Books on Battles of the First World War

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Battles
Cambrai
Gallipoli
Loos
Messines
Mons
The Somme
Verdun
Ypres

Books - First World War - Battles

Individual Battles

Breaking Point of the French Army - The Nivelle Offensive of 1917, David Murphy. Looks at the state of the French army at the start of 1917, the hopes raised by Nivelle when he took command, the failure of his offensive and the crisis of morale caused by that failure. Includes interesting material on how Nivelle and his team were able to ignore the evidence that there were problems with their plan, and on how Petain managed to undo the damage to the French army in remarkably little time (Read Full Review)
Aisne 1918, David Blanchard. Focuses on the first day of the battle, when a series of weakened British divisions in poor defensive positions were overwhelmed and the Allied line was temporarily broken. Based around a series of regimental histories of the fighting on that first day, followed by a shorter overview of the rest of the battle. Helps explain why the Germans were able to achieve such a dramatic breakthrough on the first day of the battle (Read Full Review)
The Horns of the Beast - The Swakop River Campaign and World War I in South-West Africa 1914-15, James Stejskal. Focuses on the successful South African invasion of German South-West Africa, a brief campaign that rarely gets more than a paragraph or two in histories of the First World War. This book focuses on one part of that campaign, the successful advance up the Swakop River which led to the defeat of the main German army in the area and the eventual surrender of the entire colony. Often neglected, this was an important victory for the South Africans, and helped unite the colony at the start of the Great War [read full review]
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Battle on the Aisne 1914: The BEF and the Birth of the Western Front, Jerry Murland. A history of the British Army's involvement in the Battle of the Aisne, the moment when the war of movement ended and the stalemate of the trenches began, effectively beginning the Western Front as we understand it. Supported by copious eyewitness accounts, this is an excellent study of this often neglected battle. [read full review]
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Fromelles 1916: No Finer Courage, the Loss of an English Village, Michael Senior. A look the impact of the First World War on the Buckinghamshire village of The Lee, and the tragic losses suffered by that village during the disastrous attack on Fromelles in July 1916. [read full review]
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The Battle of Bellecourt Tunnel: Tommies, Diggers and Doughboys on the Hindenburg Line, 1918, Dale Blair. A study of one of the first coalition battles on the Western Front to include large numbers of American troops, fighting as part of the Australian Corps during the successful attack on the Hindenburg Line. Their attack wasn't a success, although the hard-fighting Australians were eventually able to push the Germans back some way. Here Blair looks at this early coalition battle and examines the reasons for its comparative failure. [read full review]
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Cambrai

ANZAC Infantryman 1914-15, From New Guinea to Gallipoli, Ian Sumner. Looks at the raising, training and deployment of the Australian and New Zealand armies in 1914-15, a period that saw them deployed in the south Pacific, Egypt and most famously at Gallipoli. Gallipoli rather dominates, but it is nice to have more of the background than normal. [read full review]
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The Ironclads of Cambrai, Bryan Cooper. A classic account of the first large scale tank battle, a brief triumph that despite ending as a draw helped pave the way for the eventual Allied victories of 1918, and that saw the tank emerge as an important weapon of war after a rather low-key introduction into service [read full review]
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Cambrai 1917: The Birth of Armoured Warfare, Alexander Turner. A well organised and illustrated account of the first battle to see the tank used in large numbers as a shock weapon.
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Caporetto

Rommel & Caporetto, John Wilks and Eileen Wilks. Two interesting books in one - first a general history of the battle of Caporetto, where the Germans and Austrians nearly broke the Italian army and second an examination of the young Rommel's role in the battle where he first made his name. [read full review]
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Gallipoli

