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Lance Grundy (Great Britain)

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Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce Of 1914
Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce Of 1914
by Stanley Weintraub
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, all is bright, 24 Dec. 2013
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The Christmas Truce of 1914 is probably the most extraordinary event of the whole of the First World War. While most people know something about the football match played in no-man's land, between the British and German troops, what many don't realise is that that event was just one of numerous outbreaks of peace and goodwill which occurred right across the Western Front during the first Christmas of The Great War. In this short, seasonal book the historian, Stanley Weintraub, tells the story of many of those truces and explores why, when and where they happened, how and why they ended and speculates on what might have happened had they become a permanent ceasefire.

What really makes Weintraub's book such a great read at Christmastime is that by largely allowing the story to tell itself the book highlights the fundamental goodness and common decency of most of those involved. Born and bred in what was in many ways a more civilised, courteous and gentler age, these men really didn't want to fight each other at all and once they began fraternizing, they soon realised that they had many more things in common than they had differences. United by a shared history, culture, religion and moral values, the nominal enemies found it very easy to become friends as they exchanged gifts and rations, smoked, sang and danced together, played football and generally mucked about. As Weintraub explains, even language wasn't really a barrier as so many of the Germans spoke excellent English having lived and worked in Britain before the war.

One of the Tommies quoted in the book recalls that the scene he witnessed that Christmas Eve, when he looked out across no-man's land and saw candle-lit Christmas trees up on the parapets of the German trenches and heard the German soldiers singing 'Stille Nacht', was "one of the highlights of my entire life". Many others, on both sides, fondly remember exchanging possessions with their opponents [the most prized souvenirs for British soldiers were German spiked helmets and belt buckles embossed with the Imperial Crest and the words "Gott mit Uns"]. Many swapped names and addresses so they could visit each other after the war. Little did these men know that the war would last for nearly another four years and I found myself wondering how many of them ever got to share that beer after the war.

Despite the fact that the story of the Christmas Truce ends with the resumption of the war and all the carnage which was to follow, with its timeless message of 'Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Men', this is still a heart-warming book which would be a great read for anyone wanting to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. A Christmas story all the more remarkable because it's true. As such it would make a great stocking-filler for Christmas 2014, the centenary of this historic event. In the spirit of 1914: "Happy Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten & Joyeux Noel".


Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler and the Crushing of a City
Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler and the Crushing of a City
Price: £5.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first battle of the Cold War, 11 Nov. 2013
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The Warsaw Uprising began on 1st August 1944 and lasted for 63 days as the Polish Home Army [Armia Krajowa] fought to liberate Warsaw from Nazi occupation. Betrayed by Stalin, whose nearby forces refused to help the Poles for political reasons, and let down by the allies, the AK were finally forced to surrender on 2nd October 1944. By then, tens of thousands of people had lost their lives and the city was in ruins. However, as Alexandra Richie points out in her introduction to this well-researched and detailed account of the events of 1944, despite the destruction of Warsaw being one of the greatest tragedies of WWII, "after 1945, the Polish capital's terrible ordeal virtually disappeared from history". This, she believes, was because the Warsaw Uprising was essentially the first battle of the Cold War and, once the Second World War was over, it was not in the interests of either the Soviets or the Allies to dwell on what had happened to the Polish capital in 1944.

The book is based primarily on an archive given to the author by her father-in-law, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who had participated in the Warsaw Uprising as a young man and went on to become the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs after the end of communism. Over a period of eight years Richie used the authoritative contents of the archive to weave together this comprehensive account of the Warsaw Uprising and the subsequent destruction of the city at the hands of the notorious SS Dirlewanger and Kaminski Brigade. This isn't just a catalogue of Nazi atrocities though and the author isn't afraid to criticise the Poles. After all, it was the AK leadership who made the erroneous decision to launch the uprising despite intelligence which told them that the Germans had no intention of surrendering the city without a fight and that help from the Soviets and Allies might not be as forthcoming as they believed. Richie believes they must shoulder their share of the responsibility for the tragedy which befell their city.

