The German Offensives of 1918: The Last Desperate Gamble by Ian Passingham

Pen and Sword, £19.99, 181pp, 43 ills, 3 mps, 8appendices, notes, bilio, index. ISBN 184415762-8 

Whilst Ian Passingham’s account of the German Spring Offensives of 1918 has enjoyed some harsh judgment on the Great War Forum, it would be a great mistake to over-egg the critical pudding.

Whilst Martin Kitchen’s The German Offensives of 1918, published in 2001, almost certainly remains the benchmark book on the subject, this new work’s concision, employing, headlined sections, makes Ian Passingham’s very helpful work.

Equally, despite the publisher’s overstated blurb claiming that the book is controversial, it did not seem truly so to this reviewer. That is no genuine complaint, for the author’s views seem pretty much in line with current thinking on the German Spring Offensives in which its army’s tactics – themselves by no means new - were totally subordinated to any strategic calculation by Ludendorff.

Ian Passingham does however, as claimed, offer worthwhile eye witness accounts, a valuable outline of Ludendorff’s flawed mind and reveal German and Allied high command thinking. Whilst Martin’s Kitchen’s approach is far more comprehensive, more dense and ‘academic’, this new work’s lighter approach provides a very helpful reference – a ready reckoner if you will - and a very worthwhile introduction to the battles which finally led to the German Army’s defeat in the field; if a little overpriced. 

Review by David Filsell

[This review first appeared in the April/May 2009 edition of Stand To! The Journal of The Western Front Association. Members receive three copies of Stand To! and three of our sister publication Bulletin when they become members. They also get a Member Login to the entire Stand To! Archive, Gun Fire and Pension Records].