Excerpt

This is the story of the British Expeditionary Force’s part in the opening days of the Advance to Victory. It starts with the contribution to the Battle of Fère-en-Tardenois in July; the counter-offensive which pushed the Germans back to the River Marne.

Each stage of the two month battle is given the same treatment, covering the details of the most talked about side of the campaign; the BEF’s side. Over fifty new maps chart the day by day progress of the five armies and together with the narrative, explain the British Army’s experience during the opening stages of the Advance to Victory.

  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 9781526723413
  • Publisher: Pen and Sword
  • Published: 7 November 2017

Review

Given the substantial amount of books written about World War 1 you may wonder if any addition to this mountain of books makes sense. Often you’ll read another book about the same topic and you realise that you already know most of what is written. Many of these books give a good overview of events, but often details per unit are missing. This book fills many of these gaps.

‘This is the story of the British Expeditionary Force’s part in the opening days of the Advance to Victory. It starts with the contribution to the Battle of Fère-en-Tardenois in July; the counter-offensive which pushed the Germans back to the River Marne.

Fourth Army’s attack on 8 August was called the Black Day of the German Army, which was the beginning of 100 days of campaigning. The narrative follows the advance as it expands across the Somme, the Artois and the Flanders regions. Time and again the British and Empire troops used well-developed combined arms tactics to break through successive lines of defence. By the end of September, all five of the BEF’s armies had reached the Hindenburg Line and were poised for the final advance.

Each stage of the two month battle is covered including fifty new maps which chart the progress of the five. Many individuals are mentioned; those who led the advances, those who stopped the counter-attacks and those who were awarded the Victoria Cross.

The book contains the following chapters:

  1. A foot by foot defense
  2. Countering Operation Peace Storm
  3. Phantoms of Imagination
  4. It all looked certain, confident success
  5. We have nearly reached the limit of our powers of resistance
  6. The finest in open warfare
  7. A sense we reached success at last
  8. Keep the same attitude and continue your pursuit
  9. Indeed a magnificent performance
  10. The hardest fighting during the whole advance
  11. Germany is defeated and the sooner we recognise it the better
  12. They went over like a pack of hounds
  13. Conclusions

Advance to Victory gives a detailed account of the actions especially on a tactical level and you’ll find the names of most important the men involved. I found more details than in many other books covering a war or battle. The book contains 50 maps of operations, whereas most other titles often include some general ones (if any). Often an overview of events is often left to one’s own imagination. I found these maps very useful. I enjoyed the level of details, while others may not consider the level of detail very useful.

The author describes new tactics used and a big part of the successes are attributed to these tactics. Cooperation between infantry and tanks had improved, just like the precision of the (and the flexibility of the artillery). The introduction of the Mark V tank (on July 4th in Le Hamel) was considered a major improvement. I found the WW2 Blitzkrieg concept relatively easy to understand, but for some reason, I found understanding WW1 strategy and tactics harder. Therefore I enjoyed the conclusions of the book clarifying tactics, as well as the Marne Counter Offensive, The Black Day, The Hindenburg Line and German strategy.

This book is no battlefield guide with places to visit. However, when exploring the battlefields of France, the maps in this book are very useful and give you a clear direction of where to go.

If you look for a book covering details, you’ll probably enjoy this book a lot, but for others this book may be too detailed (assuming military books can contain too many details at all). It’s a matter of taste really. The book is part of a series about WW1.

The Verdict

Content: 4.0 stars
Layout: 3.5 stars
Interest: 4.0 stars
Overall: 4.0 stars

About  the author
Andrew Rawson is a freelance writer who has written over forty books covering many conflicts. They include eight books for Pen and Sword’s ‘Battleground Europe’ series and three reference books for The History Press’s ‘Handbook’ series. One covered all aspects of the British Army in the First World War. He has recently completed a ten part series on the British Expeditionary Force’s battles on the Western Front. He has a master’s history degree with Birmingham University.