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The Confusion of Command (Hardback)

The Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas D'Oyly 'Snowball' Snow 1914­1918

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: WWI WWI > Battles & Campaigns > Arras WWI > By Year > 1916

By Mark Pottle, Dan Snow
Frontline Books
Pages: 296
ISBN: 9781848325753
Published: 18th April 2011



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'The enemy has got to be fought everywhere and hard...Everything is going very well indeed and no one minds the losses as long as we are moving.'

The never-before-published papers of General Sir Thomas D'Oyly Snow provide a remarkable insight into the mindset of the Great War commanders. Despite being severely injured during the first Battle of the Marne – when his horse fell and rolled over him, cracking his pelvis – Snow served at some of the most important battles of the Western Front.

His memoirs include the battle of Loos, the second battle of Ypres, the battles of Arras and Cambrai, the retreat from Mons and was responsible for the diversionary attack on Gommecourt on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Somme.

This volume is comprised of vivid extracts from contemporary notes that only an eyewitness can offer coupled with frank postwar reflections that show the wisdom of hindsight and perspective, which brings an open awareness of military folly.

D'Oyly Snow died in London, aged 82, on 30 August 1940. This first edition of his letters and memoirs – published exactly 70 years after his death – has been introduced by his great grandson, the broadcaster and author Dan Snow.

This great war general was the great grandfather of the author, BAFTA winner and TV personality Dan Snow, who presents for us a very rare object in the journal of a divisional commander with the BEF during the early days of the war.

Stand To! Western Front Association

The title that Lieutenant General Sir D'Oyly Snow's grandson, the historian Dan Snow, chose for publication of Sir Thomas' First World War diaries, The Confusion of Command, is an apt one.

Times Literary Supplement

The original accounts are very well written and illuminating. There are also some useful appendices with orders of battle, chronologies and biographical notes.

Military Historical Society

Very well written and illuminating.

The Bulletin

This books gives the opportunity to step into the mind of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas D'Oyly Snow through the memoirs he kept from 1914 to 1915 during the first world war and documents the retreat from Mons, the battle of Le Cateau and the second battle of Ypres. Snow was a divisional commander and despite falling from a horse and suffering a serious injury he went on to lead the fighting at Ypres, Arras and Cambrai and made the command to attack the Gommecourt which failed and cost several lives. After this defeat he was critical of his subordinate, Major E.J. Montagu-Stuart-Wortley who was controversially dismissed by Snow showing not only his power but show the self preserving instincts that he recognized and, as his memoirs make clear, strongly disapproved of in his senior Colleagues. Snow also documents his experiences as a commander and the limitations of both his and others commands during the war. He also makes key observations towards the lack of communications which made it hard for commanders to operate effectively.

For fans of the war or history in general this book is a must, its edited wonderfully by Dan Snow & Mark Pottle and gives eyewitness accounts of major engagements early in the war in great detail including running battles to warfare in the trenches.

The book also comes with a foreword from the generals grandson who also co-edited the book in which he tells of his fascination with generals from the war and the history surrounding it adding a touch of nostalgia and warmth to the book as he puts together this book about his Grandfather that he never met.

EJH (Customer Review)

His memoirs give an incredible insight into his struggle to build a coherent picture of the battlefield, let alone influence events. It may be that he will be remembered for writing this honest, critical, and objective account of his time in charge. I think that makes me prouder of him than if he had been responsible for any striking success on the battlefield.

Dan Snow in Military Times

This work is a memoir and letters in which you can hear the old man's words and thoughts uninterrupted by time - a unique account from the top of the British Army stretching from the terrible retreat from Mons in the summer of 1914 to the mud-clogged horror of Ypres in 1915. It was not designed for publication and it contains no excuses or justifications for his actions. The story of an army's struggle to overcome obstacles that would have baffled the Duke of Wellington.

This war was unlike anything any of them had prepared for or imagined.

Generals of the First World War were confronted with a mass of problems that would have stretched the greatest of commanders. These memoirs give a powerful insight into his struggle to build a coherent picture of the battlefield. He will not be remembered for his military genius, but he may be remembered for writing this honest, critical and objective account of his time in charge.

Dan Snow in The Mail on Sunday

The eldest son of a Dorset clergyman, Lieutenant General Sir Thomas d'Oyly Snow was born in 1858 and joined the army in 1879; at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he was commander of the 4th Brigade and was transferred to France and Belgium with rest of the British Expeditionary Force. Snow survived the Great War, and he wrote his memoirs, his own perspective on the War to End All Wars, between 1927 and 1933.
Presented within this book are those never-before-published memoirs of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas d'Oyly Snow. Focusing on the opening years on the Western Front, the years 1914-1915 saw the an ill-prepared BEF slowly crumble under successful German attacks along the Western Front. This first edition of Snow's memoirs offers personal experience of key engagements during the opening stages of the Great War, from the Retreat to Mons, to the Battle of Le Cateau and the Second Battle of Ypres. These first hand accounts also acknowledge limitations faced by all commanders and makes it clear that because the BEF were ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the sheer scale of military operations during the opening years of the Great War, they could not operate effectively.
With detailed maps and plates of Snow's time on the Front LIne, and co-edited by Sir Thomas d'Oyly Snow's own great-grandson, award-winning history author and BBC presenter, Dan Snow, this book provides a fascinating insight into Snow's life as a commander.

Stephen (Customer Review)

An honest account of the difficulty and complexities the generals faced when confronted with a situation which they had neither expected not prepared for. The retreat from Mons demonstrated exactly what General Sir Thomas D'Oyly Snow himself called the "confusion of command".

Britain At War magazine
Perfect Partner

We Hope to Get Word Tomorrow The Garvin Family Letters 1914-1916 (Hardback)

This fascinating collection of letters traces the exchanges between a young subaltern on the front, Gerard 'Ged' Garvin, and his mother and father at home. Correspondence was eagerly awaited by all. Ged savoured letters home like 'Jim Hawkins trickling the doubloons through his fingers'. Equally, his mother and father at home were always fearful that each letter they received would be the last. In a letter J. L. Garvin sent to his son 21 July 1916 he wrote: 'Of course there's no fresh letter from you and we didn't expect it. But we hope, all the same, to get word tomorrow . . .' Ged was killed…

By Christina Garvin, J L Gerard, John G G Ledingham, Mark Pottle, Sir Hew Strachan

Click here to buy both titles for £44.99
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