Osprey Campaign 315 – The Hindenburg Line 1918
Haig’s Forgotten Triumph
96 pp Softbound
Osprey’s Campaign series of historical monographs has been around for a long time and has covered a great many battles and campaigns. Each title takes a significant campaign and provides a reasonably detailed history of that action. The 1918 campaign for the Hindenburg Line also forms the bulk of the period known as The Hundred Days, the final 100 days of WWI between the attack on Amiens, August 8, to the Armistice on November 11.
Physically, this book is similar to other Osprey books, being 96 pages of glossy, heavy paper stock. There are a good number of photographs, most in B&W with a few small present day photos of the battlefields, with colour topographical maps of the battles, several painting of small actions and isometric projection maps of some battles. The book is broken down into several sections, in order, The Strategic Situation, a Chronology, the Opposing Commanders, the Opposing Armies, the Opposing Plans, the Campaign itself, the Aftermath and the Battlefield Today. There is also a reasonable bibliography and index.
The Hindenburg Line campaign involved virtually all of the Allied and German forces on the western front. The scope was vast and, because it also marked the return to a much more mobile type of warfare there is a lot to cover in a book of 96 pages. In fact, perhaps too much for the layout used in this volume. In trying to provide even a minimal understanding of the various commanders, armies and plans that met on the battlefield, the book uses so much of its fixed length on these topics that there is very little left to describe, much less discuss the battle itself. Laid out chronologically, the descriptions of the various phases, although written clearly enough, seldom get down below division level leaving the reader with little appreciation for what is going on other than a march of numbered division symbols across the (very good) maps provided. It’s a shame when such a large action has had to be compressed into one book. This is a topic that could have really been better served by at least two volumes. It seems overly compressed in one.
A small niggle is that the subtitle states "Haig's Forgotten Triumph". Unfortunately, at no point does the book address this statement. It is very true that by 1918 British soldiers had achieved a greater understanding of how to breech the defenses of the German Army, but it is not discussed how this was of Haig's doing. There is a lot of discussion of how the various Army, and even Corps, commanders handled their units, but very little is said about Haig's involvement. This is unfortunate as it is a topic that could use additional discussion.
That said, the text is clear, the images are a generally quite good, if the photos area also generally quite small. It is unfortunate that in just about every case, the isometric maps that cover the main portion of each battle also pass directly through the spine of the book, making them partly illegible. This really is something that the book design team needs to address as it’s not rocket science to place the principle portions of a page outside the spine. The full spread colour illustrations also span the centrespread and lose impact because of it.
Many thanks to Osprey Publishing for providing the review copy.
Reviewed by Paul Roberts, AMPS FF Worthington, Toronto, ON
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