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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up to their armpits in Hades..., 14 Aug. 2000
This review is from: They Called it Passchendaele: The Story of the Battle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in it (Paperback)
The reputed inevitability of the Passchendaele campaign has always remained an object of speculation. Was its timing justified in terms of strategy? Did "butcher" Haig set out to attain unrealistic territorial goals, believing that attrition had pushed German morale to the breaking point, thus living up to his nickname by risking unacceptable casualties in the vain prospect of delivering the final hammer blow to the enemy? And, had history taken a different course, would calling off the offensive at some point have been a realistic alternative? In her eloquent compilation of testimonies, Lyn Macdonald does not aspire to assess whatever was the contribution of Passchendaele to the eventual Allied victory. Following her in her brilliantly empathic approach - the one of the oral historian -, one wonders with the poor old sods what relentless higher power must have driven them on where there was no way left out of the hell ("Wading up to your armpits is difficult", is one of their blunt repartees) they found themselves in. Turning the pages, the reader cannot help but wonder at the unresolved questions that puzzled these men's battle-wearied minds: "Does the Army make you pay for the blanket it buries you in? Has your company been secretly chosen to be a suicide force?" and "Will the war be over by Christmas?" With an estimated toll of casualties of over a quarter of a million on either side and just over a year to go before finally the Armistice was attained, in our mind we wind our way again along the neatly plotted rows of 12,000 or so Portland headstones of "our" Tyne Cot Cemetery, towards the walls on which another 36,000-odd names testify to the missing for which the Menin Gate in nearby Ypres provided insufficient space. The sheer waste!
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