The First Battle of the Marne & the End of the Schlieffen Plan

Combatants at 1st Marne-2

The first Battle of the Marne was fought from 5-12 September, 1914.  It was the turning point of the opening campaign in what would be known as the Western Front during World War I.  First Marne represented the death of German hopes for a repeat of 1870 and ensured that Germany would have to face every German planner’s nightmare for over a century, a two front war. The Schlieffen Plan was supposed to allow Germany to defeat her two great enemies, France and Russia, one after the other in sequence.  The greatest flaw in the Schlieffen Plan was actually the plan itself.  It was an attempt to move huge masses … Read more…

Book Review: Ring of Steel by Alexander Watson

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I does for the Germany and Austria-Hungary what Niall Ferguson’s The Pity Of War did for the Allies in WWI.  It explains the war through the lens of the people that participated both at home and at the front and explores the ways in which the experience of war shaped the perception of the war and led to the dissolution of both empires. The book itself is a hefty tome at first … Read more…

Book Review: The Month That Changed the World: July 1914 by Gordon Martel

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[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] Given that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, there has been a virtual flood of new books and scholarship on the war in the past few years. A flood that I sincerely hope does not stop anytime soon as the renewed emphasis on the war is starting to change the traditional view of the war. One area that has gotten particular emphasis this year is the Origins Controversy, as in, what really caused the war and … Read more…

Slideshow of pictures from WWI

If you have 6 minutes to kill this is an excellent slideshow of some of the mos profound pictures from WWI.  There is n context given just a running slideshow of images from soldiers standing around doing what they do most often in war,waiting, to a mass grave for horses, to battlefield scenes in No Man’s Land.

In Flanders Fields

Given that 100 years ago men were fighting and dying in the opening months of what they would come to call the Great War and we call WWI, I decided to post one of the most famous and memorable poems to come out of that war.  This poem is one of the reasons that the VFW sells Poppies today in their fundraisers.  It really is true that the fields of Flanders are covered with Poppies in spring and summer.  Every time I visit Flanders the poppies serve as a reminder of the slaughter that took place there.

In Flanders Fields
By John McRae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Some backstory on the Poem and Remembrance Poppies can be found on the In Flanders Fields page of

The Battle of Messines Ridge – 1917

Messines 5

From the opening months of the World War I, Flanders was the decisive sector for the British Army.  It was in an around the medieval Belgian town of Ypres that the original BEF had decimated themselves fending off German attacks from October to December, 1914.  Ypres and the salient surrounding it was where the British would see the hardest and most prolonged fighting of all the places where the British would fight in World War I. The Battle of Messines Ridge fought from 7-14 June, 1914 was not really a separate battle at all but rather the opening phase of what would come to be known variously as the Third … Read more…

Book Review: Verdun – The Longest Battle of the Great War by Paul Jankowski

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is one of the flood of new works coming out about World War I this year in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the world’s first truly mechanized war.  This book explores the ten month (or eleven, depending on how you count it) battle of Verdun between the Germans and French from February to November 1916. It consists of eleven chapters arranged thematically that examine different aspects of the battle from the operational … Read more…

Book Review: A Mad Catastrophe by Geoffrey Wawro

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[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] A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire by Dr. Geoffrey Wawro is the first book I have read about WWI that does not treat Austro-Hungary as an afterthought after the outbreak of the fighting in August 1914.  In fact, Austria-Hungary and the course of the fighting in Serbia and Galicia in the first year of the war is the central theme of the book.  Dr. Wawro applies his usual exhaustive research methods to exploring … Read more…

Review – St. George Shoots the Dragon

To be baptized into the trenches, on film, requires historical knowledge, but also an expensive pyrotechnic arsenal. This can be done, but when it is overdone, the viewer is left with a dazzling shell shock that does less to educate than to confuse. St. George Shoots the Dragon, a Serbian film, brings to life the Balkans at a critical age. It does not shell shock the viewer, but also, fails to enlighten. Serbia, unlike most places in the world, has been at perpetual war for nearly a thousand years. It is therefore likely that an exposition of their participation in battle will accompany a Laconic wit that borders on gallows … Read more…

The Christ of Nations, 1920

In Polish history, war usually comes down to two conflicting scripts. From the Polish side, pushing geographical boundaries out in all directions, as far as possible. From the opposing side: eliminating the irritating roadblock begrudgingly acknowledged as “Poland.” This theme is perennial. It has not only been steel and fire that has determined if the land of the White Eagle was to be a flesh and blood state, or merely a state of mind; it was also the petitioning of the fighting spirit through ideological appeal. Literature in Poland has served such a purpose. Polish literature is not meant to appeal to outsiders. It is generally so nationalistic that neighboring … Read more…

Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon

Here is a link to an excellent review of Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon a new book about British strategic planning prior to WWI.  It sounds like an excellent read and a book that has to go on my wish list.

Book Review: Battle Tactics of the Western Front by Paddy Griffith

Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army`s Art of Attack, 1916-18 by Paddy Griffith is a very interesting book. The premise is that despite what many historians have said about the inertia of the British Army in WWI and it’s resistance to tactical change, that is not true and the British were committed to innovation throughout the war in an effort to break the deadlock of the trenches. The book itself is not long, 219 pages of text including appendices. There are extensive endnotes and the bibliography is fairly extensive as well. The book is organized topically and though it purports to only deal with the developments of the … Read more…

Book Review: July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin


I have probably read 30-40 books exploring the origins of World War I in the past 5-6 years and I thought that just about everything relevant there was to be known about the events of the month leading up to the war were known and historians have just been stirring the ashes and finding trivia in trying to determine a more accurate chain of causation. July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin disabused me of that notion.  This work has made me aware of several things about the critical month between the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of World War I that I am amazed have not … Read more…

Book Review: The Battlefields of the First World War: The Unseen Panoramas of the Western Front by Peter Barton

The Battlefields of the First World War: The Unseen Panoramas of the Western Front by Peter Barton is one of the most visually stunning books about WWI I have ever read.  This work is more than just a history of British participation on the Western Front.  It makes use of officially produced trench panoramas to illuminate conditions of trench warfare better than almost any other pictorial record of WWI I have run across. The book itself is 358 pages in length with a bibliography, picture credits, list of further reading, and index.  In addition, and one of the things that makes this book outstanding  it includes two CD-ROMs that contain digital versions of all of the panoramas discussed in … Read more…

Book Review: The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle by Michael Stephenson

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Michael Stephenson’s work The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle follows somewhat in the tradition of classics such a Keegan’s The Face of Battle and Victor David Hanson’s The Western Way of War. Where it differs from these two works as that while Keegan and Hanson focus on specific battles or time periods this book aims to be a more general description of the experience of combat throughout recorded history.   In that, the book is … Read more…