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on 2 September 2011
This is at first glance an interesting account of one of the crucial opening phases of the 1914 campaign, with much of the narrative given from the German point of view. That in itself is unusual and could have been useful, but the author does not make the case convincingly that the German methods and tactics in the late summer of 1914 were better than those of the British. Lazy phrases such as the 'German buzz-saw' being in action are out place in what is supposed to be a serious work, and Zuber makes ready assumptions, without properly backing them up with facts, unless of course they conveniently suit his case. If German military intelligence was so good, as is suggested, why on page 115 do we read that 'The Germans knew nothing concerning the British', while on the other hand we are led to believe on page 131 that 'The British had no idea what the Germans were trying to accomplish.'? The author is getting a little tangled with his arguments here, and he criticizes British official accounts of losses as being broad and vague, but then does exactly the same when quoting supposedly exact German losses alongside sweeping generalizations of British casualties. It is a pity that more attention was not paid to the memoirs and diaries of British officers who were there (Snow, Jack, Haldane, Gleichen and so on) to balance the tale, rather than concentrating on regimental histories, always very partial, often inaccurate and never a particularly reliable resource; Zuber is critical of the worth of these sources but uses them all the same. He also apparently does not appreciate that heavy casualties do not necessarily 'shatter' a battalion; the units he refers to at Le Cateau subsequently fought very well, depleted but far from being 'shattered', but of course to describe them as such is helpful to the telling of his tale. The author's casual and repeated disregarding of numerous accounts of heavy German losses in their persistent and gallantly pressed attacks on the British is also suspect, and weakens his case - Walter Bloem, for example, may have been a writer of fiction, but that does not mean as the author suggests, that his account of the casualties suffered at Mons should be discounted or thought to be just a made up story. After all, Bloem was there and wrote about what he saw, and of his own commander being in tears at the wreck of his fine battalion after an afternoon of British rifle fire - fire so derided by Zuber. This is not to suggest that the British, commanders and soldiers alike, were on top form, but that is not the point. There were plenty of instances of German incompetence and confusion, and brutality born of frustration, in the summer of 1914, as Von Poseck's valuable account of the poor performance of their cavalry in the campaign illustrates, but this the author decided to overlook (Von Poseck gets just one mention, conveniently referred to on page 98 as 'vague'.) This neglect is a shame, and lets the book down, as the key conclusion was clearly reached first and then the facts 'cherry-picked' and neatly assembled to agree. The stark one-sided approach adopted is shown in the claim made on page 259, that 'the Germans knew they had won a significant victory' at Le Cateau, belied in fact by the lack of any vigorous pursuit of Smith-Dorrien's II Corps immediately afterwards - faulty German staff work played its part, true, but the British only fought there in haste to stop any such pursuit and this was achieved, albeit at a heavy cost. I think Zuber in fact knows better than he lets on, and it seems that a valuable opportunity has been missed - I do wish that he had argued his case better, been more incisive and objective, and by widening the sources used been less un-balanced in his approach.

The Advance from Mons 1914: The Experiences of a German Infantry Officer (Helion Library of the Great War)The Mons Star]ASIN:1847347517 The German Cavalry 1914 in Belgium and..
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on 24 April 2010
I'll confine my comments primarily to the author's treatment of German infantry tactics and tacitcal peformance.

The author generalises a bit, taking examples from one, or a few units, and making sweeping statements about German effectiveness. For example, he sings the praises of the German "combined arms team" (a jarring modern term) but cooperation between artillery and infantry was, and remained, a problem in the German Army--especially during this phase of the war. Would have liked to see him use a broader selection of sources, as German tactical performance varied widely from unit to unit--especially in 1914.

He provides a pretty solid explanation of tactical ideas and procedures from the German perspective. The material used in the first 60 pages cover the topic of German tactics and will be valuable to non-German speakers--the material extracted from the regulations will be a valuable reference as well. Many German writers lamented that the lessons of these regulations were not learned (or accepted) by company-level officers, exactly those who would have to use them in the field in 1914.

