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Synopsis

One of the crucial factors which kept Tommy going on the Western Front was his facility to see what was comic in the horror, deprivation and discomfort of trench warfare, an attitude which blossomed further in the rest areas behind the lines. The nature of the comedy ranged from gentle irony to a rougher hilarity that produced on belly laughs. Such laughter could arise from extreme physical pain and discomfort, from the provision of sustenance and from matters relating to dress, equipment and weapons. A further source of fun was bizarre events not dissimilar to situation comedy and pantomime. Moreover, a whole culture of humor surrounded Tommy's words and songs, and many trench pets—cats, dogs, horses, goats, even rats—were in on the joke in one way or another. Nor was it only the British soldiers who managed to find something to laugh about in the trenches—the Germans could sometimes see the funny side as well. A Bloody Picnic provides an unusual perspective on how soliders coped with the grim realities of the First World War.

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