Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum - Exposing the Hart of The Great War

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It’s hardcore history


I’ve said before that one of the wonderful side benefits of a gig like this is the chance to speak to people whose work

You really admire and talk to them about it. In this case. I have a guest on the program today who is a

Source somebody that we use in our work and when we did blueprint for Armageddon, he was sort of my

You know go-to guy in terms of somebody that I knew

Could add a different dimension to the storytelling by

having a letter or a document or a quote or something that was just

You know so visceral or perfect or emotional or that in one short little

Paragraph managed to capture such a poignant

You know point that just sort of made the whole, you know section of the piece. I mean Peter Hart’s work is finding

Emotional nuggets that just knock you over and then incorporating them into the story in a way where they not

only have the most impact

But they manage to add a part of the story that often gets missed if you’re telling for example a story on the First World

War which is Peter Hart’s specialty

It is so easy to get yourself locked into the giant troop movements and the big decisions made at headquarters and all this

Sometimes you can go the total opposite extreme and it’s easy to get caught up in the diary of this one

Soldier or this one nurse or something like that

But to be able to blend the two in a way that helps you understand for example

How the decisions made at headquarters with all those high muckety mucks thinking about things abstractly

How they you know influence and intersect with the lives of some poor guy

Mortally wounded in a shell hole writing his last letter back to his wife and family

It’s an art

And I think Peter Hart does it as well or better especially on the subject of the First World War than anyone I’ve ever read


you get to see me enjoying my

You know byproduct the best

Aspect of this gig the chance to talk to people whose work you admire people like Peter Hart

Who is amongst other things an oral historian by the way at the British Imperial War Museum

Which is every military history nuts dream gig

Love to go to work by a couple of giant 15-inch naval guns

Which one of those you know, they have several of these war museums, but the the main one in London has the big naval guns outside

You know, just take a picture. Here’s where I work right eat your heart out

Anyway, one little note normally we have an in-house phone system we use when we do interviews

But normally we only use that for North American interviews when we’re overseas

Calls we’ve been using sort of an internet system and this time it let us down with some pretty serious glitches at times

Especially near the end of the interview not only my apologies to Peter Hart, but to you also

It’s frustrating and there was no way for us to fix it

So I am going to put a couple of shall we call them end notes after the interview?

Where I both quote something that we we referenced in the show so that we include that

Explained something. Mr. Hart said at the end that the digital glitches did not make easy to understand

and also

Read a letter that we referenced in the story to something that Peter Hart

Uncovered for one of his books that we used in the blueprint for Armageddon series and reread that to just show you the man’s

ability to

Demonstrate the ripples of pain

That’s something like this conflict

You know created in that era in those societies and drop you right into the middle of it for a minute

so without further ado the wonderful author and

Or a war historian may be a good way to put it the great Peter Hart

So the first thing I want to know because I’m just curious as a person who is absolutely jealous of anyone who can find

Such a specialty to devote their lives to

How did it for you mostly become because you’ve done other things but mostly become something about the first world war

What grabbed your interest about this and what is it that keeps you so interested in the subject?

Well, I think it I started when I was young and

There was a program called the Great War which was on telly in the 1960s

and it was gloomy and miserable and it seemed so awful that people suffered so much and

For me that it’s always been that dichotomy. It’s a dichotomy between the the people who suffered and

What the generals did and why they did that because you may or may not realize I quite support

The approach of the generals and it’s the way that you know, it’s it’s an entirely logical way of behaving

But it’s terrible for those that are involved and that has always

Informed or I hope has informed all the work I do

It’s it’s it’s it’s what it’s all about for me now

you’ve been doing it long enough so that you’ve been around to watch sort of how

Public perception over time on these events has changed because I remember I was born in

1965 and I remember in the United States growing up as a kid

There was a sense about the First World War that it was like the Second World War

But a little less in terms of the good and evil still the good and evil the Kaiser was evil, man

But not quite to Hitler’s standards and then since I’ve grown up that good evil aspect to the First World War has seemed to be

To fade over time quite a bit at least here in the United States

Have you noticed can you comment a little bit on the differences in the way, you know?

Barbara Tuchman writes a book years ago that that that Jack Kennedy reads that’s really particularly hard on the Germans the stuff

I read today has a very different tone

What have you noticed in the change of if we were doing news?

We would say the coverage over the last say four decades of the First World War

I’ve noticed a fair amount of coverage

My perception has always been that in the end if there were baddies then it was the Germans

But that there were a lot of people doing things that were were difficult or wrong

There were four or five major

Empires that were struggling together trying to establish domination

a lot of them had agendas that we wouldn’t particularly recognize as today as being

Pleasant or you know, the colonialism things like that

Their treatment of their colonies the way they generally behaved, you know through in everything and for me

We have now an acceptance that whilst the Germans

Pushed the war they were partly did that because they were being pushed by the the the Russians and the French and the French

Who had their own agendas and it’s just become much more complicated

The thing is it’s not easy. Is it you know, that’s the that’s the problem with history

That when you add nuance things stop being good and evil start becoming just much more complex

Now one of the things you do so fantastically we try to do it here, too

It’s a great if you can pull it off. It’s a great way to do it

You pull it off all the time where you’re able to take the reader from the macro, you know

You’ll have us in the in the boardroom and you’ll have quotes from assistants to the great

You know grand strategists who are deciding how to use troops on the battlefield and then all of a sudden you’ll telescope down to some poor

combatant who’s injured

Mortally in some shell hole who’s writing a last letter to his wife and kids that he’s gonna strap to his body

to find later

First of all, you know explain to the listener a little bit how you go about finding these materials

It would seem to me to be one of the luxuries of working in a you know, semi modern era

I mean the poor Roman historian has much less in the way of letters from combatants to go on but but you’re able to mine

Emotionally mine this material out there. How do you find it?

