Lions led by donkeys
What's the meaning of the phrase 'Lions led by donkeys'?
A description of the British soldiers of WWI.
What's the origin of the phrase 'Lions led by donkeys'?
It is popularly thought that the British infantry of WWI (the lions) were consistently sent to their deaths by their incompetent and out-of-touch generals (the donkeys).
The British politician Alan Clark alluded to this when he wrote a history of the war titled The Donkeys. In that he attributed coinage of the phrase to the German soldier Max Hoffmann. The source hasn't been confirmed by others and, in any case, there is a close variant of the phrase which is much earlier. Francisque Sarcey, in Paris During The Siege, 1871, wrote that the French troops who had been defeated by the Prussians:
"Unceasingly had drummed into them the utterance of The Times: 'You are lions led by packasses.'"