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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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Phil andrade
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Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/26/2017 3:51:24 AM
This is another centennial milestone to discuss.

November 29, 1917, former Foreign Secretary in the British Government, Lord Lansdowne, seeks publication in the British press of a letter in which he proposes that the Allies seek terms with Germany and end the war while the world's still intact.

Please let me invite speculation as to what might have been prevented if the war had been ended in the manner that Lansdowne was advocating.

No WW2...No Holocaust....No Depression....No Soviet Union ????

How should we view this British aristocrat ?

To my mind, his stance looks eminently sensible : enlightened, courageous.

He was vilified, and Britain's most prestigious newspaper, The Times, refused to publish his letter. It was left to the arriviste Daily Telegraph to publish it.

To those who said that it was a betrayal of the dead to adopt such a tone, Lansdowne could point to the death of his own son in the war to give his view legitimacy.

The Germans - who had already suffered more than five million battle casualties by that time - might have been unwilling to quit while they felt they had a decent chance of winning. They had, after all, demolished their enemy in the East, and under the aegis of Ludendorff - that proto nazi, as Trevor so accurately desdcribes him - they were looking forward to unleashing the furor teutonicus in the west.

This letter has been something of a revelation to me : I'm a bit mortified that I did not know about it, but would love to discuss it with you and learn more.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/26/2017 4:42:39 AM
Sir William Robertson the CIGS, when asked whether the war could be won, replied:

"Quite frankly, and at the same time quite respectfully, I can only say I am surprised that the question should be asked. The idea had not before entered my head that any member of His Majesty's Government had a doubt on the matter."

I am inclined to think along the same lines. Lansdowne's letter was written during asschendaele and strike.s me as a "Cri de Coeur" during this most wretched period in the war .

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/26/2017 6:49:05 AM
Lansdowne's letter may have sparked other calls to seek some sort of settlement.

It preceded Wilson's 14 points, did it not and in the letter Lansdowne appealed to the US and Germany to seek rapprochement.

He may have seen Wilson as the honest broker with less skin in the game.

And apparently Wilson liked some of the ideas presented.

I thought that it would be worthwhile to read the letter.

I found it on Trove. It shows the letter as published in the Daily Telegraph and to the left, a typed version.

[Read More]


Phil, Lansdowne proposed a return to the conditions and borders antebellum.

But can we say for sure that Germany would not have sought to expand its borders? What conditions would have placated Germany?

Germany's economy was expanding pre-ww1. She wanted free access to the seas.

Would the peace have stopped military expansion in Germany?

Germany didn't like the Slavs and feared Russian economic expansionism and the possible threat to Germany by Russia, in the future.


As for the holocaust it seems to me that the Jews were targets in many places. There is no guarantee that the pogroms would not continue.

So how many of the antecedent conditions that led to war would have been eliminated by a negotiated peace?


Cheers,

George


George
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/26/2017 6:58:24 AM
I was thinking about the period pre-war and wondering how a negotiated settlement would have eliminated the triggers to war like:

nationalism and imperialism

Racism

Social unrest in Germany and other countries

Militarism and the naval race.

Alliances and treaties guaranteeing military support.


I shall re-read the Lansdowne letter to see whether he addressed those triggers but I don't think that he did.

EDIT: Lansdowne did acknowledge some of the underlying problems but if I may summarize, he wanted to allay Germany's fears in order to stop the war and then, perhaps naively, hoped that all other problems could be dealt with in negotiation presuming good will. And he was a proponent of an international body that, through economic sanctions and perhaps through military threat, would bring outliers into line.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/26/2017 12:20:18 PM
Thanks, Jim and George !

This is something that I really must get to grips with.

A veil of secrecy still hinders research into this .

Much to talk about here, I reckon.

