Book Group Report
Six members of the ‘Book Group’ gathered in the bar at the Labour Club, Saltergate on Tuesday 10th March to discuss the book, ‘1918, Winning and Losing the War’, edited by Matthias Strohn. This book, published by Osprey, perhaps better known for smaller specialist books, is a collection of papers on the armies of both the Allies and the Central powers, and is in similar format to the editor’s, ‘World War One Companion, published in 2013 to mark the Centenary of the start of the war. The idea for this book was born when the author was working at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and wished to support the British Army’s Operation Reflect, a project to educate ‘educate modern soldiers about the achievement of the Army and learn lessons that may guide an uncertain future’ and is not a heavy-weight academic publication. It takes the central theme of ‘four armies in four days’ ~ the German Offensives, the French counter attack, the British Expeditionary Force’s counter offensive from breaking out from Amiens to the breaking of the Hindenburg Line and the American Expeditionary Force’s offensive through the Meuse-Argonne region to the Meuse River. The importance of coalition is emphasized – together with its potential benefits and the predictable problems of infighting. France, Britain and Italy lost Russia as an ally and then absorbed the arrival of the USA.

3 Meanwhile Germany failed to exploit the full potential of their coalition with Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. It also outlines the Restoration of manoeuvre along with firepower – which after reading ‘Artillery in the Great War as a Book Group choice’ we understood the latter was the dominant factor in the earlier three years– and all in 156 pages! While more serious students were not impressed by the book, indicting it as a ‘relatively superficial’ compendium. Others felt that it succeeded in providing a good background to explaining the role of the American Army, which some of us had little knowledge, despite previous WFA talks. We also understood more about Ludendorff’s mental breakdown and Foch’s and the French contribution to victory in 1918. Our favourite author was Jonathan Boff. Particularly his clear writing style - we had enjoyed his book ‘Haig’s Enemy’ about Prinz Rupprecht of Bavaria as our previous Book Group choice. The general conclusion was we enjoyed the book and the different authors. As usual, our discussions ranged over a wide variety of WW1 topics, from Dunster Force‘s Model T fords in Iran to the fact that Americans drove British tanks into a British minefield at Belle Helene. We were also impressed how the not easy word ‘Vernichtstag’ (annihilation day) rolled off Jane’s tongue. Those present liked the idea of splitting a book up into parts. This may make future choices less daunting and enable us to have meetings on a more regular basis. I have the problem of forgetting the early chapters of a 400 page book before reaching the end! Our next Book Group choice is to read the last five chapters of ‘1918, Winning and Losing the War’ - in fact some of our members had already done so. Our next scheduled meeting was to be 21st April but this has now been cancelled because of Covid 19. We should now reflect on the fact that future wars will be fought with biological and computer technology beyond our conception! Maybe we could get together online using ZOOM meeting software? The idea of a WhatsApp has also been suggested


At the next meeting on Tuesday 10th March, 7pm  ~ Labour Club, Saltergate we will talk about:

“1918: Winning the War, Losing the War” edited by Matthias Strohn



This new study is a multi-author work containing ten chapters by some of the best historians of the First World War from around the world writing today. It provides an overview and analysis of the different levels of war for each of the main armies involved within the changing context of the reality of warfare in 1918. It also looks in detail at the war at sea and in the air, and considers the aftermath and legacy of the First World War.

We thought we would do the first five chapters  – (156  Pages) which are papers by different authors  on the armies of Germany, France, Great Britain and USA. This will leave a further five for a later date.

 Hardcover: 304 pages, Publisher: Osprey Publishing; (9 Mar. 2018) ISBN-10: 9781472829337,  ISBN-13: 978-1472829337

The book is also available on Audible and works well as a series of talks.


On Tuesday 10th December, five members, with three apologies, met in the bar of The Labour Club, Saltergate to discuss ‘Haig’s Enemy’ by Jonathan Boff.

This is about Crown Prince Rupprect of Bavaria (1869-1955), the General in charge of the German Sixth Army and later as Field Marshall of an ‘army group’ of 1.5 million, that faced the BEF under Haig for most of  WWI - although the two never met. Maybe Haig’s real enemy was Lloyd George who denied him extra troops and supplies?

