tv Book Discussion on The Great War CSPAN December 24, 2013 11:20am-12:11pm EST
through the first day of the battle of the somme and talk about it. this is lord kitchner who was the equivalent of the minister of great britain in the first part of world war i. he was quite precipice. he predicted that the war would go on for years. many people thought it was going to be over bye christmas. you have heard that line but he knew that what it could require was a lot of manpower. so he built up in a volunteer army and he started this recruitment process. the british professional army was small by confidential standards about 100,000 people and mostly in 1914 the british army was pretty much since and that territory, the british national guard took over and
volunteers started to come into play also. by 1916 during the battle of the somme, the army was mostly volunteers with remnants of the professional and territorial divisions. this is the general, the chief architect of the battle of the somme. here he is walking around his château. every morning he would take a four minute walk around the château, precisely timed. interesting man vilified by a lot of historians and then a rehabilitated by a lot of historians. my opinion of him is rather low but i try to be neutral about how i show him. there he is riding a horse in the front. everyday he would also take a ride if he could with the 17th lancers which is a unit that he
used to command because the general was in calgary officer and he believed in the calgary three at the battle of the somme was to relieve pressure on the french fighting against the germans. his idea was after a massive bombardment basically an unprecedented bombardment. the british infantry would take the german trenches and the calgary would go through and the stalemate, you heard of the stalemate of the cold war one, the trench warfare would be broken and and the calgary would roll up the german flanks and won again it would be a movement and so for those who say that some historians will say that he was wrong about certain things but there was a learning curve and eventually he got and it's true in 1918 he won the battles but he still believed in the calgary because after the war i
will read you the quote. he wrote airplanes and tanks are only accessories to the man with the horse. so he definitely had a different conception about modern warfare. this is a picture of british troops coming out to the somme. it was a major road, a lot of back roads were reduced and a lot of material had to come out as you could imagine. the average british regiment had about 19 or 20,000 soldiers and maybe 60 or 70 trucks were motorized vehicles and 5,000 horses. so one of the things i have to remember is the horseless still the main transport vehicle.
this is the famously i told you about this for roger that was going to be launched at the german position one. there was one done for every 17 yards of the front. it's an often quoted figure it was an unprecedented bombardment, but a lot of the british artillery wasn't as big as this much of it was much smaller and also in 1916 a lot of the shells were duds so about 30% re savitt sun presented bombardment had a lot of bark but the fight wasn't quite what was advertised to be. the british lead a lot of track before the battle to bring as much stuff up as possible and here you see the dump where soldiers are unloading things from the train and then the
shells would be taken in the end of bombardment 1,500,000 shells were fired before the infantry actually attacked. here ratio the british soldiers going to the front. as i mentioned they were mostly volunteers and they were quite enthusiastic about the war at this point. in the recruitment drive, kitchner came up with this idea of the battalion so a lot of the deal was he would join up with your pals so a lot of friends joined from the same villages and towns and units were built even not professional courses like clerks or there was an artist by telling and for example and so friends joined up together. perhaps one of the reasons they were enthusiastic is a lot of
them were told that it would be a sort of cakewalk. they were told the bombardment would be so heavy that no german would be alive in the trenches when they got their. and here's the bombardment. it was planned to go on for five days and it did and there was a rain squall and so the battle was postponed by a couple days so the firing went on for another two so at the very end of it, the shells that were put there for the on board and had to be stretched over a couple more days. this is one of the beloved calvary units that came from india. it's one of the three british regiments, the calgary that was put right behind the front lines waiting for that breakthrough so it could go to the gap. mostly the indian calabresi because that is one of the units but on the first day of the somme was british soldiers,
pretty much the both to the capricious fault there is a newfoundlander unit but it was a part of canada as a self-governing colony. around evening time, soldiers who were meant to go over the top would be coming into the trenches and these are the ones in the first wave the would be given wire cutters as i show here. the hope is that the barbed wire is a very effective antiinfantry and was used extensively by both sides and the hope is that the artillery bombardment would cut the wire and a really varied and places and the soldiers would get to the wire and they would try to cut through so their comrades could go through. night falls, the soldiers tried to get some sleep. in some places the trenches were so crowded some soldiers spent
