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Thread: Recommended WW1 Reading

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    New Member Tango61Charlie's Avatar
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    Recommended WW1 Reading

    "The Somme" by Peter Hart.
    This book details the facts leading upto the 1st battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, the battle, the actions on and after that day and beyond. It is different because the book contains many extract writings of the actual combatants, many who die a day or two after their letters. It covers all the ranks from private to General Haig. Neither is it contained to just one perspective. However you will be at a loss to understand the tactics of the day, true with hindsight etc, etc and so on. It will make you angry!
    It is very raw indeed, with accounts of the dead being relieved of their water and rations for others to survive, being used as cover and how inhumane we can all become in battle after just a few hours.
    In 2008 at Thiepval I attended the rememberance service of the 1st battle of the Somme, you would not imagine how many people turned out from all over the world, a very moving occasion indeed.
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    I'm disappointed the good modern movies on WWI just don't seem to be around.

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    French National Library (BnF) has made available the complete set of Les armees francaises dans la grande guerre in searchable PDF for free download:

    https://gallica.bnf.fr/html/und/hist...-grande-guerre

    Besides the narrative volumes, there are volumes of document appendices.


    I wish the British had made their army official histories for WWI available online. Some of the volumes of that set are quite good. There a couple of volumes, digitized by a library in India, which are available on archive.org

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    I've been getting more and more into World War I the past few years, especially the Royal Navy's role. I just got this one from Amazon today The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Jutland: "The German fleet has assaulted its jailer, but is still in jail" :-)
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    I've been doing quite a bit of reading on the Great War during the past decade or so. I`m lucky in that I have access to a big university library whose collection includes a large number of works published soon after the war.

    The gutenberg.org and archive.org also have many contemporary works available.

    There is an enormous literature of war memoirs in English or in translation, some of which are famous (e.g. Robert Graves' Good-bye to All That).

    Some which are less famous but which I`ve found very interesting:

    Q.6.a and Other Places, by Francis Buckley. Gives some interesting details about doctrine and training for hand grenades in the British army. Available at Project Gutenberg.

    Pushed and the Return Push, by G.H.F. Nichols (British field artillery officer) Available at Project Gutenberg.

    Stand To: A Diary of the Trenches, by F.C. Hitchcock. Excellent descriptions of active trench warfare in the Ypres Salient, esp. Hooge. Also provides a plan of a trench raid as carried out. Recently republished.

    A Company of Tanks, by W.H.L. Watson. Available at Project Gutenberg. This short book gives a lot of information about the organization and training of WWI armour, as well as conveying the limitations of the weapon at that time.
    Last edited by cape_royds; 27 Sep 18, at 01:08.

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    Jutland: "The German fleet has assaulted its jailer, but is still in jail" :-)
    Best summation of the battle IMO
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    In terms of higher direction of the war, many of the memoirs by major personalities, published shortly after the conflict, can be quite valuable.

    I think the best is Falkenhayn's General Headquarters 1914-16 and its Critical Decisions. It's succinct, and gives good insight on the strategic debates higher up on the German side. In terms of laying out the overall pattern of the war during those years, this book is actually superior to most others written since.

    I just discovered it's available free online at archive.org :

    https://archive.org/details/generalheadquart00falk


    Churchill's World Crisis, in six volumes, is good reading, but bear in mind Balfour's quip, "Winston wrote a big book about himself and called it the World Crisis." Perhaps the best thing about this set is the sixth volume, dedicated to events on the Eastern Front 1914-16 (still one of the few detailed works in the English language on this subject). Another interesting thing you learn in Churchill is that the Japanese Navy actually did give some valuable assistance in the Pacific early in the war, by helping to thwart the German scheme of cruiser warfare. Otherwise, prepare yourself for a long exposition on the "Easterner" school of strategy, and a whole lot of Dardanelles.

    Lord Hankey's Supreme Command was written long after the war. It can be dense reading, but this man was the insider's insider.


    A good brief summary of the USA's war effort is presented in an offical US Gov't publication of 1919, The War with Germany: A Statistical Summary. This is available online:

    http://www.gwpda.org/docs/statistics/statstc.htm

    or at:

    https://archive.org/details/warwithgermanyst00ayreuoft


    Additional perspective on the problem of arming the WWI AEF is available from the prologue of the WWII US Army official history volume, Arming the French.

    https://history.army.mil/html/books/...H_Pub_11-6.pdf
    Last edited by cape_royds; 27 Sep 18, at 01:09.

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    I'll add a few histories by recent authors on the US role.

    To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 The Epic Battle That Ended the First World War by Edward G. Lengel

    Thunder in the Argonne: A New History of America's Greatest Battle by Douglas V. Mastriano

    First Over There: The Attack on Cantigny, America's First Battle of World War I by Matthew J. Davenport Excellent coverage of the Big Red One's first battle.

    Also the US Army Center For Military History has an excellent website with a lot of great resources: https://history.army.mil/html/booksh...ult/index.html
    Last edited by Albany Rifles; 04 Oct 18, at 16:41.
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    will take note of that

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    Memoirs of Joffre, Foch, freely available

    Internet Archive also has digitized the English translations of the memoirs of the French commanders, Joffre and Foch:


    Joffre (in 2 vols):

    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.77210

    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.77212


    Foch:

    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.66355


    Unfortunately the English translation of Joffre's memoirs is partly abridged. Several passages dealing with arms production have been omitted. However, chapters dealing with operations 1914-16, and with the politics of French and inter-allied high commands, are published in full.

    I have been reading the second volume of Joffre's memoirs, closely in some parts, skimming in others. I find it interesting that Joffre is willing to disclose the extent of French and British casualties during the Verdun and Somme campaigns, but in his treatment of his 1915 offensives in Artois and Champagne, he does not mention French casualties.

    So far, I have little more than glanced at Foch's memoirs. Foch only lived to complete two parts of his memoirs: for his role as an army commander in 1914, and for his tenure of supreme command in 1918. His memoirs do not cover the period he spent as an army group commander 1915-16.


    I mentioned earlier that the French official army histories for WWI are available. From what I have read of them so far, they are official history in strictest sense of the term: a dry recountation of operations from the perspective of GQG. The French official historians seem more reluctant to venture into analysis or criticism than their British counterparts. In terms of narrative scale, the French narrative seldom goes below division level, whereas the British histories usually go down to battalion level. However, the French official history reproduces a large number of original orders, reports, and other documents in full (indeed there are usually three or four volumes of documentary annexes for each volume of narrative). While I don't know how much has been excluded or redacted, nevertheless I already find that the published correspondence between the various headquarters are more interesting than the historians' narrative.
    Last edited by cape_royds; 16 Oct 18, at 03:29.

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    Concurrently with reading Joffre's account of 1916, I have been reading Ludendorff.

    I had last read Ludendorff's memoirs back in the late '90's. At that time, I had found Ludendorff tendentious and tiresome. For some reason, I don't find his memoirs anywhere near as irritating today. Perhaps I'm just getting more patient in my dotage.


    Internet Archive is proving to be a good resource. I just found Sir William Robertson's memoirs, From Private to Field Marshal, which I have not yet read. Robertson was the British CIGS for most of the war.

    https://archive.org/details/fromprivatetofi00robegoog/
    Last edited by cape_royds; 16 Oct 18, at 05:13.

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