The book was one of the first to examine Rupprecht and the German Army in WWI.  As a fluent german speaker, Jonathan Boff was able to examine Rupprecht’s original diary, later editions were purged of any controversial incidents, and other documents.  He maintains there is a dearth of secondary sources as there is actually no tradition of military history in Germany.

Boff also says, “Studying Rupprect’s military career allows us to interrogate and challenge several of the preconceptions we have about World War 1 and about modernity itself”

We particularly discussed that Prince Rupprecht, the eldest son of the King of Bavaria, was actually competent and well qualified to lead the German Army – something of a surprise for someone with such a royal background. However he was also lucky to have his Chiefs of Staff,  Konrad Krafft von Dellmensingen and Hermann von Kuhl, two of the most talented soldiers in the German army.

The book shatters the illusion that the German Army was very efficient. We learnt how Rupprect did not get on with von Falkenhayn who did not communicate with him and  how Eric Ludendorf was a control freak who eventually suffered a nervous breakdown.

We also talked about the German Army’s atrocities that inflicted on the French and Belgians at the early stages of  the war. The two main reasons for the executions being the Germans did not wish to endure being sniped by partisan ‘Franc Tireurs’, as they had been during the Prussian War of 1870 and also they had planned a short war, so they did not wish to be slowed down by prisoners or court hearings. Rupprecht was actually number 33 on the French post-war list of 890 wanted war criminals.

Rupprecht considered the French Army to be more dangerous adversaries than the British, particularly because of the continual pressure they would exert. In his opinion the British would pause after they had won a battle

We noted there was not a lot written about Rupprect as a man and nor did this book tell us much about his family life,

Rupprecht believed that one of the main reasons Germany lost the war was the attritional effect of Verdun and the Somme with the consequent deterioration of the low quality the army replacement recruits.

Jonathan Boff writes clearly and presented the story of the war from a German point of view in a clear and lucid way.

Everyone agreed that this had been a good choice and they had enjoyed the book. This showed us that a well-written academic book can be popular as well and we thought we are getting the variety and level of our choices right.


Member John Dolan e mailed in his comments

Sadly, things have moved against my being able to attend this evening. Please accept my apology.


However, having bought the book new in hardback (!), i can happily report that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is, in my view, a handsomely bound and presented volume, containing some really interesting photographs that I hadn’t previously viewed. I thought Boff’s use of recently available, German primary sources commendable, and his acknowledging of these in Notes both thorough and generous. I would have welcomed some maps of positions and deployments, but this doesn’t weigh too heavily with me.


I found Boff’s style lucid and generally compelling, though at times his obvious (is it?) fascination with Rupprecht got the better of Boff’s critical judgement of his subject as both a commander and a man. I was very interested in Boff’s outlining of. Rupprecht’s assessment of Haig and the BEF, as compared with the French commanders and fighting troops. As i read it, Boff argues - powerfully - that French strategies and tactics were on the whole the better judged and implemented.


I found Ch10 fascinating, and distressingly revealing of the life style of a senior commander (along with supportive sections and snippets placed elsewhere in the book of the same). I found and find it impossible to either forget or overlook the privilege and sense of entitlement which Rupprecht - and, no doubt, others similarly positioned commanders in all the engaged forces - displayed and enjoyed even as hundreds of thousand others fought and died trying to execute the orders and conditions determined for them as a result of command decisions made by commanders.


Overall, though, I thought the book a very good selection, so thanks to whoever recommend it to the group. I hope your evening discussion is lively and enjoyable. Please let me know the date of the next meeting, along with details of the next book for reading and discussing.



At the next meeting on Tuesday 10th March, 7pm  ~ Labour Club, Saltergate we will talk about:

“1918: Winning the War, Losing the War” edited by Matthias Strohn

This new study is a multi-author work containing ten chapters by some of the best historians of the First World War from around the world writing today. It provides an overview and analysis of the different levels of war for each of the main armies involved within the changing context of the reality of warfare in 1918. It also looks in detail at the war at sea and in the air, and considers the aftermath and legacy of the First World War.