However, it is her belief that the Warsaw Uprising was the beginning of the Cold War that I found most interesting. Richie explains that the suppression and destruction of Warsaw made no military sense whatsoever. With the Soviets only weeks away from invading Germany itself it was pointless for the Germans to divert precious resources to the Polish capital when the men and equipment were desperately needed elsewhere. It only begins to make sense when seen as a manifestation of the erratic rivalry between Hitler [who had a pathological hatred of Warsaw and wanted it razed to the ground] and his henchman, Himmler, who came to believe [somewhat correctly as it turns out] that he could use the Warsaw Uprising to drive a wedge between the Soviet Union and the Allies. According to Himmler, Stalin's reluctance to help the Poles would prove to the Allies that it was the Soviet Union - and not Germany - who was the real enemy of the West. As he grew more delusional, Himmler became certain that events in Warsaw would cause the allied coalition to break apart, World War Three would be declared and the British and Americans would turn to Germany for help against Stalin. With Hitler removed from power as the price for a ceasefire in the West, Himmler's SS Legions would fight alongside the Allies to destroy Bolshevism once and for all.

This book is a fascinating and thought-provoking read which documents one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War about which surprisingly little is known in the West. While many people, quite understandably, confuse the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 with the better known Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the scale of the destruction visited on the Polish capital during and after the 1944 event was of a different magnitude. In fact, it has to be seen to be believed. On a recent trip to Warsaw, I was fortunate enough to visit the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising where I saw a short, 5 minute film called 'Miasto Ruin' [City of Ruins]. Over a year in the making, the film is a 3D recreation of how Warsaw looked from the air after the Germans had crushed the Uprising. It's available on the internet [on both YouTube and Vimeo] and is well worth watching whether you plan to purchase Richie's book or not.


Storm of Steel (Penguin Modern Classics)
Storm of Steel (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Ernst Junger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must-read for the centenary of the Great War, 21 Oct. 2013
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Widely acclaimed as being one of the greatest books to come out of World War One, Ernst Jünger's 'Storm of Steel' is essential reading for anyone interested in The First World War and especially for those wanting to gain an understanding of the conflict from a German soldier's point of view. Later in his life Jünger became a highly controversial figure and this book in particular [which is his account of his time as a German soldier fighting on the Western Front] is often seen as glorifying war. However, having spent the last few evenings reading the book, I have to say that I didn't come away with that impression of it at all.

First and foremost this is a war diary and a very interesting one at that. It is a soldier's record of his experiences in combat and therefore the focus is solely on the where, when and what happened and not on the why. Personally I found Jünger's blow-by-blow account to be a fantastic read but I can understand that the lack of any attempt to morally justify his actions, or consider the wider consequences of them, is what has given this book such a bad press over the years. It is also devoid of the sense of guilt and mawkishness which modern readers of WW1 literature have come to expect. Michael Hofmann, the man responsible for this excellent new translation of Storm of Steel, explores these issues in his detailed introduction to the book.

From his writing Jünger comes across as an intelligent and obviously brave man and throughout the book he makes some matter-of-fact but still profound observations about the nature of warfare and its effect on the men who fight it. There's also plenty of trench humour which helps to take the sting out of the often horrific events unfolding around him.

What made this book an especially worthwhile read for me though was something I unexpectedly came across about halfway through. In the chapter "Langemark" Jünger explains how, from late July until early August 1917, him and his men were in Flanders defending fortified positions located on the eastern side of a stretch of an overflowing stream called the Steenbach. This was of particular interest to me because my great-grandfather, Frederick, was deployed on the same stretch of front at almost exactly the same time as Jünger. In fact he was killed in an early morning assault across the Steenbach on 11 August 1917 about a week after Jünger and his troops had pulled out. I therefore found Jünger's description of the appalling state of the battlefield around that time particularly interesting as it has given me a greater insight into the conditions in which my great-grandfather fought and died.


Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914
Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914
by Max Hastings
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.95

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Catastrophe Made in Germany?, 9 Oct. 2013
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Six million young men served in the British Armed Forces during the First World War and some 800,000 of them never came home. Even though Britain and its allies won the war, the enormous cost of the conflict convinced many people that it had been a huge mistake, that it was impossible to justify what had happened under any circumstances and that it really didn't matter which side had won. In his superb new book the author and military historian, Max Hastings, challenges that view, arguing that the history of World War One was hijacked afterwards by those only intent on criticising it and that the views of the war poets and the Lions Led By Donkeys revisionists have been absorbed into popular culture almost unchallenged. What he describes as "the virtue of Britain's cause" has been forgotten along with any appreciation of what a German victory would have meant for Britain and Europe.

The first third of this book considers the situation in Europe prior to the outbreak of war and is fairly comprehensive in its coverage of events leading up to the conflict. The rest provides a detailed narrative of the continent-wide fighting which took place between the outbreak of hostilities in July 1914 and the end of that year. Covering both the western and eastern fronts as well as the war at sea, Hastings' well-researched and well-written account of the first months of WW1 makes it clear that those engaged in the fighting realised very early on that this war would be quite different from the wars of the previous century. Men quickly grasped that "those who wished to survive must make themselves invisible" and that the new nature of warfare meant that operations would be continuous - with battles lasting for weeks rather than hours. Hastings also reveals that it was during these early days [the transition phase from nineteenth to twentieth century warfare] that the largest single losses of life occurred.

But who was to blame for this catastrophe? According to Hastings: "the blame rests overwhelmingly with Austria and Germany" and, as Germany actively encouraged the Austrians to attack Serbia, "the case is overwhelmingly strong that Germany bore the principal blame for the conflict". He also points out that once the war had started "the only way to end it quickly would have been to have lost it" and that would have meant accepting German domination of Europe. While acknowledging that some modern historians, such as Niall Ferguson, believe that a German victory in WW1 would merely have created an entity resembling the EU half a century before it was created, Hastings dismisses this view as "frivolous nonsense". He also takes the revisionists to task by reminding them that a lot of people fought and died in the First World War thinking it worthwhile and we need to respect their motivations and appreciate their sacrifice. As one old soldier [quoted in this book] said in 1978: "I and my like entered the war expecting an heroic adventure and believing implicitly in the rightness of our cause; we ended greatly disillusioned as to the nature of the adventure but still believing that our cause was right and we had not fought in vain".

The Great War was undoubtedly a catastrophe and no-one disputes that, yet as Hastings himself said in a recent newspaper article: "the fact that Britain sacrificed over three quarters of a million men to prevent the triumph of German militarists should be a matter of profound pride to those men's modern descendants". We don't need to feel ashamed or embarrassed that Britain and its allies won the war.


Meeting the Enemy: The Human Face of the Great War
Meeting the Enemy: The Human Face of the Great War
Price: £6.02

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding our Brothers in Arms, 4 Sept. 2013
Written by one of Britain's foremost experts on the First World War this fascinating book provides a refreshingly different take on what must be one of the most written about conflicts in history. Van Emden specialises in first-person testimonies of the Great War and here he uses his considerable knowledge and resources to illustrate the depth of the tragedy which befell the people of Britain and Germany when their countries went to war in 1914.

Examining the pre-war social, political, economic and cultural ties that existed between Germany and Great Britain, van Emden notes that in 1914 the Germans were the 3rd largest immigrant group in Britain and there were tens of thousands of German-owned businesses across the country and inter-marriage was common. Indeed, one of the most revealing things in this book is how the German people, from the Kaiser down, just couldn't believe that the British - with whom they had so much in common - had gone to war with them in the first place.

Once war had been declared though, Anglo-German relations deteriorated quickly - especially on the home front. Thousands of 'aliens' were interned in both Britain and Germany and numerous families were split up by the rigid internment process. Attitudes hardened even more as the war progressed and in both countries 'enemy aliens' were singled out for rough treatment. When the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915 the city of Liverpool erupted in anti-German violence and rioting crowds smashed up German-owned businesses in Everton and Birkenhead. Yet on the battlefield itself things could be quite different. As one Tommy recalled: "the nearer you were to the battle the less hate there was".

