The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel (Paperback)
Tommies, Diggers and Doughboys on the Hindenburg Line, 1918
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In the summer and autumn of 1918, the British Expeditionary Force, under Field Marshal Haig, fought a series of victorious battles on the Western Front that contributed mightily to the German Army’s final defeat. They did so as part of an Allied coalition, one in which the role of Australian diggers and US doughboys is often forgotten.
The Bellicourt Tunnel attack in September 1918, fought in the fading autumn light, was very much an inter-Allied affair and marked a unique moment in the Allied armies’ endeavours. It was the first time that such a large cohort of Americans had fought in a British formation. Additionally, untried American II Corps and experienced Australian Corps were to spearhead the attack under the command of Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, with British divisions adopting supporting roles on the flanks.
Blair forensically details the fighting and the largely forgotten desperate German defence. Although celebrated as a marvellous feat of breaking the Hindenburg Line, the American attack generally failed to achieve its set objectives and it took the Australians three days of bitter fighting to reach theirs. Blair rejects the conventional explanation of the US mop up failure and points the finger of blame at Rawlinson, Haig and Monash for expecting too much of the raw US troops, singling out the Australian Corps commander for particular criticism.
Overall, Blair judges the fighting a draw. At the end, like two boxers, the Australian-American force was gasping for breath and the Germans, badly battered, were back-pedalling to remain on balance. That said, the day was calamitous for the German Army, even if the clean break-through that Haig had hoped for did not occur. Forced out of the Hindenburg Line, the prognosis for the German army on the Western Front and hence Imperial Germany itself was bleak indeed.
While little of detail has been written on this desperately fought battle since the publication of the Australian official history and the corresponding American volume, The Battle for Bellicourt Tunnel presents a straightforward, fair and balanced account, that while generally following Bean's views, provides added emphasis to the part played by the American II Corps and the German defenders.Australian Army Journal
The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel: Tommies, Diggers and Doughboys on the Hindenburg Line, 1918 fills a void in the historiography of the Great War in providing a succinct, one volume account of a little known and severe action that rehabilitates the efforts of the doughboys of the American II Corps, highlights the extent of the German defence, and shows the fractures appearing in the battle experienced but depleted and exhausted Australian Corps. It is a story worth reading.
A scholarly and forensic account...this is a quality book with some impressive research which questions conventional wisdom. For me, that makes it an important contribution to First World War literature.Burton Mail
The author finds that this battle's disappointing results arose from an underestimation of the fighting qualities and stamina of opposing German forces and an overestimation of the abilities of raw American infantry.The Listening Post, Pacific Coast Branch of The Western Front Association
The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel is a commendably succinct and sharp account of a 'British' battle fought by American, Australian and British divisions.Stand To! Western Front Association
This is a detailed and very well researched account of a significant but often overlooked battle on the Western Front and a valuable examination of one of the last German successes of the war, and of one of the first attempts at coalition warfare involved the up and coming Americans.History of War
The book is an outstanding account of this battle... The author has performed a great service to historians and this book will no doubt become the foremost authority on the effects of the coalition and the battle they fought.Dr Stuart C Blank MilitaryArchiveResearch.com
In 1918 the British Expeditionary Force fought a series of victorious battles on the Western Front that ultimately led to the defeat of the German army. That the British did so as part of a coalition and the role of Australian "Diggers" and US "Doughboys" is often forgotten. The Bellicourt Tunnel attack, fought in the fading autumn light, was very much an inter-Allied affair and marked a unique moment in the Allied armies' endeavours.Britain at War Magazine
The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel was a unique moment for the British and was the first time such a sizeable force of American troops was involved in fighting for a British Army. This book reappraises the entire battle, challenges received wisdom and sheds new light on events as the Germans fought the Americans to a standstill and forced the Australians to employ all their hard earned skills and wartime experience for the next three days to salvage a potentially disastrous situation.Mark Marsay
The author takes the reader through the entire course of events, with good research and sound reasoning, and finally concludes by rejecting the long-held given explanation for the mission's failure. This is very well written and extremely well researched and is one of those books which is well worth reading. 10/10.
This is very well written and extremely well researched and is one of those books which is well worth reading. Highly Recommended 10/10Great War Magazine
Professor Gary Sheffield's endorsement of the book calls it a distinguished contribution to the military history of the First World War. It is - I welcome this book and enjoyed it.www.1914-1918.net
1918 proved to be the Allies’ year of victory, but what a monumental effort it was! From the moment Germany launched its all-out Spring offensive to win the war, British and Empire troops fought a tenacious and often last-ditch rearguard action. The Germans gambled with their best, battle-hardened men in one desperate offensive after another, searching for a decisive breakthrough that never came. In those dark days of March, April and May 1918, Allied troops were tested as never before, their morale placed under microscopic scrutiny, their will to win examined and re-examined. Once again, the…By Richard van Emden
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