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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How could Britain lose?

Arnold Bennett's war journal, Thursday August 17th 1916– Yesterday I cycled to Frinton to see the shooting of the R.F.A. The target was the Frinton lifeboat, about 300 yards out. The guns were at Coldharbour, north of Frinton. Range of about 2500 yards. L. seems to know nothing about artillery, and he was made Observation Officer so as to save him from having to shoot. He could not observe. He had no notion of observing, beyond marking a plus or a minus. Half the shooting being over, a policeman was clearing people off the beach because of the danger. Last night at dinner I had the account of the shooting itself from one who had to do some of it. He said the Observation officer was supposed always to be a fist-class gunner, as everything depended on him, but that an Observation Officer was not really necessary in this case. The generals were kidded accordingly. There were three generals. One of them knew little or nothing about gunnery. He made a great noise, and wanted a great noise made – explosions, and to see shells dropping in the sea. He told the gunners to fire quickly, and to remember this was not manoeuvres but war (which happily it was not). He constantly deranged Gen. X.Y., but Gen. X.Y., being a thorough expert, and not to be ruffled, went ahead and gave quiet orders to the gunners, ignoring Gen Z.’s notions Z. wanted rapid firing. X.Y. said, ‘What is the your firing the next shot until you know exactly what was wrong with the last and why?’ X.Y. was evidently the bright spot in the proceedings.

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