Who Won the War? Not Us Apparently; the Myth of the Great War - A New Military History of World War I. by John Mosier (Profile Books, Pounds 20). Reviewed by Michael Emery

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Emery

British troops go over the top in France in 1916, but did this strategy simply strengthen the German position?

According to American academic John Mosier, the great myth of the First World War is that the British and French won.

In this new history of the Great War, which has taken him more than ten years to produce, he claims the American intervention in 1917 was crucial in that it was only the arrival of two million US troops that convinced the Germans they could not win.

Mosier's theory is based on more than a decade of research in mainly German and French archives and amounts to the most contemptuous assessment of British and French military strategy that you are ever likely to read.

In this provocative book, Mosier analyses how German weapons, strategy, training and leadership were consistently superior. As a result, casualty and death rates for the British and French were 35 per cent higher than for the Germans.

Compared to the allied 'victories' the German ones were real. Time and again a desperate allied attack would seize a few kilometres of the first line German positions and a victory would be declared - as at Cambrai in 1917, when the church bells in England were rung to celebrate the great triumph. Within a few days the Germans had mounted a counter attack that carried everything before them.

The Allies celebrated hollow victories at enormous cost while the Germans went about capturing countries: Belgium in 1914, Serbia in 1915, Romania in 1916, Italy in 1917 and at the end of 1917, Russia as well.

Whenever the Germans could throw the resources together to mount a major offence on the Western front it was successful. In July 1916, for example, at the end of their Verdun offensive, the German army was master of the battlefield.

Whereas Haig's battlefield tactics amounted to little more than opening up with a week-long artillery barrage on positions the Germans had invariably left, and then marching heavily-laden infantry men towards the enemies' guns and inevitable slaughter, the Germans were far more resourceful. …