Tag Archives: Western Front

Wrapping Up The Great War.

As we draw to the close of the Great War centenary, we also approach reviews of the remaining materials in my First World War library (in no particular order):

 

As a monthly lineup, this selection of videos takes us through October, although I expect to add a few other items, and there will be a special Armistice Day edition of our Trench Newspaper.

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Review: The German Offensives of 1918 (Passingham)

The German Offensives of 1918: The Last Desperate Gamble.

This is the second book by Passingham that I’ve read, and in it he persists with his sometimes puzzling use of vocabulary which makes the reader do a double-take and re-read the sentence, wondering if what was written was what the author really meant to say. He also adopts a breezy, slangy style that casts the pall of “pop history” over the topic, obscuring what would have been better presented as a serious analytical work.

It’s a slim volume that seems to have been generously padded to increase its length: The chapter titles are printed in an enormous font size, although it’s not a “large print” book. The author frequently interrupts the narrative with lengthy, large bold-print subtitles (often labeling only one paragraph of text), which are also listed in the table of contents, where they do little good because they tend to be “catchy” rather than helpfully descriptive. And how often do we really need to have a commander identified by his full title, full name (including additional birth names), plus his nickname, when the experiences of the forces under his command again become the topic of discussion? Some of those names take up most of a whole line of text. Occasional use of “gray space” also extends the length of the book, in boxes of text that purport to highlight technical or biographical information that break up page flow in the manner often seen in academic textbooks of much larger size.

The line maps are no better than most I’ve seen in all my reading. The relatively few end notes refer back to inline citations that, for the most part, are irrelevant enough to make the reader wonder why the author bothered to interrupt the text with them. The numerous appendices consist mostly of order-of-battle listings, with a table of German ranks and a redundant essay about German tactics and weapons thrown in for good measure. There’s a lengthy bibliography, but the index is superficial and inadequate.

The dramatic front cover photo of German troops in action and the high quality hard cover binding make an excellent presentation on the shelf, but what’s found within doesn’t match; indeed, the text points up the hyperbole in the back-cover description.

The book’s only redeeming feature is its nicely reproduced glossy center section of photos and other illustrations, although they’re not all unique. The photos of German children in uniform (dead as well as alive) may be disconcerting to some readers (discretion is advised for homeschool use).

I can’t say that I won’t refer to it again while doing research for my novel-in-progress, but there are better history books out there that cover the last year of the Great War.

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Review: Raiding on the Western Front (Saunders)

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Raiding on the Western Front.

This is the most sloppily written and poorly edited history book I have had the misfortune of reading. It is rife with grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors. The syntax is often an utter muddle, with badly written sentences and poorly constructed paragraphs.

The relatively few end notes are numbered. The bibliography relies mainly on secondary sources, including four of the author’s own books. It does cite British unit diaries and military training materials among the official documents consulted, but the only identifiable genuine German source is Jünger’s Storm of Steel. The index lists a great many American, Australian, Canadian and German units (very few French), which apparently were gleaned from the secondary sources. Most of the photos in the glossy section are reproduced in the back cover collage. There are a couple of maps, a page of pictures of various styles of cudgels and knives, and two simple schematics of explosive weapons, which are not very informative.

As a collection of anecdotes about trench raids during the First World War, it serves basic research purposes. Otherwise, it comes across as a rough draft of text describing raw data, rushed into print without the benefit of proper editing or revision.

The physical presentation of this book is impressive, in hardcover with colorized period photos on the front, but the text has far too many problems to reflect any credit on a writer who claims to have earned a PhD.

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