Lions Led by Donkeys – The Catastrophic Failures of WW1 British High Command; A Memorial to Commemorate Those Lost at the Battle of Loos

Title of talk:
The Catastrophic Failures of WW1 British High Command; A Memorial to Commemorate Those Lost at the Battle of Loos

poppies for peace
Poppies for Peace

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • This is a brief (20 mins), ungory account of the catastrophic failures of the High Command which resulted in tragedy
  • This history is drawn from Alan Clark’s book ‘The Donkeys’ which reveals the account of the failures
  • On 26th September 1915, in the battle of Loos almost 10,000 men sustained 8246 casualties in under four hours whilst the Germans suffered no casualties at all
  • An account in memoriam of how life was squandered through mismanagement is important out of respect
  • The horror of war is distant and whilst there is peace it is our responsibility to ensure its future
  • Included in this is to speak truth to power and commemorate peace

A few paragraphs on your subject:
I have chosen to give a short presentation on this part of World War One because I came to read Alan Clark’s book ‘The Donkeys’.  Im someone who is lucky enough never to have seen war but to have known by proximity how badly war has affected many.  War is the true embodiment of madness and horror, and part of that I fear is the lack of holding to account the idiots in charge sometimes.
Part of my reading on the first world war was a book written by Anthony Babington, who both served in the military and as a Circuit Judge.  In ‘For the Sake of Example: Capital Courts Martial 1914-18’, a diligent account is given of how the High Command introduced cruel executions as Court Martial replacing the non-lethal flogging which previously used as punishment in the British Army.
Drawing on Alan Clark’s history of the rise of a cluster of “donkeys” to the High Command, this is to commemorate the thousands of men who were failed and sent to their senseless doom by the hubris, pride, pomp, lack of strategy and idiocy of certain specific Field Marshal’s like Field Marshal Haig.  I think it is not just enough to remember the dead but understand the mistakes which were part of the catastrophe.  Out of dignity and respect, some knowledge of the failures that took place needs to be part of our collective living memory.
A few paragraphs about you:
Im someone who struggles to read about war as it disturbs me deeply.  I feel that it is a terrible thing to trivialise war and aspects of it, which we commonly see in the media, film and computer game world.  I dont like how news can become diminished to infotainment, and believe that the trauma of witnessing the loss of life cannot be fully comprehended.
As a male who has grown up and lived through peace time – in as much as I have not seen military action – I have been staggered by how war has affected others that I have known.  I am humbled for their sacrifices and angered for their hurts, I also feel obliged not to learn what I need to from history.  So this is the result of lots of uncomfortable reading and dedicated to those who strove for peace. My eternal respects.
What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?
The Donkeys by Alan Clark:
For the Sake of Example: Capital Courts Martial 1914-18 by Anthony Babington

All Quiet on the Western Front – Chapter 1 from Pacific Christian School on Vimeo.

For the rest of All Quiet on the Western Front visit:


This event was held on 30th Nov 2017 at Cabaret Voltaire (36-38 Blair St, Edinburgh, EH1 1QR)

by Alex Dunedin