Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 8, 2008

Generals Die in Bed (1930), by Charles Yale

Generals Die in Bed by Charles Yale.

A short, spare account of fighting on the Western Front by an American serving with Canadian troops. It’s not explicit, but the author’s inability to identify with American troops arriving belatedly in 1918 suggests resentment at their failure to support the allies earlier ( a delay I have always found incomprehensible and morally indefensiblegenerals-die-in-bed, doubly so in the case of WW2). Other than that it seems a frank account, depicting the well-traversed misery of trench warfare in this most foolish of wars. Men who had gone into the war believing that it would be a testing ground for courage and heroism discovered that in trench warfare it makes no difference how brave you are because modern munitions hurled from a distance eliminated the difference between the hero and the ordinary soldier, and this sometimes led to unconscionable behaviour.

He recounts an incident of looting in Arras, a town deserted after artillery attack by the Germans, showing how the failure to provide rations for over 24 hours triggered appalling behaviour and the complete breakdown of discipline. He also recounts an atrocity: how they were tricked into believing that the Germans had committed a war crime (sinking a hospital ship, when in fact it was a munitions supply ship) so that they would join in the slaughter of surrounding Germans no older than themselves and take no prisoners. 10 million men died in that war….


  1. what do you think the behaviour of the women that farewelled the troops was like . ?


    • Hello Michael, thanks for dropping by:)
      I’m sorry, perhaps another reader can answer this question, it’s such a long time since I read the book I can’t really remember it now.


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