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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1918 - A Forgotten Victory
There is a perverse aspect to the British character that, whilst firmly believing everything British to be the best, at the same time positively revels in its failures. The ultimate example of this trait is the even more bizarre ability to turn what was the greatest achievement in British military history, the victories over the German army in 1918, into some kind of...
Published on 20 July 2008 by J. Grundy

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12 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good but the author has an axe to grind...
I can't really 100% recommend this book. Let me explain why. The book is an account of the 'British' effort on the Western Front in WW1. In the preface, the author states that it wasn't the account of the 'real men' (Australian and Canadians) that won the war and that it was in fact the combined efforts of the British and French. This effectively sets the tone for the...
Published on 1 July 2010 by Evan


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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1918 - A Forgotten Victory, 20 July 2008
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J. Grundy "Jim Grundy" (Hucknall, Nottinghamshire) - See all my reviews
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There is a perverse aspect to the British character that, whilst firmly believing everything British to be the best, at the same time positively revels in its failures. The ultimate example of this trait is the even more bizarre ability to turn what was the greatest achievement in British military history, the victories over the German army in 1918, into some kind of defeat. For too many, including very many historians, the history of the Great War seems to stop in March/April 1918 amidst much reverent expressions of admiration for German stormtroop tactics, clearly so superior to anything the staid old British could come up with (sic). The truth, though, is that the old fashioned stick-in-the-mud British did actually develop the all arms battle that so eluded the Germans - until 1940 anyway - and this is made brilliantly clear in Peter Hart's latest book.

Peter Hart once again displays his skill at telling the story from all angles, from the higher levels of command to the private soldier. The perspective gained by this approach helps explain what happened and why but, all importantly, what this meant for those quite literally in the firing line. And this is where, I feel, Peter Hart's work is unmatched by any other historian of the period writing today (and there are some very, very good ones too!).

What comes across time and again is how this book is rooted in a deep respect for those who went through experiences that most of us, fortunately, will never have to. That respect does not wallow in tales of 'mud, blood and endless poetry'; those that get trapped in that particular quagmire do no justice to the men of 1918. These were no passive victims blindly following a bunch of red-faced, stupid generals but first class, professional soldiers who achieved in 1918 what had been learned at such cost by the British army through the Somme, Messines, Third Ypres and Cambrai. But, as anyone reading this book will be left in no doubt about, war is hardly ever glorious, honourable or noble. And lessons learned or no, the cost was never cheap.

Time and again, after elegantly outlining the reasons for tactical and strategic success or failure, Peter Hart brings the reader back to the price paid by the ordinary soldier. You're never allowed to become an arm chair strategist pondering the events of 1918 in the abstract. What took place happened to real people and the author's clear passion to keep their memory fresh shines through each and every page.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It should be read alongside the author's earlier book about the 1918 air war, "Aces Falling", to get an even more complete appreciation of the events of 1918. My own grandfather was a young 1918 recruit who served in the final advance to victory. I can think of no higher tribute to him and his generation than this superb book. Outstanding!
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1918 A Very British Victory, 24 July 2008
1918 A Very British Victory
Peter Hart
ISBN: 978 0 297 84652 9 HB 552 Pages
Published Weidenfield and Nicholson

If one listens to the popular myths and legends regarding the Great War, it would be very easy to come to the conclusion that the victory of 1918 was at best using a footballing metaphor a score draw!

Peter Hart however as one of the more progressive Great War historians and writers has in this his latest work very much laid this myth to rest.

This book looks in detail at the men who helped to forge this great victory. As the Oral Historian at the Imperial War Museum he has found many decisive and pertinent recollections from the men who did the dirty work of war. He refers to men from all sections of the British army from the generals, through the ranks right down to `Tommy Atkins.

A great amount of time is spent in this book covering the reasons why the battles of 1918 took place, both in the political and geographical context. The flow and style of the writing is both light and informative

In his inimitable style Peter Hart weaves the true facts of this momentous year into an easily readable format. The book is well referenced and well illustrated with excellent photographs. It certainly makes a change too see new photographs of the war, rather than the same old hackneyed pictures used by so many Great War authors.

I would recommend this book without hesitation. It pays true respect to all those who in a time where by people put duty ahead of themselves into a correct prospective. It is a truly momentous piece of writing.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1918: A Very British Victory by Peter Hart, 28 July 2008
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What Peter Hart has consistently shown is that he can take numerous first hand accounts and reminiscences and weave them extremely well into any narrative of the Great War period. 1918: A Very British Victory is another fine example from his pen. Hart doesn't write in simple terms but he does write with a simplicity that makes it easy for his reader to follow the events and the chaos of warfare. Easy to follow maps detailing the Front and the lines of advance are found throughout to support the text.

