Dan Snow’s Donkey

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Observer about Dan Snow finding about an ancestor – Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow, who was apparently one of WW1’s less distinguished generals.

Basically the piece is a puff for a telly series that will come on in the lead-up to Remembrance Day this year, with several people discovering their ancestor’s WW1 stories.

The newspaper article drifts into the standard line that all the British Great War generals were donkeys – a proposition that Dan and Peter Snow called into question last year when one of their battle reconstructions showed some very successful 100 days tactics.

Was D’Oyly Snow really a total dud? Or a moderately competent chap who (like most) stood no chance of breaking out of the trench stalemate? Or will the likes of Gary Sheffield leap to his defence?

Sir Thomas doesn’t seem to be listed in the University of Birmingham “Donkey” archive.

And there’s an article on the BBC website about KIrsty Wark weeping when she finds out what happened to her great-uncle.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    The Donkey archive only includes Brigade commanders – Snow was already commanding a division at the start of the war. Corps commanders and above often appear in the DNB.

    The direct quotes from Dan Snow seem fairly balanced to me but the journalist who put the piece together has still fallen back on the same old cliches without apparently taking notice of everything that the ineterviewee said. Maybe not surprising.

    I think Dan Snow is right to criticise his ancestor over Gommecourt as it was quite unfair of everyone to blame Stuart-Wortley, although his later comment that “he blamed the group that couldn’t answer back and that was the dead” doesn’t really follow: Stuart-Wortley wasn’t dead, and I don’t think anyone was trying to blame the dead.

    What isn’t made clear in the article is how unusual the Gommecourt controversy was. Stuart-Wortley was the only general to be sacked over the first day of the Somme. I don’t think there was nearly as much blaming going on in other Corps.


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