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Military history in an age of soundbites

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Godley: The Man Behind the Myth (cover via Exisle Publishing).

In his latest book, author Terry Kinloch crafts a rich yet balanced portrayal of General Godley, writes Paul Bains.

THIS BIOGRAPHY of General Sir Alexander Godley, titled Godley: The Man Behind the Myth, is both well researched and balanced. It provides the reader with a rich account of the General’s life as well as a richly detailed account of his military career.

The forward of the book states that the General was a disappointment as a field commander.

It challenges this fact and counters these assertions convincingly, however, the arguments leave open the criticisms that are generally applicable to all high ranking officers involved in planning and prosecuting the First World War.

Author Terry Kinloch has been able to draw out the man behind the public image, bringing in a more human perspective that allows for empathy and understanding.

In common with many military commanders and politicians of the time, the immensity of the engagements, the impact that the number of casualties must have had and the strategies that commanders used to be able to function and command would have been massive and traumatic.

This book allows the formation of a sense of balance and context, easily missed when considering important historical commanders of the Great War, as if blinded the remnants of the fog of war that surrounded much of the subject matter under consideration.

What remains with me after reading this book is the apparent aloofness of the General depicted in the book and the inevitable impressions raised by the men under the General’s command and their complaints about leadership that in my view would naturally arise as a result.

However, the book depicts the General as part of the high command whose apparent regard for the protection of the lives of enlisted men was questionable. It would be wrong for the General to shoulder sole responsibility for this. This book provided me with a more reality-driven understanding of the man.

This is a valuable and historically important book especially in an age when compartmentalisation and soundbites to squeeze people’s biographies into as few words as possible.

The book is quite dense in detail in places that challenge a reader who is new to the subject of military history. Therefore I recommend this book for those who are specialised, interested in or studying military history.

Paul Bains is a London social worker. 

Godley: The Man Behind the Myth is available now through Exisle Publishing. It can be purchased here.

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Military history in an age of soundbites

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