This Bloody Place - With the Incomparable 29th, Major A.H. Mure. A Gallipoli memoir published in 1919, but written during the war, centred on Mure's 43 days on shore at Gallipoli. An honest, largely unvarnished account of the fighting, which despite Mure's pride in the Allied achievement on Gallipoli doesn't skip over the horrors of the fighting, from the constant presence of death to Mure's own nervous breakdown that saw him invalided home. Gives a good impression of how frantic the fighting was in the narrow Gallipoli beachhead [read full review]
The Nek - A Gallipoli Tragedy, Peter Burness. Looks at one of the most costly disasters of the Gallipoli campaign in which four waves of dismounted light Australian cavalrymen charged towards Turkish machine guns on a narrow front and suffered appalling casualties. This study looks at the attack itself, the background to the units and their commanders, with a focus on why the later waves of attackers were allowed to make futile and costly assaults. [read full review]
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Battleground Gallipoli: Suvla August Offensive, Stephen Chambers. A detailed history of the disastrous British landing at Sulva Bay in August 1915, an offensive that showed the British high command at almost its worst. Ends with three day-long walks around the battlefield area. All well supported by eyewitness accounts and contemporary photographs. [read full review]
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GalipoliGallipoli 1915, Haythornthwaite, Philip J., Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 1991, Campaign Series No. 8. This Osprey covers the famous Gallipoli campaign in World War I, where British, Australian and New Zealand forces fought a bloody stalemate against the Turks in a hope of opening a second Front. [see more]
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Gallipoli , Moorehead, Alan, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1997
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James, Robert Rhodes. 'Gallipoli Campaign' in Holmes, R. (Ed) Oxford Companion to Military History, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, pp. 343 - 345.
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Travers, Tim. 'The Army and the Challenge of War 1914 - 1918' in Chandler, David and Beckett, Ian. The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994, pp. 215 - 240.
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Fromkin, David. 'Gallipoli Campaign' in Cowley, Robert & Parker, Geoffrey. The Osprey Companion to Military History, Osprey Publishing, 1996, London, pp. 175 - 176.
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Loos

The Battle of Loos, Philip Warner. The heart of this book is a series of eyewitness accounts of the battle from each of the British divisions involved in the battle, mostly taken from letters written to the author by survivors of the fighting in the 1970s. The result is a classic work of military history that takes us into the trenches in a way that few other books manage. [read full review]
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Messines

Messines 1917: The zenith of siege warfare, Alexander Turner. A good clear account of one of the most successful British offensives of the First World War, and a classic example of the success possible when formal siege techniques were applied to the deadlock on the Western Front. The battle is best known for the massive mines that were detonated at its start, but also saw a significant improvement in the British use of artillery and the benefits of a well organised plan [read full review]
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Mons

Retreat and Rearguard 1914: The BEF's Actions from Mons to the Marne, Jerry Murland. A very detailed account of the days from the battle of Mons to the end of the retreat and the first steps towards victory on the Marne, a period dominated by a long retreat and a number of fierce rear-guard actions. Well supported by eyewitness accounts of the retreat, and with evidence from the British, French and German sides, this is a good addition to the literature on this well-studied period. [read full review]
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Mons: The Retreat to Victory, John Terraine. A classic account of the first phase of the fighting on the Western Front as it affected the B.E.F., from their arrival in France, to the battle of Mons itself and on to the long retreat and the battle of the Marne, supported by a good account of the experience of the French and German armies and their commanders [read full review]
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Mons 1914 , David Lomas, An excellent book with detailed orders of battle and good maps and colour plates as well as photographs. Includes advice on wargamming the battle
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The Somme

