on 18 July 2015
I am a new military history fan but not an academic. I loved this book. I read the conclusion first to see if I could stomach the whole thing but it was exceptionally well researched and easy to read. I especially liked the fact the authors started off with a clear idea of where they might end up but changed their minds as the evidence grew. I read Middlebrooks first day of the Somme and you cannot be a fan of Rawlinson if you read that book. This book does little to enhance his reputation as someone who was self serving and somewhat manipulative, it also puts paid (in the authors views) to the story that Rawlinson actually demanded of Haig "who was running the British Army Haig or Marshal Foch! Rawlinson just doesn't come across as someone who would have the balls to do that. The biggest criticism beyond doubt is not that Generals in the first World War such as Haig and Rawlinson had to learn a new way of fighting and winning and therefore were bound to make mistakes, some of which would be catastrophic but quite the opposite, having learned from earlier battles what worked and what absolutely did not, why did they persevere with tactics which were frankly ludicrous and bound to fail at huge cost. The authors suggest that as technology improved especially with the refinement of artillery and in particular counter battery artillery, and to some extent the appropriate use of the tank and battle field weapons such as the trench mortars and rifle grenades, all combined, that battles were less dependent on senior generals and their unhelpful interference became less pernicious. At least Rawlinson listened to his more able Corps commanders such as Monash who seems to have developed this coordinated fighting tactic first and most effectively. Definitely worth a read if you are interested in the first world war even or especially if you are not an aficionado.