The Donkeys

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Random House, Sep 30, 2011 - Technology & Engineering - 240 pages
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The landmark exposé of incompetent leadership on the Western Front - why the British troops were lions led by donkeys

On 26 September 1915, twelve British battalions – a strength of almost 10,000 men – were ordered to attack German positions in France. In the three-and-a-half hours of the battle, they sustained 8,246 casualties. The Germans suffered no casualties at all.

Why did the British Army fail so spectacularly? What can be said of the leadership of generals? And most importantly, could it have all been prevented? In The Donkeys, eminent military historian Alan Clark scrutinises the major battles of that fateful year and casts a steady and revealing light on those in High Command - French, Rawlinson, Watson and Haig among them - whose orders resulted in the virtual destruction of the old professional British Army. Clark paints a vivid and convincing picture of how brave soldiers, the lions, were essentially sent to their deaths by incompetent and indifferent officers – the donkeys.

‘An eloquent and painful book... Clark leaves the impression that vanity and stupidity were the main ingredients of the massacres of 1915. He writes searingly and unforgettably’ Evening Standard


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - charlie68 - LibraryThing

A look at the Western front in 1915, the major battles; Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge and Loos to the dismissal of Sir John French. Tedious at times but poignant at others, focusing on battles that are hardly known anymore and the sloppiness of decisions that lead to the high rate of casualties. Read full review


A Band of Brothers
Winter in the Trenches
The First Experiment at Neuve Chapelle
Neuve Chapelle the Passing Hours
Aubers Ridge
the Northern Attack
Repercussions and Recriminations
the Plan
the Assault
the Second
The Dismissal of Sir john French

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About the author (2011)

Alan Clark was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He served in the Household Cavalry before qualifying for the Bar in 1955. In 1974 he became Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and went on to hold a number of ministerial posts. He wrote several works of military history: The Fall of Crete, Barbarossa: The Russo-German Conflict 1941-45 and Aces High: The War in the Air over the Western Front. He also published his Diaries. Alan Clark died in 1999.

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