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Identity And Morale Notes

History Notes > Further Subject: Comparative History of WWI (1914-19) Notes

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Identity & Morale Past Paper Questions: Did the morale of the armed forces make any difference in the outcome of the war?
In what ways did identity motivate men to fight?
What determined the morale of the armed forces?General Considerations: What was morale, how did it shape perceptions of combatants, and did it make a difference?
Divergences in morale - between soldiers and generals, and also perhaps between the civil and military authorities.Morale as something separate from the influences that produced or sustained it?

'Power is measured by the amount of resistance which it overcomes, and, in the last resort, the moral power of men was greater than any purely material force, which could be brought to bear on it.' (Manning, Her Privates We, 1930) ''Morale is the thinking of the army... About its commanders and goldbricks. About food and shelter. Duty and leisure. Payday and sex. Militarism and civilianism. Freedom and slavery. Work and want. Weapons and comradeship. Bunk fatigue and drill. Discipline and disorder. Life and death. God and the devil.'' o This concept of morale, as put forward by S.L.A Marshall on the basis of his interviews of American soldiers during World War Two, highlights the complexities, depth and divergence of the different aspects that could constitute the morale of an army.
- morale just as central as machinery because of the concept of modern warfare

o o


Traditional conceptions of morale alone were no longer sufficient: development of two 'schools' in modern military scholarship - the dual theories of 'primary groups' and 'legitimate demands'. The former denoted the immediate needs and experiences of the soldier, the other the concepts in whose name and honour the soldier fought for. Not mutually exclusive - they formed a symbiotic whole, changing in accordance with the socio-political framework of the state, the theatre of war, the objectives of campaigns and the passing of time. Within each nation-state then, morale was determined by adequate provision for both the biological and mental needs of the soldier, themselves shaped by a set of culturally-

specific ideas and interests, values and attitudes, which the military - try as it might - could not ignore.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Primary groupsPrimary group: stresses that the main influence on a soldier's willingness to fight is ' the capacity of his immediate social group to supply his material and psychological needs, and so engage his loyalties, irrespective of commitment to any larger cause.' (Fuller) o Primal needs: overarching theoretical and ideological considerations are rarely at the forefront of an active soldier's mind. (Manning, Barbusse - described as packs) o As a temporary wartime officer in Britain would say in 1935, 'An army, like any other human society, is an organism whose well-being depends on the interplay of human relationships.' This was true of all belligerents, though the nature of the basic army unit, and the correlative effect this had on morale, varied between nations.
? Equally, the imperial Chief of Staff, Sir William Robertson in November 1916 said 'the whole art of making war may be summed up in three words - courage, action and determination' , which reflects thinking within the British military elite of the primacy of human agency in the conduct of war.Shapes Australian identity. o For Aussies, 'mateship' took on an unparalleled depth of intensity. The intense bonds of camaraderie that arose in Gallipoli, the western front and elsewhere were accentuated further by the distance in time and space from home. o One contemporary: 'we Diggers were a race apart. Long separation from Australia had seemed to cut us completely away from the land of our birth. The longer a man served, the fewer letters he got, the more he was forgotten. Our only home was our unit.' o Britain - deference as the principle bond of Edwardian society, a pragmatic response of working-class men to socioeconomic realities, education and religion.
? Noblesse oblige: letters home from middle-and-upper class officers constantly requested chocolates, cigarettes and other comforts for the men - one Coldstream Guard even asking for 200 large mince pies
? Outlet for grievances: David Englander - grousing constituted a 'fluid form of social interaction by which officers and other ranks defined and re-defined their relationship within the rigid and otherwise unworkable framework created by King's Regulations'
? As we can see, then, a measure of consent characterised proceedings in the British army; perhaps helping to

oexplain why it was almost unique in experiencing no concerted acts of resistance or mutiny throughout the war. (Etaples 1917 - but scale very different) Etaples, J.H. Dible, a medical officer stationed there, 'blamed the disturbances on those officers who treated citizen-soldiers in an inflexible manner more appropriate to long-service Regulars.' See also: Pals Batallions.

The way in which morale was, or was not sustained, was very much culturally-specific.
? The Germans took longer to break down the distinction between the influxes of NCOs and the rank and file.
? In the British pre-war army there was never a social distinction between the two, both coming as they did from the lower echelons of society.
? By embracing at once both conscription and the notion of an aristocratic officer corps, 'Germany drew in men of middle-class backgrounds but then cut off many of their paths to of professional and educated backgrounds...still occupied non-commissioned rank in the German army.'

