Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918 by Michael Senior
Published by Pen & Sword Military on October 30, 2016
Genres: Strategic Studies
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.
Abridged from review by David F. Beer in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/
Spy of the Century: Alfred Redl and the Betrayal of Austria-Hungary by John Sadler, Silvie Fisch
Published by Pen & Sword Military on March 5, 2017
Genres: Espionage, Sabotage
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