All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe


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More Books by Max Hastings

In his view, Germany was deserving of most of the blame because it had the power to prevent the war, but did not try to do so. Catastrophe is a true tour de force, beginning in July in the imperial courts and Cabinet rooms of Europe — where mounting concern, miscalculation and, in some cases, duplicity reigned — and ending in December , with the battlefront stretching from the Belgian coast in the west, down the Franco-German border to East Prussia, Galicia and the Balkans in the east. This unfolding narrative of turmoil along the front is punctuated by brief detours into the war at sea, in the air and on the home front.

The story of the First World War in its early months is an unfamiliar one of movement that is far removed from the trench warfare of the collective memory. As Hastings shows, these months brutally exposed the weaknesses of the great armies of Europe and their military commanders, as nineteenth-century strategies collided with twentieth-century weapons.

All Hell Let Loose: Max Hastings

Hastings also carefully highlights what will be similarly unfamiliar ground for many British readers: that the British Expeditionary Force BEF played only a supporting role on the Western Front during these early months, especially prior to the First Battle of Ypres in October — but even then it received substantial support from French and Indian troops.

It was only later in the war that the BEF, reinforced first with reservists and then with conscripts, became a more equal partner to the French. These overarching themes are intertwined within a narrative built around the human experience of war. Indeed, one of the most moving passages of the book comes as soldiers of different nationalities describe their experiences of facing the reality of industrialised warfare for the first time. However, it is a curious feature of the book that while Hastings devotes such attention to the experiences and emotions of ordinary soldiers, those who led them are reduced to all but two-dimensional characters.

Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914

Toad from Wind in the Willows. Yet there is little attempt to understand these characters, and their actions, in depth, which is an unfortunate weakness of the book. Le Tube Littauer, J. British soldiers in Belgium, winter K. Photograph LC GS While every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders of photographs, in some cases this has not proved possible. The author and publishers would welcome any information that would enable such omissions to be rectified in future editions.

In these maps I have striven for clarity for non-specialist readers, for instance by omitting divisional numbers except where essential. The measured, silent drawing together of gigantic forces, the uncertainty of their movements and positions, the number of unknown and unknowable facts made the first collision a drama never surpassed. Nor was there any other period in the War when the general battle was waged on so great a scale, when the slaughter was so swift or the stakes so high.

Moreover, in the beginning our faculties of wonder, horror and excitement had not been cauterized and deadened by the furnace fires of years. In our own twenty-first century, the popular vision of the war is dominated by images of trenches, mud, wire and poets. It is widely supposed that the first day of the Battle of the Somme was the bloodiest of the entire conflict. This is not so.

All Hell Let Loose: the World at War ()

In August the French army, advancing under brilliant sunshine across a virgin pastoral landscape, in dense masses clad in blue overcoats and red trousers, led by officers riding chargers, with colours flying and bands playing, fought battles utterly unlike those that came later, and at even more terrible daily cost. One soldier whose company entered its first battle with eighty-two men had just three left alive and unwounded by the end of August. The Germans suffered , casualties in the same period, including three times as many dead as during the entire Franco-Prussian War.

This also represented a higher rate of loss than at any later period of the war. The British in August fought two actions, at Mons and Le Cateau, which entered their national legend.

All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe
All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe
All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe
All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe
All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe
All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe
All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe
All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe All Hell Let Loose and Catastrophe

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