After years of relatively static warfare, 1918 saw a return to a war of movement on the Western Front, first with the German Spring Offensive, which saw the largest advances since 1914, and then with the prolonged Allied offensive that led to the end of the war, and which saw movement on a scale that dwarfed the German achievements of a few months earlier.
Although the book covers most of the fighting of 1918, the focus is firmly on the Amiens front. Operation Michael, the German advance towards Amiens takes up four chapters, while the Lys offensive, which produced Haig’s famous ‘Backs to the Wall’ order, only gets a single chapter. The second half of the book looks at the Allied counterattacks, and again the relatively short battle of Amiens gets two – one on the planning and one on the fighting itself. I found this balance very successful – we get enough background information to fully understand the significance of the fighting on the Amiens front, but at the same time enough detail on the specific battles (without getting too bogged down in minute details).
This is quite an old fashioned book, with lots of mention of the ‘Hun’ and no real attempt at being historically dispassionate – there is no doubt which side the author was on! However the book was also written at a time when Haig’s reputation was at its lowest, and yet he emerges rather well here, playing a key part in the key decisions that turned the initial victory at Amiens into a successful campaign, mainly by refusing to continue to attack at Amiens once the initial attack had run out of steam, and instead insisting on a new attack elsewhere on the front.
Overall this is a good account of the fighting of 1918, a series of battles that are probably better known now than they were in the 1960s, but that are still overshadowed by the infamous battles of 1916 and 1917.
1 - The Diminished Army (January)
2 - Rival Plans (February-March)
3 - Blighters Everywhere (March 21)
4 - In Retreat (March 21-23)
5 - The Flow Stemmed (March 23-28)
6 - Under New Command (March 28-April 5)
7 - Reflections and Recriminations (April 6-9)
8 - Backs to the Wall (April 9-29)
9 - No Refuge (May-June)
10 - The Prototypes (July)
11 - Surprise Complete (August 1-8)
12 - Complementary Success (August 8-15)
13 - The Attack Widened (August 18- September 2)
14 - The Fortress Stormed (September 3-October 5)
15- The Final Trudge (October 6 -November 11)
16 - Aftermath
Author: Gregory Blaxland
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2018 edition of 1968 original