As you would expect from the title, this book draws heavily upon the British participation but it is a history written from both Allied (British, French, Canadian, ANZAC and American) and the German experience and he has made very good use of his source material to bring the ebb and flow of 1918 alive. There is indeed something in this book for everyone.

And it's a mammoth book - over 500 pages detailing the return to mobile warfare after more than three years of deadlock on the Western Front. Hart has to deal with the rapid German blitzkreig and then end some seven months later following the Allied All Arms advance that finally crushed the German army. As such, it's a book of two halves! Hart makes sure his reader knows that infantry, artillery, tanks and aircraft all played their role in the final victory although mention of the air-support role is only brief as his equally impressive book, Aces Falling, has already covered the 1918 air war.

Hart outlines the context of the 1918 battles but in a book with this large a scope something has to give and the finer political perspectives are sometimes covered more in passing than detailed assessments but then this book is the soldiers' tale, not a detailed reference on such consequences as the implosion of the German home front or the previous three years of American industrial and financial support for the Allies. For all the arms and munitions that were available to the Allies in the summer of 1918 the German army still had to be defeated and this is a close to the ground account about the personal experience and the minutiae of battle. If you enjoy the first-hand account then this book is definitely worth the investment.

Hart sets out his stall from the very beginning - he is sympathetic to Haig and Gough whilst pointing a finger at Lloyd-George and the politicians. This isn't the book to closely question their respective performances in 1918, rather, the depth and the essence of the book is to be found in the dramatic and sometimes disturbing first hand accounts of the fighting men. This book provides a very personal account of war and dispels some myths whilst raising new questions - many of the Old Sweats no longer cared for war and the new drafts of 1918 were mostly inexperienced - men at the end of their mental tether looked for ways to avoid battle. Hart raises these sensitive issues whilst never taking his focus off the bravery and courage of the men that achieved.

Peter Hart is making a good name for himself and 1918: A Very British Victory is another outstanding effort. Similar to Hart's Somme, this is a book you will want to read again!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent description of the British Army's victories in 1918, 3 Jan 2010
The book is a history of the British Army in France 1918. This year has been neglected, strangely as it had the most intensive fighting and hence the highest casualties on both sides. Rather than sticking to the hackneyed 'mud and stupid generals' writing that characterises much of the histories of this war, this book digs deeper and describes how the deadlock of the western front was broken by the British Army. The author weaves together a picture of the army in 1918 by using staff officers memoirs and lower ranks letters and diaries. Also included are some glimpses from the German side to illustrate the other face of the battles fought in that year.
If you want a book that gives the most complete picture of why the Germans surrendered in 1918, this is it. The war had sideshows in Palestine, Italy etc. but it was on the Western Front where it was decided. Excellect descriptions of the strategic decisions, battlefield tactics and eye witness tales from every arm (infantry, artillery, airman, tank corps) gives an excellent picture of how the war was fought on the ground.
Good descriptions of how the British Army was becoming a modernised and professional force come through. This is called the 'All Arms Battle'. These things range from the use of artillery in a modern way (counter battery fire), deception and secrecy of your intentions to the enemy (rather than the amateurish blundering of the early years), modern weapons in the attack such as the Lewis gun and rifle grenade, the use of aircraft for harrassment and interdiction of rear areas, and the use of fire and maneouver in the infantry attack. All of these tactics had been worked out in 1917 at a small level by the British Army and in 1918 they came to fruition. Together with this the British armaments industry finally getting into its highest gear and producing truly massive quantities of arms and munitions the possibilities suddenly opened up for a successfull extended offensive in 1918.
The background to the March 1918 offensive, politically and militarily, are gone into from the British perspective are gone into. The French shutting down as an offensive ally after the mutinies of 1917, the British having to take over 25 miles of their front, whilst at the same time the British Army in France being starved of men by the interfering Prime Minister Lloyd George who thought he knew better and was horrified by the casualties of autumn 1917. Haig is described as being human, not a butcher, a stoic and very determined man who was determined to defeat the German army, and who knew that this could only be done by defeating its main force on the Western Front. Which is actually correct and was how the war was fought to a successful conclusion. He is shown to be a lot more flexible that others would describe, being open to any idea that would lead to the defeat of the German Army. The battles he had to fight to protect his own army from being defeated by the politicians at home are also described i.e. the deliberate holding back of reinforcements in England by Lloyd George just before the Germans attacked in March 1918. He also had to deal with the defeatism of his French counterpart Petain and the French government, who both lost their nerve at the crucial moment in June 1918 and almost conceded defeat by unilaterarly retreating to protect Paris and abandoning the British flank. His flexibility in allowing his command to come under the umbrella of the French General Foch was also a demonstration of his flexibility, he realised unity of command was needed in 1918 and he actually suggested this to the French himself. Foch was a man in his own mould, resolute and commited to the defeat of the Germans.
The book moves into a narrative of the intial retreats of March - July 1918, with eye witness accounts of the desperate rear guard actions fought by the British as they were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers thrown at them. Then the book moves into the description of the August offensives by the British Army, and in particular the Canadian and Australian Corps. Good descriptions of how the British viewed these units (in particular the Australians who the British soldiers thought uncouth but respected). These units were held back by Haig deliberately for the counterattack, as they were largely volunteer based and were larger units in manpower than standard British divisions. Not only that, they were better equipped in offensive Lewis guns. These units would be used continually until the Armistice in the spearhead of British attacks, until almost used up in the Australian case - the book describes the strikes that the Australian soldiers conducted when they were asked to split their units when they had been decimated - they refused to leave their old units. Normal British units were also widely used in the offensive and these are described and had their own problems - many of them had been torn apart in the German offensives of March/May and were then asked to go over to the offensive themselves later on. The book describes the utter hopelessness of the soldiers of these units, seeing their units being decimated daily and with no hope of individual survival, and then being asked later on to continually go on the attack for week after week. How they kept going is unbelievable.
Although tanks were important in some battles (tank corps soldiers experiences are also documented here), the book emphasises that the weapon that truly crushed the German Army was the Royal Artillery. It utterly dominated the battlefied from August 1918, crushing even the strongest German positions such as the Hindenburg line. Wherever the German Army stood the artillery would swiftly be brought to bear and would lay down such a weight of fire that most of the Germans would be surrendering or incapacitated by the time the infantry reached them. For example, one particular bombardment is described as being an average of one shell per 3 metres, and kept up throughout the bombardment by quick firing field artillery. You get the idea of the effect this would have on the German defenders - most of them surrendered immediately if they managed to survive.
The war reached a crescendo of total violence towards the end of 1918 that the author describes well, with truly incredible losses being suffered by both sides but the Germans always being steadily crushed in manpower, material and morale.