I believe he has a higher opinion of German tactical prowess than the German had of themselves. There are numerous German inter-war articles detailing the shortcomings of German tactical performance. He's a bit harsh in his judgements, especially of von Kuhl.

His rather odd commentary will most likely irritate many readers, but this overlooked, and with some watering down his black and white declarations, a valuable book for describing German tactical doctrine and techniques (especially in English)--read the conclusions with caution.
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on 5 April 2010
Zuber has tackled the battles of Mons and Le Cateau from a very different perspective. He has also included details about the advance of the German First Army and the Second Cavalry Corps through Belgium. Zuber has used a range of German primary sources, including many regimental and unit histories that have not been translated previously. There is information about how the Germans trained before the war, much of which was published in Zuber's earlier book on the Battle of the Ardennes. Despite this repetition, the information serves as an important background to the performance of the German forces against the British Expeditionary Force.

Zuber shows quite clearly that there are problems with the British accounts of these famours battles. The German casualties were over-estimated significantly, by a factor of at least five-fold in many instances. The book is well worth reading for these alternative perspectives.

Unfortunately, there are problems with Zuber's account. Leaving aside his polemical style, which is not to my taste, Zuber has been selective is his quoting from German sources. He all but describes the British efforts as 'contemptible'. This reflects Zuber's limited analysis of the British sources.

This book is not a definitive account of the battles of Mons and Le Cateau. Zuber's style will antagonize many. There are several inconsistencies throughout the book. Nevertheless, it is an important contribution to the study of World War One, particularly the opening weeks.
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on 13 March 2011
Similar to Zuber's book on the frontier battles, this book is a useful contribution to an understanding of the opening 1914 Campaign. You may not agree with all of his conclusions - some feel 'over egged' but

A: the arguments put forward are stimulating even if you don't agree with them

B: the source material using a lot of German regimental diaries and training manuals is extremely useful to an english speaking audience, many of whom are only familiar with a limited number of translated German accounts or on the accounts of British participants.

Although the title 'the mons myth' is an attention grabbing headline, the book has some very interesting sections on activity prior to Mons in regards to German Cavalry operations against the Belgians. Le Cateau is also covered.

I'm hoping that Zuber continues his work and looks at Guise, St Quentin and the September battles - it will be interesting to see his take on these battles which were less succesful for the Germans. One can assume that the 'sharp edge' of the German sword became ever more blunt the more battles it fought and the further it marched into France.
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on 11 September 2013
The author is contradicted in The Advance from Mons 1914 The Experiences of a German Infantry Officer Walter Bloem. When will authors give up claiming they have discovered something new and contentious in events that have been well researched previously.
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on 9 March 2014
I feel that instead of taking a more neutral approach, he sides with the Germans at the expense of the BEF; I had to remind myself that this was an American who wrote this book, not a German. But this book does make you think.

The sources used are brilliant, and this gives a great insight into the "other side" of the battles - yet his implications that the BEF were amateur and borderline unprofessional, got tiring pretty quickly.
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on 13 September 2013
Accounts of Mons and Le Cateau are common, and all follow a similar path. Instead, Mr Zuber looks at contemporary German records, and compares them with Allied accounts, and the facts on the ground. Those familiar with these events may find themselves challenged by what he finds, but I would recommend this book nevertheless. However, I do think that there are occasions when Mr Zuber's style and tone detact from the strength of his argument; where more measure and balance would deliver greater effect, and benefit the whole.
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on 29 September 2013
Mr. Zuber's thesis is simple: the combat performance of the British Expeditionary Force that fought at Mons and Le Cateau in 1914 was less heroic and more 'contemptible' than British military historians have allowed. Using German documentary sources apparently available to British historians, he fairly convincingly shows that a smaller force of German troops employing more sophisticated 'fire and maneuver' tactics, pushed back four divisions of British infantry and in the process took far fewer casualties than previously thought. As previous reviewers have noted, however, Zuber employs a tone and style that are somewhat repellent; on certain points, he stretches his evidence to the limit; where the evidence is contradictory, he habitually gives the Germans the benefit of the doubt. This is not a model of revisionist scholarship --- but, to my mind, he just about makes his case.
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