As war rages in Afghanistan there has never been a better time to reflect on past conflicts. With this in mind, it is now time to tell the true story of how the First World War was won in exacting detail, glorious technicolour and Dolby Stereo (where available).
How The War Was Won
Not long after trench warfare began did it become apparent to the British High Command that they were going to lose the First World War and would thus be disqualified from the Second World War. The situation was desperate by the end of week one. British troops working in shifts around the clock had dug only three hundred yards of trenches while the same number of Germans had dug almost a mile.
'At this rate,'
advised General Henley to Field Marshall Hague,
'by the time our trenches have reached across Flanders, the Germans will have armoured positions all the way to Majorca and their towels will be on the deck chairs.'
RAF pilots flying over No-Man's Land brought back reports that German trenches were not only longer than their British counterparts, but also wider and deeper. Hague was furious. He ordered the number of men working on trench digging to be doubled. He then ordered a treble whiskey and the powder blue tennis shoes from page seventy-four of the Army Footwear Catalogue.
'We cannot beat these Germans,'
read an encoded report from a British spy in Berlin.
'They are digging machines. Even the Kaiser digs every day to encourage his army.'
Hague read this and immediately sent a telegram to the King; he must dig to inspire the troops. But the King had weak knees and could not dig anything more inspirational than a window box.
The encoded report continued:
'If this were not bad enough, German spade technology is twenty years ahead of us. Although I enclose drawings of the latest spades the Hun are using I doubt the war will last long enough for out scientists to replicate them. Also find enclosed some pictures of me on the beach with a girl from Frankfurt and a requisition form for clean underwear. In future I believe deep cover agents should be trained in doing basic laundry duties. And, if time allows, we should also have a course in speaking German. After two years here I am still unable to decipher the writing on the taps and must run my baths by pure guesswork.'
Hague grew morose, glum and some other root vegetables while he waited for a solution to come to him.
Meanwhile on the front line a plucky young man was beginning his career as a reporter for the War Office Press Bureau. His name was Nester Winston. Winston was a diligent young man who reported exactly what he saw and heard - in fact he got three sergeants dishonourably discharged for wearing uniform on dress-down Fridays. Winston's news reports were taken from the front lines by armed carrier pigeon in sealed iron boxes to the War Office in London.
Where they were burned.
The War Office controlled what the British press could print and it would almost always convey fictitious messages of success and glory from the front. On slow days when it could think of no propaganda it would publish a crossword instead.
Young Winston was amazed at how completely both the soldiers and the public believed what they read in the newspapers. Winston, while on weekend leave in London, was wooing a girl with stories from the front. Later he wooed her with stories from the back. He told her about the censoring of the media and she found it very amusing.
'People are so gullible.'
'Now, you're sure I wont get pregnant as long as I keep jumping backwards like this?'
At that moment Winston was struck by genius. He realised how he could turn the tide of the war. He leapt from the bed and ran from the room, stopping only to put on his hat.
'What if I am pregnant?'
the young lady called after him.
'Write to me!'
he shouted back.
'Okay, goodbye Field Marshall!'
He felt somewhat badly about telling the young girl he was Field Marshall Hague, but not so badly as he had felt for telling his mother that he was the Tsar.
'Me, the mother of the sovereign lord of all Russia!'
she often told her friends with bemusement. Only Mrs. O'Leary was not impressed; her son was the Emperor of China and her daughter was Charles Dickens.
Winston ran all the way to the War Office where he was promptly arrested on a charge of running to the War Office while wearing only a hat. When he was released from prison six months later he spoke with the top War Office boffins. They were amazed by the cunning of the reporter's plan and set about implementing it immediately.
Two weeks later men on bicycles carrying large sacks were dispatched across No-Man's Land. These men, Post Office veterans each and every one, delivered an envelope to every soldier in the German army. Inside the envelopes were letters that began with the message:
'You may already have won fifty-five thousand pounds.'
Nester Winston had invented the very first prize draw.
Overnight the German digging slowed to a tenth of what it had been. Who had time to dig when they had to think about what they would spend the money on? As the stages of the draw progressed, more and more of the Germans' time was taken up with writing postal replies that they would indeed like to be entered into the next round.
After three months of slowed enemy digging, the British, with the aid of the stolen German spade plans, now had the longest trenches in Europe.
But while things were going well in Flanders the same was not true on the eastern front. Russia's resources were stretched to breaking point. Five men had to share one spade and it was ten men to a sheep. Morale was at an all time low, syphilis was at an all time high and the proletariat had had enough.
Revolution swept across the country like a large red broom. The Russian aristocracy was executed and the great bear withdrew from the war to lick its wounds.
Winston's mother went into mourning for her dead son. His protests that he was not dead failed convince her. She had read about his death in the paper, although she was still hopeful for her granddaughter Anastasia.
With Germany concentrating its forces on the western front the British were outnumbered and the war took a sinister twist. Germany, abandoning plans to dig the British into submission, began issuing its soldiers with guns. Switzerland, Spain and Iceland all sent protests to the Kaiser complaining about the noise, but he did not respond as he was having an afternoon nap.