The Somme - The Epic Battle in the Soldier's own Words and Photograph, Richard van Emden. Covers the entire period that the British army spent on the original Somme front, from its arrival late in 1915, through the battle of the Somme and up to the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Mainly uses the writings and private photos taken by British soldiers, but also includes some material from the German side [read full review]
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The Battle of the Somme, ed. Matthew Strohn. Looks at the wider issues that surround the battle, from its place in the British, French and German strategy for 1916 to the long term impact of the battle, as well as the development of tactics during the battle, and the long term impact of the Somme. A useful volume that gives equal weight to the British, French and German experiences of the Somme, and helps place the battle in its true context.  [read full review]
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Somme 1916 - Success and Failure on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme, Paul Kendall. Traces the fate of each British division to take part in the disastrous attack on the first day of the Somme, moving from north to south, so from total failure to relative success. Allows the reader to see what elements the unsuccessful attacks had in common, as well as acknowledging the more successful fighting on the British right, close to the French lines [read full review]
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The First Day on the Somme (Revised Edition), Martin Middlebrook. A classic work that help found an entire genre of military history, combining a detailed history of the first day of the battle of the Somme with extensive extracts from eyewitness accounts of the fighting. The result is a truly excellent and moving account of the costly disaster of the First Day of the Somme, with a deserved reputation as a classic, and that hasn’t been out of print since 1971. [read full review]
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Somme Intelligence - Fourth Army HQ 1916, William Langford. A fascinating collection of the intelligence material available to the British Fourth Army on the Somme, mainly captured German material, including letters to and from the front, extracts from diaries, orders and other material taken from German prisoners or found in the German trenches after successful attacks, all of which suggested that German morale was at a low ebb, and perhaps encouraging the Allied commanders in their belief that a major victory was possible. [read full review]
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Slaughter on the Somme 1 July 1916 - The Complete War Diaries of the British Army's Worst Day, Martin Mace and John Grehan. An invaluable reference work for anyone interested in the First Day of the Somme, the most costly single day in the history of the British army, bringing together the war diaries entries for 1 July 1916 for every British battalion that took part in the battle and the diversionary attack Gommecourt. [read full review]
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Images of War: Great Push, the Battle of the Somme 1916, William Langford. A selection of photographs taken from the pictorial magazine The Great Push, which ran from July to November 1916 and included some 700 official photographs and film stills. A fascinating collection of photographs that give an interesting insight into the image the British Army wanted to give of the fighting on the Somme. [read full review]
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Somme Success: The Royal Flying Corps and the Battle of the Somme 1916, Peter Hart. A compelling account of the aerial battle fought alongside the more famous fighting on the ground during the long battle of the Somme. Focuses on what the air forces were attempting to achieve and how successful they were, with the more familiar duals between air aces and technological developments placed more firmly in context than is normally the case. [read full review]
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Walking the Somme (Second Edition), Paul Reed. Sixteen walks on the Somme battlefield, each with a discussion of the historical significance of the area, supported by a good selection of contemporary and modern photographs, useful sketch maps and contemporary trench maps. Produced twenty years after the first edition, the author's knowledge of the battlefield shines through.[read full review]
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Tanks on the Somme, from Morval to Beaumont Hamel, Trevor Pidgeon. A very detailed tank-by-tank account of the 'penny packet' operations that followed the initial larger scale introduction of the tank into warfare during the battle of the Somme. Supported by detailed maps and battlefield guides, this is one of the most detailed accounts of armoured warfare you will ever read! [read full review]
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Images of War: The Germans on the Somme, David Bilton. This illustrated history of the Somme front during the First World War from the German perspective provides an unfamiliar view of a familiar topic, both visually and in the narrative. A valuable work that challenges the standard view of the battle of the Somme of 1916 as a British defeat, as well as giving an unusual perspective on the four year long campaign on the Somme. [read full review]
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Verdun

