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The Killing Ground (Paperback)

The British Army, The Western Front & Emergence of Modern War, 1900–1918

Military P&S History > Reference WWI

By Tim Travers
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 332
Illustrations: 16 black and white
ISBN: 9781844158898
Published: 19th February 2009
Last Released: 25th January 2021



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This books explains why the British Army fought the way it did in the First World War. It integrates social and military history and the impact of ideas to tell the story of how the army, especially the senior officers, adapted to the new technological warfare and asks: Was the style of warfare on the Western Front inevitable?

Using an extensive range of unpublished diaries, letters, memoirs and Cabinet and War Office files, Professor Travers explains how and why the ideas, tactics and strategies emerged. He emphasises the influence of pre-war social and military attitudes, and examines the early life and career of Sir Douglas Haig. The author's analysis of the preparations for the Battles of the Somme and Passchendaele provide new interpretations of the role of Haig and his GHQ, and he explains the reasons for the unexpected British withdrawal in March 1918. An appendix supplies short biographies of senior British officers. In general, historians of the First World War are in two hostile camps: those who see the futility of lions led by donkeys on the one hand and on the other the apologists for Haig and the conduct of the war. Professor Travers' immensely readable book provides a bridge between the two.

THIS important book was originally published in 1987 and broke new ground. Tim Travers in some ways inherited the mantle of Liddell Hart, whose papers he uses, as a critic of Haig.

Detailed research traces Haig’s ideas to the Edwardian army with its difficulty in grasping new technology; outlines his inflexible interpretation of staff college teaching; discusses failings in leadership on the Somme; recrimination in the official history over 3rd Ypres; and the sacrifice of Gough and the 5th Army in Ludendorff’s March Offensive.

Pen & Sword have rendered a service in republishing this book. Will they bring out the sequel How the War Was Won?

British Army Review/Soldier Magazine - Dr Rodney Atwood
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