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Is the warning assigned to Ponsonby’s work nonetheless legitimate?

The First World Conflict was aptly named because it was a conflict that integrated many “firsts”. It was the primary conflict that noticed the usage of machine weapons, airplanes, tanks, wi-fi communication, submarines and the large-scale implementation of presidency pushed (and in some instances funded) propaganda with data massaged and weaponized.

Throughout the lead as much as and early components of WWI, quite a bit Europe anticipated that the battle to be rapidly settled (the conflict could be “over by Christmas” was a generally heard remark). However, as everyone knows, this isn’t what occurred. In truth, in the course of the 1st 12 months of the conflict, all sides rapidly realized that the brand new weapons of conflict created unbelievable ranges of loss of life and destruction and that started to affect morale and had individuals pondering “Why are we preventing?”.

In a single effort to handle flagging morale and the “why”, Britain appointed the Committee of Alleged German Outrages to analyze the German atrocities/conflict crimes. On this report, the British investigation detailed the therapy of non-combatants: the killing of civilians, the therapy of girls and kids, the usage of civilians as screens, and the looting and destruction of property particularly in Belgium. Along with these examples, there was additionally a litany of offenses in opposition to combatants: the killing of the wounded and prisoners, firing upon hospitals in addition to upon locations and personnel protected by the Crimson Cross or the white flag of give up. All of this was collected, detailed and revealed within the Committee’s report (*Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages* or also called the *Bryce Report*). Among the many lurid particulars had been:

* “(T)he corpse of a civilian was seen on his doorstep with a bayonet wound in his abdomen, and by his facet the lifeless physique of a boy of 5 – 6 along with his fingers almost severed”;
* “(a) witness offers a narrative, very circumstantial in its particulars, of how girls had been publicly raped within the market-place of the town, 5 younger German officers aiding”;
* “Aerschot women and men had been intentionally shot when popping out of burning homes”.^(1)

One of many points with this report was that the “proof” given was, at finest, circumstantial or second, third, fourth hand rumour (in different phrases: “my brother’s co-worker’s cousin’ roommate instructed me…”) and if checked out with a essential thoughts, these claims would have been clearly suspect.

Regardless of the objectively questionable proof, the affect of this official British publication was speedy and worldwide. By the top of 1915, the Bryce Report had been translated into each European language and motivated not solely the Allies but in addition impartial international locations just like the USA.

The factor about historical past is that we are able to take a look at previous occasions and go “You should be kidding me!” and the *Bryce Report* isn’t any totally different. Inside a decade conflict’s finish, actions detailed in *Bryce* throughout wartime had been appeared on with a essential eye. Among the many investigators was Arthur Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede. Ponsonby rapidly recognized no much less that 20 particular falsehoods from the *Bryce Report* that tried to justify and bolster British participation in WWI. These had been examined and analyzed in nice element in his 1928 e-book *Falsehood in Conflict-time, Containing an Assortment of Lies Circulated All through the Nations Throughout the Nice Conflict*. In it, Ponsonby detailed the fallaciousness of

* The tattooing faces of British prisoners.
* Corpse factories had been the Germans rendered down human our bodies for fats.
* The so-called “Crucified Canadian”.^(1)

The latter, regardless of being contradicted contemporaneously by sworn testimony of the Below-Secretary of State of Conflict that there was no proof of crucifixion, continued to reverberate via the Allies throughout the remainder of the conflict and was recycled for utilization as late as 1917 within the Philippines which was half a world away.^(2) Ponsonby’s work, regardless of the bias he dropped at the desk (he was very a lot against Britain’s entry into WWI), actually drove house his thought that (i)f the reality had been instructed from the outset, there could be no cause and no will for conflict.^(4) Even those that opposed Ponsonby acknowledged that his work was a warning in opposition to robotically assigning credibility as a result of supply of the message. Is that warning, regardless of being nearly 100 years outdated, legitimate all through the twentieth Century?



^(1) James Bryce, *Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages* (Nice Britain: H.M. Stationary Workplace, 1915), 17 and 30, [](

^(2) Arthur Ponsonby, *Falsehood In Conflict Time: Containing An Assortment Of Lies Circulated All through The Nations Throughout The Nice Conflict* (Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2010), 91-93; 99-101; 102-113.

^(3) F.C. Amorsolo, “Crucified Soldier.” Dwelling, January 1, 1970. []( resource/cph.3g10652/).

^(4) Ponsonby, 27.



Bryant, Mark. *World* *Conflict I in Cartoons*, London: Grub Avenue, 2006.

Bryce, James. *Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages* Nice Britain: H.M. Stationary Workplace, 1915) [](

Ponsonby, Arthur. *Falsehood In Conflict Time: Containing An Assortment Of Lies* *Circulated All through The Nations Throughout The Nice Conflict*. Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2010.

Comments ( 13 )

  1. >It was the first war that saw the use of machine guns, airplanes, tanks, wireless communication, submarines and the large-scale implementation of government driven (and in some cases funded) propaganda with information massaged and weaponized.

    None of these were firsts, except the tank.

    >During the lead up to and early parts of WWI, a lot Europe expected that the conflict to be quickly settled

    This was a message largely promulgated by those keen for war, who hoped for a quick result. A great many people, including those in Austria-Hungary and Germany, who, combined, started the war, were worried it would destroy either their country, the European balance of power, or both.

    [The Rape of Belgium]( was very real, and while there were exaggerations, sadly there is a long litany of war crimes committed by the Germans that requires no embellishment in order to horrify.

