A remarkable work of scholarship; Brooks went back to the original reports submitted by the British commanders—Jellicoe, Beatty, and all their subordinates, as well as communications logs, gunnery logs, and other supplemental materials. The result is a detailed examination of the battle that strips away a hundred years of claims and counter-claims and provides a detailed, minute-by-minute account of the battle. Along the way Brooks offers many fresh insights into the actions of the British naval leadership. One warning: This is not a book for casual reading—to extract its full value the reader must pay close attention!
The Journal of Military History review was mixed on this volume. The reviewer noted it is “a great primer for … learning more about the French” army, but also “It is imperfect, sometimes could go into more depth, and makes a few minor errors….”
What are these “minor” errors? Elizabeth Greenhalgh, a QE II Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales in Australia, makes regrettable and “irreconcilable” mistakes in French casualty figures, and misses important aspects of French artillery; for example, referring to French guns only by their caliber and not by their make. Artillery was a huge factor in the Great War, so knowing if a 155-mm cannon was the 1882 de Bange model that fired one aimed round per minute or the 1905 model Rimailho capable of ten to fifteen aimed rounds per minute is a big deal.
Her analysis of the French view of British BEF commander Haig as selfish and uncooperative is interesting, and her section on the French mutinies was called “the best treatment of the phenomenon in English” by the reviewer.
This volume was a collaborative effort of three professors at the University of Kent. Unlike the other volumes of this series reviewed in this issue, this one has no statistical tables; unfortunate since there are anecdotal numbers presented throughout the narrative.
It assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the British Army between 1914 and 1918, and discusses debates about the adequacy of British generalship and the so-called “learning curve” in the development of combat operations. Their conclusion is that despite limitations of initiative and innovation among the British high command, the British Army succeeded in developing effective combined arms warfare necessary for achieving victory in 1918.
The Western Front receives the lion’s share of attention with British Army operations “throughout the rest of the world” relegated to 26 pages. The index has “BEF, See British Expeditionary Force” but there is no such listing which means any pages where the BEF’s changing organization, such as the increase in machine-guns per battalion and decrease in battalions per division are lost (or nonexistent).
The Journal of Military History review declared this “a well-researched and nicely written volume for the ‘Armies of the Great War’ series.” It went on to say “One of the major strengths of this work is the careful integration of the context in which the American Army is roughly jerked out of its wary complacency….”
David Woodward, an Emeritus Professor of History at Marshall University, covers the American Expeditionary Forces’ battles at the Saint-Mihiel salient, the Meuse-Argonne offensive, plus U.S. soldiers in Russia and Siberia. American politics, Allied debates about various strategies, and the arguments and negotiations among the coalition partners are also examined, especially on how the U.S. divisions were integrated into the Allied order of battle.
Professor Woodward’s overview is supported by seven statistical and organizational tables. The maps are adapted from the American Armies and Battlefields in Europe, 1938 published by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission.
Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI
Dennis Showalter: “…seminal work presents America’s creation of an army that suffered every possible shortcoming resulting from improvisation.”
Len's Summary: Historiography: scholarly analysis of the multitude of ways WWI has been interpreted by French, American and British historians, literary scholars, film directors and writers over three generations. Winter teaches at Yale and Prost at the University of Paris.
Len's Summary: A social history of the British Tommy drawing on official records and soldiers' correspondence. From the series Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare edited by Jay Winter and Paul Kennedy.
Len's Summary: Continuation and expansion of Hamilton & Herwig's fine study The Origins of World War I (Cambridge, 2003) this time focussing on key individual actors - monarchs, ministers, military men, political leaders - with divergent agendas.
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 original and revisionist thesis arguing that the real peace settlement of WWI was not incorporated in Versailles, but rather in the London reparations settlement of 1924 (the Dawes Plan) and the Locarno security pact of 1925 which fostered German reintegration into the community of nations and laid the realistic foundations for a European security system.
Len's Summary: Two divisions of British Indian Army troops arrived in France six weeks after the outbreak of war, a frontier constabulary utterly unprepared and ill-equipped for modern warfare. Still, as the only readily available reserves, they provided the difference between defeat and survival for an outnumbered BEF.
Len's Summary: A book about German occupation policy and operations in Lithuania, the Baltics, Ruthenia and parts of Poland from 1915 through 1919 and the Soviet Red Army invasion. Dr. Liulevicius is a frequent speaker at WFA seminars, and professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Len's Summary: Also recommended: Dr. Edward Brynn’s article on The Conscription Debate in Ireland during the First World War presented at the September 2005 WFA national seminar at Newport News and available from Carl Barna at firstname.lastname@example.org
Len's Summary: Chapters by Brigadier Jonathan Bailey on Western Front battlefields and the genesis of modern warfare, and Dr. Holger Herwig on the battle fleet revolution of 1885-1914. Recommended by WFA and TGWS member Bob Denison.
Len's Summary: The first volume in this useful and finely-crafted comparative study covered social and economic effects of the war; this volume concentrates on the cultural impact of the conflict on the home front. Contributors include Tomlinson Prize- winner Annette Becker.
Len's Summary: The author believes that people in Britain and Germany grappled with the horrors of industrialized war by arranging the sacrifices of its victims on a historical continuum stretching back to and emphasizing the Middle Ages. // A comparative history of the cultural impact of war.
Len's Summary: Comparative scholarly study of German and British morale. The author argues that at the heart of armies’ robustness lay human resilience; that the “ordered surrender” by junior officers led to Germany’s defeat in 1918.
Len's Summary: Accuses Haig of first underestimating German strength in 1916 and then exaggerating German’s power in 1918, advocating a compromise peace. A new biography which has stoked another round in the never-ending controversy over the most pilloried military leader in British history. The author is a lecturer at Sandhurst.
Len's Summary: First published in 2002, this is a critique of the anti-war culture that pervades writing and teaching The Great War. Favorably reviewed by History Today as a bid to rescue WWI history from popular myth.
Ambassador Shurtleff, a retired American Foreign Service officer who served as President of The World War One Historical Association and as a past President of The Western Front Association – U S Branch, passed away on January 22, 2014. The searchable version of Len’s Bookshelf was created and will be maintained in his honor.