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Early success and squandered opportunity.
on 18 December 2009
I found this book disappointing. The initial chapters, describing the British technical developments in artillery counter barrage techniques, are very interesting. However, the description of the battle itself relies too heavily on quotations from first hand accounts. In principle this should be an admirable way of bringing the story to life, but an individual soldier's view will naturally always be myopic, and the sheer volume of quotations, sometimes 3 or 4 to the page for chapter after chapter, slows the narrative down to a crawl and eventually becomes tiresome. There is also a noticeable Anglocentric bias. The bald truth is that the initial British success was absorbed and eventually nullified by the technical brilliance of the German Army, with their counter-tank innovations and supple defence tactics. The main conclusion, that the myth of "the first great tank battle" became established as a result of postwar Army politics is sound, and General Haig's grasp of the tactical realities at the time is thus vindicated. It just seems to take a hell of a long time to get there!