The military history of the Allied response to Ludendorff's last desperate offensive on the Western Front in the spring of...

READ REVIEW

THE BATTLE FOR EUROPE, 1918

The military history of the Allied response to Ludendorff's last desperate offensive on the Western Front in the spring of 1918 competently recounted by Essame, a second lieutenant under Haig's command during the last months of the war. With Ludendorff aiming at the point of junction between the British and French armies, the allies suffered spectacular losses as the war, after four years of static trench fighting, suddenly became fluid and mobile. Like so many historians before him, Essame stresses the dissension among the separate commands of Haig, Petain, Foch and Pershing with each commander second guessing the others even as the appearance, in numbers, of tanks changed the character of the war and added to the prevailing confusion. Less convincingly, Essame disputes the traditional picture of the demoralized front line soldier: despite the literature of ""an educated hypersensitive minority"" (e.g., the war poets -- Alan Seeger, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Edward Thomas) he maintains that morale was high among British troops even as they sustained a half million casualties between March and June. After four years of floundering, Haig, says Essame, had at last got his grip, and most important of all, the personal courage of ""natural leaders"" (officers and men who had risen through the ranks) ""stopped the rot."" This has the virtue of being less turgid than most military histories but basically it's another garland to the resilience and loyalty of the battered Tommies slogging through the mud of Flanders.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972