the last night on their feet. on the left of this illustration or where you can see the barbed wire at night time the british soldiers would have gone out and cut a hole in their own barbwire in other words in front of the british trenches because obviously you need a place where the troops can go through. in the background by schoenbohm board met and we are getting towards morning now and in the last 60 or 65 minutes the british intensified the bombardment. now it's around 7:20 a.m. on july 1st. it's a bright day with a ray of sunlight and use ev and grenade thrower some industry what soldier would take a grenade to give them when they got close to
the german lines. the average soldier had equipment that was about 60 to 65 pounds. at the bottom left you see the soldiers having their rum and rationed because a was standard in a major attack from the would drink tea laced with rum and according into martin middlebrook who wrote the great book some of them went over drunk. i guess to self medicate for the major battle. on the right you see them fixing the next -- bayonet and they would prevail. just before the troops went over, the british exploited large mines under the trenches and they had been prepared for weeks or months. obviously they were minor in the
british army and they would have tunneled under the german lines and exploded into some of the larger ones were heard in england. .. blew the debris 4,000 feet into the air. so they went off and then there was silence. and of course the whistles blow and the british troops start going over the top and i shall an officer there with his browning service revolver and what sort of interesting about the first world war is that the not the high command but the junior officers like the lieutenant and the captains lead from the front and throughout the war and including of course the battle they had a high casualty rate than the average infantryman >> and the officer class was
generally from the aristocracy basically, very well educated, graduates of cambridge, oxford. the high command didn't have great confidence in the volunteer army. most of these troops were seen combat for the first time. so they were told to line up outside of their own barb wire and move sort of napoleonic style in a row towards the german line. the high command didn't want to disorganize the advance. they were told to walk. they were told not to stop for anyone who was wounded. that the wounded would be picked up later. they were two or three paces apart and these lines move towards the german position about a minute apart from each other. so they were just rows of infantry. this was the idea, moving towards the german trenches.
now, i've talked about this bombardment. the germans were very defensive minded at this particular time, and they had dug very deep dugouts. 40, 50 feet below ground. most of the soldiers were taking shelter from this bombardment. the machine gun positions were often concrete reinforced and would've taken a direct hit and knocked them out. the british, on the other hand, actually never wanted their soldiers to be comfortable in the trenches. they never wanted their soldiers to feel, have a defensive mindset. so there were dugouts but they were just a few feet below ground usually for officers and most of their soldiers in the trenches would have dug a hole into the side of the trench or sheltered with a cape. so the soldiers began to move out. meanwhile, many germans survived. they hear -- it's silent.
the british barrage has gone further to the rear of the german line. son that these soldiers, these germans are manning the machine gun posts. they just are cutting down the rows of reddish soldiers. -- british soldiers. and then the german artillery begins firing into no man's land, basically puts up a wall of shellfire. and in the first hour of the battle of the somme, it's estimated the british concurred 30,000 casualties of which 10,000 were dead. just to put that into perspective, that's more than the amount of american servicemen killed in iraq and afghanistan combined. that's in the first hour. the germans would've trained their machine guns right on
those openings in the barb wire that the british soldiers were going through. many british soldiers lost their lives right as i got out of the trench and workload, clustered together. the germans also began firing into the british trenches which were packed with troops waiting to go over the top in subsequent waves are in many british soldiers died or were wounded before the left the trenches. when someone died in the trench they would just throw them over the side. obviously, with the wounded in the trenches, the stretchers
were trying to get them out and, of course, there were scenes where the soldiers were trying to move forward and stretcher bearers were trying to go back. in some cases sort of at the top right, they actually got out of the trenches and walked across open ground because it was just faster to get someone medical care. this is a battalion a post. it's where basically light casualties would be on a day-to-day basis. these were just very quickly overwhelms. you have one medical officer and a few orderlies. most of the casualties was sent, get to the rear. and here i so -- i shall wounded soldiers coming out of the trenches. the walking wounded as i'm showing here were basically told
just to keep walking to the casual declaring stations which could be miles behind the front. so they helped each other get to the rear. the more serious the injured -- seriously injured would be put on ambulances, either motorized ambulances like this one here or horse ambulances. again, there were many horses used in this sort of thing. this is a casual declaring station where surgery could actually be done and they were doing in these tents. but as you can imagine, the overflow of casualty meant that not everyone could be treated right away. so they began just laying out the wounded in the field, and many died unattended. here i show a soldier going through the effects of one of the debt. the british would have dug graves right by the casual