There are numerous examples here of personal contacts between German and British soldiers which reflect well on the characters of those involved. When one German soldier found a British Tommy severely injured in a shell hole he dressed his wounds and then carried him to a main road where he hoped he would be picked up and taken to hospital. Each night until he was collected he would visit his "poor friend" to give him "some tea and water" and "tuck him up as well and as warm as I could". Finally, the injured man was collected and taken to hospital where, sadly - and unbeknown to the German who had rescued and cared for him - he died of his wounds a few days later. It also appears that truces and fraternisation were far more common than was generally acknowledged and van Emden is to be congratulated for bringing this little-known side of the First World War to a wider audience.

As well as the general decency of the men involved in the fighting their sense of honour was sometimes quite profound. In a remarkable example of honesty, Robert Campbell, a British Captain, held as a POW by the Germans, wrote to the Kaiser asking for two weeks leave to go home and visit his dying mother. Incredibly the Kaiser agreed and granted his request. Once home, the officer was only bound to return by his word as a British Officer yet, almost unbelievably, he returned as promised. Once back in Germany and freed from his 'bond of honour', he spent the rest of the war trying to escape back to England.

This book has opened a new perspective on the First World War for me and reading it has changed the way I think about the conflict. I'd highly recommend it to any one interested in the Great War or early twentieth century Anglo-German relations. I notice that Mr van Emden also makes TV documentaries and it would be great if he was able to bring a TV version of "Meeting the Enemy" to the small screen in time for next year's centenary of the Great War.


They Called it Passchendaele: The Story of the Battle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in it
They Called it Passchendaele: The Story of the Battle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in it
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone visiting the Ypres Salient, 17 Aug. 2013
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Even thirty years after it was originally published this outstanding compendium of first person accounts of the Battle of Passchendaele, written by the British war historian Lyn MacDonald, is still one of the best histories of the Third Battle of Ypres you're likely to read. Primarily compiled from the recollections of over 600 men who fought at Passchendaele and survived, MacDonald's book provides a soldier's-eye view of one of the most appalling campaigns in military history. Her knowledgeable and sympathetic narrative weaves together the experiences of the combatants in such a way as to convey not only the horror of the battle itself - and the appalling conditions in which it was fought - but also the sense of comradeship which existed between the soldiers, the trench humour which prevailed among them and the small acts of individual kindness which made the whole thing bearable. Indeed, what comes across most from these accounts is the simple decency of the men involved and there are a number of tales of how, at great risk to themselves, Tommies would help wounded German soldiers back to the first aid post or else use some of their own water ration and cigarettes to comfort those enemy soldiers who were dying. In one case a British soldier exchanged his name and address with the German soldier he'd captured and they met up in Germany after the war and had a beer together like old friends.

I was fortunate enough to be able to read this book during a recent trip to the Ypres Salient to visit the grave of my great-grandfather, Frederick, who was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele. In the short time I was there I was able to see many of the places the soldiers mention in their recollections as well as a few of the bars and other places they frequented behind the lines in Poperinge [such as L'Esperance, La Poupée and the so-called Haven in Hell: Talbot House. The excellent Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 at Zonnebeke also brought to life a lot of what I had read here and I'd have no hesitation in recommending this book as 'required reading' for anyone planning on visiting the Battlefields of the Ypres Salient.


The Faces of World War I: The Great War in words & pictures
The Faces of World War I: The Great War in words & pictures
by Max Arthur
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The tragedy of the Great War in words and pictures, 12 Aug. 2013
Primarily focusing on the Western Front, this magnificently illustrated history book provides a visually stunning [and at times quite moving] record of World War One. High quality photographs are combined with well-chosen quotations from soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict to create a comprehensive account of the First World War in words and pictures [many of the quotes are taken from the author's acclaimed 2003 book Forgotten Voices of the Great War]. From the optimism of 1914 to the despair of 1918, and all the suffering in between, the handpicked photographs capture it all.