We thought we would do the first five chapters  – (156  Pages) which are papers by different authors  on the armies of Germany, France, Great Britain and USA. This will leave a further five for a later date.

 Hardcover: 304 pages, Publisher: Osprey Publishing; (9 Mar. 2018) ISBN-10: 9781472829337,  ISBN-13: 978-1472829337

The book is also available on Audible and works well as a series of talks.



Tuesday 10th Dec

Our next book club meeting will be on Tuesday 10th Dec, 7pm at our usual venue, the Labour Club, Saltergate when we will discuss ‘Haig's Enemy’ by Jonathan Boff, in which he discusses the role of Crown Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria and sheds new light on many of the controversies of the Western Front from a German point of view.
Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition (12 April 2018)
ISBN-13: 978-019-967046-8
Hardcover: 400 pages (also available as Kindle and Audible)






By Peter Harris

As a book group we have tried to read a fairly wide range of books rather than repeatedly reading battle histories. We have read general overviews such as Travers’s ‘How the War was Won’, unit histories such as ‘The Journey’s End Battalion’ by Michael Lucas, local history as ‘Derbyshire in the First World’ by Scott Lomax and about Australian and New Zealand nurses in ‘ANZAC Girls’  by Peter  Rees. This month we returned to more complex subjects as we read ‘Artillery in the Great War’ by Paul Strong and Sanders Marble.

Our next read is a bit of an experiment. On the 15th October we will be discussing a set of four short academic papers that I have come across at Wolverhampton. These are:-

Jonathan Krause, ‘Ferdinand Foch and the Scientific Battle’, The RUSI Journal, 159.4,  (2014) pp. 66-74

Jim Beach, ‘Issued by the General Staff: Doctrine Writing at British HQ, 1917-1918’, War In History  19(4) (2012) pp. 464-491

Jonathan Boff, ‘Combined Arms during the Hundred Days Campaign, August –November 1918’, War in History 14(4) (2010) pp. 459-478

Paul Harris & Sanders Marble, ‘The Step by Step Approach: British Military Thought and Operational Method on the Western Front, 1915-1917, War in History 15(1) (2008) pp. 17-42

These papers cover a range of topics that I hope will be of interest and give the group an insight into how academics approach a particular topic for study.


Tuesday 15th October 


Really good couple of hours at our Book Discussion Group meeting last night. Mixed comments about Sanders & Marble`s book `Artillery in the Great War`. Some thought it was a good source of information whilst others felt it was too thin on detail with too much about the war in general. The discussion evolved into aerial photography and its use in identifying targets for the guns. Peter Harris told of his recent visit to explore the tunnels around Ramsgate. I never cease to be amazed about the wealth of knowledge our members as individuals possess. The next meeting will be on October 15th - watch this space for more details. Even if you don`t have time to read the book in question I think if you came along to the Discussion Group you would find it a couple of hours well spent.


Tuesday 13th August

Our next Book Group meeting will be on Tuesday 13th August, 7pm  in the Chesterfield Labour Club and we will  discuss  ‘Artillery in the Great War’ by Paul Strong and Sanders Marble, published by Pen and Sword.(206 pages). It is often said that the First World War was an Artillery war with an estimated 58% of British casualties being caused by shellfire. This book should give us a good understanding of this very important weapon.  

This Book Group is open to everyone, there is no membership as such – come and give it a go.

Not read the book ? - no problem - our meetings develop into  a good all round discusion around the topic - last month prolific writer on military matters Andy Rawson gave us a fascinating insight into the writer / publisher relationship.

Artillery in the Great War




Good meeting meeting held on 25th June , once we discussed the book - which all agreed was interesting and a good representation of Derbyshire`s experience of the Great War - prolific writer Andy Rawson gave the Group an interesting insight into the book publishing business.

Info:  As usual a  chat in a friendly informal atmosphere about all things WW1 was in order  - and a bit about the book as well

Next meeting August 13th.


