This is the best book on the Great War that I have read in many a year. Well written in an engaging style, it is founded on excellent research and good, common sense. It single-handedly destroys much of the mythology and misunderstanding of the 1916 Battle of the Somme and I applaud the author for that.
The Somme was not about one day, as so many books, TV programmes, press articles and battlefield tours would still have us believe. It was a huge affair of several quite different phases over five months, in which it could be argued that the British army finally came to the big boy's game. "Bloody Victory" puts it into proper context - and that means concentration on French strategy, tactics and fighting, for they dominated the reason why Britain fought this battle and why it fought they way it did, where it did, and when it did. I learned a great deal from this book about the French part of the Somme: the leadership struggles, tactical development and the stages of the fighting. Philpott argues clearly with regard to the Allies attritional strategy, highlights great successes in September 1916 and the over-long plunge into morale-sapping fights in the mud and dark of October and November. Out of it all comes a sense that the British army had come on by leaps and bounds from 1 July to the successful assaults of November, not least in the realisation that man for man, this new army was the equal of the world's best. For Britain, the Somme was not seen at the time as a defeat - far from it - but somehow (not least thanks to the self-interested poison pens of Churchill and Lloyd George) it soon came to feel like it was. The author explores French, British and German operations, effects and legacies in truly masterly fashion.