The French Army at Verdun, Ian Sumner. The battle of Verdun was the defining experience of the First World War for the French, and a huge proportion of the army took part the defence of the fortress city. This photographic study covers an impressively wide range of topics, from the muddy chaos of the front lines to the massive supply operation, with aerial photographs to give a dramatic overview of the impact of the fighting [read full review]
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Battleground Verdun: Fort Vaux, Christina Holstein. A detailed account of the siege of Fort Vaux, a short but important part of the wider Battle of Verdun, combined with a history of the fort and four self-guided tours of Fort Vaux and the surrounding area. A splendid account of a claustrophobic battle fought in horrendous conditions. [read full review]
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The Battle for Flanders - German Defeat on the Lys 1918, Chris Baker. An account of the second major German offensive of 1918, Operation Georgette, or the Battle of the Lys of April 1918. A clear narrative is supported by copious eyewitness accounts from the British side to produce a clear account of this pivotal battle after which the Germans began to lose the initiative on the Western Front [read full review]
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The Fortifications of Verdun, 1874-1917, Clayton Donnell. A study of the fortifications of Verdun, from the first modern works after the Franco-Prussian War to the brutal siege of 1916 and on to the modern preservation of the battlefield. Has some interesting material on the way in which fortifications developed in response to the appearance of high explosive shells fired from rifled artillery as well as on the appearance of the forts during the First World War and the siege itself. [read full review]
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Ypres

Trial by Gas - the British Army at the Second Battle of Ypres, George H. Cassar. Looks at the first use of poisoned gas on the Western Front, and the only major German offensive in the west in 1915, one of the great ‘missed chances’ of the First World War. Very detailed account of the British side of the battle, supported by excellent maps showing the overall progress of the battle. Could do with more on the German point of view, but otherwise excellent(Read Full Review)
A Moonlight Massacre, Michael Locicero. A detailed history of a little known night attack that came after the official end of the Third Battle of Ypres, and that was intended to improve the British position on the northern edge of Passchendaele Ridge. Demonstrates the problems that could be caused by poor communications and the confusion of a night time attack, even in the increasingly expert British army of 1917, while also examining the real end of the British offensive action at Ypres in 1917 [read full review]
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Images of War: The Germans in Flanders 1915-1916, David Bilton. A narrative history of the fighting in Flanders in 1915 and 1916 as seen from the German side, supported by a superb collection of photographs. Concludes with a chronology of the main events during these two years and a brief history of each German division that fought in Flanders in this period. [read full review]
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Battleground Ypres: The Battle of the Lys 1918, Givenchy and the River Lawe, Phil Tomaselli. A detailed account of the fighting on the southern half of the battlefield during the first four days of the Battle of the Lys, one of the series of major German offensives that pushed the Allied line back in the spring and early summer of 1918. Finishes with a selection of tours of the battlefield [read full review]
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Cameos of the Western Front: Salient Points Five, Ypres and Picardy 1914-18, Tony Spagnoly and Ted Smith. A collection of ten short accounts of incidents in the fighting around the Ypres salient from the earliest battles of 1914 into 1917. A useful volume for anyone planning to visit the battlefields that can be used to guide them to the sites of some of the less well known moments of the fighting. [read full review]
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Russia

Russia's Last Gasp: The Eastern Front 1916-17, Prit Buttar. Looks at the most successful Russian offensive of the First World War, the Brusilov offensive of 1916, its eventual failure, and the collapse of the Tsarist regime that followed in 1917. Combines an excellent military history of the various campaigns with a detailed look at the political background in Russia, the failings of the Tsarist regime and its army, and the collapse of support for the Tsar that led to the first Russian Revolution [read full review]
Images of War: The Russian Revolution, World War to Civil War 1917-1921, Nik Cornish. A good selection of photos covering all of the main factions during the Russian Revolution and the costly Civil War that followed, including some of pre-Revolutionary times and of the Germans who occupied parts of western Russia during 1918. All supported by useful captions and a good brief history of the period. [read full review]
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Churchill's Crusade: The British Invasion of Russia 1918-1920, Clifford Kinvig. A fascinating look at a little known British campaign, the intervention in Russian in 1918-1920 that began as an attempt to reopen the Eastern Front of the First World War and turned into an attack on the Bolshevik regime. Although the British intervention was part of a wider international campaign, Britain, and Churchill in particular, played a key role in prolonging the campaign. [see more]
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