scotia with its 3 Titanic cemeteries, its 24 Titanic sites including the recovery locations, the morgues and the Titanic scientific exhibit at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, will be holding a vast array of commemorative activities including the unveiling of a new memorial, a 10 day wake, a film festival and a Titanic Banquet.
A new website called Titanic 100.com has been set up to sell replica commemorative items such as coins and the Heart of the Ocean necklace (with matching earrings) from James Cameron's 1997 film.
Belfast, Titanic's birthplace, will be commemorating the event with an extended annual festival from 31 March - 22 April. Belfast City Council has created a new memorial garden around the existing Titanic Memorial sculpture on the east side of Belfast City Hall. The garden will be unveiled following a remembrance service and this event is being hosted by Belfast City Council in conjunction with Belfast Titanic Society.
Considering itself to be "one of the world's most appropriate places for connecting with the Titanic story" Cape Race, the site of Marconi Station that received Titanic's distress signal on the night of April 14, 1912, will have local performers honour the musical heritage of many of the Titanic’s third class passengers with Irish and Newfoundland music in a kitchen party style event, similar to that seen in James Cameron's Titanic at 'Bridie Molloy’s Guinness Pub and Eatery'.
One of the most controversial commemorations of Titanic’s centenary will be performed at the site where she sank in the mid Atlantic. It forms part of the Titanic Memorial Cruise, a specially chartered voyage which will replicate Titanic’s route to the United States. The cruise has been organised by Bristol-based travel agency, Miles Morgan. 1309 paying passengers (the same number as were on Titanic) and around five hundred of a crew will sail aboard the Fred Olsen liner, Balmoral.
I have now counted at least nine different cruise ship companies which plan to sail to the site of the sinking on the anniversary, a laudable effort but it's going to get a bit congested out there at latitude 41° 43' 32" North, longitude 49° 56' 49" West.
More than 600 schoolchildren will parade through Southampton holding placards bearing the pictures of all those who served as crew and who lost their lives when the ship went down.
For several months the youngsters from more than 27 schools across the city have been researching the crew members and all the information they have gathered will be written on the back of each placard they carry. Of the 897 crew members |on the Titanic, 714 were |from Southampton. In total 685 crew members lost |their lives, with 538 registered to a Southampton address.