What with the 100th anniversary of World War I and Remembrance Day coming up, a suggestion for a truly excellent book.
Mud, Blood and Poppycock.
Written by a career Gurkha Rifles officer turned historian it’s quite unlike most of what you might have read on WWI. The British Army didn’t have a high casualty rate: losses were actually slightly lower than in other mass conscript European land wars. It’s just that Britain had never had a mass conscript army in any of those wars. The Normandy casualty rate was rather higher in 1944 actually.
The Somme wasn’t a error, it was vital given what was happening at Verdun. Third Ypres/Passchendale was also not an error, equally vital given the French Army mutinies. And absolutely contrary to what just about everyone says about the generals they very rarely made the same mistake twice and by 1918 had actually worked out how to do that combined arms thing of infantry, artillery, tanks and air power. That very thing that the Nazis used so effectively in round two.
It’s also only five quid at the moment which is a bargain for a book this good. Strongly recommended.
I don’t, by the way, insist that he gets everything absolutely right. But I, for one, found his explanations of troop rotation fascinating: most especially his comparison between what the British Army did and what everyone else did. I first read it years ago and gave it another go while traveling over the weekend. It’s stood up very well.