This book explains in detail how WWI finally ended after nearly 4 years of stalemate.
The author is anxious that credit is given where it is due, ie to the British army. The French army had suffered huge losses in the war and Terraine is of the opinion that it was unable to function properly by the end of the war.
He also states that he wants to refute the theory that the German army were not defeated in the field. This was a theory that was accepted in Germany in the 30's and helped lead to the collapse of democracy there.
Terraine's opinion is that the entry of the US to the war was not very signifcant as the US generals were determined not to commit troops until they were able to operate independently.
The research and detail is breathtaking, with numerous quotes from those involved in all aspects of the war.
The thinking behind the decision making on both sides is discussed in detail. Not surprisingly given that he has written an autobiography of Haig the author's admiration of that general is obvious. However Marshal Foch also comes out of the book well.
The political intrigue in Germany preceding the end of the war is also revealed in detail.
An excellent book. I would definitely be interested in reading some more of this authors books.
An excellent and very readable book covering the final months of the First World War. I have read many other accounts of the 1914-1918 conflict, but this is the first book that managed to convincingly explain to me just why the British, French, US and other Allied forces won the war and why the overall German position fell apart so quickly and so completely after four years of apparent stalemate.
Like all John Terraine's books this account of the fighting during the last year of the First World War, first published in 1978, is extremely well researched and written with pace and style. It is also very controversial.
The pride that men took in the winning of the war, and the admiration they displayed for Field-Marshal Haig in particular was soon dispelled. The 'War Memoirs' of David Lloyd George, and Winston Churchill's 'Great Crisis' cast doubt on the idea that Haig was a master strategist, and people began to think that another, less bloody and less destructive, way of winning the war might have been found. Specifically, that Haig's concentration on the Western Front was a tragic mistake, with incalculable consequences. More effort should have been devoted to knocking away the 'props' - the minor countries liked Bulgaria and Turkey which supported the German and Austrian 'underbelly.' Fuller and other military writers propagated the idea that the generals could have made more use of the tank. The works of the war poets and the prose of Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves enjoyed considerable popularity. Haig came to be regarded as a butcher. The idea also got about, in Germany and elsewhere, that the British had not really won the war at all. The Nazis believed that the German Army had not been defeated, but 'stabbed in the back'. In the early 1930s the Oxford Union voted in favour of a pacifist motion. The idea that the Great War as a whole was simply 'pointless', the sacrifice 'futile' and 1918 one last miserable chapter in a vast incomprehensible waste of life, was widely accepted.
It was Terraine's mission to revise this revisionism; and in this book he attempted to explode, in particular, the myths about 1918. To my mind he demonstrates very well that 1918 was a year of victory, and that the War did not simply wind down. During the period between July and November 1918, the British Army won a remarkable series of victories. Led by Haig, it played a major role in driving the Germans back from their line of furthest advance, in breaking the so-called Hindenberg line, in pushing the Germans almost as far as the German frontier and breaking their morale. Terraine's maps alone would be enough to prove that point; and the tank played a very minor part in this fighting. Moreover, I think his thesis that the Western Front was the only one that mattered, or could matter, is also made out.
However, it is much more debatable whether the morale of the German Army would have collapsed anyway, in view of what Terraine himself tells us about events in Germany itself; and likewise whether British and French attrition in 1915, 1916 and 1917 played a major role in the victory of 1918(an important part of Terraine's defence of Haig). Likewise, it is open to doubt whether the British public have ever been brought to accept that the slaughter was all worthwhile. The scars ran too deep for that, I think.
The late John Terraine arguably remains the finest ever historian on the Great War. His vast knowledge of the war itself, plus his deep understanding of the politics that accompanied it, means that his writings make the mysteries of this ghastly and fascinating war understandable and highly readable.
Whilst this book is not a tiresome polemic, a picture of a decisive British victory emerges from the narrative. After the vast German Spring Offensives (so nearly successful) ground to a halt, we see that the French army was nearly exhausted. A keen American army (eventually) arrived in great numbers, but was inexperienced and ill-equipped with little artillery or transport, too few officers, and a commander (Pershing) who insisted that where possible they fight as an independant army: the task was not easy.
Alongside the military narrative we see political threads - German politicians in denial as to the defeated state of their fighting forces even as late as November, not to mention over impending revolution at home. At home Lloyd George constantly tried to undermine Haig by insisting that he serve under a French supremo, and fooling himself into thinking that Germany was being propped up by her allies, and not the other way round which was actually the case, and thus that the war could be won on fronts other than the Western Front. At the same time President Wilson tried to lead negotiations over an armistice with Germany, whilst fighting an election at home which forced him to insist on harsher terms than were necessary.
Terraine carefully leads us through the last battles of the war, and we see the extent to which Haig was now relying on his Australian and Canadian troops, as well as unlikely Divisions like the previously ineffectual British 46th Territorial Division, which suddenly came up trumps. Fascinatingly we see that German forces were at last learning to cope with the allied tanks, and that by the end of the war very few of these remained intact - the tank was a good weapon, but not quite the war-winner that it seemed with hindsight, and which it was to prove 20 years later.
For anyone wanting an overview of this last and most complex year of the war, this book cannot be beaten, and every serious student of WW1 needs to own a copy.
Very interesting indeed! Very satisfying to read a book on the last year of the war that correctly apportions credit where it's due - namely, to the fearsome war-machine that was the British Army of 1918.
Who do you suppose taught Blitzkrieg to the Germans? It wasn't the French. It wasn't the Americans. And it sure as hell wasn't the Russians. Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig and his army of experts were the ones who (eventually) came up with a formula that enabled them to rain a series of combined-arms hammer-blows on to the Germans, knocking them down and then out.
Of course, without the earlier great battles of attrition (Verdun, the Somme and Passchendaele), the war could not have been won in 1918. And one cannot overlook the significant activities of the French and Americans. Nevertheless, it was the British Army who delivered the coup de grace and finally broke the back of German resistance in the field - having already withstood the main part of the great German spring offensives of that year.
This achievement by the British Army has been disgracefully under-valued, pretty much since the war. There's a case to be made that this came about as a result of significant re-writing of the situation by those with the most to gain by doing so - Lloyd George, for example.
Altogether, a very readable, well-written, very informative and interesting book that helps to cast a proper perspective on the events of the last year of The Great War. Highly recommended.