Jack Sheldon's latest edition to 'The German Army...' series is excellent. As always, the style is easy to read. The maps, which are beautifully crafted by Jack's wife, help in placing each anecdotal report or account. The translations are of the highest standard. There is a German flavour but, unlike some translators, Jack has skilfully reworked the German grammar - no easy task.
The German Army in 1915 is, arguably, Jack's best book so far. In other English literature, 1915 focuses on Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge, Festubert and Loos. If the French efforts rate a mention then it is usually in relation to the reasons why these battles were fought by the BEF. Jack provides lots of details about the German perspective on these battles. Even with Neuve Chapelle, which was covered in some detail by Wynne is his book 'If Germany Attacks...', Jack provides significant extra information. This includes several accounts of the artillery involvement as well as the counter-attacks mounted by the Germans. Aubers Ridge and Festubert are interesting; Loos even more so. The dramatic impact of the gas clouds and the sudden break in, along with the stubborn defence in some areas and the rapid response to the BEF, makes for compelling reading.
Crucially, however, these BEF contributions are placed in their rightful place. Much of the Artois battles was covered in 'The German Army at Vimy Ridge' but Jack provides a useful summary. It was great to see the inclusion of the German Argonne offensive - 1915 is not thought of as a year in which the Germans mounted a sustained series of attacks. The French Champagne battles are covered in some detail. The contrast between the Winter 1914/15 battle and the Autumn 1915 resumption is very significant. It shows how the French artillery had advanced and how the French could mount wider frontage attacks. The Germans were stretched. The width and scale of the attacks meant that the German army had to adapt, with the introduction of the Army Group into the command structure for example. Jack also introduces Fritz von Lossberg, who became the defensive troubleshooter of the German army. In these responses, coupled with the scale of the offensive in late 1915, we can see the scene being set for 1916. By contrasting the way in which earlier battles were fought, where smaller units could cope generally with the tactical challenges of narrower frontage attacks, with the problems of Champagne in late 1915, we can get a foretaste of how it would become increasingly difficult for the German army. This aspect of the book crowns the other insights that Jack has provided, confirming its place as a valuable addition to the series.
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