Please pitch in with more stuff.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Jim Cameron
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/26/2017 8:36:43 PM
Given that most conflicts did in fact end in negotiated settlements, rather than outright conquest, on first impression it would seem odd that Lansdowne's proposal would have met with such hostility. A negotiated settlement was, after all, a relatively normal resolution. That would seem to point to other factors being in play, beyond the mere idea of negotiations. Could the hostile reception reflect the fact that the unprecedented losses sustained, on both sides, represented such an investment in blood and treasure that what would have otherwise been the more or less routine concessions of peace talks had now become unacceptable?
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

brian grafton
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/26/2017 9:24:35 PM
Phil, thanks for raising this subject. Because of you, I have read the entire letter for the first time, though I have seen parts of it quoted in the past. What I had seen quoted I rather agreed with, but I knew little about the man.

Potted bio: Lord Lansdowne was the fifth Governor-General of Canada, and though he is not one of the more generally recognized folks to hold that office he helped Canada through some rough patches with good sense. He also held other "senior" positions both in the Empire (Viceroy and Governor-General of India before being G-G of Canada, and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under Salisbury and Balfour afterwards). He also had a strong presence in the House of Lords, often accepted as he Liberal leader in that chamber.

I'm not sure you just want to discuss implications of the letter, or you are largely interested in the broader implications of his suggestions. You write:
Quote:
Please let me invite speculation as to what might have been prevented if the war had been ended in the manner that Lansdowne was advocating.

No WW2...No Holocaust....No Depression....No Soviet Union ????

How should we view this British aristocrat ?
You add, "to my mind, his stance looks eminently sensible: enlightened, courageous" – an interesting addendum.

Just as a frame of reference: the copy of the Lansdowne letter I read was taken from the March 10, 1918 edition of the Perth "Sunday Times". Yes, as in Perth, Western Australia. The transcribed letter I read is dated Nov 23, 1917, and you suggest he sought publication in "The Times" on 29 November. When did it appear in the "Daily Telegraph"? More important, perhaps: when did he write it? In the first week November, 1917, the Bolshevik government declared that Russia's war with the Central Powers was over. But neither Russia nor Bolshevik Russia gains a mention in Lansdowne's letter. Had he composed his arguments before that announcement was made?

That might appear to be nitpicking, I guess. But I'm struggling to see this letter as providing anything substantive as a move towards peace. I'll go just a step beyond that, and suggest that behind the reasoning of this letter is exactly the kind of nonsensical argument that led to a series of bad treaties that guaranteed some kind of second war, particularly in eastern Europe.

So, a four-piece letter, with close to four equal sections:
1. need for action to end this war, including one main requirement (= security for the future);
2. statements from authoritative personalities on supporting that requirement;
3. discussion of other issues which may cause problems; and
4. speculation concerning the application of Allied "demands" in any "peace discussion".

Just appreciate how Lansdowne moves from guilt for extending the war to guilt for "provoking" it. Note how he moves from "guilt" for incitement to noting that the Allies have stated their war aims but that Germany refuses the same. That used to be a contentious WW1 discussion point: is it still? Either way, this is taught in "Rhetoric 101", and it undermines Lansdowne's apparent neutrality.

Just look at the authorities included in section 2: Asquith (UK); Wilson (USA); the Vatican (God, or at least his Vicar); Czernin (Austria); Balfour (UK x 2).

Look at how the "other" issue (which moves from "reparations" in section 1 to territorial claims determined by the Allies) is seen as simply a necessary adjustment that will be required in the future.

In all this, look for one positive mention of Germany. For, for that matter, any mention ofFrance, the major ally in the war. Or Italy, an ally. Or Japan, another ally. Or Soviet Russia, a former ally. Look – and try not to get enraged, or think that it is the mind-set that makes the war – at Lansdowne's single real concern: Belgium. And peek at his asides concerning territorial integrity in Eastern Europe, and the role the "Allies" (whoever they are, based on this letter) might assign them.

I'll admit you may have got me on a bad day. But my reading of Lansdowne's letter has left me rather depressed. This is an unforgiving document. There is not one ounce of forgiveness for Germany (though there appears to be for Austria). There is no belief that Germany wishes agreement, or has ever altered its (unstated but destructive) war aims. I'm not certain, but that seems to me a rather tentative basis for any resolution of the conflict.