declaring station, sort of pre-dug them knowing there would be casualties that wouldn't survive their wounds. and so the book basically ends in the grave with the soldiers being buried. when they were idea get their names would be painted on a temporary wooden cross just to know where the body was. so after the war, whatever they could to get what to do with those bodies. so on the first day of the somme, i mentioned figures before but the total on the first day of the somme, the british at 57,000 casualties, of which 21,000 were fatalities. so the casualties, cash at the rate basically one out of every two soldiers who was thrown into the battle that day. so you can see what the battle of the somme really covers over the psyche of the british
nation. the battle went on for another four and a half months, and about a million -- about 1,200,000 people were casualties on both sides because the funds were also involved, including the germans. so that you get a brief overview. and i would be happy to take your questions, if you have any. yes? >> where did the battle occur? >> the somme is, it's in eastern france. it's hard for me to describe exactly. i can probably pointed out on the map but it's the eastern part of france. the frontline ran through belgium and into eastern france, and then all the way down to the swiss border. yes? >> your book, your other stations called the mine a book
by sebastian. have you read that book the? >> i haven't read that book. >> you should. [laughter] i'm looking at this and then seeing everything that was an image that was conjured up by suggesting -- sebastian, i think you would find it well worth your time. >> thank you for saying that. it's interesting because i spent some time in the imperial war newseum looking at the photo archives there, and there were many great pictures but very few pictures of combat. and the way i could get those images was by first person accounts of the battle, but also some fictional accounts. there's a great book by frederic manning, for example, and it's like when you're reading prose can you get images in your head. basically what i did was i to those images floating in my head and tried to put them on paper. [inaudible] >> okay, good. [inaudible] >> definitely. you get a lot out of fiction and
the first person account. i think we're using the microphone so if you want to come out. [inaudible] >> go ahead while we are waiting spent what inspired you to write this or to do this production? i'm familiar with many of the photographs in the real war newseum, and the detail that you captured this exquisite. and your knowledge of the battle is equally so. and i would like to know, what inspired you and how you ended up doing the work that you've done. how did that all come together to? >> all right. well, i spent a lot of time thinking about the battle of the somme and first world war. i grew up in australia and in australia, world war i figures also very heavily into the national consciousness. and i remember as a boy, the day they came rate those landings -- commemorate those land, class
with stop and over the loudspeaker they would broadcast the stories of soldiers from first world war. so it's sort of in your head in that way, but then i read about quite a bit as a boy, too, and i had that little boy fascination with stuff like bike lanes and -- you know, the gas mask they were wearing. it was all so surreal and it's sort of intrigued me but horrified me, too, especially even as a kid reading about no man's land and what that meant literally. as a boy no man's land you take the words literally get it means like no man can be in this land. so that sort of stuff just told me and. but at the same time when i begin to realize that armies just battered each other over, and gained almost no ground, that sort of horrified me. i mean, in 1915, hundreds of thousands of people died in
eight square miles were exchanged. it's really shocking to think that people would be thrown into this sort of a furnace. later on, i mean, my interest went so far that i actually hitchhiked out to the somme battlefield and spent three days camped out just reading tombstones but it's very poignant, because families were allowed to have an inscription on the tombstone of the departed person, maybe 10 words. and what can you say in 10 words? and most were the same, the same, the same but every now and then something stood out where someone tried to say something different. and i spent time in flanders also doing the same thing so it stuck with me for a long time. and actually what happened is, i was in new york -- i was living in new york with a guy named matt and we both have an interest in world war i. this was 15 years ago, and he
said, wouldn't it be great if you to a panorama of the western front? i just sort of forgot about 15 years later he called me up and now is an editor at w. w. norton and said would you be interested? i thought about it and i said i don't want to do a panorama but i do want to do a narrative. and i thought about the tapestry and how that's a narrative. and it's also read in a way, you've read it from left to right. it tells a story of the norman invasion of england. it shows ships being built crossing the channel and then the battle of hastings. said to me i already had a template for the idea. thank you. >> thanks. i really appreciated your talk and the wonderful ella stations and drawings. two things. i was curious about the sources for the pictures themselves, you know, and maybe you will tell us, if you haven't already, i got in public, but photographs,
