This multi-volume series in six (perhaps seven) parts is the first English-language translation of Der Weltkrieg, the German official history of the First World War. It was originally produced between 1925 and 1944 using classified archival records that were destroyed by aerial bombing in April 1945 at the end of the Second World War. This series presents the inside story of Germany’s experience on the Western Front. Hopefully, future volumes will cover other fronts.
This account by official historians is fundamental to the study of the Great War and official memory in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Although some new document sources have been found in former Soviet archives, the original Der Weltkrieg work remains one of the most important resources on Germany in WW1. This translation makes it accessible to English readers.
Confusingly, the 1915 volume was released initially. It has the official explanation of the first use of poison gas against French and Canadian troops at Ypres. It also explains the conflict raging in the German High Command over the political and military direction of the war, setting the stage for Verdun that sealed the fate of the German Supreme Commander, Erich von Falkenhayn.
The 1914 volume is part one of that year, covering the outbreak of war in July–August, the German invasion of Belgium, the Battles of the Frontiers, and the pursuit to the Marne in early September. The first month of war was critical for the German army and, as the official history makes clear, the German war plan was a gamble that seemed to present the only solution to the riddle of the two-front war. But as the Moltke-Schlieffen Plan was gradually jettisoned through a combination of intentional command decisions and confused communications, Germany’s hopes for a quick and victorious campaign evaporated.
The English editors’ extensive footnotes are outstanding and a treasure for researchers. They include explanations of German terminology, other countries’ perspectives on events, as well as current debates and controversies such as the argument by author Terrence Zuber that the Schlieffen Plan was a myth propagated in the 1920s (see WWOI issue #3, page 10).
The second part of 1914 is due next, but sadly no dates for it or future volumes could be obtained from the publisher.
German War Planning, 1891-1914: Sources and Interpretations by Terence Zuber ISBN: 1843831082 Published byBoydell Press on November 30th 2004 Pages: 324
Len's Summary: Consists mainly of translations of German planning documents upon which Zuber's book Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning 1871-1914 (Oxford, 2003) and related articles are based. The author, a retired American army officer, asserts the controversial and much contested thesis that the Schlieffen Plan never really existed.
All the Kaiser's Men: The Imperial Army on the Western Front 1914-1918 by Ian Passingham ISBN: 0752459503 Published byThe History Press on June 1st 2011 Pages: 304
Len's Summary: An analysis of German strategy, tactics, and leadership as well as that leadership's limited ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Reviewed in the January 2005 edition of Stand To!
Rewriting the First World War: Lloyd George, Politics and Strategy, 1914-1918 by Andrew Suttie ISBN: 1403991197 Published byPalgrave Macmillan on January 21st 2006 Pages: 288
Len's Summary: Assesses Lloyd George's attempt to shape the history of the war (and the record of his own participation) concentrating on the alleged incompetence and Western Front fixation of Britain's military leaders.
Len's Summary: Did Falkenhayn actually plan to wage a battle of attrition at Verdun? Draws on previously unavailable German documents held in Russian archives since WWII. Look for a full review in Camaraderie.
Len's Summary: An analytical look by a premier military historian drawing on many German sources to explain why Ludendorff's spring 1918 offensives failed to cause Entente collapse and achieve German victory. Includes extensive maps and many useful tables showing orders of battle, comparative troop strengths, reserves, numbers of guns, trench mortars and aero squadrons. Author of Steel Wind: Colonel Georg Bruchmüller and the Birth of Modern Artillery (Greenwood, 1994). Recommended.
German Disarmament After World War I: The Diplomacy of International Arms Inspection 1920-1931 by Richard J. Shuster ISBN: 9780415654951 Published byRoutledge on September 10th 2012 Pages: 272
Len's Summary: Germany was able to renegotiate the reparations terms of Versailles, but not the treaty's military strictures. This is the story of enforcing the Versailles arms limitations clauses; an early attempt at arms limitation and control.
Len's Summary: A centennial reassessment of Schlieffen’s work with abstracts of German deployment plans from 1893 sand comparative summaries of Austro-Hungarian. French, British, Belgian and Russian planning. Excellent detailed maps.
'A Moonlight Massacre' - The Night Operation on the Passchendaele Ridge, 2 December 1917: The Forgotten Last Act of the Third Battle of Ypres by Michael LoCicero ISBN: 9781909982925 Published byHelion on December 4th 2014 Pages: 432
Len's Summary: The final, climactic act in the Third Ypres Battle.
Len's Summary: Reviewed in the Financial Times and found wanting as a rehash of 1930s "blame it on the stupid generals" analysis. Mosher also asserts that America won the war for the Allies, a thesis certain to enrage our British cousins.
