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Book Reviews The First World War: join the Western Front Association, the premier organisation for study, learning and research into all aspects of The Great War 1914-18, and to understanding more about the phenomenon which shaped the 20th century http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews.html Thu, 18 Dec 2014 02:18:06 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Naval Battles of the First World War http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/89-battles/4280-naval-battles-of-the-first-world-war.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/89-battles/4280-naval-battles-of-the-first-world-war.html naval battles WW1Written by Geoffrey Bennett

ISBN Number 1473821118

Pen and Sword Books 2014. Originally published by B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1968

313pp with photographs and maps

The author, Captain Geoffrey Bennett, was born in 1909 and served in the Royal Navy between 1923 and 1955. He earned the DSC while serving with Force H in the Mediterranean and between 1953 and 1955 was Naval Attaché in Moscow, Warsaw and Helsinki. After retirement in 1955 he became a full time author and wrote a number of books on naval history. Several of these works are to be found in the reviewer's library. Naval Battles of the First World War was originally published in 1968, Captain Bennett died in 1983.

There has been a considerable amount of research into the naval war since the original date of publication and it therefore has to be said right off the top that the book is somewhat dated. There are a few other issues as well.

At the end of the first chapte, Captain Bennett states that the failure of Germany to achieve an early victory on land allowed time for sea power to play a decisive role in the outcome of the war. Though conceding that the Western Front dominated the strategy of the Entente powers and later the Americans, the author asserts "...it was their navies, of which the British was immeasurably the strongest, that in the end brought Germany to her knees. And this is the theme of all that follows...."

Not everyone would subscribe to this view, and some might argue that the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front was more important in bringing about Germany's defeat in 1918. Regardless of personal viewpoints, however, after such a strong statement the reviewer expected that Captain Bennett would build his case and explain how the navy brought Germany to its knees. It was expected that there would be much on the achievements of the British blockade in cutting off the flow of supplies. In fact there was nothing and not much on Germany's U-Boat blockade of Britain either.

To understand the direction the book actually takes one has to look no further than the title, though perhaps it should be more accurately titled British Naval Battles of the First World War. As mentioned above, Captain Bennett wrote a number of books on naval history including a biography of Lord Charles Beresford, accounts of the Battle of Jutland, the Battles of Coronel and Falkland, and a lively telling of the naval war against the Bolsheviks in the Baltic in 1919/20; Cowan's War. He was a good writer and his books, including this one, have a good balance of narrative and analysis.

However, with Naval Battles of the First World War the reviewer gets the sense that he focused on the topics he had already produced books on (Jutland and Coronel/Falklands) and then added little bits on other aspects of Britain's naval war to try and fill in the gaps. As a result from a book of 313 pages we get 87 pages on the Emden, Konigsberg and Von Spee's victory at Coronel and defeat at the Falkland Islands. We get 121 pages on Jutland and the post-war controversy. But we only get 21 pages on the war in the Mediterranean, including Gallipoli, and the U-Boat war is tackled in under 20 pages with a good amount of that dealing with Q-Ships. There is nothing on the Royal Navy's distant blockade.

If a reader is new to Great War naval history, Naval Battles of the First World War is a well written and lively account of many of Britain's naval battles. On this level I can recommend it. However, if the reader is a veteran of the issues and debates of the Great War at sea, this book is probably not for them. Its drawbacks are threefold. First, a great deal of research on the naval war has taken place since it was first published in 1968 and so it is quite dated. Serious students will want to look for something more contemporary. Second, it is not balanced as to the amount of space devoted to the various aspects of the war being described. Jutland is naturally very important, but almost 40% of the book is devoted to the North Sea clash with over 25% focused on the destruction of the German cruisers of Von Spee's East Asiatic Squadron. The small number of pages devoted to the U-Boat War is a serious limitation given the crisis of Britain's merchant ship losses by April 1917.

Finally the author does not develop his thesis on how the Royal Navy "brought Germany to her knees". There is a complete absence of information dealing with the Royal Navy's distant blockade and, from the emphasis of Captain Bennett's narrative, if one accepts he is actually making his case for bringing Germany to her knees, one must infer that he is saying it was brought about through the Royal Navy's ability to deal with a handful of isolated cruisers early in the war and then after Jutland by bottling up the German High Seas Fleet in its harbours.

