A powerful account of ‘courage and ingenuity in the face of almost unimaginable horrors’
Passchendaele has become a synonym for military failure as well as the myopia of the British top brass. Nick Lloyd’s book reassesses the conduct and impact of this hellish battle, which lasted from 31 July until 10 November 1917. By then more than half a million men had been killed or injured, many vanishing without trace in the thick mud. The British forces had advanced just five miles, ground that was lost again the following year. It was, says Lloyd, “the ultimate expression of meaningless, industrialised slaughter”. On just one day in August, more shells were fired than in the entire Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. But Lloyd argues that Field Marshal Haig’s much criticised offensive was very nearly successful and is one of the “lost victories” of the war. His powerful account of this appalling battle is meticulously researched using letters and diaries, including from German soldiers. “Their story is a remarkable one of courage and ingenuity in the face of almost unimaginable horrors,” writes Lloyd. It is a harrowing and important history.
• Passchendaele: A New History is published by Penguin. To order a copy for £8.49 (RRP £9.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.