CHARLEY’S WAR: A CHALLENGE TO THE REVISIONIST SPIN ON THE GREAT WAR (2014)
Given that I’ve just written a new Great War story (Ragtime Soldier, in collaboration with Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design and University of Dundee), I think it’s time I revisited the public lecture I gave at the University of Liverpool in 2014 on how Charley’s War was a challenge to the revisionist spin we have been experiencing in the years around the centenary of the Great War. I was invited to give the lecture as part of the University’s Security & Conflict Lecture Series.
I originally shared the audio recording on my old website, and during the transfer to our current digital home, the file wasn’t transferred along with the blog post and we lost some of my post text that accompanied it. Here’s what remains:
There was a fantastic turn out – thanks again to everyone who came. However, there didn’t see to be any revisionists in the audience, and I kind of missed their challenge. And then I began to wonder, seriously, do they actually exist? Apart from the establishment Propaganda Assets, who regularly produce biographies and TV documentaries defending ‘organised mass murderers’ like General Haig and his ilk (Harry Patch, the last Tommy, referred to the conflict as ‘organised mass murder’). So is that all it is, a propaganda exercise by the State?
Here’s the audio recording:
CHARLEY'S WAR: A CHALLENGE TO THE REVISIONIST SPIN ON THE GREAT WAR
And here’s a PDF of my lecture notes, if you prefer to read rather than listen.
Download the Charley's War lecture PDF
My slides from the lecture:
More news on Ragtime Soldier soon!
My great uncle was a Great War soldier. He joined the local yeomanry (territorials of then) before the war. As the son of a tenant farmer (the family paid rent to the Spencers) he could provide his own horse. They were mounted infantry rather than cavalry, so armed with a carbine. He was mobilised in August 1914 and went off to war. When it bogged down he was in the trenches though his postcards home often said he was behind the lines acting as an MP.
Anyway in 1917 he was part of the international forces sent to bolster the Italians in the Po Valley when the Austrians pushed them back to there. He was back on his horse patrolling the Dolomite mountains shooting trout in mountain streams or tossing a Mills bomb into a pool. I have a photo of a line of soldiers. There are two American doughboys, two Italians, two French and my Uncle the one Brit in the middle. I’m something of a student of military uniform and they were nationally distinctive then.
I knew him as a child, the closest I knew to a grandfather. So to me the Italian war was always well known.
I grew up in NZ and what many might not know is that when the troop ships from NZ went off to the Middle East loaded with troops they were escorted by a Japanese warship. They were our allies then. NZ were tasked in part to take German Samoa, Australia took German New Guinea (now Papua-New Guinea) while the Japanese took the German canton on the Chinese mainland while South Africa took German SW Africa now Namibia. But to Britons it’s the protracted struggle by Britain to take German East Africa which is known. Poor old Canada just sent troops to the Western Front slaughter.
“I went as far as I could in a children’s comic, showing a village being burnt by the British in order to save it.” Ohhhh, the irony even to the present day