The Royal Navy did play an important role in the defeat of Imperial Germany. Whether it played the decisive role, as asserted in Chapter 1, is open to debate. Whichever side of the debate one favours though, Captain Bennett is unconvincing because he never really brings forward the evidence to support his contention. He probably never really intended to. He had already written books on Coronel/Falklands and Jutland. One feels he simply re-worked these and added a few additional bits to fill in the gaps.

Naval Battles of the First World War is a readable and lively telling of some very important naval battles of the First World War. It is fine for someone just getting their feet wet, so to speak, in the study of the First World War at sea. I would not recommend it for seasoned naval history veterans and even beginners might want to look for something a bit more contemporary.

Reviewed by Paul McNicholls


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) Battles Sat, 29 Nov 2014 15:19:14 +0000
Salute of Guns http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4276-salute-of-guns.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4276-salute-of-guns.html salute of gunsAuthor: Donald Boyd with a forward by Michael Orr

ISBN No: 978 1 84884 850 4

Publisher and date of publication: This edition by Pen and Sword Books 2012. (First published by Jonathan Cape 1930)

Length 235p including illustrations and maps.

Salute of Guns is a book that describing the experiences of a subaltern in the Royal Artillery during the last three years of the war.

The author was training as a journalist when war broke out when he joined his local Territorial Force artillery unit as a gunner. Frustrated and bored by the lack of action during those early months of the war when the army struggled to absorb the volunteers, he volunteered for a commission and was gazetted in early 1915. Subsequently, posted to France, he joined an Indian Army Battery where, as a "temporary gentleman", he was virtually ostracised by the long service Indian Army officers.

From then on he took part in most of the major battles of the Western Front including the Somme, Third Ypres, Cambrai and the 1918 campaigns. The author is quite open about the effect of the stress on him describing two periods when neurasthenia removed him from duty and he returned to the the UK to recuperate. His accounts of his duties in the gun line and in the trenches as a Forward Observation Officer are vivid. The sights and smells of warfare at the sharp end are vividly described along with the dry humour used to temper the horror.

An example of both can be found in his description of an Observation Post in front of Hill 60, access was via a particularly noisome and heavily shelled trench known to all as 4711. During the 24 hours in the OP he was sniped, shelled and mortared. To get some rest after dark he was offered a low corrugated shelter off the communication trench its only other occupant was asleep on a stretcher. Cold and unable to sleep because of the attentions of a minenwerfer that ranged up and down outside, he got up to light a cigarette and bent over the sleeping man to find that he had no head, Boyd had been put in the regimental morgue. In a Kafkaesque aftermath to this campaign their general explained that he was not making any recommending any decorations for officers as too few had been killed!

This relatively unknown book deserves a wider readership, Boyd's graphic account of what he saw and did allows the reader to see the war at a very personal level, as Robert Graves said about the original edition it is the best record he knew of the fighting on the Western Front.

Reviewed by David Bailey


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sat, 29 Nov 2014 14:59:47 +0000
They Did Not Grow Old: Teenage Conscripts on the Western Front, 1918 http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4254-they-did-not-grow-old-teenage-conscripts-on-the-western-front-1918.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4254-they-did-not-grow-old-teenage-conscripts-on-the-western-front-1918.html did not grow oldWritten by Tim Lynch

(The History Press, 2013)

ISBN 978-0-7524-8916-2 £12.99

There's surprising little specifically written about the conscripts who served in the British Army during the First World War. The key text remains Ilana Bet-El's 2003 book Conscripts: Forgotten Men of the Great War. This book discusses the experiences of a draft of 135 teenagers from the mill towns of the West Riding who arrived in France in June 1918 to reinforce the 2/4yh and 5th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Both units were part of the 62nd Division.

Tim Lynch's thorough and well-written book traces their experiences training in the UK and at Etaples and describes what happened to them once they arrived in the frontline. In particular Dr Lynch stresses the need for the draft to fit in as quickly as possible. By now the War was very different to the one their fathers and older brothers may have experienced. Much had been learnt by the infantry as well as by the High Command.

In August came the 'Hundred Days' push which broke the German Army, although there is little here about the offensive. Instead the author concentrates on the men's lives and what they would have experienced in the front line and in the rest and training camps.

As a result the book is a valuable account of the ordinary British soldier at the very zenith of British military power in the twentieth century in the summer and autumn of 1918.

