Great Military Disasters: From Bannockburn to Stalingrad

Written by Julian Spilsbury
Review by Martin Bourne

This is a compendium of monographs, each describing a battle from history that did not, shall we say, go too well. The subtitle is odd: the tales range from “Mount Tabor” in Biblical times to “Dien Bien Phu” in the first Indochina war. Presumably, these events were sidelined from the cover because they are not so well known, and that is the secret to understanding this work. “Great Military Disasters” is a typical coffee table book, one for guests to peruse while waiting for the tea and cake to arrive. Books of this ilk are light on words and heavy on glossy pictures. No doubt, the hardback version, released five years ago, benefitted heavily from copious illustrations. Unfortunately, as a paperback it is shorn of visual impact, and this reduces it to a series of sketchy outlines on a par with a Wikipedia article. So it doesn’t have enough detail for military history enthusiasts, and it won’t be attractive enough to interest someone indifferent to the subject matter.