Others have gone into the German offensives of 1918, but these were not really inovative, they were just battles where massive quantities of artillery and gas were used before the infantry rushing the trenches. Much has been made of German infiltration tactics, but a lot of the successes from these tactics came from foggy conditions on the battlefield allowing troops to move in the open more easily. All too often later on in the summer of 1918 when fog was not available German attacks broken down into simple rushes of the enemy trenches, relying on sheer weight of numbers to overwhelm the British. Contrast this with the British Army attacking in the autumn with numbers of men that were nearly comparable, and prevailing, and you see how inovative and successfull the 'all arms battle' really was.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about the end of a terrible war, 21 Aug 2008
I heard Peter Hart being interviewed about his new book "1918" on RTÉ radio a few of weeks ago and made a mental note to watch out for it the next time I was in a bookshop. Hart in the interview described the end of the war as a savage time and how even in victory, the British suffered enormous casualties - life was indeed cheap.

This book starts out well and gets better and better. Hart makes no apologies for labelling the book "A very British victory" though a more accurate title might have been "A very British victory (with a little help from our French, Canadian, Australian, and American friends)". One minor critique - though the maps are excellent and useful, there are many references to locations not shown on the maps and it can be sometimes hard to figure out where events actually happened.

The way this book is written makes it stand out from others I have read. As the oral historian in the IWM Hart has access to huge archives of first hand accounts of the action that he expertly links together with the context of events. It is a tough job to write about events from the point of view of the ordinary Tommies going "over the top" and the generals commanding at the same time, but Hart pulls this off magnificently. It is almost as if Hart interviewed each man personally at the time - excellent!

For balance, I would have liked to have had more first hand German accounts - but as this book is written from a very British point of view this is forgiveable. As I write this review, Wikipedia lists only 11 known surviving First World War veterans - it is important that books such as this one record the personal accounts of what happened for posterity. Very soon there will be nobody living who will be able to recall either military or civilian events from 1918.

Read this book and enjoy, you will not be disappointed - 5 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And a very readable history too, 5 Feb 2014
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Nicholas J. R. Dougan "Nick Dougan" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 1918: A Very British Victory (Kindle Edition)
Several years ago I read John Buchan’s Mr Standfast, the third of his Richard Hannay novels. As it reaches its climax, Hannay, now a major-general, leads his division in a fast-moving, all-arms battle to counter a German breakthrough, hold the line and then win the day. At the time I remember that it portrayed a rather idealised version of the great war battlefield, a far cry from the grim struggle, locked in the trenches. I realise now, having read Peter Hart’s excellent novel, Buchan’s story, while fictionalised and foreshortened, was actually quite a realistic portrayal of the last months of the Great War, the period from the Germans’ offensive in March 1918 to their surrender in November.

