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on 28 December 2005
This book is a masterwork of scholarship and revisionism. It puts the achievement of the British Army post 1 July into context, and explains why it was able to defeat the allegedly far superior German forces consistently throughout the final stages of the war. The level of tactical detail and analysis is unrivalled in any other publication on the period.
There is no escaping the fact that the performance of the British Army in the Great War is still controversial, but to give this book one star on the grounds that it doesn't love the Greman Army and the writer didn't serve in the War is unfounded. Most historians don't live through the events they describe. That's why we call them historians.
If you want good, solid, factual information on the way the British Army fought, together with reasoned analysis this is the book for you. It is referenced in all the major revisionist works published since it appeared (eg works by Corrigan, Sheffield etc) and has genuine academic value.
And it does it without rubbishing the Greman Army or anyone else.
If you have any interest in this period at all, then buy it.
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on 17 May 2007
This book signalled something of a watershed in the way we think about World War I, and does indeed challenge the 'stupid' theory of British tactics. Some hate such a notion - others love it, so explaining some of the very divergent opinions seen in reviews. The book's points of excellence include copious use of contemporary manuals and documents, readability, and a strong notion of the changes over time.

This would have been a five star rating - bar some modest quibbles regarding the arbitary notional start date in 1916, and a personal wish to see more comparative material on other nations (this would give more of a yardstick against which to judge the British efforts). Nevertheless I would strongly urge anyone with an interest in the subject to read this book: it will give you lots to think about, will challenge received opinions, and provide more than satisfaction in terms of production values, notes and references.

Highly recommended.
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on 25 September 2001
Goes a way to redressing the balance on the "uberGerman" school of thoughtlessness into why they "almost won the war" !
Britain and the Dominions certainly did not start the war with high intensity warfare doctrine and training but this book certainly shows that they learnt (the hard way unfortunately).
By 1918 they succeeded where the Germans had not - when needed for the advance they could bring the necessary firepower to bear and support the troops in the line with the necessary logistics over an extended period of "mobile" warfare.
Very good starting point to those who want to know why the Allies won on the battlefield rather than accept the discredited line that the Germans were "stabbed in the back".
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on 9 March 1998
Mr Griffith has written an outstanding review of WWI battle tactics that helps restore the fighting reputation of the British Empire forces in the Great War. He also restores the balance of view on the German Army, whose reputation in both wars appears to grow with every new publication (in spite of the fact that they were losers on two occasions!). The only reservation I have of the book is Mr. Griffith makes it difficult for you to agree with his conclusions because he sometimes appears to be pushing a strangely reactionary and conservative military barrow. As a citizen of a nation that suffered as much as any in the 1914-18 holocaust, his belief in the offensive sounds all to much like a justification the semi-mystical cult of the offensive that created that unnecessary disaster. But books are meant to stimulate, and Mr Griffith has created a fine work of well researched and highly readable prose that I would recommend to any history buff.
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on 24 June 2008
Books on the British side of WWI tend to fall into two camps which you could caricature as "Lions led by Donkeys" and "We won, so we couldn't have been that bad". This book is excellent because it doesn't fall simplistically onto one side or the other, instead it actually goes into the evidence on how the BEF grew in knowledge over the last half of the war, and if you read it with an open, enquiring mind you will come away much better informed about the performance of the BEF.

One example of the quality of the book is that it demolishes any idea that tanks were a wonder-weapon that could have achieved the much-sought breakout from the trenches "if properly used". Tanks in 1917-18, he points out, could go little faster than walking pace and would need refuelling after 8 hours, so there's no way they could truly have achieved a breakout. As at Cambrai, the tanks could allow assaults to make better progress for fewer casualties, but that's all.

It's not perfect by any means. A lot of it tends to be "on the one hand... then on the other hand..." rather than coming to firm conclusions (although in some ways this is quite refreshing compared to a lot of WWI books which have a preconceived set of conclusions, and are going to hammer away at them regardless of the evidence). And it does come down more often in favour of the BEF than against, sometimes in defiance of the evidence it cites.

To give a few examples. At one point it talks about the German tactic of infiltrating machineguns forward under cover of night, and using them to support an assault the next day, and then says that the BEF mainly gave up on this sort of idea after bad experiences with machineguns accompanying the first wave getting wiped out, and so concludes that the eventual BEF practice of keeping machineguns back was more "advanced" that the German tactic. But I think infiltrating machineguns at night before an attack is very different (and better) than having them go over the top with the first wave - it isn't surprising the BEF approach didn't work out very well !

Another example is that he cites BEF manuals from 1916 which include what he regards as infiltration tactics ahead of their introduction by the German army in 1917-18. This is weak in two ways - first, whatever the manuals said about infiltration, in 1916 the BEF clearly wasn't doing it in reality; and second, he seems to take "infiltration tactics" to mean that you advance on a broad front and just carry on advancing in the gaps between enemy strongpoints (i.e. carry on where you are not stopped by resistance). From what I've read, the German stosstruppen tactics were a lot more sophisticated. And when he says in his conclusion that the BEF had been using infiltration tactics since 1916, I don't think this is at all supported by the chapter covering it.

One last example : In comparing the German and British offensives of 1918, I do think he uses double standards, for example at one point he talks about a German attack that "only" advanced 40 miles, while a little bit later he talks glowingly about a British advance of 10 miles or so during the hundred-days at the end of the war.

But unlike many WWI books, this one actually goes over the evidence and let's you form your own view - if you disagree with mine, read it and see what you think !
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on 24 July 2001
This book digs deeply into the primary sources of war diares, memoirs and above all training manuals and pamphlets to look at how tactical doctrine in the BEF changed from its nadir of 1915-early 1916 to the recognizably modern tactics of 1918.
It is a useful corrective to the mythology that has built up around the German Army, and shows that the BEF did move up the learning curve.
The one weakness is the relative lack of comparative analysis, but the book would have been three times bigger had he done this.
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on 9 May 2013
A detailed and well argued book into specific aspects of the British military tactics that evolved during World War 1. Sometimes the style of writing is dificult to comprehend, but otherwise it is an authoritive source of information.
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on 21 August 2014
As a Masters student of the First World War this is essential reading: a thorough, objective study of tactics in an easy to read, though academic format.
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on 27 August 2015
Very good and interesting
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on 7 May 2014
Unfortunately, Mr. Griffith fails in this book to contribute seriously to the interesting discussion about the role and performance of the British Army in the First World War that has been taking place in the past years. His work is plenty of unfounded statements, made basically to sustain pre-conceived ideas about how the British Army was the first in almost everything: offensive combined-weapons tactics, defense in depth etc, reaching a paroxism of absurdity in his concluding chapter. Overall, Mr. Griffith is unable to present any kind of solid argument for his ideas and seems to be happy with downplaying the contribution of other armies, allied and enemy alike but most notably the German one, to the development of modern warfare. This is a pity, because demistyfication is always a healthy exercise but only if it is made objectively.
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