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The forgotten year - no longer forgotten,
This review is from: The German Army on the Western Front 1915 (Hardcover)
To most English readers, 1915 is probably the 'forgotten year' of WW1 - after the drama of the initial battles, before the 'set piece' offensives of Verdun, the Somme, Passchendaele and the 1918 battles.
But it was a year far from quiet on the Western Front as Jack Sheldon shows in the latest of his studies on the German Army in the Great War. As with its predecessors its crammed with vivid first-hand accounts from the ordinary ranks up to senior commanders, mixed with documents from the German archives and the author's own ever-perceptive prose.
English Great War enthusiasts will, of course, be particularly interested in the accounts of Neuve Chapelle, 2nd Ypres, Loos. By looking at these from 'the other side of the hill', we learn that Neuve Chapelle was a infernal experience for the Germans - "a Hell full of flame and fire" as one junior officer put it, while the defenders of Loos were particularly scathing in their assessment of the first major test of Kitchener's new army; the attackers "gave a somewhat diletanttish impression", said one German captain.
As for Ypres, some of the documents and accounts unearthed by the author on the use of gas are straight out of Goebbels book of propaganda tricks; on the day the Germans deployed gas at Ypres, its High Command repeatedly stressed it did not fire "shells whose sole purpose is the dispersal of poisonous gases".
The Ypres chapter's probably the most gripping - but for a WW1 buff the entire volume is a 'must' - as are the remaining books in the 'German Army...' series. After half a dozen of them I'm gradually becoming used to the rather awkward 'Ersatz Fraktur' typeface. And yet again, another huge gap in our knowledge of the Western Front has been plugged thanks to Jack Sheldon.