Trench Warfare, Tactics, Etc.

As you may have guessed, there are an immense number of books on the Great War. Here are a few. If you don't find what you're looking for here, go to Amazon.com and do a search. Remember, if you link to Amazon through us and order online, we get a small percentage -- this will help keep reenactor.Net online!

You might find book reviews on the following books on their pages at Amazon.com. If you would like to review a book, please submit your review to Amazon.com; if you would like to add a few clarifying words to my descriptions, please email me. I took most of the descriptions for these books right from the Osprey or Amazon.com pages.

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Death's Men by Denis Winter; Penguin Books Co., Ltd.: New York, 1978.

Reviewer: J. Thomas Dyess (on Amazon.com) from Orlando, FL USA

This is an amazing historical book. The author collected memoirs from British soldiers from WWI and organized them into various chapters: The Kitchener Armies Form, The Training of 'Other Ranks', Coming to Terms With The Army, Training the Officers, Over to France, Trench Life, The Weapons of Trench Warfare, The Strain of Trench Warfare, Into Rest, Home Leave, Battle, After Battle, Attitudes to the Germans, Attitudes to the War as a Whole, and After the War. Though not all of them are superb, all of them are very good. The most gruesome are Trench Life, The Weapons of Trench Warfare, and The Strain of Trench Warfare. After the War was an excellent close up chapter with some great commentary.

The entire book is from the British perspective. Though the majority of the Allied soldiers of World War I's Western Front were French, this captures the experience and affects of World War I brilliantly. The picture of the cover is an exquisite choice; all throughout the book I would read horrific things of the war and look at the picture on the cover and think, "you poor ..." The only negative thing I have to say about this book is the small print. The margins are more than enough to allow a larger print and still fit in the same existing dimensions. There is only one map and the British slang isn't defined, but you can find most of it ...

Some of the more gory details concern snipers, machine guns, decomposing body, the deplorable conditions of the trenches, the horrific affects of phosphene gas and mustard gas (and of course tear and chlorine), mortar and artillery fire, and rats. This isn't an action story. Although there is plenty of action in it, it's an accumulation and narration of memoirs of World War I organized in a well manner. I highly recommend this to historian hobbyists, true historians, or people who just like understanding war. It won't be a dissapointment.

World War I Trench Warfare (1) 1914-16 -- The regular armies which marched off to war in 1914 were composed of massed riflemen, screened by cavalry and supported by artillery; their leaders expected a quick and decisive outcome, achieved by sweeping manoeuvre, bold leadership and skill at arms. Eighteen months later the whole nature of field armies and their tactics had changed utterly. In sophisticated trench systems forming a battlefield a few miles wide and 400 miles long, conscript armies sheltered from massive long-range bombardment, wielding new weapons according to new tactical doctrines. This first of two richly illustrated studies explains in detail the specifics of that extraordinary transformation, complete with ten full colour plates of uniforms and equipment.
World War I Trench Warfare (2): 1916-18 -- The Allied attempt to break the stalemate of trench warfare by the 'big pushes' of 1916 led to massively costly battles of attrition. The Germans responded by developing schemes of defence in depth anchored on concrete bunkers; the Allies, by sophisticated artillery tactics in support of infantry assaults, and by the introduction of the tank - at first an accident-prone novelty, but later a front-breaking weapon. On both sides the small, self-reliant, opportunistic infantry unit, with its own specialist weapons, became the basic tool of attack. This second of a fascinating two-part study of the birth of 20th century tactics is illustrated in colour and includes rare photographs.
cover Eye Deep in Hell by John Ellis; Pantheon Books: New York, 1976.

Ellis presents a graphics-heavy book that focuses on the daily life of the soldier in WWI and only discusses the political reasons and strategies of the Great War if they make a point about the way the average soldier lived.

Each two-page spread holds at least one graphic: a photo, a diagram, or a reproduced label or sign. Most of the photos and graphics are very well chosen and enhance the reader's perception of the text. Unfortunately, the reproduction quality of some of the photographs is less than stellar, and the reader is left struggling to figure out what exactly the point of the picture is.

Read this book to understand what "The Average Soldier" (Ellis attempts to include facts about the soldiers fighting on both sides) had to deal with in World War I (I think re-enactors would find this book particularly useful), but select another for the facts of the war or any particular battle.

Attacks by Erwin Rommel: Athena Press, Inc.: Vienna, VA, 1979.

Reviewer: Bruce W. Willett (on Amazon.com) from Belleville, Illinois USA

Rommel's Attack is a great first person account on the activities of a junior military officer, trained on the concept of problem solving and overcoming the obstacles that he finds as he accomplishes the task that present themselves to him during combat in the Great War. In a war that has been defined as a defensive engagement, Rommel is consistently able to overcome these defenses, attack effectively, and achieve his objectives. This book is a great account on one military officers utilization of his leadership ability, coupled with the effective incorporation of those around him into an effective fighting organization. Rommel also incorporates numerous sketches of troop movements, obstacles overcome, and his battle plan intentions that add to the readers ability to learn from these writings. While many see warfare of today as much different from that of the Great War, it is important to remember that conflict still requires one group to overcome another and the thought process utilized by Rommel (and explained in this book) is still as useful today as it was then. This is a excellent book for those interested in then military, but should also be a must read for those who work with others at difficult task or objectives.

Stormtroop Tactics; Innovation in the German Army, 1914 - 1918 by Bruce I. Gudmundsson; Prager: New York, 1989.

Describing the radical transformation in German Infantry tactics that took place during World War I, this is the first detailed account of the evolution of stormtroop tactics available in English. It covers the German Infantry's tactical heritage, the squad's evolution as a tactical unit, the use of new weapons for close combat, the role of the elite assault units, and detailed descriptions of offensive battles. Stormtroop Tactics is required reading for professional military officers, military historians, and enthusiasts.

cover British Butchers and Bunglers of World War One by John Laffin.

The author convincingly argues that a large number of casualties during WW I were caused by British commanders who were vain, egocentric, incompetent and uncaring.

A scathing analysis of the utter stupidity of the British military bureaucracy who could not think of doing anything but sending even more men into the guns. While German and, to a lesser extent, French militaries were trying to intelligently solve the riddle of the trenches, those at the top in British HQ were actively supressing those below them who had better ideas.


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