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 … More after the Jump…

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 … More after the Jump…

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 … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

The Guns of August is one of the classic histories of World War I. It was originally published in 1962 and has remained a mainstay of accounts of the opening months of the war ever since. The book reads more like fiction than reality as Mrs. Tuchman brings the main players alive through her descriptive style of writing. She effortlessly recounts the events of August, 1914 and tries to bring the reader into the mood of that month when world shaking events were happening. Not all of her conclusions about the cases of the war have withstood the test of time and she repeats some stories that have since been … More after the Jump…

Happy Veterans Day

Today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Armistice Day in Britain and France. It is a day to remember the end of the fighting in World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. It is also the day set aside in the US to remember all veterans, not just those of World War I but also those that served in our nation’s other wars and those that served during peacetime. It takes something special to serve your country and a little bit more to do so voluntarily. There is always the possibility of going to war and giving your life … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Age of Total War: 1860-1945 by Jeremy Black

The notion that a book is “thought-provoking” is often thrown out there for works of non-fiction, and of those that are described as such that I have read most very seldom are.   This book is different, Dr. Black has written not so much a history as a treatise challenging historians, particularly military historians, to reexamine the history of conflict in the examined period with the idea of total war uppermost in their minds.   It seems a counter-intuitive thing to do at first, but he provides plenty of examples of why the wars under consideration were not total or were only partially total at best.   This includes World … More after the Jump…

The Fronts of World War I in 1917 & 1918

The tactical and strategic situation at the beginning of 1917 was little changed from that at the beginning of 1916.   All that the offensives on the Western Front had managed to accomplish the previous year were minor changes in the trace of the trenches and massive loss of life.   Both the British and French planned further offensives in the west during the years but events would intervene to ensure that only the British committed themselves to large-scale offensives on the Western Front in 1917. The spring and summer saw the French army undergo a crisis of confidence that has come to be known as the French mutinies, thought … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Face of Battle by John Keegan

I have to caveat this review somewhat.   I wrote this book review for an undergrad military history course I took almost six-years ago.   I still think that the The Face of Battle is an excellent book.   I have modified my opinion of Keegan as a historian somewhat though.   I think he is somewhat overrated and he tends to simplistic British-centric judgements in his analysis of military history.   He is a good historian, but sometimes his interpretations of events are not all they could be. “The Face of Battle” by John Keegan has become a classic in the thirty years since it was published.   The … More after the Jump…

Battle Analysis-The Ludendorff Offensives of Spring 1918

In the spring of 1918 the German army attempted a series of war winning offensives on the Western Front that ultimately were to fail and their failure led directly to the German signing of an armistice in November of 1918.   The failure of the Ludendorff offensives as they were known was strategic and operational in nature.   The German army had devised a new tactical system and doctrine that broke the stalemate of the Western front.   What they could not do was follow through once the front had been broken. The Germans had developed the tactical system known as infiltration in response to the stalemate of trench warfare. … More after the Jump…

The Fronts of World War I in 1915 & 1916

After Turkey’s entry into the war towards the end of 1914, the Dardanelles was closed to allied shipping and thus the only warm water route to Russian ports was closed.   The allied solution to this dilemma was to use the powerful British Navy in concert with a French battle group to force the Dardanelles and reopen the route to the Black Sea.   This operation gained added impetus with the massive Russian losses suffered in the previous year and because of the Turkish opening of a new front against Russia along their common frontier in the Caucasus. The first naval attempt to force the Dardanelles in February 1915 ended … More after the Jump…

The Opening Months of World War I in the East and Elsewhere

The opening months of World War I on the Eastern Front did not proceed at as the German General Staff thought they would.   When General Alfred von Schlieffen (1833-1912) was drawing up the German war plan that would subsequently bear his name, he made several assumptions about the Russian army that would prove to be false. The most glaring incorrect assumption was the Germans estimate of the time it would take the Russian army to take the offensive.   The German General Staff assumed it would the take the Russians at least forty days to complete mobilization and begin their offensive.   This was the amount of time they … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Fighting the Great War by Michael Neiberg

I originally saw Neiberg’s Fighting the Great War mentioned in a review essay covering recent works on WWI. The essay had good things to say about the work and then I decided to check and yes, the book had been reviewed by the Journal of Military History in the Jan 2007 issue, Vol. 71 no. 1 pg 242. I subscribe to the Journal so I pulled it it out and read the review. The review is generally favorable and recommends the book as a general history of the war. I did not have the same impression of the book as did the reviewer in JMH.I found the book to be … More after the Jump…

The Opening Months of World War I in the West

This will be a series of posts laying out the general history of the major Fronts in World War I. The First World War was unnecessary in that if the diplomats of Europe had truly wanted to stop the war there was ample opportunity in the five weeks between the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the start of the fighting.[1] The outbreak of war in 1939 can be directly traced to the terms of the Peace dictated at Versailles in 1919, and World War II was incomparably more destructive than World War I both in terms of lives lost and property destroyed. It was fashionable in the aftermath … More after the Jump…

Combatant Military Strategic Thought in 1914

All classical military theorists point out that military strategy and national policy are intermingled.   Clausewitz devotes a lengthy portion of his treatise to the ways in which military action should serve the needs of the state; indeed, his most famous quote concerns politics and war.   Most of the combatants in World War I seem to have forgotten that policy drives strategy. When the Elder Moltke was Chief of the German General Staff, German war-plans and policy neatly interlinked however, during Schleiffen’s tenure as Chief of the General Staff that link between policy and strategy was lost.   The Great Memorandum of 1905 ignored political reality in favor of … More after the Jump…