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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding book, 11 May 2008
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This review is from: The German Army on Vimy Ridge 1914-1917 (Hardcover)
Vimy Ridge saw some of the bitterest fighting on the Western Front during the Great War, and the author is to be commended for producing a readable and balanced account of events on Vimy Ridge from 1914 to its capture by the Canadian Corps in April 1917.

The author first describes how Vimy Ridge ended up in German hands in the autumn of 1914 before moving on to chronicle the desperate attempts of the French to wrest Vimy Ridge from the Germans in the spring and autumn of 1915. Even by the standards of the Great War, the magnitude of the French losses is staggering. The ferocity of this fighting is brought to life through a wide selection of personal and official accounts, skilfully interwoven with the narrative.

The author then moves to the arrival of British troops in the sector and there is an excellent chapter on military mining and counter-mining, a terrifying feature of everyday life in the trenches on Vimy Ridge, particularly at its northern end. The graphic accounts of German officers and men provide a vivid illustration of the subterranean war.

The build-up to the attack of the Canadian Corps on 9 April 1917 is examined in some depth. Of particular interest is how the Germans tried to piece together Allied intentions from intelligence reports and the interrogation of prisoners (mention should be made of a Canadian deserter, Otto Dorr, whose remarkable story is told here for the first time). Evidence is also adduced to challenge the widely held perception that the Germans believed their positions on Vimy Ridge to be impregnable.

The achievements of the Canadian Corps on 9 April 1917 are deservedly well known, but those of battered and understrength German units, such as Reserve Infantry Regiment 261, which held up the 4th Canadian Division for nearly two days in the vicinity of Hill 145, considerably less so. Even though the capture of Vimy Ridge was a resounding victory for the Canadian Corps, it was far from a walkover, and the author succeeds admirably in detailing the extent of the German resistance and in helping the reader understand how the battle unfolded.

The German Army on Vimy Ridge 1914-1917 is the third of the author's books on the German army during the Great War, and is arguably his best yet. As one has come to expect from Jack Sheldon's books, the analysis is first-rate, and the text well supported by detailed maps and a good selection of photographs. Quite simply, this is an outstanding book, and it deserves a wide readership.
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