I’ll keep this one brief, since I haven’t been able to give this exhibition its fair dues by actually visiting it. Having said that, the very concept strikes me as pretty disrespectful to those that took part in a conflict that is still within living memory, not to mention pretty trivialising.
Essentially it’s a 3D version of the book of the same name, one in a series of light-hearted yet visceral children’s history books. I’ve always found them annoyingly smug and terminally unfunny, not to mention less informative than a vandalised Wikipedia entry. The main problem from an historical sense is that concepts are simplified to the point of meaninglessness, and then often politicised into the bargain. If you’re posh, woe betide your treatment by Deary. Will this joint effort with a national institution set up to commemorate and interpret the First World War be different? This radio interview would suggest otherwise, since it claims that “officers hated” the Christmas truce, and threatened to shoot anyone that “tried this again”. This is nonsense – officers in the trenches reacted much as the other ranks did – some objected on principle, some embraced the idea and even initiated truces, and many others simply took advantage of the respite offered, knowing that it would likely never come again. There were no threats of shooting – even military justice, which did call for court martial in case of “fraternisation”, was largely suspended, partly to allow intelligence to be gathered from the enemy.
Much as I understand the power of a different approach to interpretation, it’s hard to resist my gut reaction that children “who don’t read books” are unlikely to take away much sense of the “dreadful conditions” of the trenches simply by squashing a virtual rat. But I could be letting my prejudice get in the of this one. I’d be interested in comments. Am I wrong to be down on this idea?
The exhibition’s on til early next year in any case. More relevant press here;