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Messines 1917 (Campaign) Paperback – 10 Aug 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (10 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846038456
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846038457
  • Product Dimensions: 18.3 x 0.8 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 447,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The content and bibliography both show that the author is well up with the latest research. This would be a really good book for anybody wanting to challenge traditional view of World War I. I would challenge anybody to read it and still say that the tactics and techniques of June 1917 were anything but imaginative, highly organised and based on the best available technology. --Military Modelcraft International

About the Author

Alexander Turner is a serving British Army officer in the Irish Guards. His operational experience includes Northern Ireland, Kosovo, the Iraq War of 2003 and service as a United Nations Military Observer. He has a BA in War Studies from King's College, London, and led a battalion battlefield tour to Vimy Ridge in 2002.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan Ogden on 29 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback
In this last volume of his magisterial trilogy of 1917 [Vimy Ridge and Cambrai preceeded it] Turner explains with his customary clarity the origins and execution of this famous battle. A comprehensive overview of the opposing armies, their orders of battle, commanders and plans leads to a most helpful introduction on mine warfare on the Western front, a subject many readers will be unfamiliar with. Turner then turns his attention to the planning of and preparation for the battle and gives credit to the extraordinary staff work which went into the massive logistical effort to move guns and ammunition into place without detection. Likewise, he gives Plummer and his staff credit for utilizing the air assets available to them whether ballon based observers reporting on counter-bombardment batteries or fighter aircraft preventing enemy observation flights. These men were certainly no 'donkeys'; on the contrary, they had come up to speed with the rapidly evolving technologies and in many cases were on top of them.
H hour is vividly described and the assault is easily followed through succinct descriptions of the various phases and excellent maps. In his conclusion, Turner resists the temptation to turn to hindsight and evaluates the outcome of the battle strictly within the political and military parameters of the day. If Plummer erred on the side of caution, it was because he had a limited objective which he successfully realised in the capture of the ridge. The idea that somehow the attack ended in failure since there was no exploitation of surprise and no breakthrough into the German rear is not entertained by Turner, correctly in my view.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trenchfinder on 30 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The battle of Messines is often overlooked by historians, possibly because it was such a resounding victory, excellently planned and executed and overshadowed by the more well known next stage - Passchendaele - which began a few weeks later. While the pros style of this book is easy enough to follow, the author has not really provided information that has not been covered before. In fact certain parts seem repetitious - for example this is the fourth time the Messines model at Scherpenberg has been described in print as being "the size of two tennis courts", yet there is no mention of the 40 yards by 40 yard concrete model built AFTER the battle by New Zealand troops at their camp in the U.K. More coverage on individual stories from the battle would have added depth to the book. The excellent graphics and maps help to explain a confusing battle.

Ultimately this is a more than competent introduction to the battle, and although there are more in depth books on the subject, this book is a good place to start.
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By Louise Jones on 19 Jan 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Disappointed with the size of this book for the money. The maps were the best bit of the book .
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By pete1000 on 17 Aug 2012
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This was one of the best Ospreys I have read. Excellent illustrations and maps. Really learnt a lot from this before I go on a battlefield tour.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A coherent and well-written piece of military history 24 Aug 2010
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While the bloodbath resulting from the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 is fairly well known among readers interested in the First World War, the Battle of Messines that preceded it in June 1917 is much less well known. Messines was an unusual set-piece attack in the First World War, which quickly achieved its objectives and with modest casualties. The British offensive was preceded by a year-long effort - described as the greatest feat of military engineering in history - to dig numerous mines underneath the German defenses atop Messines ridge. When the attack began on 7 June 1917, nineteen of these mines were detonated nearly simultaneously, resulting in the virtual obliteration of the enemy's frontline positions. Alexander Turner, a serving infantry major in the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, provides an in-depth look at the British attack on Messines Ridge in Osprey's Campaign No. 225. This book is structured differently from most in the Campaign series in that half the volume concerns the preparatory phase prior to the battle yet overall, it accomplishes its objectives quite well. Although the author cites no German sources beyond their official history, he provides enough commentary on their actions to impart reasonable balance into his narrative. It is a coherent and well-written piece of military history.