And if it’s as powerful as it is on the sterile text page as I’m reading it

How much more powerful is it for you when you’re holding the the actual stained letter in your hands?

well, I

That was in one of my books and I found a letter that was from a French soldier

Yeah that I used that but I am extremely lucky that I have been for the last 30 odd 35 years

The the oral historian at the Imperial War Museum

So I a did all the a lot not all at all

but I did a lot of the First World War interviews with veterans and that provided with a fantastic source which the war museums allowed

me to use and secondly, I have worked closely with the Department of Documents there and

Just opening the dusty old folders that they’re all cataloged and preserved by the staff

But you know you open these and you no idea what you’re going to find and sometimes it can be utterly tedious

It’s just letter after letter or boring, you know, no, no and then suddenly you get someone something

It’s really visceral that that tears you apart that you know

You just get letters that you realize these are the last letters

They that you know, you’ve been reading this bloke’s life and suddenly suddenly it’s not his letter

it’s a letter from his commanding officer and you know, it it’s amazing and I

Just think I’m very lucky to work at the War Museum from that

I then look through lots of other sources. I go to other museums. I go to other places. And of course, I look at personal experience


mainly old ones

But like I use quite a few modern ones of the you know

Or regimental histories often have it buried inside them personal experience accounts, you know

the Americans are picked up a lot from the internet where the PDFs of

The books from 1920s are online and you can consult them it’s fabulous and and that’s where I get the material

And yes, it can be you know, the actual real letters that I see at the museum can be really painful

You know, obviously humans are humans at ground zero

But when you’re reading and you focus mostly on on the British side of the experience, but you cover everything

Do you notice any broad broad differences in?

Say you’re reading something from ground zero from a French soldier or some German soldier on the line versus some British or American

Soldier, are there any differences in terms of the way that their national characteristics sort of come through in the material or at ground zero?

When you’re sitting in a trench with artillery falling all around you. Are we are we broadly the same? I

Very much go for broadly the same. I think I’m not a great believer in national characteristics

Anyway, you know, it can help sometimes as a shorthand to explain certain things

But if you take it to literally it goes into dark alleys

What what I really think though is that underneath human beings when they’re placed under real pressure

Tend to respond in it’s in a similar sort of way and for me a French soldier that the accounts

You know, sometimes I have to translate which can be difficult. I’m not great a

friend of mine translated the German ones for me because I don’t

you know speak or read German and

Fundamentally, they’re the same. They have slightly different ways of expressing themselves

But that’s just cultural but underneath when the shells are falling when their friends are killed

When they’re given orders that could lead them to be killed

They’re the same sort of people. They are us, you know

They are they’re just ordinary people, you know

That’s maybe one of the things that at least I mean I imagine touches many people once they start

You know reading about the war is these these incidents where you know

The comradeship may be the German soldiers would say but we’re the soldiers of multiple sides who you know

More and more modern histories will talk about how prisoners would be killed sometimes and all the horrors of war and yet at the same time

You know the notions when these people end up having truces where they you know, share Christmas decorations or play

Football as you guys would call it soccer

We would call it or or any of the many many incidents like that getting stuck in a shell hole with someone from the other

side in your latest book

There was a a primary source quote where a British soldier had his arm really badly injured and goes marching to the back

With a bunch of German prisoners who start doctoring his wounds

Do you notice I mean I don’t see as much of that and it might be part of the historiography or what-have-you part of

Myth-making but when I read stuff in the Second World War, I find a lot less of that than in the First World War

Anything in on the front of your mind that might account for the difference there or am I just imagining that there is one?

I I don’t think you’re imagine it

there is

There was more hatred in the Second World War. I think and

We all it’s only our opinions from the things we’ve read and but I I’ve interviewed an awful lot of second

More Second World War soldiers and first world war soldiers and there is more hatred there

Because of the nature of the regime they’re fighting now

The communist regime was in Russia was pretty rough as well

But but there was a hatred of the Nazis, but very rarely in any war. There are not many soldiers

that that that that respond

With murder and torture and the rest of it most of them in my experience

main maintain a lid on their emotions and and it’s it’s it’s there but there are a few who do respond with

acts of

Well, just murder, you know, or or panic often. It’s panic that triggered triggers the murder


The First World War that that you mentioned it first up comradeship is the thing that binds the armies together

But most of all it binds it binds you to your fellow soldiers, that’s what helps you

That’s what lets you go over the top. It’s it’s not

King and country or president. It’s not

It’s not religion what in the end when it all comes down to it

It’s mostly the blokes you with your mates the men who you went through training with who faced death with you