The Group`s next meeting will be on June 25th when we will discuss`The Home Front - Derbyshire in the First World War`. This book is available on Amazon with prices starting from £7.52 for a used copy

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Excellent Book Discussion Group Meeting on 16th April ...great to welcome two first time members to the Group. Judging by the comments `Anzac Girls` has been one of the most popular books focussed on so far. The Group`s next meeting will be on June 25th when we will discuss`The Home Front - Derbyshire in the First World War


The next meeting is on Tuesday April 16th and the book decided upon at our last meeting is by Peter Rees, ‘Anzac Girls, An Extraordinary Story of World War 1 Nurses.’ (London, Allen & Unwin: 2008).

By the end of the Great War, forty-five Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service and over two hundred had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable. Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards, and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these courageous and compassionate women to shine through and enrich our experience.

Profoundly moving, Anzac Girls is a story of extraordinary courage and humanity shown by a group of women whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognised in our history. Peter Rees has changed that understanding forever. It is a fairly long book at 315 pages but from the way it is laid out it is the sort of book you might just read a few chapters if you hadn’t the time to read it all. It has also been made into a TV series which is very true to the book and is well worth watching on DVD

Anzac Girls: The Extraordinary Story of Our World War I Nurses



Nine of us met on Tuesday 19th and the book we had been reading was ‘The Battle that won the war, Bellenglise, Breaching the Hindenburg Line’ by Peter Rostron. The book was well received by all of us. We agreed that the title was a bit misleading as there were still the battles of the Selle and the Sambre to come after Bellenglise before the Armistice. We all found the book readable. The author had an old fashioned way of introducing each chapter and the maps and extracts from the war diaries showing trenches, deployment of artillery and intelligence had been badly copied and without any attempt to clean up the images were very dark. But overall a very good read.

We discussed which book we would read for our next meeting on Tuesday April 16th and decided on Peter Rees, ‘Anzac Girls, An Extraordinary Story of World War 1 Nurses.’ (London, Allen & Unwin: 2008).


The next meeting (4th) of the book group will be on Tuesday 19th February and the book chosen is The Battle That Won the War - Bellenglise: Breaching the Hindenburg Line 1918 by Peter Rostron and published by Pen & Sword in 2018. Available from Amazon for £11.69, with the Kindle edition at £3.83
All welcome – whether or not you have read the book – come and join us for a great natter about all things WW1 –don`t forget it`s a 7pm start


We met for the third session of the group on the 11 December. The book chosen was The Journey's End Battalion: The 9th East Surrey in the Great War by Michael Lucas published by Pen & Sword in 2012.

R.C. Sherriff, author of Journey's End, the most famous play of the Great War, saw all his frontline service with the 9th Battalion East Surrey Regiment. This intense experience profoundly affected his writing and, through his play, it continues to have a powerful influence on our understanding of the conflict. Yet the story of his battalion - known as 'The Gallants' after the bravery it displayed during the Battle of Loos - has never been told in full until now. In The Journey's End Battalion, Michael Lucas gives a vivid account of its history. Using official and unofficial sources, diaries, letters, and British and German wartime records, he describes the individuals who served in it and the operations they took part in. He identifies the inspiration for Journey's End and considers how Sherriff delved into his experiences and those of his fellow soldiers in order to create his drama. The narrative covers the battalion's bloody initiation at Loos, its role in the fighting on the Somme at Guillemont and Delville Wood and during the Third Battle of Ypres, then the part it played in the desperate defence against the German 1918 offensives and its contribution to the Allied advance to victory. Despite the presence of Sherriff and other notable individuals, the 9th East Surrey was in many ways typical of the southern Kitchener battalions, and Michael Lucas's account of its service provides a fascinating contrast with the northern Pals battalions whose story has been more often told. So not only does the book shed new light on the wartime experience of R.C. Sherriff, but it is a valuable record of the operation of a British battalion on the Western Front during the Great War.

