An in-depth, authoritative account of the First Battle of Ypres, an early turning point in World War I that irrevocably changed the course of modern warfare—by the founding editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History The Marne may have saved Paris and prevented a humiliating setback for the Allies, but it did not spell eventual defeat for Germany. Ypres did. The final months of 1914 were the bloodiest interval in a famously bloody war, truly a killing season. They ended in the First Battle of Ypres, a struggle whose importance has been too long overlooked, until now. Robert Cowley’s fresh, novelistic account of this crucial period describes how German armies in France were poised to sweep north to capture the Channel ports and knock England out of the war. Would France then be next? What changed everything, and what the Germans did not count on, was a brilliant surprise improvisation by a cobbled-together handful of British troops. It was a demonstration characterized as “the strength of despair.” Weaving together a wide array of source materials, with rich descriptions of the Belgian landscape and sharp portrayals of both leaders and the men they led, Cowley explores the dismal failures of commanders who had never been under fire as well as the determination of Albert of Belgium, the world's last warrior king, to preserve what remained of his nation. We follow the unlikely progress of French General Ferdinand Foch, the former professor of military science, who actually practiced what he taught. Memorable characters include Hendrik Geeraert, the alcoholic barge keeper, who emerged to mastermind what was literally Albert’s last ditch effort, and Sir John French, the British commander, who displayed his greatest talent for maneuver in the bedroom. And here is a young Adolf Hitler, who received a formative experience at Ypres, and Winston Churchill, who showed up uninvited at the siege of Antwerp and bought the time that may have saved the Allies. The vast brawl of four armies in Flanders was not only a turning point but one that irrevocably changed the nature of modern warfare. In this visceral account, based on thirty years of research and picking up where Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August left off, Robert Cowley details the crucial decisions and twists of fate that set the course of the Great War.
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