The Passchendaele Campaign 1917. £25.00, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 239pp, hardback, ills throughout, index, ISBN 978 152670 400 9
The publication of Andrew Rawson’s comprehensive account of the 3rd Battle of Ypres of 1917 not only fits in well with much of the literature published to commemorate the centenary of the British offensive in Flanders, but also serves as a meticulous record of the major engagements and minor actions which made up this pivotal battle. In gathering detailed records of many aspects of the offensive from the British viewpoint, backed up with impressive maps of every stage of the battle, Andrew Rawson has produced a work which will be of interest to all those who wish to study the experience of the British Expeditionary Force in this controversial campaign.
In taking the reader through each stage of the Ypres offensive week by week and highlighting the actions of the British and Dominion formations which took part, the author has provided a relatively detailed study of key aspects of the campaign. Whilst several factual errors detract from the author’s scholarship and there is an occasional imbalance between his critique of the tactics and operational methods used and the narrative of events, the overall account flows easily and includes impressive examples of the courage and leadership shown by many soldiers, such as Captain Noel Chavasse VC posthumously winning a second Victoria Cross for collecting wounded soldiers whilst refusing to stop for rest or food. Disappointingly, the author does not make the most of opportunities to present critical analysis of each stage of the offensive, preferring either to conclude chapters with the actions of specific formations or just to summarise events.
After providing background information about the planning for the Ypres offensive, Andrew Rawson moves on to describe in some detail the capture of the Messines ridge, followed by chapters outlining the plans for landings on the Belgian coast before moving on to examine the preparations for the main offensive. There follow chapters on each of the main stages of the offensive from the initial assault at the end of July 1917 through to the capture of Passchendaele Ridge in November. There is a chapter outlining conclusions on the offensive, including tactics and weapons. Despite the absence of a comprehensive bibliography and list of sources, the book still represents a valuable account of the Flanders campaign of 1917.