whatever and sort of the process of creating these wonderful illustrations you did. and second, last night i was looking at this calendar from this year, and it was based on the art was paintings from the civil war. and this kind of maybe think about people different but going right up there, one to the other without body armor or anything like that. just a little bit of a loose question, but any thoughts you might have about relating world war i, you know, in 1914 to the civil war 70 years before. something like that. >> to answer your second question first, it seems like the civil war had many modern, what we would call modern aspects to it. there was trench warfare, bombardments, the siege of cities. there were a lot of things that became familiar to a greater degree in the 20th century
that we saw in the civil war. i think that's true. now, as far as the images, like i said i was at the imperial war newseum looking for those sorts of details you don't normally find in a look of photographs of world war i. you often see the same picture over and over again in different books. but any specific details and even looking at the blinders they have this marvelous of archived getting ideas. when there's a whole binder on mules, okay, mules. utility for him to realize how much they would bring up mortar a nation and all kinds of things. so it gave me ideas looking at those archives. the other thing i did when i was in london, i sat down with a world war i historian named julian, and the sort of answer a lot of questions i had about, you know, the small detail that the question get when you're
drawing you can think how exactly did they give -- how exactly did it over the top? that's the images of people going out all at once. which is a really typical. normally they would go up a ladder because they have to get through a little bit of barbed wire. they had to go up over the top through certain areas. he explains a lot of that sort of stuff to me. so those were my sources. plus, osmosis. because i've been reading about the first world war. it's sort of sunk into my head now. >> a related question. i was interested more in the drawing techniques and immediate, and also how you came to decide on this accordion fold book section. >> i will credit my editor with that because he is the one who suggested the accordion style structure. so he gets full credit for that. as far as the drawings and how i
went about it, basically i had 12 sheets of paper but it wasn't like one long drawn i was doing. it was 12 sheets, about a yard long each, basically -- i call them two pages or sheet. so the great difficulty was at the beginning when i didn't really know how to start it. i sort of, i don't normally do rough sketches, which i don't advise any other artist. i don't go -- don't go by the way i do things. i normally compose directly onto the page. and so i'm constantly erasing what i can post because i didn't plan it out. so it took a while to get the rhythm right. i also prepared sort of ideas of how many pages i would need to show the build up, how many pages of soldiers in the trenches for the battle. so i had a rough outline for myself, too. and it took about eight months.
actually thought it would take about four months, but they can take more time to draw a couple of square inches in the deep background than in the foreground. the foreground, your hand can move freely but in the background these tiny figures, i use a magnifying glass to get that sort of stuff right. and it's difficult to keep your hands steady for small figures spent so was it in an ink? >> yes. glorious pen and ink. i don't know how to use color. i say with some shame. i've always worked with black and white. >> i guess my question pertains to that as well. any kind of practice sketches or anything like that? >> i have about a page and a half of practice sketches. i don't know how to draw horses that well so i sort of drew some horses just to try to get a feel for it. and i had books on horse anatomy
to understand some of that. but again, you know, i'm often practicing right on the very bored i'm going to be inking on. so for better or for worse. you mentioned the minors, digging under the german positions and planting mines. and i was wondering, i know that also occurred in the civil war, for example, in aegis berg, the battle of the crater. and in that instance, it's my understanding it was a disastrous consequence because the advancing troops sort of fell into the crater and then were picked off pretty uniformly. what was results of this mining expedition here? >> it killed a lot of germans. the british i did was they would take the lip of the crater and then it was a battle for the
crater. it became a battle for the crater basically. you know, the germans also they knew something was up. they were digging counter mines, to come and there are instances where the german mine in the british mine would, one would run into the other and they would be furious fights in the dark, or any sort of ill lit tunnel. so you could imagine what that would be like. >> i've been reading a whole lot of, there's been a whole lot of graphic novels that have come out recently that have -- whether the john lewis book about the civil rights movement, the book about margaret sanger, and your previous work and i was curious, what do you think that graphic novels bring to the portrayal of the storm events that perhaps other mediums don't?