That’s what helps you to get through it

you know, you mentioned something going over the top a minute ago such an iconic way of

Differentiating the at least Western Front experience of this war from all the others and you know

It occurs to me that because of sort of the nature of technology and the way things have gone

I don’t think you’re ever going to get the same experience that those First World War soldiers went through

Ever again, I mean, I don’t think you’re ever gonna have

Hundreds and hundreds or thousands of guns peppering a small space of territory anymore

You don’t need to because of the accuracy. You’re never gonna mix them with gas the way you did

I mean if you think as I do that that would have been you know

Equal to the worst place a soldier could have ever been right front of the line about to go over the top Western Front

I don’t think you’re ever going to get that experience again. You’re never gonna have human beings

Watch I think I forgot the the author who had said one of the soldiers described watching a forest

Disappear in front of his eyes due to artillery

I mean, that’s a human experience that I don’t think any human beings gonna ever see again in

The beginning of the Second World War Churchill’s history of the war. He talked about what was in store in

1919 if the war hadn’t ended in 1918 the various, you know

Horrible concoctions that the Allies had put together your latest book. The last battle is from that era

Can you talk a little bit about what?

1919 on the front might have looked like

The I mean the British had a the Germans had a blue cross gas

It didn’t work properly a mixture of a pernicious gas and a sort of particles

The particles made you vomit so you had to take your gas mask off and then the gas, you know

The poisonous gas got you now the German version didn’t work properly

But the British had worked out and their allies by the way had worked out how to do it and they

Fully intended to poison most of the German army in this in 1919

It is a vicious war and and the practices in a way that was just one step forward

you know that the

Because we sort of moved on then it was mass barrages

Now there’s no need for mass barrages now and although we did revert to it after El Alamein

For instance has one they have them on the in 1944 on the West on the in Europe

But it’s replaced by mass bombing, isn’t it?

and then of course as a nuclear method and then it’s accuracy and so technology moves on and

But the killing can still be on a mass scale for instance in the Iraq war

There was mass killing the Gulf War mass killing of and it needs to be remembered

What happens is the mass killing tends not to be on our side anymore, you know

So that that’s that’s

Pretty well how I feel about it

Well, it is interesting too because when we were talking about the First World War in the series that we did on it

You know you you you almost want to overwhelm the listener with both the casualty

Statistics and then the the amounts I mean the sheer numbers of things like shells. I mean the numbers overwhelm you

You know, we a lot of Americans

For example, they like to tell jokes about the French and surrendering in the Second World War

And so you would like to point out. Hey, wait a minute, you know, when did our side ever take?

27,000 dead in a single day, you know, those kind of numbers are so overwhelming that in the United States, you know

There’s not a lot of memorials to the First World War and all this but you go to Europe and they are everywhere

Can you talk a little bit about sort of the lasting effect?

I mean the the the feeling of connection to the First World War never died down in Europe. Did it?

Not really. Well for the French and Germans, it was

Monstrously painful business. I mean their casualties are much higher than the British the French in particular. You’re right. That’s on the

That’s in August

1914 the French lost

27,000 dead in a single day now the British whinge on about suffering. I think 600 dead

at Mons

It’s a different scale and the French sack and the French then fought almost on their own

For two or three years people say the Americans took a long time to get into the war, you know from April 1917 to

to well properly June July


1917 yes, or 1917 to 198 so a bit over a year

But the British took from August 1914 to the Somme July on the Somme before we were properly involved

You know that people often forget when they’re throwing stones at other countries

They forget like we sometimes do it the Americans or the Americans or the French or the British or the French?

When you look at your own side, we often have the same sort of problems or the same


And I find that but it’s one of those interesting things

The American losses were dreadful in the the First World War war that they suffered a very high rate of losses

From when they fully joined the battle of the battle

In the are they are gone. The Mers Argonne region is murderous

it’s as murderous as any other battle in the First World War and

Considering that they only really fought full pelt for three months the American casualties are worth remembering

but but for one reason another

Possibly because they disengaged them from from Europe a bit in and in the interwar years. The Americans have never really

Remembered it in the same way as we do

Yes, I always try to imagine if the u.s. Had fought for two years at those kind of casualty rates

Yeah, we’d have a few more war memorials around here. You certainly would you know, I think about

Context, you know if history teaches anything it helps us understand how things get to where they are and in this country once again

You know, they’ll try to use in political discussions the lessons of history, right?

We know from the 1938 appeasement stuff that you can’t do this or that or the other thing

You know the classic misuse of the lessons of history

but I always try to and I’m gonna ask you for your opinion on this because you’ve read a lot of stuff the

Generation that gets accused of really doing anything they could to avoid another world war are the ones that lived through it as younger

People how did that scar the leadership on on you know?

