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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A multi national, all arms affair, 10 Jan 2009
This review is from: The Day We Won The War: Turning Point At Amiens, 8 August 1918 (Hardcover)
Charles Messenger's scrupulously researched "The Day We Won the War: Turning Point at Amiens 8 August 1918" tells the story of this battle from the perspective of all of the participants - British, French, Australian, Canadian, American and German. What especially appeals about this book is its even-handed and balanced approach as it follows the actions of all of the Allied formations involved: the British Fourth Army comprising the British III Corps (which included the US 131st Regiment), and the Cavalry, Australian and Canadian Corps and the attached tank, armoured car and RAF units, and the French First Army comprising the II Cavalry and IX, X and XXXI Corps. Messenger demonstrates what a truly multi-national and all arms battle it really was, with the contributions of the RAF, tanks, armoured cars and gunners being vividly portrayed in their support of the infantry. This book is easy to read and Messenger gets the right balance between the operational and tactical level narrative together with quotes from the participants themselves that bring the whole action to life.

Chapter 1 provides a nice overview of the situation on the Western Front prior to the battle. The effect of manpower shortages amongst the British, French and Germans and the consequent morale issues are discussed, as are some of the improvements in weaponry and techniques that had evolved by that time. It finishes with a brief narrative of the Battle of Hamel on 4th July 1918.

The next two chapters discuss the planning and preparation for the battle itself. The reasons why the battle was conceived, together with those who were involved in its conception, makes interesting reading. It is customary to disparage the staff, but the enormous staff effort put into bringing this battle to fruition in three weeks so successfully and in complete secrecy belies that ill-directed criticisms. The details of the preparation are a stark reminder of the myriad of activities that have to be considered and fitted together before "hopping the bags" and they speak volumes for the professionalism of the British Army at this stage of the war.

The battle itself is described in the next five chapters: two on the first day's fighting, one on the war in the air, one on the operations of the 9th August and one on those of the 10th and 11th. Here Messenger does a masterful job as he weaves quotes from participants at all levels into the tactical narrative and addresses the operational implications as the battle progressed on a 40 kilometer frontage. He strikes the right balance between all three, without becoming bogged down in minute detail. This is not a tedious blow-by-blow history of the battle; it is a sound overview of one of the war's most important battles with just the right amount of detail on the various key actions to provide a good feel for what occurred in each of the Corps areas. It is presented in an easily digestible style that maintains the thread of the four-day battle and the interest of the reader. To keep such a broad canvas manageable, within each chapter Messenger breaks the battle up into the actions undertaken by each the "British" Corps and the French Army.

Four of the many interesting things to emerge from these chapters are firstly, the actions of the cavalry and the armoured cars that burst ahead of the infantry before the final objective was captured on the morning of the 8th August. The surprise and havoc they caused in the German rear areas is vividly told, yet they are balanced alongside the limitations of these forces working together and against stiffening resistance. Secondly, is the RAF contribution to the battle. Squadrons were designated to undertake specific tasks in support of the ground troops, providing progress reports to the Corps and Army headquarters and bombing the German rear areas. The way in which they undertook each of these tasks, the innovative means of communication and the difficulties of early war aviation are all told in an engaging manner. Thirdly, the advanced nature of infantry/tank cooperation throughout the battle and the innovation of infantry tactics especially during the last few days of the battle, when artillery and tank support was not always available, comes through time and again in the narratives of tough battles against German strongpoints. The role of the tanks in assisting the infantry to overcome opposition, the improvement in their design since the early models and the high losses they sustained are amply demonstrated. What also emerges is the difficulty of exploiting such an outstanding initial success in a war where mobility was limited and communications were rudimentary but essential for coordination with artillery, tanks, air and flanking units. That the Allies were able to do so and push on beyond the Blue Line for three successive days against increasing German resistance is testimony to how far the British and French Armies had improved in their tactical innovation and flexibility by 1918.

The final chapter discusses the impact of the Battle of Amiens on the final victory and the realisation for both the Allies and the Germans that Germany could not win the war. A very brief outline of the last "100 days" is provided, not from a battle narrative perspective but from the implications of the successive Allied blows on the psychology of the German Command and their attempts to salvage what they could from a negotiated peace. As Messenger says, all of this derived from the success of the 8th August and the chapter concludes with an analysis of why this was so in terms of the learning curve.

There is an intriguing little postscript titled "The Man Who Won the War?"

The maps are adequate and are in the front of the book which makes for ease of reference in following the battle.

There are a few minor errors and typos that can be attributed to poor editing but it easy to recognise what Messenger intended. But these are minor issues in a book that gives the reader a sound understanding of the battle in a balanced, even handed and easily read account.

Heartily recommended and well worth the money. A great account of the battle that proved to be the turning point on the Western Front.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 5 July 2014
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Interesting read for those who are interested in WW1
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 5 July 2014
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Bought as a present
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The Day We Won The War: Turning Point At Amiens, 8 August 1918
The Day We Won The War: Turning Point At Amiens, 8 August 1918 by Charles Messenger (Hardcover - 7 Aug 2008)
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