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Marshal Foch, the Generalissimo of the Allied Armies during the last stages of the First World War, commenting on the victories won during the Hundred Days when the Germans were driven back on the Western Front, said ‘Never at any time in history has the British army achieved greater results in attack than in this unbroken offensive’.
The scale, speed and success of this offensive have provided historians with fertile ground for interpretation and debate. How did the British Expeditionary Force, having endured the bitter disappointments and heavy losses at Aubers Ridge, Loos, the Somme, Passchendaele, Cambrai and during the German spring offensives of 1918 turn the tide of the war and comprehensively defeat the enemy in the field? This is the fascinating question that Michael Senior tackles in this lucid and thought-provoking study.
He considers the reasons for the stunning British victories and examines the factors that underpinned the eventual success of the BEF. In particular he shows how tactical and technical developments evolved during the course of the war and merged in a way that gave the British a decisive advantage during the final months of the fighting.
Innovations in guns and gunnery, in shells, aircraft and tanks, and a massive increase in industrial output, played key parts, as did the continuous process of adaptation, experimentation and invention that went on throughout the war years. The result was an army that could take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity presented by the failure of the German spring offensive of 1918.
Michael Senior provides a challenging and controversial analysis of the underlying reasons for the success of the BEF. It is essential reading for anyone who is keen to learn about the extraordinary development of the British army throughout the war – and to understand why, and how, the Germans were beaten.
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