Michael Senior identifies and analyzes why the development of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was “extraordinary” and shows how they led to the British Army becoming an infinitely more efficient force by 1918 than it was in 1914.
Although written in an impressively lucid style, this is not a quick read…. [and] there’s a danger, I think, of a reader unfamiliar with the truly global nature of WWI coming away from the book with the impression that this war was primarily Britain’s war.
Most of the book is devoted to technical improvements within the Royal Flying Corps, munitions, trenches, tanks, and artillery. Ultimately, Victory on the Western Front is a convincing antidote against the popular “Lions led by Donkeys” attitude toward the Great War that has sometimes been in vogue. It’s a well-written and well-organized book. All in all, an excellent read for those whose WWI interests include the workings of the British Expeditionary Force from 1914 to 1918.
A New York Times review provided an irresistible description of this book’s topic: “The Redl Affair had everything: sex, espionage, betrayal, a fall from greatness and a sensational climax in which Redl went to his death like a figure of high tragedy.”
Alfred Redl was an Austro-Hungarian army officer and former head of the Empire’s counterintelligence. In 1913, he was discovered selling military secrets to the Russians and perhaps others. After being confronted, he was allowed to commit suicide and shot himself. Notably, Redl had passed to the Russians the Empire’s mobilization plans, eventually raising the important question of whether his betrayal had been a cause of Austria-Hungary’s poor performance once the war started in 1914.
In the preface, the authors argue convincingly that this is the first “factual” biography of Alfred Redl in English and state clearly that there is much about his case that will never be known for certain. Sadler and Fisch do an excellent job of describing Redl’s life and his situation as a perpetual outsider—a non-aristocrat homosexual of modest means, modest family background, and high intelligence. Combined with the stultifying culture of the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its army, they make a convincing case for their explanation of Redl’s motivations for betrayal.
Sadler and Fisch could have done a better job in guiding readers through the difficult thicket of disinformation, cover-ups, yellow journalism, and politically motivated allegations that followed in the wake of the Redl affair. Despite this confusion, the book is a valuable addition to the histories of the Empire, of WW1, and of espionage itself.
Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of the World War One Historical Association and a retired CIA analyst
Len's Summary: History of creation the British Pals Battalions made up of men from the same town or craft. // Looks at the participation of the Pals battalions which fought on the Somme in 1916 and how the Pals phenomenon was born.
Len's Summary: The editor provides a commentary for these recently-discovered letters from a VC winner. // Diaries of a British veteran. // Written by a veteran of the Royal Fusiliers and West Yorkshire regiments who served from 1915 on the Somme, at Moutaubon and Vimy.
Len's Summary: The diaries of a Norfolk medical doctor who volunteered for the Royal Medical Corps in 1914. -- War diary of a British physician who spent four years behind the front treating the wounded of three armies.
The Centennial commemorations are over, but WW1 remains a relevant area of study because of its enormous impact on the 20th and 21st centuries: Many present-day geographic tensions come from the post-war peace and drawing of boundaries. More families than ever are seeking to understand the war’s impact on their ancestors. The war had a profound impact on all facets of society, including post-war re-building. At the time of this writing, the influenza epidemic of 1918-19 is again newsworthy.
In 2020 we are working to increase engagement and communication with the membership. This will include: regular publication of our Journal, World War One Illustrated, and our newsletter, Here and There; a more regular social media presence; and a refreshed website.