Len's Summary: The ever expanding Civil War use of trenches and other field works in the battles for Richmond from The Wilderness to Cold Harbor presaged both the Russo-Japanese War and WWI. A second volume will cover the Petersburg Campaign.
Len's Summary: The fateful day Ludendorff became convinced the German army was beaten. // Ninetieth anniversary analysis of the August 1918 break- through at Amiens which opened the victorious “100 days” ending World War I. The mixed arms attack of the British 4th Army also included troops from Australia, Canada and America.
Len's Summary: The author takes the stance that the Admiralty in no way exaggerated a very real German threat. See also The Royal Navy and the German Threat, 1901-1914, Matthew S. Seligmann (Oxford, 2012).
Len's Summary: Paperback version of an excellent social-military-political history first published by Johns Hopkins in 2008. How French egalitarianism was challenged by the conscription of more than half a million colonial troops during WWI, a “blood tax” levied on her African and Asian subjects. // An excellent scholarly analysis of colonial troops at war; a study of contradictory and paradoxical French policies on race, culture and religion in wartime drawing on individual experiences among the half million African, Arab and Asian soldiers who served France in WWI. Winner of the Phi Alpha Theta First Book Prize. The author teaches at SUNY Albany.
Len's Summary: Another look at the crucial weeks leading to war in 1914. // pages, ISBN 978 0 1996 6538 9, £22, $34.95. Step-by-step account of Europe’s slouch into war; a history of missed opportunities.
Author Adrian Gilbert’s introduction notes that: “British histories of the 1914 campaign typically adopt the emotionally comforting paradigm of the plucky Briton giving the overbearing foreign bully a bloody nose.” Gilbert goes on to state “…my intention is to look afresh at the British Army during 1914….My aim is not by any means to belittle the army’s many achievements but to provide a more realistic assessment of the army set within a general narrative of the war in 1914.”
Gilbert’s book succeeds admirably, and not as a revisionist work but rather as a corrective supplement to the controversial Official History of the First World War multi-volume series published between 1922 and 1948. Although the 1914 volumes of the Official History were not subject to as much debate as later books in the series, Gilbert still found “significant instances of evasion and omission, and, on occasion, outright distortion” in the 1914 volumes of the Official History.
For example, Gilbert’s research contradicts the official version of the battle of Le Cateau (26 August) as a successful delaying action fought against great odds. The author explains that such misrepresentations are important because the Official History was “so influential in defining the outlook of subsequent histories of the war.” As an example, Gilbert quotes historian John Terraine who described Le Cateau as “one of the most remarkable British feats of arms of the whole war.” Challenge of Battle devotes five detailed chapters to the preliminary maneuvers and decisions to fight at Le Cateau, the battle itself, “Failures of Command,” and the continuing retreat of the BEF. Gilbert’s book clearly proves that Le Cateau was a British tactical defeat, but it remains to be seen whether his new work can overcome well-established myths.
Len's Summary: Thanks in large measure to expert (and often bilingual) French instructors a core of four 28,000-man divisions of the American army was ready to join the French in blunting and then reversing the final German push on Paris at the Marne in July 1918. It is in the resounding German setback on the Marne of July 18, 1918 – not their August 8th defeat by the British at Amiens – that Bruce finds the beginning of the end for German arms on the Western Front.
Len's Summary: Before the war, the Admiralty conceived an economic warfare campaign deploying Britain’s virtual monopolies in banking, communications and merchant shipping as additional weapons against Germany. These weapons proved decisive. This book received the World War One Historical Association's annual Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., prize for the best work of history in English on World War One (1914-1918) for 2013. Professor Lambert is a Visiting Affiliate Professor at the University of Maryland. His book, 'Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution' (1999) won the Tomlinson 2000 prize.
On Saturday March 12 the WW1HA hosted its first ever online quiz night. This was a fun way to get geographically distant members together virtually. We are considering doing this a few times a year.
The next issue of World War One Illustrated (WWOI) will be printed shortly. Members/subscribers should receive their printed issue in the next month or so.
Members are encouraged to participate in the monthly online seminars hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter; and we plan to announce a gathering of WW1HA members at the National World War I Museum’s Fall 2022 symposium. Stay tuned!
Do you have a special interest or knowledge regarding a WW1 topic? Consider sharing your knowledge by writing an article for WWOI or a shorter blog post (500 – 1,000 words) for the WW1HA Facebook page. Talk to Editor Ed Klekowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Charles Van Way (email@example.com) for more details.
Finally, you can always reach out to me with your thoughts or questions.