As you'd expect there are plenty of grim images to be found here and the deterioration of both the men themselves and the conditions they fought in is plain to see as you turn the pages. However, there are some sparks of light amidst all the darkness. As Ian Hislop says in the foreword, it's striking how often "the men smile at the camera when, to our eyes, there can be so little to smile about" and there are numerous photographs of the soldiers smiling and laughing while engaged in everything from football matches to pillow fights.

One thing I did read in this book that I wasn't previously aware of is that in some regiments the soldiers used to play football together as they went 'over the top'. To keep their morale up they'd pass the ball to each other as they crossed over no-man's land towards the enemy guns. As one Tommy recalls about the very first time he 'went over': "I remember the ball dropping at my feet and I passed it to Captain Maxwell. 'That was a good pass you made, young Withers' he shouted, before he thumped it towards the German lines". A great little anecdote, I thought, of the kind that would make this book a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the First World War.


Passchendaele
Passchendaele
by Peter Barton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £60.00

5.0 out of 5 stars "I died in hell, they called it Passchendaele", 4 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Passchendaele (Hardcover)
Passchendaele [officially called the Third Battle of Ypres] is one of the most notorious battles of the First World War, not only because of the number of casualties but also for the conditions in which it was fought. The battle took place between June and November 1917 when the British and allied armies fought the German army for control of the ridges overlooking the Belgian city of Ypres [now Ieper] in Flanders. The British attack went across some very low-lying land where the water table was close to the surface. Constant shelling of the area by both sides had ploughed up the heavy clay soil and smashed the drainage systems. To make matters worse, the attack coincided with some of the wettest weather the region had experienced in living memory and the incessant rain produced thick, clinging mud which made the battlefield almost impassable. The mud became so deep that men, mules and horses drowned in it and the tens of thousands of shell holes which littered the battlefield filled with water. With each new assault of the offensive more rain fell and conditions became progressively worse. The battle ended in November 1917 when Canadian soldiers captured the ruins of the village of Passchendaele. In just over five months and at a cost of at least 250,000 casualties, the British and allied forces had advanced just five miles.

Written by Peter Barton, one of Britain's foremost experts on the First World War, this superb history book provides a detailed, visually stunning and incredibly engaging account of the Battle of Passchendaele. Barton's attention to detail and expert analysis combined with carefully selected contributions from those who fought [and in many cases died] at Passchendaele make this one of the best history books I've ever read. Drawing on a wealth of material from numerous sources including the Imperial War Museum, the National Archives and the regimental museums of many of those regiments involved in the battle, Barton's book provides a thoroughly comprehensive record of the Third Battle of Ypres. Well-illustrated with numerous plans, maps, drawings and photographs [including the 'unseen panoramas' of the title] the book is a visually captivating piece of work in which the well-chosen images convey the full horror of the battlefield in all its awfulness. However, despite this being primarily a visual chronicle of the battle, it is - for me at least - the letters, diaries, memoirs and testimonies of the soldiers themselves which really make this book so fascinating. In his recent account of World War One, the historian Norman Stone notes that "the generation who fought the Great War were the most literate generation Britain has ever produced" and, consequently, there is a plethora of well-written and articulate accounts of the war courtesy of the millions of men who took part in the fighting. All the ranks were prone to put their thoughts to paper and, wherever he can, Barton lets the participants speak for themselves and their moving accounts and often profound assessments of their situation make this book an exceptionally worthwhile and emotionally engaging read.

I recently discovered that my great-grandfather, Frederick, was killed at Passchendaele in August 1917 and I purchased this book prior to a trip to Ypres to visit his grave. I wanted to find out as much as possible about the battle in order to better appreciate what he and those who fought alongside him had experienced. Through this marvellous book by Peter Barton I actually learned far more about the battle, and my great-grandfather's regiment's participation in it, than I had expected to and I now have a much greater understanding of the conditions in which he fought and died. As the dead soldier says in Siegfried Sassoon's 1918 poem, 'Memorial Tablet [Great War]', "I died in hell, they called it Passchendaele".