I'll admit I'm out of touch with the social tensions and attitudes of WW1, so maybe for the time Lansdowne's letter was seen as negative and perhaps even treasonous. But as I read it today, it seems to me a blueprint of Versailles, but without the specific complaints and demands of the French added to the heap. It's not a "nice" document, though it might reflect on attitudes I was unaware of when I was reading about WW1.

So, as to those four central issues you raised: "No WW2...No Holocaust....No Depression....No Soviet Union", I'd have to say "no change".

Point A: WW2, whether inevitable or not, grew IMHO out of the fact that, even a man like Lansdowne, with all his hopes, saw Germans as "criminal provokers.

Point B: nobody could predict the particularly virulent ugliness of Nazi anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism was endemic from the Pale to London. I don't understand "why", to be honest. But while the Holocaust may not have happened without the rise to power of the Nazis, I don't see a single thing in Lansdowne's letter that suggests implementation of his ideas would lead to a German attitude different from the post-Versailles era. So why would it lead to a different fate for the Jews? Sadly, there were few Western European (I want to say white Christian nations) without varying levels of anti-Semitism.

Point C: I simply don't know. I'm no economist. But this is my feeling. Europe was bankrupted by WW1: that I believe. I also believe that the least economically bankrupted of the European belligerents was Germany. She was punished by economic blokade, of course, but her territory remained uninvaded throughout the war. Germany was bankrupted by "treaties" easily assocated withmis-application of Lansdowne's already twisted values (as seen in his letter).

Point D: the existence of at least Bolshevik Russia was a reality in early November, 1917. Nothing Lansdowne could say or present would change the internal disasters that were occuriring in Russia.

My reading of his letter is that Lansdowne assumed a huge bits of reality of existences could, be careful choce, be acceptable as the basis for peace:
• Germany was "criminally" responsible for the war. I think Lansdowne believed this sincerely. But it is a bid point from which to negotiate pease without military defeat.
• Germany alone refused to define its war aims, which must be the basis of peace.I know the UK made its commitment clear, but I'm not certain about a real "definition of war aims"/
• (by implication) this was in Lanscome's mind British war that had to be settled to British interests. How could anyone in 1917 not mention France as a major player? How could anyone forget that Italy was in the war.

End game? I don't think Lansdowne was as significant as he may be considered to have been. His "open letter" is an incredible statement, I admit. But I don't think it was designed to do more than appear provocative, and in its entirety it simply doesn't suggest more than a different vocalism to a desired outcome.

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 2:16:54 AM
Brian,

What an excellent post !

Thank you so much for going to such pains, and giving such a meticulous and cogent appraisal.

You've gone through it with a tooth comb , and I hope that I can do justice to your efforts in any response I formulate.

Jim....and you, too, have summed up the essential differential between this war and others that might account for the hostile reception.

I'll find time later on today to collect my thoughts and pitch in.

Regards,

Editing here : Before I rush into the humdrum tasks of the day, I must bring into prominence the important fact that Lansdowne first pitched his memorandum to the Cabinet in November 1916 : a full year before the thing was publicised in the famous letter in the newspapers.

Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 5:39:01 AM
Following relatively quickly after the Lansdowne letter the Versailles “Knockout Blow” Declaration of February 1918 which rejected out of hand any prospect of a negotiated settlement.

Wilson's ambiguous position in this debate was brought into focus, and in particular the evolution of moderate opinion inside Germany in reaction to the event of negotiated settlement.

It was suggested that the unfortunate weakness of moderate opinion in Germany- in the face of the apparent triumph of “knockout blow” opinion in the Entente camp- was quite wrong.


Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 6:52:36 AM
Did the Germans make use of the letter, for propaganda purposes?

BTW, Lansdowne did present the letter to the British authorities and they did not ban the publication. At least, that is the information that I have.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 9:10:07 AM
Lloyd George, in his Memoirs, devotes twenty pages to the Lansdowne Peace Move of November 1916, while Asquith was still Prime Minister.

He attributes courage to Lansdowne, but is overwhelmwingly against the notion that it had merit in the long run.

