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The Great War by Peter Hart,
This review is from: The Great War: 1914-1918 (Hardcover)
There are no shortages of narratives on the Great War and most military aficionados' have expressed much trepidation about the imminent deluge of fresh titles launched to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Any title offering blanket coverage of over four tumultuous years of armed conflict faces a sizable challenge, for example the contemporary Times History of the War, originally issued in weekly parts, occupies almost a metre of my bookshelves. To succinctly incorporate in one 500 page volume, most of the Great War political manoeuvres and campaigns required the skill of a master of the genre - enter Peter Hart.
This accomplished author and excellent narrator needs no introduction, for he has an impressive back catalogue of military titles. In this his latest work, he delivers with great aplomb his typical incisive examination of the successes and failures of the armed forces of the British Empire, in the process rightly condemning the insulting `lions led by donkeys' myth. Also the unjustly maligned general Douglas Haig receives much empathy from revisionist historian Hart, and rightly so. The book also focuses impartially on the principal belligerents, their successes and failures endorsed with telling quotes from lowly soldiers and their bellicose leaders.
Without an understanding of the all arms world war, individual campaigns would appear incomprehensible, consequently from the outset; critically acclaimed Peter Hart takes you on a poignant journey of enlightenment. The first steps on the road to war are by necessity ponderous, until reaching the battle of the frontiers chapters when the book sets off and continues at a blistering pace. No stone remains unturned as Hart delves into the reasons and tactics behind each twist and turn along the road to Armageddon. Meticulously researched throughout, the Western and Eastern fronts are revisited as the years roll by, allowing the author an opportunity to continue the narrative and simultaneously explain the improvement in military tactics and weaponry. In the Gallipoli 1915 chapter, Hart himself no stranger to the peninsular, imparts on the reader the futility of a campaign doomed to failure. Hart sums up part of the Suvla operation in two chilling sentences "The 29th Division was slaughtered. Alongside them the 11th Division fared no better".
After the humiliating evacuation of Gallipoli the allies repeated their error by landing at the Greek port of Salonika, this disease ridden campaign, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Italy, and Palestine are each assigned a chapter. I particularly enjoyed the three annual chapters relating to the much overlooked war at sea where in common with other chapters, Hart delivers his trademark philosophical quote from a long passed veteran, regardless of nationality. The third sea chapter concludes with a thought provoking comment on the vanquished Germany Navy, "No one would ever know what might have been had they sought out battle in 1914 when the Royal Navy was at its most stretched".
The highly enjoyable work greatly benefits from eight clear campaign maps and excellent quality images including one of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig with his Army Commanders taken on Armistice Day 1918, the accompanying caption pointedly reminds readers these are the men that won the war.
I have no hesitation in recommending this highly interesting and meticulously researched work by this bestselling author. It is a worthy addition to his other titles including The Somme, Bloody April, Aces Falling, 1918: A Very British Victory and Gallipoli. What's more this fine book will only require 5cm (two inches) of your bookcase!