on 31 May 2009
This is worthy of Middlebrook himself (the author was a protege and MM writes the forward)
It's a similar style to MM's 'Somme'- unit by unit descriptions of the battle phases interspersed with quotes from the (then-surviving) veterans. It's a very effective mixture; strategic grasp and human interest.
It's fascinating and humbling to read the accounts of bayonetting people in the guts, chucking grenades down into crowded dug-outs etc and then realise they were given by the sweet old gents pictured making a last pilgrimage to the battlefields and their mates' graves.
All soldiers should read this book for this aspect alone - it's a commentary on the fragility of life and the inevitability of aging (if you're lucky).
I particularly like the use of 'Punch' cartoons throughout the book (an over-looked area of study). They help to convey that this was a supreme national effort and probably this country's (and the Empire's) finest hour and that humour (normally gallows') is an essential component of any military endeavour.
I have circa 150 books on WW1 and this is in my top 10, buy it - you won't regret it.
on 25 February 2008
Just finished this, and this is easily the most interesting and easily readable book I've read on the Great War and currently my collection of books on this topic is into 3 figures.
Very informative read, the true life memories from veterans are both heartbreaking and awe inspiring.
on 9 October 2010
The Battle of Arras remains the forgotten battle of the First World War, but it is difficult to see why, given the brilliance of this book.
Having read Martin Middlebrook's and Lynn MacDonald's books on various campaigns, it comes as a shock to come across a book as well written as this, by an author for whom, I believe, this is his only book. The maps are also extremely useful, which is a pleasant change.
But, for a book on such a subject, this really is one which, once started, cannot be put down; to be honest, the first such book since MacDonald's "1915". I had this book for about a year before reading it, and I regretted my having failed to read it earlier.
It makes a great change to find a study of a major battle of the First World War which shows that the British Army (and the Canadian and Australian Divisions and Corps)commanders were not always the bull-headed "butchers" of the Somme and Passchendaele. Here, with the notable exceptions of the disasters of Bullecourt and of Mouchy, there seems here to be some glimpse of the successes of the final campaigns of 1918.
The Canadians at Vimy Ridge have their own days of glory, and they are covered in this book, but the main part of it is taken up with the, initially very successful, efforts to break through the Hindenburg Line. There are very few books on this subject, which is something of a surprise, given the casualty figures.
Read this book and you can see the middle period between the catastrophe on the Somme and the continual successes of the last months of an awful war.
on 5 October 2010
The Battle of Arras has had little coverage in literature, especially compared to the Somme, Passchendaele, Cambrai etc, so not only is it good the Battle has finally been covered in a modern book, but it is excellent that it is done so in such a superb book. The mix of historical fact and anecdotes from those who were actually involved in the battle makes for a memorable and entertaining read, making this one of the best Great War books I have read