What Peter Hart has consistently shown is that he can take numerous first hand accounts and reminiscences and weave them extremely well into any narrative of the Great War period. 1918: A Very British Victory is another fine example from his pen. Hart doesn't write in simple terms but he does write with a simplicity that makes it easy for his reader to follow the events and the chaos of warfare. Easy to follow maps detailing the Front and the lines of advance are found throughout to support the text.
As you would expect from the title, this book draws heavily upon the British participation but it is a history written from both Allied (British, French, Canadian, ANZAC and American) and the German experience and he has made very good use of his source material to bring the ebb and flow of 1918 alive. There is indeed something in this book for everyone.
And it's a mammoth book - over 500 pages detailing the return to mobile warfare after more than three years of deadlock on the Western Front. Hart has to deal with the rapid German blitzkreig and then end some seven months later following the Allied All Arms advance that finally crushed the German army. As such, it's a book of two halves! Hart makes sure his reader knows that infantry, artillery, tanks and aircraft all played their role in the final victory although mention of the air-support role is only brief as his equally impressive book, Aces Falling, has already covered the 1918 air war.
Hart outlines the context of the 1918 battles but in a book with this large a scope something has to give and the finer political perspectives are sometimes covered more in passing than detailed assessments but then this book is the soldiers' tale, not a detailed reference on such consequences as the implosion of the German home front or the previous three years of American industrial and financial support for the Allies. For all the arms and munitions that were available to the Allies in the summer of 1918 the German army still had to be defeated and this is a close to the ground account about the personal experience and the minutiae of battle. If you enjoy the first-hand account then this book is definitely worth the investment.
Hart sets out his stall from the very beginning - he is sympathetic to Haig and Gough whilst pointing a finger at Lloyd-George and the politicians. This isn't the book to closely question their respective performances in 1918, rather, the depth and the essence of the book is to be found in the dramatic and sometimes disturbing first hand accounts of the fighting men. This book provides a very personal account of war and dispels some myths whilst raising new questions - many of the Old Sweats no longer cared for war and the new drafts of 1918 were mostly inexperienced - men at the end of their mental tether looked for ways to avoid battle. Hart raises these sensitive issues whilst never taking his focus off the bravery and courage of the men that achieved.
Peter Hart is making a good name for himself and 1918: A Very British Victory is another outstanding effort. Similar to Hart's Somme, this is a book you will want to read again!