    >The following is a list of sites with over 100 civilians executed. There were approximately 130 sites where more than 10 civilians were executed across all armies invading Belgium and France in 1914, with these happening in both countries.

    >• Dinant: 674 Civilians executed.

    >• Tamines: 383 Civilians executed.

    >• Andenne/Seilles: 262 Civilians executed.

    >• Louvain: 248 Civilians executed.

    >• Ethe: 218 Civilians executed.

    >• Aarschot: 156 Civilians executed.

    >• Aarlon: 133 Civilians executed.

    >• Soumange: 118 Civilians executed.

    >• Melen: 108 civilians executed.

    The list goes on.

    >and motivated not only the Allies but also neutral countries like the USA.

    Citation very much needed.

    >Is that warning, despite being almost 100 years old, valid throughout the 20th Century?

    A very confused post from a new account. Especially considering, if you tell the truth about the causes of the war, that is, extreme warmongering on the part of the Austro-Hungarians:

    >While Tisza was able to veto an immediate strike on Serbia, this was a hollow victory, for the Habsburg army had granted so many soldiers harvest leave that summer that such an attack was anyway an impossibility. He suggested an ultimatum be sent instead, and conceded that the demands ‘should be hard’. Berchtold, however, in summing up the meeting, put his own belligerent spin on what had been agreed. While acknowledging ‘the differences of opinion’, he insisted that ‘still an agreement had been arrived at, since the propositions of the Hungarian Premier would in all probability lead to a war with Serbia, the necessity of which he and all the other members of the Council had understood and admitted’.12 The Habsburg Foreign Minister could be certain that war would result, for the task of drawing up the ultimatum lay with his ministry, even if the Council would afterwards check it. Berchtold was quite open about his intention to phrase the ultimatum so as to incite a war: he told the German ambassador frankly on 10 July that he was ‘considering what demands could be put that would be wholly impossible for the Serbs to accept’. His instructions to the Empire’s ambassador to Serbia, Baron von Giesl, who was in Vienna on the day of the Council and came to him after it ended, had been even blunter: ‘however the Serbs react – you must break off relations and leave. It must come to war.’

    And pure optimism from the Germans:

    >Bethmann was prepared to accept a continental conflict against Russia and France. Moltke was confident that the army could win such a struggle, and if the two powers did intervene on Serbia’s behalf, German leaders considered that it would merely prove that they had always intended to attack.

    Both quotes from Ring of Steel, by Watson.

    Some propaganda is true. Some of it is not. That is all.

  2. World War One was called The Great War, the World
    War and the War to End All Wars. In 1939 it started being termed the First World War.

  3. What’s the significance behind Rockstar naming the upscale clothing boutique in GTA 4 ponsonbys?

  4. >Even those who opposed Ponsonby recognized that his work was a warning against automatically assigning credibility due to the source of the message. Is that warning, despite being almost 100 years old, valid throughout the 20th Century?

    I think it’s a valid warning no matter what the time period, and whether a country is at war or at peace.

  5. Allied WWI propaganda played a role in Allied disbelief about Nazi atrocities in concentration camps and death camps. Many of the American and Allied officers had served as officers in WWI and had been lied to about Imperial atrocities.

  6. I once read, in Readers’ Digest Condensed Book form, a book which did this describing the North Vietnamese, written in 1958. Of course, this eventually led to a war which the United States **lost**.

  7. Leaving aside the strong evidence of atrocities *genuinely* carried out by the German invaders in Belgium (and elsewhere) that others have provided, your own ~~ponsonby~~ polemic actually provides rather more positive information about the Bryce report.

    For a start, it included the warning “alleged” in its title – this was a report being honest that the contents were on *alleged* atrocities. If some people ignored that, then that is on them, not on Bryce and his committee.

    In detailing the alleged atrocities, your own quote shows an example of it openly acknowledging one as “very circumstantial in its details”.

    Further, the report was based not simply on any wild gathered allegations, but on statements collected by barristers from 1200 witnesses. (Would you so readily dismiss allegations made by those fleeing a modern conflict zone?)

    And Bryce himself was most definitely no gung-ho war-supporter, and reportedly expected beforehand to be able to exonerate the Germans from the allegations. Which is probably exactly why he was chosen, *because* he had that credibility.

    The idea that the committee went on a trawl to cobble together any bits of dubious accusations to produce a semi-fictional report is little more reliable than the claim that WWI saw the first use of machine guns.

    Edit to add: Finally, of course, absence of evidence is not reliable evidence of absence – all the moreso when it concerns events in a war zone at a time long before that war ended. In such circumstances, hard evidence, beyond the eyewitness testimony, would be expected to be very much the exception rather than the rule.

  8. Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter and courier to the allies in Britain and Washington was met with incredulity partly because of the hyperbole concerning the German army in the first world war. There was also just plain indifference from the allies according to Karski. This is documented by Claude Lanzmans exhaustive documentary Shoah. And here is a link to his Wikipedia page but, it is worth the effort to see his actual interview in Shoah.

  9. New to this history subreddit wow it’s a competitive battle in the comments. My references/sources versus yours etc.

  10. I was going to post something in response, but u/Doctor_Impossible_ has done a fine job in addressing the major issues at hand.

    The one thing I would add, however, is that if you revised your composition I think you would have answered this question yourself. To be more specific:

    * To what extent is Ponsonby’s work accurate/valid?
    * To what extent ought a governmental or organizational authority’s information during conflict be accepted as de facto truth?

    To align with u/Doctor_Impossible_ — some governments and organizations distribute strategic propaganda at specific times to specific groups, and at other times they do not.

    However, I do think this is the beginning of something more developed and overall cool!

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