So often thought of in the ideal of poets such as Owen and Sassoon, Gary Sheffield argues that this was hardly the typical view of the British soldier in the Great War. The old line of the British Army being an archaic institution of incompetant officers and disillusioned soldiers is refuted as a myth of post-war pacifist literature. In reality, the BEF experienced the greatest learning curve of all the armies in the war, and profited most from the hotbed of technological innovations and ideas (the tank, air reconaissance and the "creeping barrage"). The evetual reality of this great learning curve was the most impressive and coherant victory in the histoy of the British Army.
As well as the course of the war, Sheffield also seeks to re-examine the causes, with much emphasis placed on the post-Bismarck attitude of Wilhelmine Germany.
Whilst the author does not seek to deny the mistakes that were made, and the tragedies the befell the frontline soldiers, he argues that the "lions led by donkeys" mentality is one that has obscured our perceptions of the Great War even to this day.
The subject of possibly the most controversy, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, is also reappraised in a single chapter depicting the relationship between Haig and the men under his command, which by 1918, could be described as very coherant. Sheffield does not attempt to lionise Haig, but his excellent revision allows for a far more objective look into a very complex character.
An essential read for all who express an interest in the British Army, and the Great War.