Difficulties of unit cohesion: Austro-Hungarian army, nationalistic and ethnic divisions severely undermined any hope at building a solid sense of comradeship amongst soldiers. o One captured Austro-Hungarian officer wrote in 1916 that 'It was rare to encounter [an Austro-German] who had any affection for his Slavic, Italian or Rumanian comrades. Germans, from the lowliest corporal all the way up to the battalion commandant, attributed every error or oversight [on the part of the non-German] to "ill will" or, worse, "treachery." o Indifference and even outright hostility defined the responses of troops to the Habsburg cause, providing ample evidence for the depiction of Austria-Hungary as a 'prisoner of nations', o A-H. The Italian offensive in October 1918 led to the capture of 500,000 men, while inflicting only 30,000 casualties, validating the claims of prisoners such as the Czechs who detested their superiors. Thus patriotism did act to at least some extent as a determiner on morale; where it existed it inspired men's commitment and acted as a check on declining morale. o Inherent difficulties in sustaining morale when the overarching ideological justifications for the state were by no means universally supported by its subjects. o Similarly in G: semi-autonomous identities of constituent states backfired when anti-Prussianism began to grip the army in regions like Bavaria.
? Stumpf: How strong was German nationalism? 'All my qualms of conscience evaporated when the Kaiser abdicated and my Bavaria proclaimed itself a Republic.' (427)

Home front - universal concern for loved ones.

????Improved communications and logistics meant that, for most, a steady two-way stream of information between warzones and the home front could be established. 12.5 million letters a week reached France and Britain. Comfort funds, furthermore, resulted in 800,000 parcels reaching the British Expeditionary Force each week by April 1917. Prolonged isolation could prove devastating. Away at the front, problems at home - delayed letters, a lack of leave, food shortages or domestic disputes - could become grossly accentuated in magnitude. Dissatisfaction with leave could represent a whole variety of grievances both with the military and the home fronts. Soldier moves effortlessly between home and the war, highlighting the close links between the two and their mutual role in shaping morality at the front. Graves summarised the impact the news from home could have on the soldier with devastating clarity: 'It might either drive him to suicide...or else seem trivial by contrast with present experiences, and be laughed off. But, unless due for leave, he could do nothing whatever to remedy matters.' During his time in the trenches, Graves experienced the aftermath of a suicide firsthand. When inquiring how it came about, he was told that the soldier in question had gone through the last push over the top, 'and that sent him a bit queer; on top of that he got bad news from Limerick about his girl and another chap.' Aware of the consequences the realities of war could have for enthusiasm, Graves followed the official line of suppression: 'Callaghan, don't forget to write to his next-of-kin. Usual sort of letter; tell them he died a soldier's death, anything you like.' Censorship was a practice carried out almost universally, indicative of a common desire to filter the more frank accounts of the hardships of modern warfare for the sake of morale.

Still needed something beyond the immediacy of individual units though - did troops fight for a better future, for abstract ideals, for a wider cause? This is what 'legitimate demand' entails.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Legitimate Demand Strachan - such explanations have fallen out of fashion. Not enough to survive the ordeal. But fighting for a better world, for honour - still meant something.'Legitimate demand' invokes the principles soldiers actually fought for. o Impulse to fight 'hinges more upon an underlying commitment, however little articulated, to the legitimacy of the ends in view, and to the validity of the military hierarchy's methods in pursuit of those ends.' (Fuller)


Commitments ranged from the direction of the war and the legitimacy of its aims, support for the ideological tents of the state.The political systems soldiers were called upon to defend on the eve of war were as diverse as the peoples they presided over. o But every soldier, from the Russian muhzik to the British Tommy needed something to believe in. A comparison of relations between state and combatants clearly demonstrates not only the culturallyspecific nature of morale, but the varying effectiveness of nations in fostering it.The resilience and inclusive nature of the western political and cultural institutions was, then, conducive to preserving morale in the First World War along the lines of 'legitimate demand'. o Those nations whose structure was more narrow, militaristic and exclusive in character were not met with such overt success. British institutions adapt gradually, Germany desires only to affirm Sonderweg - the predestined path of Prussia, inextricably linked with the state's military origins. o To reform was to risk destruction, and attempts to introduce schemes of 'patriotic instruction' - lectures and classes for troops outlining German war aims and the reasons why the war continued to be fought - failed to resonate with their targets, totally misunderstanding the mood of the German army. o Germans fight not so much out of patriotic zeal, but because the corollary of the German success in creating a nation in arms was that the army's grievances became those of the nation, and vice versa. o No distinctions existed between civilians and soldiers, penetrating the very fabric of society in a manner not so apparent in the other nation-states. Evelyn Blucher, countess in Germany (English): 'The Germans are such a patient and long-suffering race that they do not as yet realise their own power, and the Prussian precept, "Es ist ver boten," has been so drummed into them that they accept all regulations and orders without any further demur. o Unlike the French citizen-soldiers, the Germans were expected to behave in accordance with Clausewitz's understanding of soldiers as deferential cogs in an unreflective, institutional war machine. o Whilst this may have provided the motivation for continued fighting, the influence such cultural frameworks had on boosting morale are less conspicuous.
? Always true?
? Consider Dix. Entered the war in the Nietzschean spirit, a dynamic exercise, the closest one could get to spiritual perfection.
? Junger - The war 'has hammered, cast and tempered us into what we are. And always, as the whirling wheel of life turns in us, the war will be the axis around which it turns.'
? Germans may not necessarily define their experience of war through their defeat, but their martial prowess.

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