>> well, i can probably talk about some of the advantages but i never want to disparage other media. because i think every medium has its strengths. for me, what i think, what i like about portraying the past with your pen, especially if you're putting a side-by-side with the present because a lot of my books all talk about the past and also show the present. to me there's a real organic relationship between the past and the present. and so much of what goes on today is a result of the past. so the less distance the reader has to travel to get to the past, the better. if you have a drawing of the present, and you draw with the same in something in the past, the reader has an easy time of making that transition. when you see a documentary film when they're trying to portray the past, they will often use actors to re-create something which always seems weird to me.
i mean, when some documentary about the third crusade and you see like three people out in the desert, wait a minute, third crusade is thousands. you can always draw thousands of people. the great thing about drawing is you hire every extra. it's just a matter of how many you want to draw basically. so that's sort of its advantage. and with photographs, i mean obviously the our great photographs of the past but often the technology of the photograph makes it very clear there something in the past. so you have a modern photograph of a place, and then a photograph 100 years ago of the same place. but the technology of the one photo looks so different from the new one that it just feels like a completely different era in a way that doesn't allow it to feel organic. and that's the thing i want to capture this sort of inorganic connection to the past.
>> so, i have two questions. the first concerns the kind of spacey althea created. because when i first saw it i thought this is sort of a synchronic snapshot we're going from the british lines are from the people through the soldiers through the event and then you go to the german line. but that's not necessarily the case, or is it? inasmuch as the end with a great at the end but those are not necessarily chairman gray, are they? >> actually, it never makes it to the german lines. what it does is it goes, it takes you to the british lines and then into no man's land and then back to the british line. and then back into behind the british lines. i could have shown the german line. in fact, that some parts of the front, the british soldiers actually made into the german trenches.
and after four and a half months, they penetrated as far as 12 kilometers, which is nothing really for the kind of losses. what i didn't want in the illustration is the artistic angle, i didn't want them to reach the german lines because i wanted to accentuate the fact that killing was done from a distance in world war i. most people are getting cut down by machine gun fire which had quite a range, or artillery. i think seven out of every 10 soldiers killed in world war i was killed by artillery. people waited in the trenches to die. so that's what i wanted to accentuate. >> so, you know, the follow on question would be, you chose the bridge perspective and so that comes out of your loss drug -- >> that comes up from most of my reading is about the british. i di read something about the french, something about the germans it but in the end it's
the british that swirled in my head. >> you said the british nation but, of course, this is something which is refracted through an experience in northern ireland, refracted through an express in scotland, and it's a question as to whether there is a british nation. and, of course, the relationship of australia to britain is a very flawed one. so my question is, how do you contextualize this within the broader range of the types of works you produce in the past, which have a very strong moral dimension to it? you are sort of exposing an outrage of a certain geopolitical kind. you are exposing expectation that you are exposing cruelty and things like that. so how do you situate this within that? >> well, that's a good question. most of my work has been journalistic, and most of it is
about -- it's often a very specific individuals i've met and how they deal with what history or politics has dealt them. whether it's a palestinian refugee or someone in the bosnian town, or someone in india. i tried to bring out the person that i guess after about 20 years of doing that sort of thing, there are questions that begin to come to my head they can't really be answered like journalism in a way. i mean, journalism can sort of tell you about one people and another people and how they are contending over a land, or this is a result of that. but in the end of the question i began to ask myself was about the species as a whole, why we continue doing the same things. i realized this when i began to think i don't really want to go to another refugee camp. what am i going to find a new? of course there's a particular
