on 3 July 2007
For generations, the story of the Flanders fighting in the summer and autumn of 1917 has been the province of "anglocentric" historians. Jack Sheldon has redressed the balance, and provided us with a meticulously researched and superbly written chronicle of the Third Ypres Campaign, as experienced by German soldiers. Any suggestion that German sources are too scarce to allow for such an assessment are refuted by this superb book. Here we can appreciate how the ordeal of Flanders impinged on the warriors of the Fatherland, from the man in the shellhole to the reflections of The Crown Prince Rupprecht. The narrative is in the best chronological tradition, from the dramatic British success at Messines to the dismal culmination at Passchendaele. This was a war of material, in which the German soldiers and high command had to face an overwhelming British preponderance in a prolonged and intense artillery battle. As well as the ordeal of enduring relentless shellfire, the German troops engaged British and Commonwealth soldiers in vicious close quarters fighting, and, like their foes, lived and died in unspeakable conditions, all the while exhibiting amazing steadfastness. This is a history that engages our emotions as well as our intellect. The style of writing is first rate, and the maps provide timely and clear understanding of the significance of location in this dreadful struggle. Let's hope that in the years ahead, as we approach the centennial of the Great War, we might enjoy more such writing from Jack Sheldon. It is rare to see such a high standard of scholarship presented in such a readable and captivating manner.
Phil Andrade, a member of the Western Front Association
Jack Sheldon has delivered another compelling book to match his excellent reference on The German Army on the Somme (ISBN 1844152698) published in July 2005.
This current book follows the same format as its Somme partner in placing German eyewitness accounts in the correct battle context at Passchendaele as part of the Third Battle of Ypres. It is a masterpiece of research and gives breadth to the German side of the story thus far restricted to the few English translations of such authors as Junger. Indeed the temptation to regurgitate the well known accounts has been suppressed in favour of lesser known sources and it is the better for it. So those seeking Junger at Langemarck will find plenty of supporting sources and evidence from others with 73rd HF and also from adjoining regiments of the 111th Division (76th HF and 164th ). That is the genius of Sheldon's work; the sheer depth of research and corroboration that leaves you confident that these sources are reliable. The bibliography of over one hundred published German books plus further unpublished sources confirms this. This book is without doubt the highlight of 2007 and an absolute necessity for any serious researcher on Third Ypres.
Editor, The Battle Guide
Guild of Battlefield Guides
on 16 January 2013
This book fills in a huge gap in the understanding of the Passchendaele battles. Accounts from the German perspective written in English are rare which is a pity as there is just as much of a story to tell from the German side as there was from the Allied side. This book shows that the hardships were equally as bad on the German side and discounts the common image of German soldiers sitting in dry and cosy pillboxes while the Allied soldiers languished in the mud. Far from it, German soldiers spent plenty of time defending their line from slime filled shellholes, frequently counter attacking across the mud to regain lost ground and being cut to pieces by the much more ferocious Allied artillery fire. Allied aircraft are also shown to be far more active strafing the German trenches and rear areas than I was led to believe from reading Allied War Diaries which only infrequently mentioned Allied aircraft strafing German trenches. This book is an essential read and reference for anyone who has an interest in the Passchendaele battles.
on 3 October 2008
I have to agree with T.J Denman's review to some extent, though I had no illusions as to the source of the material. The reading can be rather heavy going, and it does seem a little stilted. However it is fascinating to read what was going on on the other side of No-man's-land. There is so much from the English point of view that your thoughts can become very lopsided. To get the full picture you really need to read what it was like from the other side, and there are relatively few books telling that. Well worth reading.