18 min

“The General Who Wept” - Battle of Passchendaele - Jul 31, 1917 – Nov 10, 1917 Cauldron

    • History

“Harry Devers leaned up against the bonnet of his muddy, dinged up and dented Vauxhall D-type. The large, boxy staff car had a certain beauty and grace to it, and Harry had been in enough close-run situations while driving her that he'd grown to trust her. Of course, that hadn't always been the case…”

This is the tale of the "General that Wept," a famous story that comes from the First World War. First reported by B.H.Lidell Hart and the corroborated in David Lloyd George's memoirs, the story tells of a decision making officer that was driven to the front lines at the end of Passchendaele. The man was a respected paper pusher and more a soldier of theory than of mud. So far removed from the realities of the war he was directing was this man that upon seeing the front, he uttered the famous question, "We sent men to fight in that?" The story goes that his driver, a veteran of the battle, responded laconically, "It gets worse farther up."

The people involved and even the veracity of the story has been debated since first reported. Regardless of the truth, the tale has stuck in our collective memory of the war. The idea of "lions led by donkeys" was solidified by this apparent evidence and has been a considerable narrative of the Great War ever since. Whether or not it occurred, at this stage, doesn't matter. What matters is that for decades, the idea that the men in charge of making the decisions on the Western Front seemed oblivious to the horrors they ordered.

Harry Devers is a fictional soldier. Through him, I thought it would be interesting to reimagine this famous tale from the muddy front itself. Any errors are mine and unintentional.

“Harry Devers leaned up against the bonnet of his muddy, dinged up and dented Vauxhall D-type. The large, boxy staff car had a certain beauty and grace to it, and Harry had been in enough close-run situations while driving her that he'd grown to trust her. Of course, that hadn't always been the case…”

This is the tale of the "General that Wept," a famous story that comes from the First World War. First reported by B.H.Lidell Hart and the corroborated in David Lloyd George's memoirs, the story tells of a decision making officer that was driven to the front lines at the end of Passchendaele. The man was a respected paper pusher and more a soldier of theory than of mud. So far removed from the realities of the war he was directing was this man that upon seeing the front, he uttered the famous question, "We sent men to fight in that?" The story goes that his driver, a veteran of the battle, responded laconically, "It gets worse farther up."

The people involved and even the veracity of the story has been debated since first reported. Regardless of the truth, the tale has stuck in our collective memory of the war. The idea of "lions led by donkeys" was solidified by this apparent evidence and has been a considerable narrative of the Great War ever since. Whether or not it occurred, at this stage, doesn't matter. What matters is that for decades, the idea that the men in charge of making the decisions on the Western Front seemed oblivious to the horrors they ordered.

Harry Devers is a fictional soldier. Through him, I thought it would be interesting to reimagine this famous tale from the muddy front itself. Any errors are mine and unintentional.

18 min

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