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Book Note: Ian Hay, The First Hundred Thousand

I read this book about 1-Apr-2007. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1916. This note was last modified Monday, 09-Jul-2007 07:33:13 PDT.

This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.


Well, John Hay Beith writing as Ian Hay, anyway. And the full title is The First Hundred Thousand, being the Unofficial Chronicle of a Unit of "K (1)" . And I am reading it courtesy of Project Gutenberg, and have no ISBN for this title.

This is the Major Ian Hay that Heinlein refers to in Glory Road (#3) ("surprise party department, practical joke department, fairy godmother department"). Heinlein paraphrases the quote considerably, in ways that make it work better for a modern American audience. What Hay actually said was:

So far as our researches have gone, we have been able to classify Olympus, roughly, into three departments—
  1. Round Game Department (including Dockets, Indents, and all official correspondence).
  2. Fairy Godmother Department.
  3. Practical Joke Department.

This book takes the unit up through its first major battle. The rate of loss is rather understated, and there isn't anything of the feeling that I have, looking back with 20/20 hindsight, that the "big push" was hopeless from the beginning, and part of a pattern of throwing away lives with no hope of gain. But then the modern perspective on WWI is very different from the early contemporary one.

It's quite a period piece; written by a British officer commanding Scottish troops, I believe, and at a time when they believe the war is vital. Although I suspect some of the heavily understated complaints hit a lot harder when read by their original audience.

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David Dyer-Bennet