Well, of course, he would adopt that tone, wouldn't he ? Lloyd George was the advocate of waging war to the utmost , the quest for the Knock Out Blow...although, it must be said, he was in dismay at the actual conduct of operations under the aegis of Haig and Robertson, who sought to land that blow in France and Flanders, rather than in soft underbellies or back doors.

Here's what he writes about the proposal, pages 534-35 in Volume One. Remember, he's alluding to the impact at the end of 1916, rather than to its pitch in late 1917...

The best that could be hoped for would be a completely liberated France and Belgium, with a Germany swollen through its eastern conquests by scores of thousands of square miles and tens of millions of population. With a war so ended we should have been confronted with a triumphant Prussian militarism which had demonstrated its invincibility in the field against overwhelming odds in numbers, materials and wealth. Mr Asquith and his Cabinet were emphatically right in refusing to assent to the Lansdowne proposition. Had they done so, even if they had secured the adhesion of France , it could not have ended in a great and workable peace. France would not have agreed readily to make any overtures, because no peace possible at that time would have satisfied her essential conditions - the restoration of her lost provinces and reparation for her damaged towns and villages . Italy would have been fooled, for she had banked on Allied success for the redemption of the Italian valleys in the Austrian Empire, and notwithstanding her heavy losses she would have had nothing out of any peace settlement which was attainable in 1916. It would have been said that Britain was anxious for peace and was prepared to sell her Allies to attain it. Such an impression would have had a shattering effect on Allied morale - east and west .

If that was the perception of the situation in November 1916, then imagine how much more stark things were going to appear one year later , with Russia in chaos and Italy reeling .

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 9:27:16 AM
Phil-as you "appear" to be a staunch supporter of Lansdowne's peace plan -do you honestly believe that it would have brought about a completely changed world in it's wake.??????

NB It is not my intention to "rattle your cage"- so to speak= but to ascertain your real deep down thoughts on this issue.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 10:03:27 AM
Jim,

You will forgive, me, I hope, if I admit that I can't make up my mind about this one.

So many of Lansdowne's fears were borne out ; Lloyd George is so persuasive ....I'll wriggle a bit, and perhaps you might convince me !

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 10:28:57 AM
Phil-it is mind boggling to to suggest that European history woudl have been changed should Lansdowne's less than perfect plan had been acted upon.I accept the "possibility"; but only a possibility, that the war could have been brought to a halt; but to suggest that this would have negated the possibility of the rise of Adolf Hitler is pipe dreaming. Adolf Hitler was alive and he was still the same man with the same aspirations- regardless of a new backdrop.Changing history is highly speculative and unreliable IMHO.


Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 11:01:46 AM
Yes, Jim, you make the point forcefully.

I would ask you to reflect on an important aspect : there was still something salvageable at the end of 1916 that was to go beyond recall a year or so later.

I allude principally to the Bolshevik coup : this was facilitated by the chaos in Russia in the closing stages of 1917 : one year earlier , the upheaval in Russia was already underway, but it was not so susceptible to that Bolshevik coup that stormed into the vacuum in the autumn of 1917.

Lansdowne was said to be more frightened of revolution than he was of failure on the battlefield : that was virtually levelled against him as a kind of accusation .

Some kind of ceasefire at the end of 1916 - and maybe even at the end of 1917 - might well have prevented the conditions that allowed the Nazis to take over Germany. It's purely speculative, I know, to suggest this.....but who knows ?

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 12:26:38 PM

Quote:
Lansdowne was said to be more frightened of revolution than he was of failure on the battlefield : that was virtually levelled against him as a kind of accusation .


Phil-Where was the revolution to possibly happen of whicj he was frightened of please ????

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 12:35:54 PM
The aristocracy were scared stiff of the Red Menace after 1917, and very twitchy about socialists before then.

Russia was the bogeyman, of course.

Even the French were said to be afflicted with the disease in the crisis of the mutiny in the summer of 1917.

This feeling was ubiquitous ; the Germans were worried about it, too.


Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 5:00:45 PM
Lansdowne was a big land owner in Ireland.

