Victoria Crosses on the Western Front: August 1914 - April 1915, Mons to Hill 60, Paul Oldfield

Victoria Crosses on the Western Front: August 1914 - April 1915, Mons to Hill 60, Paul Oldfield

This book covers the first 59 Victoria Crosses won on the Western Front, from the battle of Mons to the spring battles of 1915. These were the battles of the original BEF, those reinforcements available from the existing Regular Army, and the Indian Army (this book includes the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a native born Indian). 

I like the structure of this book. Most books on VC winners follow a similar person-by-person format, with a series of short biographies. Here the first half of the book is taken up with a series of narrative accounts of the battles in which these Victoria Crosses were won, placing each of these incidents in their proper context. The second half is made up of the individual biographies, but these are wider in scope than is often the case, covering each individual's entire life, as well as a bit of family background and a mention of any close relative with military ties.

The battles of this early period were more varied that later in the war, starting with the period of mobile warfare that didn't really end until the Race to the Sea ended in a draw (the period of the first battle of Ypres). This was followed by the early period of trench warfare, before the fortifications reached their densest peak. Most of the British battles of this period were defensive in nature, especially during the Retreat from Mons and the First Battle of Ypres, and many of these early VCs thus involve desperate defensive efforts against overwhelming odds. Even those won during British attacks tend to come after they'd gone wrong and the successful attackers were trying to hold out in captured German trenches.

This is a very effective approach to this topic, producing a book that is more readable than many encyclopedias of the Victoria Cross, while also providing the essential reference section. 


1 - The Retreat from Mons
2 - Battle of the Aisne 1914
3 - Operations in Flanders 1914
4 - First Battle of Ypres 1914
5 - Winter Operations 1914-1915
6 - Summer Operations 1915


Author: Paul Oldfield
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 352
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2014

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