Reviewed by Simon Fowler


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:43:45 +0000
Medicine and Duty: the First World War Diary of Dr Harold Dearden http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4253-medicine-and-duty-the-first-world-war-diary-of-dr-harold-dearden.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4253-medicine-and-duty-the-first-world-war-diary-of-dr-harold-dearden.html Edited by Sue Light and Ed Matthews

ISBN 978-0-9572095-1-0 £15

Order from Richard Dennis Publications, The New Chapel, Shepton Beauchamp TW19 0JT, www.richarddennispublications.com 

Medicine and Duty was originally published in 1928 and has long been a sought after collectors item, but now it is available in a new edition. The editors have restored a lot of the manuscript which was cut by the publishers in the 1920s.

Harold Dearden volunteered in 1914 serving initially at No 5 British Red Cross Hospital at Wimereux later transferred to the 3rd Grenadier Guards and served during 3rd Ypres and Cambrai. He is wounded twice and spent 1918 recovering from shell shock in England. Dearden later wrote of his wartime experiences that: "It was a life that agreed with me. It was primitive, eventful and uncomplicated."

Dearden's diary begins with an account of his time as a hospital doctor, but becomes a lot more interesting when he transfers to the Grenadier Guards. There are vignettes and stories of his fellow officers, but most of the entries naturally touch upon his work as the battalion medical officer treating the wounded, with a number of graphic entries, such as the one for 16 September about dealing with a shell-shocked officer from an infantry battalion: "The last we saw of him he was being helped along by two NCOs like a crumpled tealeaf."

Memoirs by medical officers are rare which makes this account even more interesting.

Reviewed by Simon Fowler


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:40:34 +0000
In the Company of Nurses – the History of the British Army Nursing Service in the Great War http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4252-in-the-company-of-nurses--the-history-of-the-british-army-nursing-service-in-the-great-war.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4252-in-the-company-of-nurses--the-history-of-the-british-army-nursing-service-in-the-great-war.html company nursesEdinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2014
ISBN: 9780748679119

Yvonne McEwen ((Official Historian of the British Army Nursing Service and Director of 'Scotland's War 1914-1919' the University of Edinburgh Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict)

This is a seminal text for anyone studying or interested in nursing and medical practices during the First World War. It seeks to break the myths and romantic nonsense that has seeped into so much of the writing on the topic in recent years. In particular it discusses at length the work of the professional, trained nurses of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAs), the Reserve and the Territorials, who undertook the vast majority of nursing and care giving overseas.

It has an excellent index and bibliography to assist further research, while the list of abbreviations means the non specialist can follow and understand the complex "Learning Curve" that the nursing service underwent during the course of the war, making excellent use of quotes. The working professional relationships between the nurses, the Royal Army Medical Corp, stretcher-bearers and orderlies has been missing from other texts. For the first time we have a sense of how all elements worked together to help the sick and wounded in the "Chain of Evacuation", in particular on the Western Front.

The early working conditions for nurses on trains and hospital ships reflect their professionalism and duty towards the men in their care. The narrative is clear and very well written, the different roles of the QA's, the Reserves, the Territorials and the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) who nursed primarily at home is placed in context, with detailed examples and footnotes. The structure allows the reader to analyse the social, political and cultural changes as the war progresses, together with rapid nursing and medical developments.

Both Home and Overseas service is discussed but of particular note is the chapter on Gallipoli and the wider Dardanelles Campaign. Appendix 1 lists the nurses awarded the Military Medal, together with citations. These simple accounts show the danger that so many worked in and accepted as part of their usual working conditions, in particular the QAs.

Appendix 2 Disabilities and Pensionable Years details the cost many of these nurses paid for their dedication and responsibility. The whole text reflect the highest level of academic research but it is both accessible and readable, being exceptional value for money and written by a renowned expert in the area of military nursing. Yvonne McEwen has given the women who served as QAs or VADs, whether at home or overseas, their identity back as individuals and placed their work within the political framework of nursing and the wider context of the First World War.

I very much look forward to a Second Volume, which will continue to tell the story of the British Army Nursing Service.