The Easter Rebellion had shaken him up, and no doubt made him very aware of social unrest.

He was also fixated on the demographic damage the war was inflicting on his social class : the decimation of the nation’s manhood was proceeding apace , but in the top stratum of society, the loss was disproportionately high.

He had been a keen endorser of the war at the outset, but became dismayed at the prospect of prolonged stalemate with the attendant risk of the social order breaking down.

He might be compared with Halifax in WW2.

Significantly, his proposal was repudiated by Henderson, a spokesman of Labour and a supporter of war to the finish.

This is not how many people choose to interpret the First World War : the landed class being anxious to stop, while the labouring men sought to fight on.

Lansdowne saw the existential threat to his establishment, and wanted to save his world before it was too late.

This is how I interpret Lloyd George ‘s account.

How much trust would you place in that ?

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

brian grafton
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/27/2017 8:22:49 PM
Phil, rebellion is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. But may I point out that Lansdowne was G-G in Canada during the North-West rebellion of 1885, which can still trigger some comments amongst otherwise uninterested Canadians; and that he dealt with minor rebellion in 1890 in India while he was Viceroy. As you say, he had every reason to be aware of unrest.

The fact that this letter, in whatever form it then existed (and do we know whether it changed substantially over the year?), existed from November 1916 makes its contents even more interesting, IMHO. Clearly, there are mentions of 1917 speeches in his Letter, so Lloyd George's comments from November 1916 may not be all that applicable to the reaction of 1917.

Lansdowne was, of course, a Liberal in his political leanings. The concept of a liberal landed aristocrat has always seemed a bit of an oxymoron to me, and smacks of closet "Benthamites" and such! But he remained the Leader of the Opposition in the Lords, so I sense his Liberal values did not waver too drastically.

You note:
Quote:
He had been a keen endorser of the war at the outset, but became dismayed at the prospect of prolonged stalemate with the attendant risk of the social order breaking down.
I'd like to know exactly whether when you say "social order breaking down" you mean the destruction of traditional classes and attendant privilege, or whether you mean a change in social values. I find I'm growing fonder of the man too!
Quote:
He might be compared with Halifax in WW2.
Forgive me, but I think raising Halifax confuses the argument. Halifax, at least IMHO, was not nearly the man Lansdowne was, whether in principle, capability, understanding or patriotism.
Quote:
This is not how many people choose to interpret the First World War : the landed class being anxious to stop, while the labouring men sought to fight on.

Lansdowne saw the existential threat to his establishment, and wanted to save his world before it was too late.

This is how I interpret Lloyd George ‘s account.
All that may be true, but I don't know if your Lloyd George reference applies to both preceding paras, or to the broader question of where Landsowne's interests ultimately rested. Certainly, there is little in Lansdowne's letter to suggest his fear of class disruption or social breakdown. The closest he comes to that is when he states, pretty unequivocally IMHO, the following: "Let me end by explaining why I attach so much importance to these considerations. We are not goinging to lose this war, but its prolongation will spell ruin for the civilized world, and an infinite addition to the load of human suffering which already weighs upon it. Security will be invaluable to a world which has the vitality to profit by it, but what will be the value of the blessings of peace to nations so exhausted that they can scarcely stretch out a hand with which to grasp them?"

Okay. Those may be the words of a Lord concerned with the increasing drawdown on his class – his concern over a crippling assault on the 1 %, if you will. And the numbers indicate that, for all kinds of historically and socially relevant but militarily unsound reasons, the landed classes were suffering to a larger extent than the lower classes. In war, "officer" and "gentleman" should be rendered separate, being replaced by "officer" and "militarily aware". Sir William Robertson was, of course, the much-lauded exception that proved the rule and who should perhaps have been the model that made the rule. I'm not sufficiently read to have an opinion of Robertson's skills and limitations. But I remain convinced that an 18-year-old lad from a good school and with a title in his future should not be the automatic choice of subaltern to lead his men into battle.