Both sides really in the Second World War as they sort of maneuvered


threatened tried to avoid via compromise a

Repetition of the worst thing any of them had ever lived through. I

Think there’s some truth in now

I’m not an expert on the interwar years, but certainly that there was peace movements in Britain and for the French

Were pretty broken by their awful experiences, you know

Petain is the one that gets most of the the blame for what happened

But he was responding to a popular element within the country. I cut that. They just were not willing to suffer it all again

I have so much sympathy for them less that the Germans of course also

But that that you just have less sympathy for them so man

That the British, you know, it took a while for us to get properly into the war

I mean even in the the Second World War

The the phony war and then you know that there’s a people were trying to get that there was an appeasement movement in

Britain right until Churchill took over and Churchill for all his faults was the one that finally pinned the British

Into into opposing Nazi Germany in the long term

Because there were elements in British society that were perfectly happy to do a deal with Hitler


You know, it’s a complex period which I am NOT an expert on at all

Your latest book called the last battle focuses on you know from a military history standpoint

I think one of the most fascinating periods in the First World War

But it seems to get lost in the Verdun’s and the Psalms and the Passchendaele’s and all that

Talk a little bit about that era where we go away from the iconic Western front of a stalemate on the front

to open movement again and something that looks like a you know prototype for

1939 warfare

It certainly is

It I mean everything changes with the it’s the Allies come up with the all-arms battle, which is basically

Finding all the different weapons the artillery the gas the mass machine gun fire the tanks the airplanes

That the light machine guns that you know, the mortars everything together working together with

To overwhelm anything Germans could do to break through but also it’s the different that not just attacking on one place

Like at the Somme or pressure but to attack four attacks four battles four days

the Americans go first that then the British and the Canadians then and then the French the Belgians and the British and then

Finally the British again and the French four battles four days

It’s pushing the Germans now the reason it’s missed out and normally books finish round about the 8th of August my own book on

1918 a very British victory, which was a bit of a joke title. I have to admit I don’t know why I did that

I I have got a sense of humor, which does come out at times

Possibly naughtily and the point was that

You sort of your publisher if they say right we’ve had enough of them going over the top now

And that’s why you tend to miss out even that book by me, you know

Misses out the last six weeks of the war and I wanted to put that right with this because there are so many

Enormous battles open warfare comes and open warfare is worse. The casualty figures get higher

Much higher because because you’re in the open if something goes wrong

You know Haig orders the British to go forward to push through in a very modern fashion push through ignore

Isolated pockets of resistance they’ll be dealt with but if you’re an infantry soldier and you go past an isolated pocket of resistance

You’ll get killed and your mates will as well because they’ll fire into your flanks as you go by so it’s efficient

Militarily, but it leads to huge casualties

it’s a painful time for the British and for the Americans who are learning at the same time and

Anyone anyone who has insults the American?

The courage of the American troops

Only in the Argonne Mers battles is is mad

Because if you insult them you’re insulting the British on the Somme and you’re insulting the French in 1914

You’re insulting basically armies that don’t know what’s going to happen to them

They haven’t had chance to learn and that I think you don’t learn this until you get right into the end of the war because

The Americans don’t really get into the war until until September there about September 26

That’s when their war really starts when they attack, you know

The Argonne Forest what a place, you know, I’ve been there. It’s murder

You know you mentioned earlier and you just sort of open the door to it again

One of the one of the aspects one of the opinions one of the points of views on this subject that you’re kind of known

For you know

I’d put you and I guess you would put yourself in the camp of those who look at for example the performance of the generals

Which of course famously some compared to you know, butchery to if I could I could sum it up maybe

Doing pretty well considering what a natural learning curve on on a big

Technological revolution in military affairs like this one might be

Is that fair to say that you think that they’ve done a pretty good job all things considered?


particularly some of the more advanced French and British general and I

Stand by Haig and I know it makes me unpopular in some places the thing about Haig was he was

Don’t think of him as a general think of him as a chief executive of a massive American Corporation

someone who who provides

Direction someone who brings things together someone who enables and makes things happen

If you think of him that way you’re getting a much better idea of what he was

He was a commander-in-chief of five armies. There is no such thing in

In in the Second World War, I mean, you know each I mean there was people who are supreme commanders

But they had people to deal with politicians people to deal with their allies. That doesn’t happen in the First World War

it’s just Haig who has to deal with all of them and

That’s how it works and they did come up and but when I it’s not Haig comes up with it

But he enables the system which allows the all-arms battle to function and can I just what it’s not a learning curve

What it is is two big dippers side-by-side

once the Allies or the British if you were to look at it narrowly British or Americans and then the other side is the

Germans and for every new attacking method you bring in the Germans bring in a defensive method

So it’s not a curve you go up and you go down and something that works on Tuesday

It might not work next Thursday because the Germans will have changed their tactics

That’s an analogy not an exact time frame obviously, but what I mean is it’s constantly changing

So stay in 1915 one trench line, perhaps one and a half then later in that year

There’s three trench lines by the year afterwards. There’s three trench systems and then redoubts soon after that

You start to get the pillboxes the underground block houses where the troops can be kept safe

You get different machine gun tactics

So the Germans are constantly changing now we change as well British bring in tanks. Are they great not first, but they’re part of it

different tactics

Different infantry tactics. So both sides are changing and hence if you think of two big dippers

I think you call them something else in America, but you know

the little railway lines going up and down hills and running side by side and

You find out who’s gonna win a battle by where you are in

Relation to the other side hence on the psalm first of the psalm first day of the psalm

