'No part of the Great War compares in interest with its opening', wrote Churchill. '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...In fact the War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened afterwards consisted in battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of fate. 'One of Britain's foremost military historians has written a significant new history of the origins - and the opening first few weeks fighting - of what would become known as 'the war to end all wars'.
Intensely researched and convincingly argued, Allan Mallinson explores and explains the grand strategic shift that occurred in the century before the war, the British Army's regeneration after its drubbings in its fight against the Boer, its almost calamitous experience of the first twenty days' fighting in Flanders, and the point at which the British Expeditionary Force - the 'Old Contemptibles' - took up the pick and the spade in the middle of September 1914, changing the war from one of movement into the now familiar image of the trenches and the coming of the Territorials, Kitchener's 'Pals', and ultimately the conscripts - and of course the poets. And with them, at sense of pity and of futility. An ex-infantry and -cavalry officer, Mallinson brings his experience as a professional soldier to bear on the individuals, circumstances and events and the result is a vivid, compelling new history of the beginnings of the conflict - and one that speculates - tantalizingly - on what might have been...
In the run up to the centenary of the First World War comes a fascinating and revelatory new history of the origins of the war, of those first few crucial weeks of fighting, and of how Britain and its army fared.
Allan Mallinson is a former infantry and cavalry officer of thirty-five years' service. He is the author of the acclaimed Matthew Hervey series of historical novels, Light Dragoons, a history of four regiments of British Cavalry (one of which he commanded) and The Making of the British Army. As well as writing on defence matters for The Times, he writes for the Mail Online and is a regular reviewer for The Times, Spectator and Literary Review. He lives near Salisbury in Wiltshire. His website is www.hervey.info