I cannot find a concern about "special privilege" in Lansdowne's words. I don't even see a Brit concerned merely with other Brits, or an Ally worried about other allies. This is as close to a "cri de couer" as I think a man of his class could make at such a time in such a war. I think there might be a hint of Cromwell's"I beseech you in the bowels of Christ" speech, but without the God line. Lloyd George's assessment of the man is another matter. Lloyd George was, after all, a politician. Lansdowne was a political animal, but was primarily a proven statesman.

There remains throughout the letter a sense that the British Empire remains the focal point of life on earth, and that is simply a British belief of the equation most Brits felt between Empire and Home. That doesn't change the fact that I don't think the adoption of "Lansdowne's Letter" would have been possible or acceptable. It is too non-partisan for any gung-ho patriot on any side of the war, but undermined by a belief in German guilt to make it impossible for at least some nations to see it as a neutral document.

Gotta go!

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
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"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

Phil andrade
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/28/2017 2:59:17 AM
So much of what Lansdowne feared came to pass.

A second conflict , which was the consequence, and, to a degree, the continuation, of the first.

I find it difficult to avoid this vein of prescience in his proposal.

It's tempting to imagine that a cessation of hostilities at the end of 1917 might have rendered Germany less susceptible to the impact of Nazism ; I doubt that the Soviet Union would have survived given the potential alliance of old enemies mounting an effective intervention in 1918.

But that's all very well... might have beens don't butter any parsnips.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/28/2017 6:39:39 AM
LORD LANSDOWNE'S LETTER
FULL TEXT OF A FAMOUS DOCUMENT
To the Editor of the "Daily Tele-
graph."
Sir,-We are now in the fourth year
of the most dreadful war the world has
known; a war in which, as Sir W.
Robertson has lately informed us, "the
killed alone can be counted by the mil-
lion, while the total number of of men
engaged amounts to nearly twenty-
four millions."
Ministers continue to
tell us that they can scan the horizon
in vain for the prospect of a lasting
peace.

And without a lasting peace we
all feel that the test we have set our-
selves will remain unaccomplished.
But those who look forward with
horror to the prolongation of the war,
who believe that its wanton prolongation
-

Fix this texttion would be a crime, differing only
in degree from that of the criminals
who provoked it, may be excused if
they too scan the horizon anxiously in
the hope of discovering there indica-
tions that the outlook may after all not
be so hopeless as is supposed.


IMHO the above is no more than a "Cri de Coeur" The reminder is a jumbled up indication as to how he sees a
call for the war to cease-which is by no means crystal clear.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

MikeMeech
UK
top 30
E-5 Sergeant
Posts: 322

Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/28/2017 7:56:05 AM

Quote:


Okay. Those may be the words of a Lord concerned with the increasing drawdown on his class – his concern over a crippling assault on the 1 %, if you will. And the numbers indicate that, for all kinds of historically and socially relevant but militarily unsound reasons, the landed classes were suffering to a larger extent than the lower classes. In war, "officer" and "gentleman" should be rendered separate, being replaced by "officer" and "militarily aware". Sir William Robertson was, of course, the much-lauded exception that proved the rule and who should perhaps have been the model that made the rule. I'm not sufficiently read to have an opinion of Robertson's skills and limitations. But I remain convinced that an 18-year-old lad from a good school and with a title in his future should not be the automatic choice of subaltern to lead his men into battle.



Cheers
Brian G
--brian grafton


Hi

The choice of who would become an officer and their training changed throughout the war. However, in the rapid expansion of the British Army officers would come from a 'good school' or from university because not only did they have a 'good' educational level they were also highly likely to have attended the OTC at either the school or university. This meant they would have at least some military knowledge, however slender, but more than the men from offices and factories they may have commanded, so why not use this source of supply ? One problem that did arise was the 'educated classes' that wanted to serve together in the ranks and there was concern about the loss of these potential officers.