1916 we’re very low down there the Germans have got great trench systems great weapons of defense and we

We’re inexperienced. We don’t know what we’re doing

But all told by the end of the war, we really have learnt and we’re at a very high ebb

We’re looking down on the Germans

But it is a complex system that the I think Gordon Corrigan a British historian once said it wasn’t the generals

That killed our boys. It was the Germans and it’s the same for your American lads. It’s the Germans that did it and

When we try and blame just our generals or just our senior officers or blame our allies, you’re not understanding what’s happening

We’re fighting a very complex war against the best army in the world

One of the biggest army in the world the Germans you wrote in your book that modern warfare was just so damn

complicated at every level

So let’s talk about that for a minute because it seems to me and I and you know

Obviously there were there were earlier wars where these changes happened

But so slowly that they may not have been important

It seems to me that the First World War is the first one where we get that very modern

sort of sense where

Technology is changing so quickly

That it’s not that you’re going to have to learn the lessons of this war and adapt for the next war

You’re gonna have to learn the lessons of today’s air combat

For example so that in six months you have the newest discovery or the other side is going to shoot your people out of the air

Now in the Second World War you saw this this this dynamic going on all the time. What’s the latest tank?

What’s the latest version of the airplane?

But in the First World War it seems like that’s the first time that that needing to learn on the fly and adapt during the conflict

Becomes while a war winning or a war losing potentially thing

Absolutely, and it’s so quick

I mean the aircraft that took before the Battle of the Somme the aircraft that took that one control of the air over the Somme

were British and

there were things like the dh2 the

You know the the Fe to be the the stop with one half strut up by God

There were names to conjure with them


17 that’s later, but they they took control

They they were outclassed totally by the Albatross just three months later three months now people like me

Still think that the you know, the Hawker Harrier is a decent aircraft

That’s 1950s technology that flew in the 60s 70s and 80s and has been outdated now for best part of 10 years

Then it was months just months and you could be flying an aircraft. That was great

And now is useless. In fact, it’s a deathtrap when you meet something better and and I find and I think that

there is a

Warfare as a catalyst for change you get generals or people like generals who define a need and then you get

Scientists who who do the thinking who work out the theory of how to meet that need and then you have you know

You have the practical men now that they’re engineers. They’re practical soldiers and they work out how to actually do it

You know how to fix that camera to an airplane, you know how to you know

Somebody else works out the focal lengths and everything else

But you know someone has to work it out you get the theory of a synchronization machine

So you can shoot through the propeller or not through the propeller if you see what I mean that

The theory is very well and good, but you need practical men to make it work and warfare

Drives along technological change a bit like in the 60s if I might suggest

Although it’s not my subject a bit like the Space Race did the same, you know driving along technological change

Because someone’s defined a very real need

Well, and then to bowtie this with what we just talked about and then somebody from the military hierarchy has to figure out how it all

Fits together

Operationally and if you’re the CEO like you said and a guy like Douglas Haig

You have to remember that it’s a guy who has to factor in all this what we would call today high-tech stuff

Who’s a cavalry officer born in the mid 19th century?

Yep, he was but he learned he was known as the educated soldier. He was an in there

I mean you read it you can find a quote for everything if you look through things, so you’ll find you know

But he was a an enthusiast from machine guns a in fact if Haig has a problem a problem

He’s often too keen on new weapons

You know, he he

He doesn’t realize well not that he doesn’t realize but sometimes he doesn’t appreciate

That that that you have to bed them in there’s no point building

300 tanks and sending them forward if you don’t know how to drive them, which we didn’t in 1916

It’s only 1917

We knew how they worked how that how to use them in action how to fit them in into the all-arms battle

But what’s going on is very like

It may be a British term or it may be an American term that we now use

But Haig would not have recognized this term, but best practice, you know what I mean?

All the time the British Army is engaging in something called best practice

They wouldn’t know what that meant, but they they look at a battle what worked what didn’t best practice

They then disseminate in a series of pamphlets called the SS unfortunately with our perspective but SS pamphlets

And those pamphlets how to do this how to use a tank in battle how to use a Lewis machine guns how to make an attack

How to do this how to do that and this this is just you know

This is just the stuff of modern warfare and it takes staff officers

It takes generals and it takes someone like Haig at the top to coordinate it. He’s not a genius

He’s not Napoleon. He’s probably not even Wellington

but what he is is a driven individual who whose mind for one reason or another is it’s a perfect staff officer mind a

combination of detail drive and the the guts to set a direction, you know a

Direction which is painful to many of the men who served for him when you’re reading the histories, too

I mean it’s so funny because and you know Churchill’s a perfect example of someone who will push this but you mentioned it with Haig

too where you can see that the best way to use this new technology is to sort of surprise the other side with it and

Benefit from the shock value

But as you just pointed out

The problem is is that you don’t know how to use it until you’ve used it a few times and then by then of course

The Germans have started responding with countermeasures and whatnot

I mean remember was it Churchill talked about using the

Tanks when they first appeared in little pin pricks as opposed to some giant battle where a thousand of them overwhelmed the front

But as you pointed out if that was the first time you ever really employed them, would it have been effective at all?

