Were the British WWI Generals Stupid or Extremely Stupid?

The answer is, of course, extremely stupid. And that’s not a left-wing extremist position, as a certain “Michael Gove” claims, according to a BBC article I just read.

And to say:

“Tony Robinson is wrong. Michael wasn’t attacking teachers, he was attacking the myths perpetuated in Blackadder and elsewhere,” said the spokesman.

“Michael thinks it is important not to denigrate the patriotism, honour and courage demonstrated by ordinary British soldiers in the First World War.”

is a filthy bit of twisted rhethoric indeed. Nobody attacked the soldiers did they? But the officers.

The image of clean-shaven, cowardly officers in nice chateaus doing their utmost to not get near the front-line that Gowe attacks is not a myth. It’s the truth. Blackadder was pretty accurate there, especially for a comedy series.

It’s a pretty well-known fact that it wasn’t the ordinary British soldiers who were mind-bogglingly stupid. It was the officer corps. The generals. The generals who never, ever even visited the front-line, who stayed in their comfortable chateaus poring over increasingly irrelevant maps.

Not that Gove or Murrison or Paxman will do it, of course, but they should read On The Psychology Of Military Incompetence (Pimlico) by Norman Dixon. The author definitely is not left-wing (unlike me) and did serve in the British Army. And he explains in a very clear and very to the point how the British generals in WWI were stupid, and why — and also how the army rewards exactly that kind of stupidity. And also that the British army wasn’t the only place where stupidity of this kind reigned — it was rife everywhere.

This is not an image that needs to be “balanced”. It needs to emphasisized and amplified and remembered. Because the system that rewards these monumentally moronic and mentally defectives with the power to lead armies are still in place, and time and again, from Singapore to Sebrenica, they have managed to get hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands killed. Every officer ought to read Dixon. And every politician.