1918: A Very British Victory
1918 is an account of the last year of the Great War on the Western Front, leading to the collapse of the German army. It focuses on the British contribution to the war and draws heavily on memoirs and diaries of British soldiers. Although occasional use is made of French and German source material, the reliance on British material limits the usefulness of the book. An evaluation of the sources would have been helpful; as it is, the reader is left to his own judgement. In a war where the educational, cultural and social backgrounds of the individual combatants were very different, this is a failing. The argument of the book appears to be that the British generals had by 1918 developed a doctrine of “all arms warfare,” which was a significant factor in the defeat of Germany. I felt the evidence presented did not support the thesis. The German spring offensive was resisted in the same way as previous attacks: hold land at all costs and grind the enemy to a standstill. The allied successes in autumn 1918 may have been due more to the collapse of the German economy and political structures than improved Allied tactics. The book appears to have a pro-military, anti-political tone. Far more evidence is needed to justify such a stance than anecdotes and the perception of serving soldiers. Haig is hardly an impartial witness; he is an actor in the political processes as much as Clemenceau or Lloyd George. Because of the mass of first-hand accounts of British soldiers’ experiences in the final year of the Great War, 1918 is worthwhile. In a sense it is homage to those who fought, but therein is its weakness as historical analysis.