I think it was about 2% of officers who were commissioned from the ranks pre-war and this obviously increased during the war (the officer 'class' expanded from 28,060 to 229,316 during WW1, in November 1918 the officer strength was 164,255 the majority of whom had temporary commissions), indeed during 1917 and 1918 commissioning from the 'ranks' who had been fighting in the trenches was apparently the main way that officers were obtained (that does not mean they were coming from the working class). These potential officers had to go through Officer Cadet Battalions that trained them in leadership skills. As like most things during WW1 the officer training system, and where they came from, was changing as the war progressed due to the demand for officers. The occupational background of officers at the end of the war indicated what industrial groups they came from; approximately one third from the army and RAF came from the professional classes - commercial, clerical, students, teachers, engineers etc. The overwhelming majority were from a different social and educational background to the pre-war officer. Also it was noted by 1917 the candidates for regular commissions going through Sandhurst and Woolwich reflected an increase in lower middle-class parental backgrounds.

The main sources for information on the background and training of officers are probably:

Beckett & Simpson 'A Nation in Arms' chapter 3, 'The Officers' by Keith Simpson.
Messenger 'Call-to-Arms' Chapter 10 'Officer Selection and Training'
Simkins 'Kitchener's Army', Chapter 8 'Officers and NCOs'.
Radley 'Get Tough Stay Tough', Chapter 11 'Officers and Other Ranks - Differences' and Chapter 12 'Officers and Other Ranks - Relations'.

There are other books and essays that will give information on this subject, including 'Tommy' by Richard Holmes. It is rather more complicated than "officer" and "gentleman".

Mike




Lightning
Glasgow, UK
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 459

Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/28/2017 10:53:11 AM
This is the same Lord Lansdowne who knowingly allowed the 1st Army Corps to be deployed to South Africa in 1899 without enough guns, food, ammunition, mules, horses and wagons; with a C-in-C who wasn't allowed to pick his own staff or brigade commanders; and refused to issue explicit instructions to all units in South Africa to hold their positions until Buller had arrived with his 40,000 troops?

The study of history is often a case of "whatiffery", but let's put this into context; had Lansdowne sensibly deployed the 1st Army Corps before the Boers declared war, had sent it fully equipped and into a theatre of war where the garrison had fortified and consolidated already, the British might well have had the war wrapped by Christmas 1899. In which case, the German Naval Bill doesn't pass through and the Anglo-German naval arms race doesn't begin then - perhaps averting the formation of the alliance blocs that ultimately caused the continent to fall into a global war. Lansdowne had reasons beyond war-weariness to seek an end to the war, though may well not have realised this at the time.

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1451

Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/28/2017 9:01:04 PM
Mike, thanks for your comments, your numbers, and your source material. You've given me a whole new source of reading on a subject I haven't addressed in some time. And I I understand them correctly, the numbers you offer tell an interesting story. I'm always bad with numbers.

My concerns, which I obviously did not voice clearly or adequately in my previous post, are that Lansdowne and his class were more than accepting of the framework you lay out. They encouraged it, particularly at the beginning of the war. Sons of "good" families who have gone to "good schools" and received a "good education" were just the thing for officer material. So, of course, particularly at the beginning of the war, were "good" breeding, "good" manners, and "good" prospects – not to mention a "good" regiment. In 1914, it took more than the "three Rs" to be an officer, IIUC. It took the "three Cs" – culture, credit and credibility.

Okay, you've given me some reading material. I thank you sincerely, and will begin to track your sources down. You've given me some numbers, and only an idiot wouldn't realize that a thousand-fold increase in officers would mean a reduction of requirements, qualities or the like.

I'm also hoping your sources will demonstrate that the use of children as nominal leaders declined as more "temporary" officers were introduced. I thought it was an unwritten maxim that NCOs tried to protect and direct these young gentlemen so committed to doing their "duty", and I hope that increasingly that is the case as the war continued.

Damnit: most of the lads wanted to be in "The War". Most had received educations lauding the RN and the Military, because that is what "good" schools taught. Most were committed to Empire and a rigid class system because they came from "good" families who believed that, and went to "good" schools who fostered or strengthened such ideas. And I'm not saying the ideas were wrong as such.

What I'm trying to suggest is that, for many families like Lansdowne's, the war had gone on too long at too great a cost. "Duty" has a wonderful ring to it, until three of your four sons are dead and there's no end to the war in sight.