The group had all enjoyed the book. It was a contrast to the more academic books by Travers and Terraine we had read previously and being a battalion history with a literary connection it had more general interest and appeal. It lead to quite a lot of discussion about command (at the battle of Loos in particular). Overall we liked the style and readability of the book and some of us had also watched the film of 'Journey's End' on YouTube. The author's son had contributed by translating parts of the war diaries of the German units that the 9th battalion had fought against and this added an interesting component to the book seeing the same events from the opposition`s point of view.

The Chesterfield WFA Book Group held its second meeting on Tuesday 16th October, when six members discussed John Terraine’s “To Win a War. 1918, The Year of Victory.”

 While most people hear a lot about the carnage of the Somme, Verdun and Passchendaele, the events of 1918 are less well known and we all found this classic narrative written by a founder member of the Western Front Association, a very good choice to unravel the events of the Kaiserschlact, the 100 Day offensive and the making of the peace leading to the  Armistice.

 Even some of the group who have a wide knowledge of the history, were reminded of the  complications posed by the tricky politicians, Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Wilson (the nephew).

 We enjoyed meeting together again and our earnest two hour discussion could have easily continued for another two.
 Next meeting

Our next Book Group meeting will be on Tuesday 11th December, 7pm. 

in the Chesterfield Labour Club Bar (not the upstairs meeting room), and we will  discuss

“ The Journey’s End Battalion . The 9th East Surrey in the Great War” by Michael Lucas 2012

ISBN: 978 1 52674 448 7

Pen & Sword

Peter Griffiths has kindly agreed to lead the discussion.

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The Book Club Group held their first meeting on Thursday 19th July

in the Labour Club’s Function room. Seven members enjoyed a very stimulating and interesting discussion on ‘How the War was Won’ by Tim Travers. This was led by Tony Bolton, whose extensive knowledge was very much appreciated. Although the book has attracted criticism from some of the revisionist historians, we concluded the author had done an excellent job with his analysis of the BEFs situation in the last two years of World War One, particularly since the book was written in 1990 before the internet was available. We also discovered one of Tim Travers main interests was the history of Pirates.

The next meeting is on Tuesday 16th October 7pm – 9pm when we will discuss 'To Win A War: 1918, the Year of Victory’ by John Terraine.

Andrew Kenning
Book Group co-ordinator 



Thursday 19th July sees the inaugural meeting of our book discussion group at our usual venue, Chesterfield Labour Club, with a 7pm start.

How the War was Won by Tim Travers

 Assessing the book before we read it. Some questions to ask.

  • Does the book have a subtitle?
  • Who wrote it?
  • When was it written?
  • Who first published it?
  • Are there footnotes or endnotes?
  • What does the bibliography tell us?

 When we read it.

  • What does the author tell us his intentions are with the book?
  • How well does the author fulfil his intentions?
  • Does the conclusion actually sum up the book?
  • Does the author succeed in his intentions?
  • Are we convinced by his arguments?

 Some General points.

  • Do we think all books are of equal value in furthering historical knowledge?
  • Who else has written about the same subject?
  • Did the author reach similar or radically different conclusions?
  • Has the writer returned to the subject later?

Book Discussion Group launch – still time to join us
Our Book Discussion Group is now going ahead and so far twelve members are planning to talk about the book ‘‘How the war was won’ by Tim Travers on Thursday 19th July 2018, 7pm – 9pm at the Chesterfield Labour Club Meeting Room, Saltergate.
 We are looking forward to hearing members views on this controversial book and some lively discussion, particularly in view of recent revisionist histories. 
We will also have the chance to get to know each other a bit better and share our interest in the history of the First World War.
We appreciate that individual members have different levels of interest and we welcome everyone. Please note we will have access to the Club’s Licensed bar. 
If anyone else would like to join us, please let Tony Bolton know at the next WFA meeting or
For the first meeting, you may observe proceedings without necessarily having read the book if you don’t have the time.

Members of The Western Front Association and non-members are equally welcome . We ask for a modest £3 donation on the door to cover room charges.s, The Club licensed bar is available for use by all attending our meetings.