That I’d like to take. Yes. That’s a great exam because the foot the 15th of September is the first tank attack

Three quarters and broke. I’m rubbish at statistics. I’m not that kind of history

Let’s just take the broad brush three quarters of the war two-thirds of them broke down and never got to the front

They’d left gaps in the barrage

The the creeping barrage which run forward in front of the infantry for the tanks when they weren’t there

The infantry didn’t have any artillery support in front of them. They got lost they had at the

Wheels because they thought they needed wheels at the back to steer them

They had no idea how to communicate between themselves and the infantry when they go into action

To be absolutely honest. There are several several historians

Cynical historians who think the tanks probably killed more British troops and German troops that day now that is more

What we call an outlier, you know, it’s more just a point rather than a serious remark, but the point


What he had the slightest how to use the tanks in action and we didn’t have until Combray

you know, which is which is

1978 in

1917 a year and a couple of months later

If we’d sent a thousand tanks as they were on the 15th of September 1916 over the top it would have been a disaster

Sorry, no, that’s that’s okay and we’re getting us some glitches on this end, which is not wonderful

Um, so talk to me talk to me a little bit if you could about the the difference that four years has made by the time

This book that you put out now the last battle is focusing on this the governments of all these countries are

Fundamentally transformed. I mean Russia Imperial Russia’s gone by this time

Austria-Hungary is shattered and looking for a way out of the war behind the scenes

You know France has endured some serious troop morale problems in the not-too-distant past

and you know

that’s traditionally like the finest army in the world and

Britain has gone from the greatest creditor nation to one that is transferring their debt to New York now

What’s the difference between the armies of

1914 and the governments that support them versus these armies of early

1918 and the governments that support and direct them

Well, the 1914 armies would have been recognizable by Napoleon the tactics the way they were used

Would have been recognizable from Napoleon from a hundred years before

They’ve got modern weapons, but they had no idea how to use them. The governments were old-fashioned governments

I mean, I know Britain best, but so I’ll use him them as an example

Lloyd George is very very different from from from Asquith the

Who led the government Asquith is?

Not particularly competent. He’s a polite old gentleman drinks far too much squiffy

Asquith Lloyd George has many many faults

in fact, I’d need a few more many’s to really encompasses many faults, but he is

Driven and you don’t have to hate Lloyd George just because you like

Hey, they they were they they were chalk and cheese, but they both did their bit Lloyd George was a classic war leader

He provided civilian direction his idea of what to do with soldiers was madness

And he he did not help the direction of the war on a strategic level

But on a sort of global level he provided the drive but Britain was running out of money

It was running out of resources

It was running out of troops and and and it was running out of time the war had to be finished in

18 and that’s one thing that Haig realized he was desperate to finish the war not to give the Germans another

You know chance to provide to dig another set of trench lines

shortened perhaps save from

MERS, that’s what they really Hague and posh both feared that they had to get them the war finished


You they said it had a revolution we know there wasn’t a revolution in France

We know there wasn’t one in Britain, but they could have been and people were very aware of that


Those governments that would have made it into

1919 if the war were continuing might have had problems on the Allied side to not just the the central powers


War weariness, I mean, it’s just ink, you know, it was an incredible

There was no money. There’s no men

Everything’s depressed it it’s it’s just you know an awful thing to be involved in

and countries were struggling and we needed Lloyd George to provide the leadership at the center and and the

Determination to fight on to make sure that it would be beaten

I mean, it’s so easy just to give up to just say well, we’ll come to some compromise

but leaders like Lloyd George would not accept that I

Think that’s everything I mean did I is there something about the new book that I didn’t ask you about

That that is worth pointing out. I mean I I’m with you

I find it not just fascinating but it’s a little like

Discovering that a band and you thought you’d heard every song from them had a whole bunch of songs

You didn’t know about and they’re bigger and more interesting than you ever knew

Other than not being able to pronounce all of the battlefields and the wonderful in that wonderful last push in France

What about that last book have we not talked about that you think is is especially compelling?

I’ll tell you what the the thing for me is it’s an emotional response at which I think you’ll appreciate it’s just

It’s the essence of the book if you’ve been fighting for four years say you’re a soldier in those trenches

You’ve been fighting for four years and just as you start to think it’s coming to an end

It’s coming to then and then you you

Have to go forward you have to go into the attack and not everybody

Do what you recognize from second world war? It’s called shell hole dropping. You can’t all drop out, you know, you can’t all

Fall back keep keep behind

You just have to keep going with your mates

And the temptation to shirk in those final attacks in the final days must have been enormous but somehow most

found from somewhere the inner resolve which which people like me just can’t really

Grasp or understand because it’s beyond our experience to finish the job

Do you know it was the worst of all for that and i’m not just saying this because you’re american the world

Worst of all was they as pershing forced the final attacks on the then the night of the 10th 11th and even the morning

Uh of the 11th and and you know, the americans had nearly 3 000 casualties. I’m rubbish

On that final 24 hours and just imagine what was going through their heads when they were told

I mean the marines that were told they had to cross the mers, you know

100 foot wide river with

Germans with machine guns on the other side and just I mean

What went through their heads and and that’s the last thing i’d like to say about just just put yourself there and think about it

That’s why I like your book so much because you do such a great job of giving me the chance to do that