The prize draw had bought valuable time for the embattled British, but that time was running out. Every day Britain lost a thousand soldiers, this was in addition to the two thousand a day the Germans were shooting. Across the Home Counties there was uproar. In an attempt to restore public order the King wrote a stern and uncompromising letter to his Field Marshall saying:
'Would you like to come to dinner?'
Hague said that dinner at the palace was impossible since Mrs. Hague would not let him get his dress uniform from the wardrobe.
Hague had been unable to reach the wardrobe ever since the so-called Paternity Incident. A mad woman had turned up at the house claiming the Field Marshall was the father of her child and Mrs. Hague threw him out on his ear.
Determined not to spend one more night sleeping in his car, Hague placed two full regiments on a special task force to recapture the spare room from forces loyal to the Field Marshall's wife. It was the bloodiest conflict of the war and would end inconclusively with Hague sleeping on the couch until Armistice night.
With the Field Marshall and half the army performing a holding action in the living room, it left only Winston to concoct another brilliant plan and save whatever it was they were fighting for from whatever it was they were fighting against. In earnest, Winston gathered together the greatest thinkers of the age:
From the anarchy of Russia came Greigor Greigorian a tall man who looked much like Rasputin. But at that time most Russian men looked like Rasputin, a fact that made the real Rasputin very difficult to pick out from a crowd. Greigor had plans for an armoured bicycle that he believed would turn the tide of the war back in Britain's favour. He had also been working on a musical version of War And Peace, which was already four hours long and didn't have any songs in it yet - it would become one of the most successful of Kevin Costner's films.
From America came the two great gun makers Browning and Maxim. Maxim was already an old man when the war began but by the time the war was over he was a sprightly lad only a few years old. Historians believe Maxim wanted more money for doing the final year of the war, but producers refused and he was replaced with a young Orson Wells appearing in his first major armed conflict.
Browning was a true genius. He had made his first gun at the age of thirteen, but his mother would not let him play with it until he was thirty-five. Although Browning was famous for his machine gun he made most of his money from the invention of the grenade pin. Until this development in weapons technology the grenade had been impractical in any war that lasted more than half an hour as the soldiers got cramp in their hands.
The final scientist to join the team was the great Alfred Nobel, though his contribution was limited somewhat by his death in 1896. He was the butt of many of Greigor's jokes, which he accepted with the stoic good humour of the deceased. Nobel was Greigor's best man when he married after the war, but in the interests of hygiene he was not allowed to attend the reception dinner.
These five men laboured into the night on various schemes and plots. Orson Wells suggested that they could win the war easily if they only filmed it from the right angles. Greigor suggested that the war could be won if only they had something pointy to threaten the Germans with. Browning suggested the construction of two bombs, one capable of flattening an entire city and the second capable of releasing clouds of poisonous gas. Winston suggested they use lawyers.
The team agreed they only had time for one plan and that no mercy must be shown. The next day the office of Menkin, Menkin And Schultz issued the Kaiser with a summons; Britain was suing the German army for damages and had issued a restraining order that prevented Germany coming within a hundred miles of the white cliffs of Dover. Across the front, guns were silenced as a new war was fought in Europe's courts.
However weapons development continued in both camps; the British and their American allies experimenting with larger and yet larger guns while the Germans, whose policy of wartime oxygen rationing was resulting in widespread stupidity, had numerous setbacks including the uninvention of both fire and the wheel for nearly two weeks.
Eventually the judge ruled in favour of Germany and the war was begun again with renewed vigour. The second Menkin, the British lawyer, said he was appealing. The judge said he preferred teenage boys. The German lawyer, young Billy Schmitt, stuck his tongue out and did a bandy-legged lap of honour around the court. The Kaiser said Billy could have the Iron Cross, Billy said he would prefer a jar of soothing ointment.
Undaunted, the team decided to develop Greigor's armoured bicycle with a few additions by Browning. The bicycle would have a piece of field artillery mounted between the handlebars which could be carried quickly across the battlefield while the armour afforded its crew immunity from machinegun fire. However, once the prototype was developed, it was discovered that a strong cyclist could achieve a top speed of two yards an hour due to the additional weight.
What they needed was a distraction to keep the German army busy while the new tanks, as they became known, crossed the battlefield and made their way to Germany where they would capture Berlin and force the Kaiser to abdicate.
It was then that Winston hit upon a new idea based on his previous one. He would distract the German soldiers with a book of the month club. While the Germans were in bed with a good book the tanks would slip quietly by.
He planned to send every man in the field a copy of Joseph Heller's Catch 22. Browning pointed out that Catch 22 would not actually be published until 1961, while Greigor made the observation that Joseph Heller would not even be born until 1923. Winston was not going to be swayed by these small details and he went ahead with his plan anyway.
Against probability, possibility and in a complete affront to linear time the plan worked. Within the month the war was over and the Kaiser abdicated, although he wasn't really all that upset about losing the war since he had just won fifty-five thousand pounds in a prize draw.
Early the next year Greigor, Winston and Browning were jointly awarded the Nobel Prizes for peace and literature, while Orson Wells picked up the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, which was presented to him by Tam O'Leary, Emperor of China.