Dr Phylomena Badsey MA

Project Manager / Visiting Lecturer
First World War Research Group
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Wolverhampton


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:23:06 +0000
At war with the 16th Irish Division 1914 - 1918 http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4251-at-war-with-the-16th-irish-division-1914-1918.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4251-at-war-with-the-16th-irish-division-1914-1918.html staniforth lettersJHM Staniforth, edited by Richard S Grayson
Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley, with the Imperial War Museum
2012, £25, xv, 251pp, ills, photos
ISBN 978-1-84884-634-0

This book is much wider than its title suggests and is well worth reading from various angles. John "Max" Staniforth was a highly educated man whose writing style is both lucid and amusing. The book consists of his edited letters which he sent, on at least a weekly basis, to his parents during his service in WWI from 1914 to 1918. He rediscovered them during a house removal in the 1970s, later typed them up and tried to have them published. Unfortunately, interest in WWI was at a low ebb, and he could not find a publisher for them. He died in 1985 and so never lived to see them in print, which is clearly a great shame.

Some of the letters succumbed to the effects of 50 years of mould and mice but most did in fact survive. Professor Richard Grayson has edited them, adding footnotes and much other material to help explain the context to the reader. In particular, he explains where on the Western Front, or elsewhere, each letter was written, as Staniforth was unable to do so at the time they were originally written, for obvious reasons. Indeed, I gather from the WFA's own expert on the 16th Irish, Denis McCarthy, that the original letters are difficult to decipher, so Richard Grayson's input on many fronts should not go unnoticed.

Staniforth was, in truth, a very English chap. His father was a GP in Yorkshire and Staniforth junior was at school at Charterhouse before going up to Christ Church, Oxford where he was when war broke out in August 1914. He enlisted in October in the Connaught Rangers as a private. His mother was originally from County Cavan and his maternal great grandfather had served in the forerunner of the Connaughts. Enlisting in Whitby and opting for the Connaughts caused some considerable confusion in the local recruiting office!

The account of the rough and ready recruits, and the training at the depot in Fermoy is certainly illuminating. This includes a brawl involving drunk prisoners breaking out of the guardhouse and the ensuing fracas, resulting in two of them dying of their injuries. He describes the daily routine and the various activities of the training camp, which were rather more subdued and constructive.

He was made a corporal by the end of October, not long after he had reached the Fermoy depot. A few weeks later, he was encouraged to apply for a commission by a young Dublin lieutenant who had joined the Dublin Fusiliers as a ranker "to see what the life was like" and had then applied for a commission. Staniforth did likewise, having been assured by the Dublin lieutenant that he could live on a subaltern's pay. Before signing his application, his colonel gave Staniforth the task of drilling the company in "practicing skirmishing and extended order" on the local race course. Clearly it all met with the colonel's approval. He was commissioned into the 7th Leinsters where he remained, more or less, for much of his service, though he was in the 2nd Leinsters toward the end of the war.

Staniforth's first "job" was as a signals officer and he was sent off for signals training in April 1915. It would be a further 8 months before the division was sent to France, as high command felt that the it needed much further training to make it effective. During his time as a signals officer, he describes scavenging cable on the battlefield and on one occasion, having rolled up a 2000 yard length of it, discovering that he had just disconnected a French artillery unit from its HQ. So, profound apologies all round and he had to re-lay the cable, but he said that the French were very nice about it.

Later in the war, he acted at various times as an adjutant, quartermaster, and officer in charge of a troop train, amongst other tasks such as "just" being an officer of the regiment. He describes his varied roles in some detail and in an amusing turn of phrase. In particular, the sheer level of organisation and effort involved in supplying a front line unit with its various requirements for a 24 hour period makes for educational reading. It also helped me realise what an adjutant actually did in WWI.

He describes his journey back to the UK as a gas casualty in 1918 which gives a lucid insight into the fate of the wounded. He had periods of sick leave when he suffered from scabies (a nasty skin infection) and from severe dental problems.

In another letter, he comments on censoring the men's letters. In particular, he mentions a Private Galvin whom Staniforth says is "an honest soul who invariably concludes his laborious epistles to the wife of his bosom with the parting words 'God protect you from your lovin husbin [sic]'".

Staniforth's letters are a very interesting read. They are of course from a son at the front to his parents, so are possibly made cheery so as not to worry them at the time, and certainly glossing over some of the things that he saw. As regards his soldiers, certainly, he was fond of the men of the Leinsters (and Connaughts) and they were clearly fond of him.

After the war, Max Staniforth worked on railways in Argentina, drawing on his WWI experiences with train transport, then as a radio announcer in France and finally as a Church of England clergyman. I do wish I had met him.

