One hundred years on…
On 18 July 1917, a heavy artillery barrage was unleashed by the Allied forces against an entrenched German army outside the town of Ypres. it was to be the opening salvo of one of the most ferociously fought and debilitating encounters of the First World War.
Few battles would encapsulate the utter futility of the war better that what became known as the Battle of Passchendaele. By the time the British and Canadian forces finally captured Passchendaele village on 6 November, the Allies had suffered over 271,000 casualties and the German army over 217,000.
Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth shows how ordinary men on both sides endured this constant state of siege, with a very real awareness that they were being gradually, deliberately felled. Here, Paul Ham tells the story of an army caught in the grip of an extraordinary power struggle – both global and national. As Prime Minister Lloyd George and Commander Haig’s relationship deteriorated beyond repair, so a terrible battle of attrition was needlessly and painfully prolonged.
Ham lays down a powerful challenge to the ways in which we have previously seen this monumental battle. Through an examination of the culpability of governments and military commanders in a catastrophe that destroyed the best part of a generation, Paul Ham argues that Passchendaele, far from being a breakthrough moment, was the battle that nearly lost the Allies the war.