Talk:Eric Dorman-Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

WWI Service[edit]

The Ernest Hemingway wiki-article mentions Eric Smith meeting the author in service during WWI. I'm surprised there isn't a word on his serivce in WWI. Was it just omitted or did he not serve? (If so, then the Hemingway article should be amended.)

I have massively expanded the section on WW1 - showing the circumstances in which Chink met Hemingway. Quevedo (talk) 13:20, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

Eric Dorman-Smith was mentioned in Hemmingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" (1936)", but I am not sure how to include that in the biography because the only reference is the book and the account given by Hemmingway. Does it matter or can that be used as a reference?DownUndr (talk) 23:09, 23 December 2007 (UTC)DownUndr


Dorman O'Gowan's later allegiance to Ireland (in the 32 county, republican sense) is well documented and interesting. A purist might object that he held no military rank in the Irish Army, or rank in the IRA, but that he changed allegiance, and that this had military implications, is undoubted. It is a strange fact that no icon for allegiance to the Republic is available on wikipedia. I suspect it reflects a very low key approach to matters military in Ireland, not unusual when you actually have to live in the battleground. There are no grounds, LeithP, for excluding his later allegiance from the info card--Muinchille1 (talk) 21:37, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

I reverted the previous edit, and reverted your recent one, on the grounds that putting Ireland down as his allegiance is tantamount to claiming the IRA represented Ireland during the 1950s, a claim that many people would have an issue with, to say the least. This is obviously more complicated than if he had held rank with a conventional military organisation such as the Irish Army. A possible compromise would be to list Irish Republican Army (1922–1969) as his later allegiance? Leithp 08:11, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
I think that is POV, and that you are crossing the fine and fuzzy line between politics and history, in a place and time where that line is even less clear than anywhere else. DOG himself would have said Ireland, and as allegiance (by its very nature) is subjective we have to go with that. Whether or not the IRA represented Ireland at that time, later or now is not actually relevant. They would have had no doubt that their allegiance was to Ireland, and they are only an organisation, which is not something to which one (and certainly not someone like DOG) would have allegiance. You are also making a clear distinction between 32 county, 26 county, the State and the country. If anyone in Ireland in 1969 was capable of making such a clear distinction in their own minds, their thoughts were in infancy. You would not doubt that those charming people in the British National Party owe their allegiance to Britain (whatever that is), however you would be horrified if I suggested that they represented Britain.--Muinchille1 (talk) 09:05, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
I genuinely don't think that listing Ireland as his allegiance is helpful to a casual reader. It implies a clarity that you yourself admit is not there. I had a look through various other biographies of IRA, Tamil Tiger and other groups engaged in armed conflict against a state to see if there is a precedent. Unfortunately, they generally don't use the same biographical template, with the "Allegiance" field, but I did see that Cathal Goulding lists his allegiance as the IRA.
Of course, had the IRA's campaign been successful at the time, there would probably not be an issue with listing the country as their allegiance, in the same way that the Free French are now seen as the legitimate French Army, a view that would have been contended by many French during the Second World War. But that might not be a helpful digression!
Moving forward, would it be worth gaining other opinions from noticeboards such as Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history, whose template it is, and Wikipedia:WikiProject Ireland, who have experience of issues around this subject? Leithp 09:47, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
I think it probably makes far more sense to the casual reader than the specialist (I suspect that we are both specialists of a sort). Perhaps the best (and least controversial) way to look at this is to consider doing a similar biography of Patrick Sarsfield. In the meantime I have reverted the edit, as a reasonable compromise between formally distinguishing different Irish allegiances, and the closest you would get to DOG's way of thinking (Or my of view of that). I am very interested by the strictly military idea that battle success confers legitimacy! We could then entertain ourselves by imagining the allegiance of a Polish officer at various different points before, during and after the Second World War, or before during and after the first partition! I agree that the matter needs more general discussion. It certainly makes Dorman O'Gowan an interesting soldier!--Muinchille1 (talk) 11:11, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
I've left a note at WP:Ireland and WP:Milhist. As for Polish allegiances, we've already opened one can of worms, lets not get involved in Eastern Europe too! Leithp 11:33, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