Peter Hart is primarily an oral historian, who joined the Sound Archives of the Imperial War Museum in 1981, and spent much of the next ten years interviewing the remaining survivors of the first war, then the second, and latterly of the Gulf and Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, therefore, his book makes extensive use of first hand commentaries by mostly British, but also Canadian, Australian German and American, combatants, ranging from those written at the time to those recorded over seventy years later. The result is, at the very least, an extremely readable account.

This is also what may be called a “revisionist” history, designed to dispel the idea of the British Army on 1914-18 as having been one of “lions led by donkeys”. While the status of the “lions” is fully justified, albeit in a grimly realistic way, he seeks to rehabilitate the reputations of the top brass, from Field Marshall Haig down, and does a convincing job. The civilian leadership comes out less well – but then I didn’t like Lloyd George much anyway. This book was perhaps aimed at readers like me – although a historian and an army officer by training, and very much interested in military history, the first world war had not much interested me. Thinking back, I realise that I was very much influenced by my father’s impressions of the Great War, which were not first-hand either, but which he had absorbed from my grandfather, his maternal uncles and their generation. He had picked up many misconceptions, the most quantifiable of which was that one million men died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme: sixty thousand British casualties was nevertheless bad enough, its worst ever casualty roll on a single day. The effects of gas in the trenches, too, was uppermost in his mind. He had stories of uncles who had never really recovered their strength having been casevaced from the Western Front with damaged lungs. While that may or may not reflect the reality of my family background, it was clearly not the whole story. I do wonder, whether Hart’s suggestion that gas was less bad than high explosive and shrapnel, is not going too far the other way, perhaps my only reservation about the way he presents the story.

Hart’s book does not make light of the exhausting, terrifying, relentless nature of the British and allied armies’ struggles in 1918, but he does make a strong case that this was a military force that was at the top of its game. Largely by then a professionalised conscript force, it and its leaders (as well as the Anzacs and Canadians) had learned from the many mistakes of earlier years and had developed a more sophisticated approach to warfare of the time than the French or even the Germans. They had learned to coordinate the arms – infantry, massed machine guns, artillery, aircraft and tanks to the maximum extent possible given the technology and communications of the day. Many of the “principles of war” that I learned in the 1980s harked back to the second half of WWI, and not to the second as I may previously have believed. This was not achieved despite “donkeys” for generals. Hart contrasts the British Army’s operational leaders and success in the face of great odds with the Americans - fresh, enthusiastic, but inevitably led by senior officers with so much less experience, who proceeded to make many of the same mistakes that the Brits had made in 1915 and 1916.

My one reservation about the Kindle edition, inevitably, is that the maps are practically unreadable, and hence my decision to grant 4 stars. If only the publisher would make the maps available online as well. Otherwise, I’d be inclined to buy the paper version.

If the centenary of the Great War has excited any interest in finding out more about what actually happened, this is definitely a book that is well worth reading. It is also extremely readable – Hart has a flowing narrative style that a novelist would envy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, 1 April 2013
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This book is an essential read for anyone who has any interest in WW1 and it is time ignorant people faced up to the truth of what really happened. Some people might be put off thinking the title is arrogance but the book is anything but. Not only is the BEF to be proud of but so is the Canadians, Australians and common wealth who really had to fight to enemies. Obviously the German Army as the main one but the second one was less deadly and that was the British politicians who came everso close to making a proud Victory into a defeat. At every turn they were under mining the British position whether it be refusing reinforcements or siding with the French to make (who were near to total mutiny) it impossible for the BEF to effectively deploy the way it should have been.

Of course mistakes were made(as with all wars) but at the time and to the enlightened few this war should be remembered for the proud victory and the sacrifice of so many.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How cheap life is., 6 Dec 2011
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xm214 (Brecon, UK) - See all my reviews
This book is a thorough text on the latter part of WW1, from a British perspective. The success was so total, the coordination, it makes you wonder what happened in the next twenty years, from expert to novice.

One thing you gain from this text is the feel for number of casualties, how people where cut down in the blink of an eye, people snuffed by the hundreds of thousand, yet the countries accepted it. What was it all for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!, 31 Aug 2013
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A great book that debunks the 'Lions Led by Donkeys' myth of the Great War. Fact - we won, at a terrible cost in blood and treasure; we innovated a new way of war: the all arms battle. Which is still the cornerstone of British Military Doctrine and organisation.

Timely to read so that we can sort the fact from fiction over the next four years of hand wringing as we commerate the wars centenary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a new perspective on an overlooked part of WW1, 22 Jun 2013
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This review is from: 1918: A Very British Victory (Kindle Edition)
The book is very readable and deals with the spectacular successes of the BEF in 1918. While many histories emphasise that Germany's defeat was attributable to a number of factors, such as the blockade, too few point out that we actually defeated the German army in the field and how this came about.
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