Reviewed by Trevor Adams


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:19:24 +0000
The Church of England and the First World War http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4250-the-church-of-england-and-the-first-world-war.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4250-the-church-of-england-and-the-first-world-war.html church england WW1Author: Alan Wilkinson
Publisher: The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 2014
Pages: xiv+370, 

Format: PB, ISBN: 9780718893217
Price: £22.50

Format: PDF
ISBN: 9780718841645
Price: £22.80
Format: EPUB, ISBN: 9780718841652
Price: £17.10

This, already justly famous, book first appeared in 1978, was reprinted with a short up-dating of the bibliography in 1996, and now appears with further bibliography to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. In this year when every aspect of the war has been addressed from every possible angle, and when the study of the links between the war and religion, and between religion and motivations / morale, is a recognised specialisation within modern history (one has only to think of the work of Connolly, The Great War: Memory and Ritual, or Michael Snape's many books) it can be quite hard to think back to the mid-70s when this book was written. Despite the work of John Terraine (eg Haig: the Educated Soldier (1963)), the dominant historical preferences of that time were those of Alan Clark's The Donkeys (1961), while there was a widespread feeling that the 'The Great War' was receding into the distant past of 'ancient silliness.' More generally, the cultural climate took its cue from Oh! What a Lovely War (stage, 1963; film, 1969) which was scathing about religion as an opium by which fools were duped into a useless war and which was wholly tin-eared when it came to hearing the irony and complexity in the relationship between religion and individual soldiers. Moreover, apart from very narrow studies (one thinks of the Revd George Duncan's study of Haig (1966)), there was almost nothing examining the role of religion in the war or the impact of the war on religiosity and Christian belief in Britain. On to this stage came Wilkinson's book which was, at once, far more sophisticated in its understanding of the complexity of the war, and equally at home in understanding how religion 'works' in a modern society and in the internal tensions that the war created for Christians at the time. The book broke new ground, and could be said to be the forerunner of much, if not all, of the subsequent studies of religion and the war, chaplains and the war, and the aftermath of the war for religion in Britain. Therefore, since it is not a book that one often sees in second-hand book stores, I am delighted that it is back in print.

Reading it again – after many years – I am glad to report that it has 'worn very well.' There are many areas where today we are far better informed, and, of course, we no longer write with that immediacy which came from being able to talk with veterans and engage with the living memory of those who took part in the war – a source of information that this book uses extensively. So is it still worth reading? I think there are four good reasons for doing so:

  • First, this book has remarkable breadth – it was carving out a whole field of study – and this is as useful as ever. Indeed, many of the subsequent investigations and debates in the area can only be understood in relationship to this book.
  • Second, Alan Wilkinson writes as a 'church insider' – he is an Anglican priest – and so understands the background, both practical and theological, that framed many of the problems of the time. This means the book has a depth and cogency – for example in dealing with issues relating to pacifism and conscientious objectors – that is often sadly wanting in those for whom religion is a category of human behaviour for which they have little internal understanding or sympathy. While the book ostensibly is about the Church of England and the war, it is, in fact, an introduction to Christianity in Britain and the war, both during the conflict and after it.
  • Third, in researching the book, Wilkinson did a fair amount of fieldwork by interviewing veterans, and this record is of permanent value.
  • And, lastly, this book, which went against the grain in the 1970s, is part of the history of the history of the Great War and, itself, a witness to the concerns facing historians of Christianity a generation ago.

Faced with a re-print Wilkinson just gave one page of further bibliography – a token amount – in this edition. This in itself shows how Wilkinson sees the scene now: there is so much being written, only a bibliographer could hope to note it all; so he took the wise path and merely pointed out that this is an on-going area of research. But amidst all that more recent work, this book retains its freshness, and above all shows that in the very different world of a century ago Christianity, whether it was liked or loathed, was a significant factor in the lives of those who went to war, and that without some sympathetic understanding of that religious dimension we ignore a part of our history.

