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5.0 out of 5 stars Battle for Flanders now has its historian, 1 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Battle for Flanders: German Defeat on the Lys 1918 (Hardcover)
IN November 1917 the German High Command planned a series of last-ditch offensives which aimed to end the war before American manpower would decisively tip the balance in favour of the Allies.
The Battle for Flanders: The German Defeat on the Lys by Chris Baker covers the second German offensive, codenamed Georgette, against British between Ypres and the La Bassee Canal.
The offensive was launched `two hours before dawn in the thick fog on a cold, raw morning' on April 9.
The German aim was to drive its forces towards the English Channel and cut off lines of supply and communication to British forces in Ypres.
Baker, a former chairman of the Western Front Association and the brains behind the Great War website The Long, Long Trail, is a man who certainly knows his stuff about this battle.
The German attack on the River Lys had been, until now, an episode of the war which awaited its historian - Baker is now that historian.
The opening chapter explains how the British Army in early 1918, depleted from two years of attrition, faced the prospect of a serious German assault for the first time since 1915.
The assault was initially successful, on a tactical level at least. The Allied Portuguese division which sustained the brunt of the attack almost ceased to exist within 24 hours of the assault.
But tenacious British resistance, especially on the La Bassee canal deprived the Germans of the greater strategic breakthrough they needed to achieve a decisive result.
Nevertheless, the German attacks continued forcing the British to withdraw from much of the Ypres salient won at such high cost the previous autumn.
This withdrawal led to a German shift in focus away from driving towards the coast and the strategic Allied railhead at Hazebrook and towards Ypres.
This shift in focus marked the death-knell of the greater strategic vision for the attack as the German eyes now squarely fell on the capture of the town.
Despite the initial territorial acquisitions, Baker convincingly argues the attack on the Lys was, for Germany, a strategic defeat of its own making.
Simply put, Germany did not have the men, time or resources needed to breakthrough the line and force the British back against the coast.
While some readers may be familiar in British attacks at Ypres and on the Somme, the German defeat on the Lys perhaps played a more significant role in why Germany failed to win the war.
This makes the book a must for anyone who wants to find out more about this relatively unknown, yet highly significant battle, in the war's final year.
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