What about saying  United Kingdom (year a – year b)  Ireland (year c – ) —  Cargoking  talk  11:34, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Ah, but his allegiance wasn't to the Republic of Ireland, as that template links to. Leithp 11:45, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

(Answering request at WikiProject Ireland.) "Ireland" doesn't strike me as correct. Not least because the IRA did not represent Ireland (either island or state) nor does it represent Irish nationalism. Remember, while Fianna Fáil may have descended from anti-Treaty Sinn Féin. The majority of parties in the south are descended from pro-Treaty Sinn Féin and the Nationalist Party (not Sinn Féin) were the major nationalist party in the North at that time. Equating Ireland with Sinn Féin or the IRA is incorrect.

" United Kingdom and later Republic of Ireland Irish Republican Army"? --rannṗáirtí anaiṫnid (coṁrá) 12:19, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Having in addition to the article here just read the ODNB article on him ( for those with access, by Lavinia Greacen like the full-length biog already mentinoed in the references), I think this is a case where the simplisitic tick box positions the infobox enourages simply aren't adequate, probably better to leave the allegiance parameter blank, and note British Army under Branch. Reading the ODNB article it says only that he allowed his farm to be used for training, which is a rather more passive involvement than presently suggested here. For such an interesting character, the article here needs much better referencing (The ODNB article would assist with that, and further details of his army career could easily be filled out from the London Gazette viz these search results [some hits probably relate to his brother(s)]). David Underdown (talk) 15:15, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
As an IRA supporter, adviser, whatever, the allegiance to Ireland is highly inaccurate and misleading to readers and should not be used. Irish Republican Army (1922–1969) might be a considered if at all. ww2censor (talk) 15:21, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
Agree completely with David Underdown. The infobox parameters are too simplistic sometimes for messy real life. Leave it blank and note British Army under branch. We really need to have a WP:MILHIST wide debate about how simplistic the infoboxes are. Buckshot06 (talk) 18:30, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
I find myself rather depressed by the forgoing debate, as it is both very POV, and does nothing to really elucidate the real situation, and dropping the whole allegiance entry seems like (is) just a cop-out. Allegiance is a question of personal belief, and not a gentleman's club from which one may blackball people you simply don't like, or when not a member say rather disbelievingly that a person whom one admired could not possibly be a member of that club. As I have said above, the BNP, whether you like them or not, owe their allegiance to Britain (from which they may, for all I know, exclude Northern Ireland) but it would be absurd to suggest that they represent Britain. One can therefore say that the IRA owe their allegiance to a 32 County Ireland, just as Fianna Fail do, without in any way suggesting that either of them represent it. The question of the number of parties derived from pro and anti treaty elements in the current Dail is especially pointless; in Ireland people really do no longer care about the treaty at all, and the derivation of the parties is as useful a piece of information as to know that the Liberal party in Britain is derived from the Whigs. Someone like Dorman O'Gowan, growing up in a UK which included all of Ireland, would have been able to sidestep the whole question of whether he belonged to Ireland or England. Later he would have had to make choices. He made uncharacteristic ones. This makes him interesting (rather like say, Martin Mansergh). It was easy enough to get the IRA to leave the farm (they went when asked) so there was no question of DOG being coerced; his allegiance seems to have changed genuinely, and permanently. It seems to me that there is a genuine challenge here to clearly describe an allegiance which was at first simple, then ambiguous and then changed. It is also a fact that there are many military people in history who would not understand how you could have allegiance to a 26 County Ireland; Patrick Sarsfield and Michael Collins spring to mind.--Muinchille1 (talk) 17:56, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

It's not a cop-out, simply a recognition that his attitudes cannot be neatly summed up in one line. From what I've read, it's very hard to tell where his allegiances lay at the time of the Border Campaign, the ODNB article concludes:

Having been implacably against partition since 1921, and having become increasingly bitter at the supremacy of the Montgomery version of wartime events, O'Gowan allowed his estate near the border to be used for IRA training camps in the mid-fifties. Opposing loyalties, however, were compartmentalized, with his knowledge of Ultra and his personal army contacts remaining confidential. As with the intermix of Hemingway escapades and formal regimental life thirty years before, he was adept at keeping two worlds apart.