Reviewed by Thomas O'Loughlin
Professor of Historical Theology
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
University of Nottingham
University Park

3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:03:04 +0000
Germany's High Seas Fleet in the First World War http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/116-wfa-members-publications/4229-germanys-high-seas-fleet-in-the-first-world-war.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/116-wfa-members-publications/4229-germanys-high-seas-fleet-in-the-first-world-war.html german fleetWritten by Admiral Reinhard Scheer (First published in English in 1920 as Germany's High Seas Fleet in the World War)
Introduction by Marcus Faulkner and Andrew Lambert
Frontline Books, an imprint of Pen and Sword (30 April 2014)
Includes black and white period photos and illustrations
ISBN 978-1-84832-209-7
375 pages Price 25.00

Frontline Books is to be thanked for reissuing this important out of print account by the German commander in charge during most of the major battles the High Seas Fleet engaged in during World War I, including the famed Battle of Jutland. This account sheds useful light on the motivations behind the actions and methods employed by the High Seas Fleet before being ultimately interned after the war at Scapa Flow. Not only does the book provide an accurate documentary (from the German perspective) about the movements and actions of the German Navy during important engagements like Helgoland and Dogger Bank, it also gives us details about other little known German naval actions.

Even if it were to impart little else of historic value (and that is certainly not the case), this volume reveals the extent of the German military's (and this German high commander's in particular) anger at the way they believed their naval forces were unfairly dealt with by the British, and later the American navies. To the bitter end (and the end was indeed bitter) Scheer and those around and above him, never seemed able to fully grasp that naval warfare had evolved since the great battles of the 18th and 19th centuries, fought as they were then on the high seas between ships of the line!

Scheer never lessens in his outrage at the British Grand Fleet's refusal to fight him by sending out small forces to engage his warships a few at a time, so that his less formidable fleet could attempt to reduce their fleet to a size comparable to his own. He thought this plan would win the naval war for Germany, regardless of the successes of his submarine service, but his plan was repeatedly thwarted by the British tactic of using fleets of overwhelming force instead. Angered by this, he repeatedly implies that the British behaved in a cowardly manner and only avoided the German fleet out of fear they would be outgunned by Scheer's better-trained crews. However, his insistence that when British and German ships were of equal size and numbers his navy would always prevail, did not hold true on most occasions when the opposing sides actually met.

The British refusal to fight on his terms embittered Scheer, and doubtless contributed to his determination that his book about the German naval side of the conflict be published before most other accounts were written after the war ended. It was clearly a desperate attempt to salvage his reputation as a great naval commander despite Germany's humiliating loss.

Reading his account, one also feels his palpable disgust directed at the allies (and some cases the German High Command) as the naval war turned more and more against Germany. It clearly galled Scheer that his vaunted High Seas Fleet became more and more irrelevant, with only his submarine service hindering the British war effort at sea. Ominously Scheer's insistence of having been victimized by unfair tactics used by the allies echoes the all too familiar calls of a later generation of Germans for a future rematch-which we now know does occur 20 years later.

Of course no book by a German naval commander of Scheer's stature would be complete without reveling in the High Seas Fleet's great victory at Jutland (Skagerrak as the Germans called it). Despite having taken the brunt of damage and loss of tonnage in every other engagement with the Grand Fleet prior to Jutland, there is no question that, in strict terms of tonnage sunk and lives lost, the Germans somehow won the Battle of Jutland.

Although we now know there were many factors that allowed the Germans to emerge from Jutland perceived by many as the victors, ranging form weather, pure luck, and previously unknown defects in British battle cruiser designs, Scheer had a simpler take on the battle:

"Success was achieved due to the eagerness in attack, the efficient leadership through subordinates, and the admirable deeds of the crews full of an eminently warlike spirit"!

Jutland was truly the high water mark for the German Navy during the war so Scheer can be forgiven a bit of patriotic hyperbole. Unfortunately for Scheer, the German Naval effort seemed to go downhill after Jutland, a situation that led Germany to the desperate act of beginning unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1, 1917. This was the move that ultimately brought the US into the war.

Sensing the limitations of his fleet of surface ships to prevail against the larger British Fleet, ever since the Battle of Jutland, Scheer agitated to all who would listen, up to and including the Kaiser, for beginning unrestricted submarine warfare against British bound shipping, which he became convinced was the only way that Germany could win the war.

While this tactic proved to be the folly that sealed Germany's ultimate doom, he never admitted his advice was incorrect and his analysis of the events leading up to the historic decision to beginning unrestricted submarine warfare was fascinating reading.

There is a great deal more useful information in the book covering many aspects of the German Navy up to and including the mutinies of 1918 that virtually ended the involvement of the German Navy in the war effort. The chapter explaining how Zeppelins were under the control of the German Navy and the ways the Navy found to use them provided a lot of new information about the contributions airships made to the German Navy for this historian.

Although of necessity most of the focus of this book involves very useful backstories about The German Navy during the war, there is much in this volume to interest any historian of the Great War who wishes to learn more about German ambitions, methods, and motivations.

