[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]
Hundred Days: The Campaign That Ended World War I by Nick Lloyd is one of those rare books that should start a trend. His topic is one that has been, if not ignored, then glossed over in virtually every history of World War I. There have been literally hundreds of books written about the origins of World War I but the end of the war has been ignored. In fact, most histories seem to end right about the time the Second Battle of the Marne ended in June 1918. The assumption is that except for the American operations around St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne the rest of the war was just waiting for the Armistice to be signed. This has left a large gap in the historiography of World War I as the story of the war’s termination has largely not been told. Dr. Lloyd has went far to filling that hole with this book.
I have a review copy of the book so the page counts may be a little different in the final edition. The book I have has 279 pages of text divided into fifteen chronological chapters with a prologue, epilogue, selected bibliography, reference list, and index. There is a map section at the beginning of the book that includes some very well drawn maps illustrating the major fronts of the war’s final campaign. The bibliography for all it being only selected is quite extensive at ten pages and there are over 40 pages of citations in the reference section.
Personally, I am the type of military historian that loves operational history because I think it does more to explain the why of victory or defeat than do the new histories that focus more on the worm’s eye view of individual experience. This book is an outstanding example of how operational histories can be written to both extremely informative and entertaining to read. The narrative covers the operations of the Allies and Germans in the final months of the war from an operational perspective while including individual anecdotes to show how the war was experienced by the individual.
Perhaps the most interesting insight to come from the book is the idea that having shot its bolt with the final archangel offensive in May that culminated with Second Marne in July, it was not a foregone conclusion that the Allies could turn the table and drive the German Army to defeat in 1918. In fact, most Allied leaders assumed that the war could not be successfully concluded in 1918 and that they would have to wait until 1919 and the arrival of a full-strength AEF to complete Germany’s defeat. Both the French and British were scraping the bottom of the military manpower barrel in 1918 and were very conservative and sensitive to personnel losses in fruitless offensives. The French in particular were a weak reed as the French army had not fully recovered from the effects of the mutinies of 1917. Field Marshals Foch Haig were the only commanders who felt the war could be won in 1918 and he continually pushed for a continuation of the offensive to drive the Germans to defeat and stop them from consolidating and resting their army in a new defensive line.
In conclusion, Hundred Days: The Campaign That Ended World War I is the book that the concluding campaign of World War I has been crying out for since the war ended. It tells he story of how and why the Allies ended the war in 1918 instead of 1919 in a thought provoking and highly readable manner. I predict this will become the standard work on the wars closing months in the years ahead and fully expect it to be on the reading list for many university classes covering the history of the war. I very much recommend this book for its excellent account of an almost forgotten episode in one of history’s bloodiest Wars.