As I said before, this seems far less definite than what's currently in the article here - allowing your land to be used for training is not the same as being an "advisor". David Underdown (talk) 09:29, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

I have put in a long section about Dorman-Smith's activities in ireland and links with the IRA. I hope it satisfies the objections raised in relation to previous edits. Quevedo (talk) 13:22, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

Next steps[edit]

I have put effort into expanding this article beyond the stub I first saw and now it seems that it must be rendered more encyclopaedic. I would like some guidance here.

I have tried very hard to keep all my additions objective and purely factual and yet, if you do that, the account you give can be very slanted depending on which person you listen to. You can get the picture of a staff officer, who did a lot of training work, was promoted to major-general in 1942 and was sacked 2 months later. Having reverted to brigadier, he was again sacked. Which gives a view of an incompetent soldier which is probably not entirely fair if you look at what he actually achieved. An alternative view could be that Wavell asked him to help out O'Connor and that his assistance resulted in the great triumph of Sidi Barrani. Similarly, after the failure of Ritchie in 1942 to contain Rommel, Auchinleck sought out D-S and he was of material assistance in stopping Rommel's advance on El Alamein and beyond.

I feel that he is of interest because he was so obviously valuable when people made use of his abilities and yet was, in many ways, his own worst enemy. For example, why did Brooke write entries in his war diaries that concerned the influence of D-S over Auchinleck at times when D-S had no discernible influence over Auchinleck, and would have undoubtedly helped the allied cause if he had? Why was he later sacked by Penney when he had done nothing obviously wrong?

To answer those questions, you need to dig quite deep into what D-S was doing in the 20s and 30s. I have tried to summarise his career during those decades in an objective way but, to me, my writing feels very jerky because I have tried very hard to keep interpretation out of it, except to point at possible causes for his future downfall. Is that what lies behind the request to make the article more encyclopaedic? I try to be even-handed - suggesting reasons why people disliked him sufficiently to deny him employment.

Once Brooke had sacked Auchinleck, there was no reason for him to dismiss D-S as well...and yet there is that animus that existed since the 30s that surfaced in early 1942 when D-S was far from power. In considering D-S, I feel it important to try to tease out these things but without forcing an interpretation. To suggest that there was no background behind the sacking seems to me dishonest and you might as well not have an article.

When Churchill, Montgomery, Brooke wrote their accounts of the Desert War, they were all careful to denigrate Auchinleck and D-S, if only by implication (in fact the larger slur should be on Ritchie who has emerged stainless)...and I think that this encyclopaedia should take a more objective stance - dissociating itself from the traditional clashes between branches of the British Army. A few months ago, I picked up a biography of Alexander that contained references to D-S - for such an obscure figure who held serving rank for just a few months, he is very important! - and yet the comments were potentially libellous for being so factually wrong. What is it about this man? This is the question i have tried to answer in as objective a way as possible - otherwise he holds no interest.

Similarly, ireland. He was not attached to the idea of the British monarchy, was fairly socialist politically and was anti-partition. He would have been part of the IRA but they did not want him. Or so I believe. I hope my expanded section is acceptable to the Irish project.

If you would like me to edit the article, I need some guidance. This is a man whose human ambiguities are as interesting as the material things he accomplished. I have done my best to keep emotion and viewpoint out of my writing but i would appreciate help. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:24, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

I got logged out before I saved this Quevedo (talk) 22:27, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps it now is more encyclopaedic, addressing the questions of why he is of historical interest as well as why he is a controversial figure who has been passed over by the orthodoxy. Let me know. Compared to other C-class studies, this article has a mass of data in it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Quevedo (talkcontribs) 21:39, 29 March 2012 (UTC)

Lambrook School[edit]

What is the rationale for removing the reference to the fact that this was a Protestant/Church of England school? It helps set up one of the many dualities in Dorman-Smith's life - an irishman in the British army, a catholic amonst Anglicans, an innovator amongst traditionalists.... I will leave a while but may then undo the edit Quevedo (talk) 13:37, 19 January 2013 (UTC)