Warsaw 1920: Lenin's Failed Conquest of Europe
Warsaw 1920: Lenin's Failed Conquest of Europe
by Adam Zamoyski
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Battle that Saved Europe from Communism, 24 July 2013
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In the summer of 1920 a battle took place in Poland which changed the course of history. Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the recently formed Soviet Federative Socialist Republic [forerunner of the USSR], was desperate to export the Bolshevik revolution from Russia to the West. His number one target was Germany, which was broken and demoralised after World War One and seen by the Bolsheviks as ripe for a communist takeover. Once Germany had been conquered by the Red Army, Lenin planned to use the country as a springboard for imposing Bolshevik-style governments on the other nations of Europe. However, to get from Russia to Germany the Red Army first had to cross the newly-independent country of Poland. The Bolsheviks thought Poland would be a pushover and that the Polish capital, Warsaw, would be conquered quickly. The Poles, led by one of their greatest wartime leaders, the one-time bank robber and former socialist Jozef Pilsudski, had other ideas.

Written by the award-winning author and historian, Adam Zamoyski, this short, easy-to-read account of the Battle of Warsaw is an excellent introduction to what must be one of the most important, if little-known, battles in history. Zamoyski, who has written extensively about The History of Poland, says that he first became interested in the Battle of Warsaw some years ago when he interviewed many of those who had participated in the conflict for an earlier book. Their experiences, combined with the information subsequently obtained from numerous Soviet and Polish sources, make this book an interesting, if quite short, read. While the author concedes that in such a short book he is only able to provide an "outline of events" and that anyone especially interested in the subject will find his generalisations wanting, there are other, far more detailed books available about the Polish-Soviet War [such as Norman Davies' 1972 account White Eagle, Red Star] for those who wish to study the subject in more depth. Still, by focusing on the military operations and explaining the broader political context in which the fighting occurred, I think Zamoyski largely succeeds in his stated aim of providing the reader with "a succinct overview of what happened and why".

The former American President Woodrow Wilson described the Battle of Warsaw as 'the seventh most important battle in history' and many of the characters involved in the battle such as Lenin, Stalin, Pilsudski, De Gaulle and Trotsky, would go on to play leading roles in the shaping of the twentieth century. Why then is so little known about the battle in the West? According to Zamoyski it's because of "the wholesale acceptance of socialist orthodoxies by Western historians" who, as was so often the case in the twentieth century, took the highly partisan Soviet version of events as read and were reluctant to publicise anything which contradicted their own Marxist worldview. Books like this are sometimes worth reading simply as an antidote to this kind of historical bias but the so-called 'Miracle on the Vistula' is an interesting story in its own right, well told by Zamoyski, which would be of interest to anyone wanting to learn more about the forces that shaped the world we live in today.


World War One: A Short History
World War One: A Short History
by Norman Stone
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and thought-provoking take on a familiar subject, 3 July 2013
Written by the critically-acclaimed historian, Norman Stone, this highly readable, brief study of the First World War crams a surprising amount of information into just over 200 pages. Examining the events of the Great War over seven short chapters Stone covers the conflict in strict chronological order. As you'd expect from the author of the 1975 book The Eastern Front 1914-1917 [which, nearly 40 years later, is still regarded as the definitive work on the subject] Stone refreshingly tilts his account towards the Russian, Balkan, Turkish and Italian Fronts. However, rather unfairly in my opinion, he hardly mentions the United States at all and there is surprisingly little about the war in the Middle East and the break up of the Ottoman Empire.

When writing about a subject as well-documented as the First World War it must be difficult for an author to find anything new to say but Stone manages to provide plenty of interesting and sometimes amusing details to hold the reader's attention. Two which come to mind are that the Austro-Hungarian soldiers on the Italian Front were so oblivious to the kind of warfare that awaited them that they put glass windows in their dugouts and that one of the very first orders given to the Romanian Officer Corps was one forbidding them from wearing eye-shadow in battle.

Norman Stone is at his best when he's at his most provocative [Stone was one of Margaret Thatcher's favourite historians] and there is no shortage of contentious opinion here. Of course, you may or may not agree with his conclusions [broadly speaking, I do] but either way his highly opinionated style makes this book an interesting and thought-provoking read on an otherwise familiar subject.


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