Listen, we’ll try to sell you a few books this time

I hope you’ll come on the next time you have one and I hope you’ll write a bunch more

Thank you very much. I’d love to i’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you

I had a great time too. Like I said meeting heroes take care and thank you so much. Thank you

So again, my apologies for the digital glitches there. I will try to figure out a better method

I do want to encourage you if you are a fan or interested in the first world war to get mr

Hart’s books. The great war is absolutely a classic

His one on the naval battle of jutland in 1916 follows the same pattern

with his um

Context punctuated by oral historian quotes. It works so well

Uh, he wrote one on passendale

Um, which is you know, as you know, probably awful muddy horrible bloody, um

symbolic of the whole war at that stage and then the new book, of course the last battle which focuses on the

less well-known

But murderous time period in the war the phase of the first world war where everyone got out of the trenches and started moving again

And began to take the kind of casualties that reminded them why they first dug into the ground in the first place

Now as an addendum

A couple of things worth noting first of all at the very end of the conversation with mr

Hart, he was talking about pershing and he was saying things like, you know on the 10th or even on the 11th

You know, he was launching these offensives

Just a little explanation

the 10th and the 11th or the november 10th and november 11th 1918 the day before and the day of the

End of the war the armistice taking effect. Everybody knew

That you know at this hour on this day, we’re gonna stop shooting so everybody knew okay the war ends tomorrow or the war ends today

So how much does it bother you?

As a soldier in the trenches, well, maybe not even in the trenches at that point leaning up against a broken down

Old french brick house in a ruined french building behind a tank as you’re prepared to move forward to find out

That your general wants to launch an offensive that’s going to cost a lot of your lives in the last 24 hours of the war

or something

So that’s what he was talking about

You might think in your head of reasons why a general might want to do something like that and play with your own

motivations for a minute

Now the other thing I wanted to quote was we had mentioned

That in the beginning of his famous series on the second world war you can’t even call it a history

You should call it almost like a personal account

from a participant

But churchill’s history of the second world war has a wonderful start to it where he kind of talks about

He sort of picks up at the end of the first world war which when you think about it

It’s not a bad way to write the histories and he talks about

You know the war ending when it did and what was going to happen if it didn’t

right what what the plan was for

1919 and of course the war ends in 1918, right?

But but churchill says if 1919 happened, you know, it was going to unleash

terrors unlike you know any the world had ever seen

Churchill writes quote

But all that happened in the four years of the great war was only a prelude to what was preparing for the fifth year

The campaign of the year 1919 would have witnessed an immense accession to the powers of destruction

Had the germans retained the morale to make good their retreat to the rhine

They would have been assaulted in the summer of 1919

With forces and by methods incomparably more prodigious than any yet employed

Thousands of airplanes would have shattered their cities

Scores of thousands of cannon would have blasted their front arrangements were being made to carry simultaneously

a quarter of a million men together with all their requirements

Continuously forward across country in mechanical vehicles moving 10 or 15 miles each day

poison gases of incredible malignity

Against which only a secret mask which the germans could not obtain in time was proof

Would have stifled all resistance and paralyzed all life on the hostile front subjected to attack

No doubt the germans too had their plans

But the hour of wrath had passed the signal of relief was given and the horrors of

1919 remained buried in the archives of the great antagonists

end quote

And it’s worth pointing out that even with the terrible and horrible destruction of the second world war

There were some of the horrors of the first that were not revisited

Which seems counterintuitive to human history, doesn’t it?

This idea that in total war

Human beings would use every single weapon at their disposal, you know to fend off total destruction

Yet those leaders in the second world war who themselves were younger people who fought in the first and who experienced that

Somehow managed to not use

poison gas again on a wide scale for example

I don’t know what conclusions you can draw from that, but it’s an interesting variable to consider, isn’t it?

Finally we had mentioned a uh a note specifically that had stuck in my mind and it obviously stuck in um,

peter hart’s mind too

From a soldier that was writing his uh turns out to be last note home to his family

And it it exemplifies the way hart tends to work where he will

Write a piece that sets up this emotional

exclamation point and then deliver it to you

And it just stayed we used it in blueprint for armageddon because it is so emotionally powerful

So here’s what hart writes. He’s talking about this battle at the psalm, which he referenced in the interview that terrible british

Day where they figured out. Oh my gosh, you know

This isn’t working the way we thought meanwhile

We’re trying to figure it out in the open under machine gun fire behind a lot of barbed wire

And he says that the soldiers about to go on this attack

Would write these letters home to their families

And here’s what he says and then he quotes the powerful letter

He says and this is from his book the great war by the way quote

The final reports from the front meaning of the psalm battle that filtered back to the british high command were generally positive in tone

Overall, the visual impression of the barrage proved far more devastating than the truth on the ground

British progress had been more than discounted by german improvements in their defenses

But that was not known at the time on the british side of the wire in any case

They had no choice. The offensive had to go ahead as the future of the alliance with france depended on it

In the last few hours as haig’s men prepared for the ordeal many wrote their sad last letters home

One was so beautifully expressed that it exemplifies the feelings of men

Trapped and tormented by the conflicting calls of country and family now. He’s quoting an original letter quote

