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An authoritative and masterly work
on 16 March 2014
THE German Army at Ypres 1914 is one of six books which the acclaimed historian Jack Sheldon has written on the Germany army during the First World War.
A large portion of German regimental diaries and Great War archives from the period were destroyed during an RAF air raid on Potsdam in 1945.
But Sheldon has literally trawled through a plethora of largely unused and unseen documents in the Kriegsarchiv in Munich, plus scores of personal accounts, both published and unpublished to create this masterly work on fighting to the east of Ypres in 1914.
German hopes of a swift victory in 1914 were dashed when its forces were halted along the banks of the River Marne in September.
As a result, the new German Chief of the General Staff Erich Von Falkenhayn committed largely untrained volunteers and reservists in an all-or-nothing attack at Ypres which was Germany's last hope of gaining a decisive victory in the west in 1914.
Until now, most books in English have largely focused on the men of the British Expeditionary Force's ability to fire 15 aimed rounds a minute into the German troops, who would often advance shoulder-to-shoulder.
The so-called 'mad-minute' musketry of the BEF has taken on a mythical status, with some historians quick to put the ultimate failure of the German attacks down to the quality of British soldiering.
But Sheldon's work highlights that the Germans were repulsed at Ypres in 1914 by Belgian and French forces as well, and so in that sense it was an Allied effort, not just a British one.
The study of German sources also makes clear the startling deficiencies in command and control which beset the German - and indeed all armies - at this stage of the war.
Communications between forward troops, artillery and command posts were quick to break down, as was morale when rudimentary tactics failed.
All in all, this is a masterly and authoritative work which really opens the reader's eyes to how operations were carried out by the Germans, and what life was like 'on the other side of the hill'.
It should be read by all serious scholars of the Great War and I can't recommend this book highly enough.