Messines 1917 begins with a fairly in-depth introduction, that describes the origins of the campaign and the creation of the Ypres salient in western Belgium. He also provides the standard section on opposing commanders and opposing plans. In essence, the British expected to seize the vital Messines Ridge in a coup de main assault, facilitated by underground mine detonations, in order to prepare the way for the larger breakout from the Ypres salient. Today, this would probably be described as a shaping operation, designed to seize jump-off positions for the main offensive. The author spends considerable space describing the evolution of underground warfare in the salient and the remarkable success that Allied engineering companies had in constructing a large number of tunnels underneath the German positions. This was one of the rare cases in the First World War where the Allies really caught the Germans by surprise and the Germans failed to react in time. Much of this part of the volume is quite interesting reading, but some of it might better belong in an Osprey elite volume on WW1 tunneling tactics.

The battle per se does not begin until half way through the volume and the bulk of it focuses on the actions on 7 June. The mine attack, combined with a well-planned artillery preparation, succeeded in demolishing the frontline German defenses and the British and ANZAC troops were able to seize most of their objectives with relative ease. Less space is devoted to the sluggish German reaction and the breakdown in British C2 with threatened the final exploitation phase of the attack (including shelling their own troops) . The author does conclude that British Field Marshal Haig misinterpreted the lessons of Messines Ridge and used them poorly in the Third Ypres offensive. It's hard not to regard Messines as something of a tactical aberration, with an unusual mining effort, combined with an unusually lax German commander to produce an unusual tactical success.

The volume includes six 2-D maps (The Western Front in June 1917; the Ypres salient; Messines mines schematic; Messines operational objectives; II ANZAC Operations, 8-11 June; final positions at Messines and Third Ypres in Comparison) and two 3-D BEV maps (the battle, 0310 to 0900 hours on 7 June 1917; the battle 0900 to 1900 hours on 7 June). Overall, the maps are quite nice and enable the reader to follow most actions quite carefully. The three battle scenes (the war underground; Pillars of Fire - the advance at Petit Bois; pillbox fighting) by Peter Dennis are superb, as usual, and help to convey the unique `feel' of this battle. The author also provides a 3-page chronology and a 3-page order of battle, as well as brief notes on the battlefield today.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A gaping hole 24 Sep 2010
By Julian The Apostate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very enjoyable book on an underdone topic. This campaign reminded me of the Crater Campaign in the Civil War. The author gives a great build up to the massive explosion but the aftermath is a bit confusing.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
interesting subject! 17 Sep 2010
By BRIAN QUANDT - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book on a little understood episode in ww1. Rare photos used throughout, including a few interesting before/after shots of the battlefield.
Two great books for the price of one.. 20 Dec 2010
By JGA357 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This an excellent broad-brush treatment of the Messines offensive, arguably one of the Allies' most successful of the Great War. Like all in the Osprey "Campaign" series, you get a good overview of the battle (both before and during) with a brief but succinct follw-up. No book about Messines would be complete without a description of the mines, however, and that is where his book really shines..particularly given it's focus on the battle writ large. I've read several more in-depth books on Messines and military mining (most sourced in this volume) and the author does a fine job in the limited space available capturing the salient points on the science of constructing the mines as well as the unique and horrific conditions under which the miners operated.

If this book wets your appetite for more information on Messines, I heartily recommend Passingham's Pillars of Fire: The Battle of Messines Ridge June 1917 and Beneath Flanders Fields: The Tunnellers' War 1914-1918. The latter goes into great depth (pun intended) on the tunneling effort as well as modern archeology on some of the sites.
The author does an excellent job of packing in a lot of information without ... 6 Nov 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The author does an excellent job of packing in a lot of information without making it too confusing. The maps are great. Don't be fooled by the small size of the book!
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