Second World War-Game

Douglas Johnson

  • 1943: The victory that never was by John Grigg
    Eyre Methuen, 255 pp, £7.95, April 1980, ISBN 0 413 39610 X

It is the historians of military events and strategical planning who have all the fun. Whereas those who study the political or economic past are confined to a discussion and analysis of the facts, and are rapped on the knuckles if they speculate about what might have happened if the first Reform Bill had been defeated, or if they dream about all the possible governmental reactions to the economic crisis which started in 1929, the historians of war are positively encouraged to indulge in a counter-historical world of fantasy. If Napoleon had destroyed the Prussians at Longwy, as he should have done; if he had more carefully reconnoitred the ground at Waterloo, as he should have done; if he had been more explicit in his instructions to Grouchy, as he easily might … Such series of reflections are endless. Nothing is more delightful than to point to the shortcomings of some powerful figure from the past, and in no area is the historian on such firm ground as in battles and the planning of battles, because it is here that the mistakes are the most difficult to conceal and the missed opportunities most obvious.

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