Fight to the Finish

Fight to the Finish

Allan Mallinson
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
Fight to the Finish by Allan Mallinson

When this book arrived for review my thoughts were ‘Ah, the Great War, I’ll soon have this done after a bit of Ypres, Passchendaele, the Somme and a nod to Gallipoli’. How wrong could I be? This is probably the best publication I have read on the subject! Allan Mallinson’s style of writing – punchy, informative and with nothing that isn’t needed – provides a very rewarding experience. He has managed to incorporate clear facts with concise discussion in a format that explores each month of the War within a chapter. The fact that the Author was a soldier for thirty-five years shows quite clearly throughout, particularly in the way that tactics, manoeuvres, armaments and strategies of the time are explained.

This is a book that describes every aspect of the First World War with nothing left out. A short Introduction and Prologue provide the background and reasons for the conflict then embarks quickly onto the events of 1914 in Part One entitled ‘Over by Christmas’. These five chapters define the combatants, and include the early battles in France and Russia, the naval battles of Coronel and the Falklands, plus the encounters in Mesopotamia and at Ypres.

Part Two – Deadlock – starts with the Dardanelles and is followed by Ypres, Gallipoli, the war at sea, Loos then Italy, Bulgaria and Serbia. The writer, in addition to describing the major events month by month, skilfully weaves in the ongoing events of the War including the political aspects, the rulers and Generals of the countries involved, the ordinary soldiers and the home situation of each combatant.

Part Three ‘Pure Murder’, majors on the evacuation at Gallipoli, Verdun, the Somme, Jutland, Brusilov on the Eastern Front, Isonzo on the Italian Front plus the entry of Romania into the war. Throughout the book are enough maps to tie-in with the narrative plus plenty of period photographs in two dedicated areas. This chapter has an extensive description of the Easter Rising in Ireland as well as a good sprinkling of statistics to illustrate the enormity of the war to the reader. For instance, there were 200,000 Irish nationals under arms in 1916…

Part Four – 1917 ‘Defeat and Deliverance’ - gives its usual monthly account of the war and includes unrestricted German submarine warfare, the Russian Revolution, the entry of the USA, Nivelle, Greece, Passchendaele, Caparetto, the Bolsheviks, Jerusalem, and the armistice between Russia and the Central Powers. As always, the Author embraces the ‘whole’ war in his descriptions of the deprivations in Germany, the reaction to the entry of the USA, the oilfields of the Middle East, the Hindenburg Line and much more.

The final Part carries the title ‘Finis Germaniae’ to describe 1918. Quite naturally the huge battles on the Western Front are examined with a great deal of information about the five phases of the German spring offensive, during which the Allies were pushed back in northern France until the tide turned finally in mid-July. Notwithstanding this, there are chapters which provide in-depth analysis of the continuing war at sea with its blockades, convoys and submarine offensives plus the full-scale entry of the US forces into the affray. Once again the sheer scale of the conflict comes through with phases such as ‘Rawlinson’s Fourth Army took 13,000 prisoners [that day], ‘2,000 guns opened up counter-battery fire’, ‘there were 14,000 German casualties [compared with 9,000 Allied]’, ‘the First US Army had 300,000 troops to be used on the St Mihiel salient’, and so on. Despite this the author still includes the problems in the Ukraine at the time as well as issues within White Russia. Lastly, the collapse of four empires and the approaches to the Armistice are discussed in plenty of detail. This excellent book finishes with a compelling Epilogue entitled ‘The War to End all Wars’ then two annexes covering the terms of the Armistice and the casualty figures by country.

To conclude, this first-rate publication is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in the Great War, irrespective of their existing knowledge base. The way it is composed, using each month of the conflict as a chapter, makes the wealth of information and analysis digestible in ‘bite-sized’ portions thus making it ideal for use on an educational curriculum. Excellent throughout.

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