Mike, I apologize in advance if this sounds like an assault on your post. It honestly is not. I honestly believe that Lansdowne is facing a crisis perhaps unlike he's faced before. His type, his kind, his "class" carries the burden of the instigation of war, because that's how it's always been. But there has never been a war such as this in Lansdowne's life.

I think he's looking for an honourable way out, for all kinds of reasons. But I am also certain that this war, unlike any other British war, has drained the "good" or "better" classes of their children in a way never been seen before.

I don't think Lansdowne wants out because his friends are losing their heirs. I think he'd like to think that those attuned to the old ways can stop an insanity. From what I read, I don't honestly think he realizes that "those attuned to the old ways" actually created this war, and that their values are a large part of support for it's continuation.

Gone on too long. Hope my library system is prepared to find some volumes for me!

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

MikeMeech
UK
top 30
E-5 Sergeant
Posts: 322

Re: Lansdowne Letter + 100
Posted on: 11/29/2017 6:34:31 AM

Quote:
Mike, thanks for your comments, your numbers, and your source material. You've given me a whole new source of reading on a subject I haven't addressed in some time. And I I understand them correctly, the numbers you offer tell an interesting story. I'm always bad with numbers.

My concerns, which I obviously did not voice clearly or adequately in my previous post, are that Lansdowne and his class were more than accepting of the framework you lay out. They encouraged it, particularly at the beginning of the war. Sons of "good" families who have gone to "good schools" and received a "good education" were just the thing for officer material. So, of course, particularly at the beginning of the war, were "good" breeding, "good" manners, and "good" prospects – not to mention a "good" regiment. In 1914, it took more than the "three Rs" to be an officer, IIUC. It took the "three Cs" – culture, credit and credibility.

Okay, you've given me some reading material. I thank you sincerely, and will begin to track your sources down. You've given me some numbers, and only an idiot wouldn't realize that a thousand-fold increase in officers would mean a reduction of requirements, qualities or the like.

I'm also hoping your sources will demonstrate that the use of children as nominal leaders declined as more "temporary" officers were introduced. I thought it was an unwritten maxim that NCOs tried to protect and direct these young gentlemen so committed to doing their "duty", and I hope that increasingly that is the case as the war continued.

Damnit: most of the lads wanted to be in "The War". Most had received educations lauding the RN and the Military, because that is what "good" schools taught. Most were committed to Empire and a rigid class system because they came from "good" families who believed that, and went to "good" schools who fostered or strengthened such ideas. And I'm not saying the ideas were wrong as such.

What I'm trying to suggest is that, for many families like Lansdowne's, the war had gone on too long at too great a cost. "Duty" has a wonderful ring to it, until three of your four sons are dead and there's no end to the war in sight.

Mike, I apologize in advance if this sounds like an assault on your post. It honestly is not. I honestly believe that Lansdowne is facing a crisis perhaps unlike he's faced before. His type, his kind, his "class" carries the burden of the instigation of war, because that's how it's always been. But there has never been a war such as this in Lansdowne's life.

I think he's looking for an honourable way out, for all kinds of reasons. But I am also certain that this war, unlike any other British war, has drained the "good" or "better" classes of their children in a way never been seen before.

I don't think Lansdowne wants out because his friends are losing their heirs. I think he'd like to think that those attuned to the old ways can stop an insanity. From what I read, I don't honestly think he realizes that "those attuned to the old ways" actually created this war, and that their values are a large part of support for it's continuation.

Gone on too long. Hope my library system is prepared to find some volumes for me!

Cheers
Brian G
--brian grafton


Hi

I should also have mentioned Gary Sheffield's 'Leadership in the Trenches', however, this is based on his King's College, London PhD of 1994 'Officer-man Relations, Morale and Discipline in the British Army 1902-22' which should be available on line. There should also be some of the work of Michael Molkentin on line that covers some aspects of the background of Australian officers and men. Kenneth Radley's book I mentioned covers the Canadian Corps.

Mike

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