1918, the Last Act

1918, the Last Act

1918, the Last Act

1918, the Last Act

Excerpt

When Europe went to war in 1914, it did so in a mood of joyous certainty. Both sides were confident that their causes were just, that their armies were invincible, and that their consequent victories would be glorious, overwhelming and practically immediate. So inexhaustible are the springs of human optimism that it was some time before the nations as a whole realized that the war was not progressing in accordance with their first ingenuous suppositions, and that they would be called upon to pay for their days of splendid ardour throughout years of pain and anguish. National reserves of fortitude and endurance were to be drawn upon to the full, and Germany's dominance among the Central Powers increased as time passed.

Among the Allies, however, the relative seniorities of the partners subtly altered. Russia and France had possessed the enormous forces which first flung themselves upon the enemy in August 1914, when Britain's contribution was her Navy (in Continental eyes of no account) and an original expeditionary force so small as to enable her own propagandists to coin the historic appellation 'contemptible little army', and then to attribute its origin to her foes. Time was to alter this, and by 1916 Britain had an army in the field which Germany recognized as the major block to Kaiserlich ambitions. Britain had thus replaced France as the senior partner on the Western Front; but although the power had changed hands, the philosophy remained the same.

For years before the war, the official policy of the French Army had been based upon the 'Spirit of the Offensive' with which their soldiers had been thoroughly imbued -- and time and occasion combined to infect their British ally with the same principles. When, eventually, the French were to pause and reflect upon the wisdom of their creed, their erstwhile junior partners regarded them with a disdain not unmixed with malice, and assumed the tradition of the offensive themselves. Victory, however, still eluded them, but in a moment of doubtful inspiration was produced the 'Doctrine of Attrition'

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