Reviewed by Richard A Orr
US WWI Historian
St Charles Mo USA


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) WFA Members' Publications Sun, 16 Nov 2014 11:28:53 +0000
Great War Britain: The First World War at Home http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4233-great-war-britain-the-first-world-war-at-home.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4233-great-war-britain-the-first-world-war-at-home.html great war at homeWritten by Lucinda Gosling

The History Press, £25

240 pages, colour and black and white illustrations

ISBN 978 0 7524 9188 2

What's in a title? Often a great deal and the title itself can contribute significantly to a popular book's potential success. Given the titles of this and another recent addition to the literature of the Home Front, "The Huns have got my gramaphone", first impressions can be misleading.

Publishers are notorious for giving their books misleading titles though authors should resist their worst excesses. Clearly Lucinda Gosling did not resist enough. The title of her book is hugely misleading. It suggests a general history of the war on the Home Front when it is, largely, a survey of middle and upper-class women's magazines of the period all taken from a single, though extensive, source the Mary Evans Picture Library of which the author has been an historical specialist since 2007. The Introduction, somewhat indirectly, sets out that the book will be a view of the war through the lens of magazines such as The Tatler, The Sketch and The Sphere but a simple, upfront, statement would have helped.

If one puts aside this initial problem how does the book fare in its more modest task? The results are mixed.

Many of the copious illustrations are newly published; the Kitchener and Jellicoe ladies garters are extraordinary and, on her own ground, the chapters on fashion and royalty are the best examples, Gosling is an informative and interesting writer. But even here she doesn't go much beyond simple narrative; there is no attempt to draw wider conclusions. For example she might easily have made more about the Royal family's involvement in the war. 1914-18 was the period during which 'modern' royalty as we know it was invented with its members doing 'real' jobs and the King and Queen inventing the royal walkabout.

At the other end of the scale the chapter on Charity and Fundraising is the most flawed. Imagine a review of Britain's military contribution to the war which didn't mention the Somme or Passchendaele. There is no mention of the extensive and hugely successful coordination of charitable activity through Sir Edward Ward, the Director General of Voluntary Organisations, or of government intervention with the War Charities Act. In mentioning 'Our Day' Gosling fails to say that it was the annual highlight of The Times campaign in aid of the Red Cross which raised a staggering £16 million. The limited sources of Gosling's research leads her into support for the totally outdated view that charitable causes were the exclusive territory of the middle and upper classes which, especially later in the war, is an entirely mistaken view.

Inevitably there are some fascinating insights into the war and, more especially, the British class system and, as a study of a specific group of primary sources, the book is a welcome addition to our understanding of the home front. Unfortunately by masquerading as something more, at least in the way presented by the publishers, Great War Britain fails its wider remit.

Reviewed by Dr Peter Grant



3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sat, 15 Nov 2014 00:00:00 +0000
The Huns have got my Gramophone http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4232-the-huns-have-got-my-gramophone.html http://westernfrontassociation.com/book-reviews/91-general-interest/4232-the-huns-have-got-my-gramophone.html huns gramaphoneWritten by Amanda-Jane Doran and Andrew McCarthy

Bodleian Library Publishing, £8.99,

112 pages, 50 black and white illustrations.

ISBN 978 1 85124 399 0

The Huns have got my Gramophone is a modest endeavour, a light-hearted selection of adverts from the war period.

Conversely, however, it is a far more comprehensive and revealing study of the Home Front than Gosling's "Great War Britain: The First World War at Home". The writers do an admirable job given the limitations of the book's 110 pocket-sized pages and the wide-ranging nature of their examples. Quite rightly they see the period as one of rapid innovation in advertising, yet another aspect of everyday life where the war contributed to change, and their examples are carefully chosen and juxtaposed.

Many of the adverts are remarkably modern, like those for Venn's women's underwear. There are some fascinating facts such as Haig's views on motor transport or the number of miners who became officers (1,016) as well as some real revelations.

The authors highlight that, but for the war, there would have been no Rolls Royce aero engines or Bentley cars for example. But my favourite is the birth of 'unisex' clothing which, to some extent, confirms the view that the war contributed to positive changes for women. A great little book.

Reviewed by Dr Peter Grant


3135lish@gmail.com (Editor) General Interest Sat, 15 Nov 2014 00:00:00 +0000