Like all John Terraine's books this account of the fighting during the last year of the First World War, first published in 1978, is extremely well researched and written with pace and style. It is also very controversial.
The pride that men took in the winning of the war, and the admiration they displayed for Field-Marshal Haig in particular was soon dispelled. The 'War Memoirs' of David Lloyd George, and Winston Churchill's 'Great Crisis' cast doubt on the idea that Haig was a master strategist, and people began to think that another, less bloody and less destructive, way of winning the war might have been found. Specifically, that Haig's concentration on the Western Front was a tragic mistake, with incalculable consequences. More effort should have been devoted to knocking away the 'props' - the minor countries liked Bulgaria and Turkey which supported the German and Austrian 'underbelly.' Fuller and other military writers propagated the idea that the generals could have made more use of the tank. The works of the war poets and the prose of Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves enjoyed considerable popularity. Haig came to be regarded as a butcher. The idea also got about, in Germany and elsewhere, that the British had not really won the war at all. The Nazis believed that the German Army had not been defeated, but 'stabbed in the back'. In the early 1930s the Oxford Union voted in favour of a pacifist motion. The idea that the Great War as a whole was simply 'pointless', the sacrifice 'futile' and 1918 one last miserable chapter in a vast incomprehensible waste of life, was widely accepted.
It was Terraine's mission to revise this revisionism; and in this book he attempted to explode, in particular, the myths about 1918. To my mind he demonstrates very well that 1918 was a year of victory, and that the War did not simply wind down. During the period between July and November 1918, the British Army won a remarkable series of victories. Led by Haig, it played a major role in driving the Germans back from their line of furthest advance, in breaking the so-called Hindenberg line, in pushing the Germans almost as far as the German frontier and breaking their morale. Terraine's maps alone would be enough to prove that point; and the tank played a very minor part in this fighting. Moreover, I think his thesis that the Western Front was the only one that mattered, or could matter, is also made out.
However, it is much more debatable whether the morale of the German Army would have collapsed anyway, in view of what Terraine himself tells us about events in Germany itself; and likewise whether British and French attrition in 1915, 1916 and 1917 played a major role in the victory of 1918(an important part of Terraine's defence of Haig). Likewise, it is open to doubt whether the British public have ever been brought to accept that the slaughter was all worthwhile. The scars ran too deep for that, I think.