I must not allow myself to dwell on the personal there’s no room for it here. Also. It is demoralizing

But I do not want to die

Not that I mind for myself

If it be that I am to go I am ready

But the thought that I may never see you or our darling baby again turns my bowels to water

I cannot think of it with even the semblance of equanimity

My one consolation is the happiness that has been ours

Also, my conscience is clear that i’ve always tried to make life a joy to you

I know at least that if I go you will not want that is something

But it is the thought that we may be cut off from one another which is so terrible

And that our babe may grow up without my knowing her and without her knowing me

It is difficult to face

And I know your life without me would be a dull blank yet. You must never let it become wholly so

For to you will be left the greatest charge in all the world the upbringing of our baby

God bless that child. She’s the hope of life to me

My darling au revoir

It may be that you will only have to read these lines as one of passing interest on the other hand

They may well be my last message to you

If they are

Know through all your life that i’ve loved you and baby with all my heart and soul

That you two sweet things were just all the world to me

I pray god that I may do my duty for I know

Whatever that may entail

You would not have it. Otherwise

end quote captain charles may 22nd manchester regiment

and then peter hart writes quote

Charles may the loving husband of bessie may and the father to his baby pauline would indeed be killed the next day

He’s buried in the danzig ally british cemetery small-scale tragedies

He writes litter the history of war sad reminders that the necessities of war ruin the lives of millions

end quote

That ladies and gentlemen

Is an art form

My thanks to peter hart for talking with us today and listen down the road if we’re lucky we’ll get to do it again

We’ve been telling you about audible for years obviously audiobooks and a whole lot more

If you haven’t discovered the joys of audiobooks, there’s elements to it

That I think are going to develop that I already find fascinating take the element of whose voice it is

Reading to you. I mean it’s something you don’t consider when you think about getting a book is it?

I mean who’s the narrator?

I mean, I imagine one day you’re going to be able to customize this with some sort of button

You know with your favorite movie star. I want michael cain narrating today’s book and you know, it’ll all come out that way

But I was looking for recommendations for today’s um particular

Little discussion and uh peter hart who we just talked to has a couple of books on audible

But they’re narrated by different people

And so i’m sampling them going

Okay, do I want peter hart’s book on the psalm in this voice or do I want peter hart’s?

Other book on the psalm in this other voice and it’s interesting because it’s an element. You don’t think about there’s a performance aspect to it

It’s one of the things to like about audiobooks is you get to kind of

You know have different people read to you in different voices decide what you like

And like I said someday I imagine this will be quite customizable

Audio books, of course been around a long time. So has audible we’ve been telling you about them for years

They’ve been supporting us

Um, and we’ve watched as they have, you know, sort of rolled out more and more features to what they do

I mean one of the things we’ve talked about that’s great about audible, you know, you sign up to audible you get points

You get a book that’s free every month

I mean, it’s one of those membership type services, but there’s things that they just do, right?

I mean they roll over

You know your points kind of so if you don’t get a book

This month while those points accrue so that you know, you have more next month you own the books, which I love

It is so weird to me to purchase something and then realize wait a minute

If you read the fine print, you don’t actually own this you own these books


If i’m going to buy something like this, I want to own it

I need a big selection too and audible’s got one that carry titles in business the classics

fiction history romance mystery thrillers sci-fi fantasy self-development kids and you I mean, you know

Like a bookstore, right?

When I was younger if you liked audiobooks you got to go to the library and see what they had available on cassette tapes now

when a new book comes out and hits the

you know bookstores digital, uh, and

You know brick and mortar. Um audible usually has it too. That’s a sign of the popularity of these things and why not?

It allows you to read a good book

To motivate yourself educate yourself entertain yourself make yourself more successful and inspired

While you’re doing some other chore that does not require your full attention. You got to mow the lawn

Well, maybe you can you know get one of those classic books read at the same time gotta iron some sheets

Well, why can’t you be enjoying a romance novel at the same time you get where i’m coming with this busy people

Are consuming books at rates that well when you consider how busy they are

They shouldn’t be able to find the time to do that audio books fill a void and audible’s the best place to get them

And if you sign up today, you can get a free audiobook with a 30-day trial membership

Go to audible.com forward slash carlin and browse the unmatched selection of audio programs. You can download a title start listening

It’s that easy

Go to audible.com forward slash carlin or text carlin to 500-500 and get started today

If you don’t know what to get I recommend peter hart’s two books on the psalm

The newer one probably has more updated information. The official title of that is the psalm the darkest hour on the western front

But he’s got an earlier book on the psalm also on audible narrated by an english gentleman. I believe his name is pronounced

Tim piggott smith and to me it sounds more like peter hart’s actually reading me the book

So the newer book probably has the newer information

But if you really want to have somebody reading to you that sounds more like the author

Get the earlier book. The good news is they’re both available on audible and if you can’t decide feel free to buy them both

Sure, the older hardcore history shows can be a bit traumatic

With titles like death throes of the republic

judgment at nineveh and addicted to bondage

We just consider that truth in advertising. No pain. No gain is our motto pick up the entire catalog from dan carlin.com

Be sure to follow us on twitter. The address is at hardcore history