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Saturday, 24 August 2013


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Apparently relations between officers and other ranks in the British Army were far better than in the French. It helped no end that the British officers' custom - and presumably their orders - was to see that the men were fed and otherwise attended to before they looked after themselves. Also the men (and officers) were rotated out of the front line every few days while the poor bloody poilu could be left there for weeks while his officers vanished on leave.

As for "working conditions in Britain, both pre-war and post war, were atrocious and the relations between workers and bosses were poisonous": I'm always suspicious of such generalisations. It's a stereotype but how widely true is it? Many of the social historians of the period were more agit prop types than honest scholars.

P.S. As for the aristocracy and the workers: you've overlooked the mine owners.

You are right, DM, to interject a word of caution on working conditions because I often stress a point to the 'Lefties' that the industrial revolution *attracted* workers from the countryside where conditions could, particularly in bad seasons, be truly atrocious. At least in the factories the work was, by and large, steady. However, Holmes makes the interesting point that by the beginning of the 20th century British industry, having led the way, was now well and truly out of date and the only way the 'Gradgrinds' could compete against, say, new and more modern German competition was by driving down costs especially wages, etc. It is a sad fact that once the very first inventors and entrepreneurs died out, the new British business class failed miserably. I suppose the late and unlamented British Leyland is their memorial!

Excellent thoughts on an interesting paragraph, DD. The bit about the double death duties for fathers and sons going in a short space of time made me think for a time. That's bloody harsh, whichever way you look at it.

"The bit about the double death duties for fathers and sons going in a short space of time": when I was a boy my father had a wealthy friend who gave much of his wealth to his son to avoid death duties. The son died in a car crash within the magic seven years and the money reverted to dad, less a chunk of tax. The heartbroken father dwindled to his death within seven years and so the state had another chunk of the money. The remaining family sold up and left.

That is why I become mega-grumpy whenever the 'Memsahib' insists we visit some National Trust property - most of them stolen by the state!

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