Passchendaele – Review

PasschendaeleOn this blog, my focus is the Second World War. However, anything on the First World War is directly relevant. Many of the same nations were involved and many of the battles took place in the same areas.

The First World War was the bridge when it came to military technology from the battles of the nineteenth century to the Second World War. Some things continued (artillery, infantry), some things were expanded (planes, tanks) and some were discarded (trench warfare, gas).

I recently read a book on one of the most well known battles of the First World War, called Passchendaele: The Lost Victory of World War I. It is a very good account of a major battle happening fairly close to the end of the war.

It was a time when the Russian front was coming near the end as a result of the Russian revolution. The Americans had not yet arrived to participate in the war. The French army was wracked with unrest. The Western Front had been at a stalemate for years.

For both political and military reasons, there needed to be a breakthrough and Passchendaele was was the place where it would take place. This battle, also known as Third Battle of Ypres, was fought from 31 July to 10 November 1917.

The British attached the Germans with very little success. Then came the Australians and New Zealanders, who were not known for their parade etiquette but were respected as fighters. They made some headway but still couldn’t take their objective.

As a person serving in the Canadian army, I was proud to read of how well the Canadian Corps did when it was handed to them. The Canadians had proved themselves at Vimy and were seen as the ones who could take what others couldn’t.

The Canadians were able to take Passchendaele, but at the cost of thousands of soldiers. It ended up giving the Allies no military advantage. The British ended up withdrawing from it and the Germans retook it without a shot fired.

Nick Lloyd gives an excellent account of this battle. He shares both the political decisions behind the battle and the thoughts of the men in the trenches. Reflections from soldiers from both sides give insight in what was happening on the ground.

If you are interested in military history, I strongly recommend this book. If you are interested in learning more about the war, listen to my episode about the First World war.

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