situation and the particular problem, but on the other hand, i have questions now about the species. and so this was a way of standing back, almost in a distant way and look at humanity as a whole. and it gave me the opportunity. the luxury of being, of drawing is you get to think about what you're doing. when i'm trying those soldiers going enthusiastically to the front, i'm really thinking about how people -- it's not just the leaders, not just the generals. populists get behind certain things. we are all responsible on some level. that's what i'm thinking about and that begin to wonder about human nature. and so it's not that i have answers to it, but this is sort of gives me a chance to think about it somewhat. >> then my question is the
complete opposite side of the spectrum and i was wondering if it any urge to fill the back of the paper as well? >> to fill what? >> the back of the paper. >> originally, the idea was we would reprint the exact illustration in my annotation because there are annotations in a booklet, would be on the opposite side. but there was a cost issue with that, and ultimate i kind of wanted to get the cost down somewhat so we decided to put the annotations in the booklet. is there anyone else likes okay -- is there anyone else? okay. >> i have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head after watching this, and it's really good. one thing that comes to me is how well the you portrayed the anonymity of the british soldier, and how it was part of the industrial age that they were living in that so many of
them were thrust into this and expected to just go out and die for england. and one way that are able to keep recruiting so many was because of censorship back home, and of hiding the horrors that were actually happening at the time to connect think you portrayed that factorization of the soldiers and how they just went to their deaths, not willingly but with sort of a sense of this is what you do for your country. until that started to change and the real news started getting back to england about what it was really like. i've been to the battlefield several times, and they are just still to this day just heart wrenching. and they are not massive -- the cemeteries are not necessarily that big. they are not like the cemeteries
of world war ii, to the american soldiers. -- agreement in a small cemeteries because people were literally buried like to said right near the casualty clearing stations what have you. i have a relative the died on september 25th going over the top. they were attacking where the german trenches were and if you go with this just the most poignant thing even today you certainly feel the ghosts and this more than any other changed the english society in ways that had never happened before and the repercussions are still being felt today and we are still battling in laces >> decisions that were made been. so i find your pen and ink
drawings just a perfect accompaniment to the horror that was there. and to the anonymity and to the massive of soldiers who were killed. and i also have to account whoever mentioned birdsong. just an athlete fantastic book, a good introduction to the war. and i would also recommend anything by pat barker about world war i, the regeneration trilogy. so thank you very much, most impressivimpressiv e. >> thank you. thanks for saying that. the british did print cache of the roles in the newspapers, which must have astounded people. you can imagine the meeting to casualty role. also the british produced a film called the battle of th battle e which is not an hour-long. but i think you can watch it online. some ways i think it was meant to explain what had happened. and i think the british got into this mode of thinking of their
losses as, this sort of solemn way. it wasn't about victory. it was about all that they had lost. and i think after the war, the interesting thing about world war i, i think on all sides if people left the front. there must've been a big question mark hovering over peoples heads because whatever you can say about why the war started, and that topic, we still talk about well, why did the war started? sometimes it doesn't even seem clear. whatever the reasons for the war starting, the way it was fought and what was suffered just didn't seem worth it at all. you think of that, how people react to anything after world war ii, whatever happened in world war ii that's questionable from the allied side, by the end of it when the camps were being liberated, a lot of people's minds is very clear why world war ii was fought. there wasn't a question mark people have.
