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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

An Englishman in the Russian Ranks


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I recently picked up a copy of this book the 'new and cheaper edition' of 1916 for £5 in a second hand book shop in Hay-On-Wye.

Does Morse's book give a just and adequate picture of what happened on the Eastern Front or is the book for propaganda purposes with Morse mentioning civilians murdered and Russian troops tortured.

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  • 2 years later...

What a fascinating book! Thomas, I can understand your concern. Morse clearly wanted to push the anti-German message. He wanted people in Britain to understand that the war was about national survival. I was very impressed with his insights - the fundamental change in warfare such that whole nations were involved. Morse constantly reinforces that his view of the Eastern Front was very limited in scope but he could clearly see the enormity of what was happening. Not just from the perspective of Russian involvement. He saw the significance of total war, and the fact that the outcome on the Western Front would prove the main determinant of the outcome.

I could not help thinking, as I read this book, of how little we understand / appreciate the magnitude of the suffering, civilian and military, on the Eastern Front in WW1 and WW2. In the past, I have drawn attention to perceived differences in the scale of British losses in WW1 vs WW2. Britain suffered almost continuous losses for the entire period of WW1. In WW2, it was Russia who bore the brunt of the fighting against Germany throughout most of the war. Had Britain been involved in the same way in WW2, then I think we would not be having some of the debates about British generalship in the First World War. Morse thought deeply about these issues, and his insights are worthy of close attention. All the more so when you consider that he had never seen active service before the war started, and he published his conclusions in 1915!

It was interesting to read Morse's accounts about how Russian cavalry operated, how infantry fought and how the Russian officers behaved. The relatively fluid nature of warfare on the Eastern Front was brought home in his accounts. The Fog of War is very evident throughout.

This book is not for the squeamish. Morse describes not just atrocities but also the 'routine' effects of shellfire and close quarters fighting. He was repulsed by what he saw and experienced, having started out (at the age of 64!) with a romantic notion of war that drew him into it. Any romance was replaced by an intense loathing of war, which adds still further to the significance of his conclusions.

This is a very profound book, on many different levels. Highly recommended.


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  • 4 years later...

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