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Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army's Art of Att

Private Butler

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What a thoroughly engrossing book which really made me see the BEF in an entirely different light.

The pivotal year of 1917 becomes very apparent as the author systematically spells out the problems facing the British Army and how these issues were largely resolved despite the setbacks of the same year. I like the fact that the realm of the stormtrooper is not idolised as a solely Teutonic affair and the evidence is much to suggest the awareness of 'infiltration tactics' in the BEF long before the Kaiser's pioneers managed what they did. The evolutionary process is expounded upon and as such the first two years of the war are seen as the necessary, harsh, lessons that finally deliver the goods in the form of tactical awareness and the devolution of fighting units down to the level of the self-sufficient platoon.

Much of the writing on the artillery is fascinating and I must admit to being taken aback with the contrast between the early war fire designed to destroy and the later war neutralising fire to make possible the effective 'creeper' in conjunction with the infantry.

Indeed, much is made of the lack of co-operation or factors that led to such breakdown in communication resulting in difficulty and outright failure; and 1917 as the foundation for an innovative force, that had finally evolved into an all arm discipline, cooperating on the battlefield given the lessons learnt. Much is made too of the self-importance and interest attached to each of the burgeoning arms in their multifarious developments; their cap badge pride. Once an interest, or development, had been eeked out it was of the utmost importance that cooperation took precedence was the point I took here.

I think it's inevitable with a title like it has that some people, like a friend recently,would see the irony in the title but the author tackles this and in so doing, along with the work, has really made me see things very differently. If the lions weren't really led by donkeys then maybe the stuffy old sort was an innovator after all? Maybe he was less reticent to consider new possibilities?

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