people didn't feel let down by their political leaders wondering what they'd just gone through, wondering why they lost a limb. so it's a very different -- world war i, it represents utility i think to this day. and the first day on the somme sort of epitomizes the futility on top of that futility. >> i am very impressed with your point of view, which was elevated, and how conscious, i guess you might have thought about being down on the ground with people. but instead you hover just over their heads. and that's a very good way to encompass a larger area. and do you want to talk about that at all? >> i had to think about how i was going to show a large area, and i knew right away that i couldn't show it from the ground level. and i realized i had to put up is just a matter -- it would
take time finding the right angle that allowed you to see a lot of information in the foreground but then neither about, we could go all the way over to the right and things -- see things going on in the back. i wanted her to be a sense of space and distance. >> i was intrigued by one of the first things you said about apparently he was initially vilified and then rehabilitated. could you say a bit more about the? >> right. well, some historians contend that yes, the first day on the somme, the somme was a questionable battle. but what they will point to, and there's some truth to this is that, what he did, he'd want to break the button was clicked was going to happen he talked about attrition. suddenly it became a war of attrition. you believe the enemy more than you are being bled. and in that should level there some truth to the fact that the
germans almost lost as many as the allies did at the battle of the somme. at that period every time they lost a bit of trench they would immediately counterattack in the same kind of straight ahead, over the top fashion. so they lost a lot of people, too. hage is given credit for winning the last battle of the war. in 1918. but what i wonder about the event learned a lesson of the transport -- somme. as he understood the battle of the somme why the base of repeat of the next year in 1917? which was another enormous battle, it's kind of, someone described i think just as the money version of the somme. right the way the rain start and the bows went on for months and with enormous loss of life. so it doesn't seem like he learned from the battle of the
somme by the next year, and in 1918, the germans have sort of figured out a way to break the stalemate of trench warfare. the british were using tanks but not effectively. germans use the concept of small groups of infantry, the storm troopers that locally would make their own decisions. there was a lot of delegation to very small units. it was extreme successful, and the last year of the war they broke through the british lines and came i think 40 miles from paris. and it was only sort of sheer exhaustion that stopped the german offensive. and that's when haig had sort of at that moment his war of movement, which he managed to win. but the germans were exhausted. now the americans are there. so there were some things going on that didn't have to do with his genius. anyone else? or are you fed up with me? okay, one question over there.
do you want to hit the mic? [inaudible] >> i'm curious. talked to creators who like a shorter project. talking about, working on boxers in saints a little collaborating to kind of cleanse the palate in between. i was curious about mesopotamia, if you tell us about that and what it's like working on this, you know, this eight months compared with that? >> eight months is like a flash in the pen because most of my books are five years or even a seven-year project. so this went quickly. i am working on a long-term project about mesopotamia as again, those question marks over over my head coming for my journalism basically. and i think about -- i began to think about obedience to
authority. then i began to think about authority in general and how did social hierarchy start and how did little to hierarchy start? and that's okay, well, let's go back to the ancients to sort of figure that out. what i've been doing is interviewing archaeologist because i'm never going to become an expert that maybe i will read enough to be able to ask relatively intelligent questions of the. that's what i've been doing with that. that will probably take some time. as far as cleansing the palate goes, i'm working on a satire that's short, and very different from anything i've done in decades. and hopefully it will be sort of funny, but very dark, and i won't say much more about it. [inaudible] >> the last few american administrations basically. [laughter] [applause] to me, they all blended together. spent this isn't a purple other
graphic novel but more a question about what you learned about the soldiers. at a certain point i think it's the french army, there's a rebellion at the front line. was the history of that and how did they put it down? >> well, you referring to i think the offensive. i think he was in the spring of 1917. the sort of hotshot young french general. he launched this attack and french soldiers were cut down in droves. and many units of the french army basically, they said we're not going into the trenches, or if they did go into the trenches they would -- is to be declared the were being led to the slaughter. the way the french army put it down by executing a certain amount of men in the unit i think some at random. interestingly, the british executed about 320 or 340 people
in the german army only executed about 45% during the war. we usually think of the germans rushed usually hard-core, ideally, that's how the mutiny was put down. you could say it was a major offensive action the french were not really in it. they fight defensively, but you can't really think of a major -- i can't think of a very major french action after the mutiny. of course, the russian troops melted away by the time of the bolshevik revolution. and australia to its credit the voter turn down prescription. they turn down conscription. >> i was wondering, speaking of australia, how you self identify. everything says you were born in malta but he grew up in australia and i live in the united states, right? do you identify as -- >> a man of the world.