Compton Mackenzie, disillusionment and Douglas Jerrold

Mostly,  Gallipoli Memories (1929) is a rather jolly memoir by someone who presents himself as hanging around the Staff with not very much useful work to do.

It’s only towards the end that Mackenzie makes it clear that this is partially intended as a contribution to the opposition to the ‘disillusioned’ literature that had taken its tone from All Quiet on the Western Front:

And I have lived to hear Rupert Brooke sneered at for a romantic by the prematurely weaned young sucking pigs of the next generation. It was welcome to find a year or two ago the sanest pages I had read about literature and the war written by an R. N. D. survivor, Douglas Jerrold, at the close of his excellent book, The Hawke Battalion. I commend them to any people who are as much nauseated as I am by the Teutonic hysteria which is the intellectual vogue of 1929.

Jerrold is more successful than Mackenzie in arguing the case against disillusionment, both in his Criterion Miscellany pamphlet The Lie about the War and in his very readable book of memoirs, Georgian Adventure. Reading Mackenzie, and being disappointed with him, has sent me back to Georgian Adventure. Maybe I’ll blog about that book soon, but meanwhile my review of Gallipoli Memories, which I read for the Sheffield Reading 1900-1950 group, is online at https://reading19001950.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/gallipoli-memories-1929-by-compton-mackenzie

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2 Comments

  1. David Cooksey
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I started to read a downloaded copy of copy of Compton Mackenzies’ Gallipoli Memories and was immediately struck by the “Hannayesque” tone of his account of trying to get himself, as a 31 year old, into the services. Of course, they only seem to want to parachute themselves into the officer structure which they see as their natural level of service in helping the country. They do not go along to their nearest Recruiting Office, they use their contacts in the old boys network to achieve what they want. There are probably numerous other examples in real life stretching back to the Boer War and forwards to the Second World War.By the 1940’s such practices were more likely to attract humour and ridicule by a writer such as Evelyn Waugh (Put Out More Flags) and filmmakers such as Powell and Pressburger (Colonel Blimp).

    I feel that it is not something that is likely to happen today, it would be much more likely that non-military people would want to be taken on as specialist contractors at a suitably eye watering fee.

  2. Posted May 20, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Interesting post! My reading of a large number of first hand accounts of the (Western Front) war, however, have lead me to the conclusion that by and large participants took away from it what they brought to it. Alfred Pollard, for example, implied war was sport; Ian Hay’s “The First Hundred Thousand” makes the point that life for many in the first Kitchener battalions was in many cases better than their day to day living standards at home. So perhaps it is not surprising that Mackenzie saw “Im Westen nichts Neues” as ‘disillusioned’, as his own upbringing and perceptions were rooted in different cultural norms, somewhat along the lines of “play up, play up and play the game.” In fact his lack of appreciation of the scale of the failure in Gallipoli perhaps indicates precisely why it was a failure; “more guns, more men” was not an answer to a failure to develop a tactical approach that could succeed.


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