You know what it is like when you pick up and start reading a book that you just can’t put down?
I’ve just finished listening to one of the best pod cast series I have ever heard, Hardcore History’s Blueprint for Armageddon by Dan Carlin recorded in 2014 -2015. Like a good book, I could not stop listening to each episode (see below).
This six part series digs into what was happening in Europe and elsewhere in the lead-up to the war, how going to war escalated and the thinking of key players were thinking at the time. The ramifications of this are still being felt today with the decline of the great empires of the past and the rise of the United States.
Carlin has a great way or style of reading and story telling that sets the scene well for the imagination of the listener and also asks questions such as “what would you do in that situation?”
Quotes from books and letters are well integrated in to the narrative of the events and this combined with remembering old pictures and History Channel shows help to get right into the story being told.
What stands out for me was the sheer scale of the battles in size, locations, and casualties and how slow some of the generals were to adapt to the new ways of fighting compared to the Napoleonic wars 100 years earlier. The technological changes that had happened in the 100 year gap between major battles in Europe then and during WWI completely changed how battles were thought and the way war was thought of. The effects of constant heavy shelling physically and psychologically, gas attacks on troops. Aircraft, submarines and tanks being used. Air raids on civilians. All of this happening a short time period of four years and yet the first French soldiers to engage in 1914 wore pretty much the same uniform as 100 years before.
It is the humanising of the events that really helps to put things into some perspective such has the day to day struggles to live let alone fight. The thoughts and feelings as written by the soldiers that have survived going “over the top” are well conveyed. Imagine for example on say Wednesday seeing all the horror involved only to have to go through the same thing on Saturday. Could I go through that sort of thing? No. Could I have done what was expected of me if I was back in 1914 – 1918? Impossible to tell, though I would have signed up or been conscripted as I would have had no choice. The “White Feather” and societal pressure would have seen to that. Besides, I would not have known any better.
I’m not sure the general populace of today would put up with what happened then, especially as the casualty numbers were so high. However this is just speculation. Would the generation of today have the courage / bravery to do what the folks did back then? The story around what was going on at the “Home Front” in each country back then gives us some idea.
October 2017 was the 100 year anniversary of Passchendaele, New Zealand’s single worse day for casualties at any time. The ODT tribute puts some context on those losses and yet we know there would have been more that died of wounds in the days, weeks and months that followed.
For the Empire’s Cause appears every day in the Otago Daily Times (ODT) newspaper and it shows the names age and rank of mostly Otago men that lost their lives 100 years to the day. Hardcore History mentions main Western Front battles and when they happened and it is eerie how this has matched recent (November – December 1917) death notices.
During November 2017 I noticed that there is more names than usual (approximately 5000 soldiers were killed per week outside of major battles that could take over 25,000 per day) signalling that there was another “big push” on, this one at Ypres.
There is nothing that can really put any of us today into anything like the situation faced by so many in the Great War. Jocko Willink said this would be the war he would most likely not wanted to be involved in, mainly because the people on the ground could not determine their own actions.
The Hardcore History episodes were recorded in 2014 – 2015 and are over three hours each however they do not appear to take that long. I think this is because of Dan Carlin’s style of storytelling and the subject as so many people have ancestors that were involved or affected. Also, the repercussions of the Great War are still being felt today.
Hardcore History and the way the stories are told does a very good job at putting the events of 100 years ago into the listener’s imagination.
List of podcast episodes:
Thanks to Tim Ferriss for interviewing Dan Carlin and bringing my attention to Hardcore History. If I had to have just one newsletter in my inbox it would be Five Bullet Fridays. Every week I get five points from Tim Ferris including, tips, quotes, books, articles and posts. Click to subscribe and find out how useful the newsletter is for you.
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