cover image Passchendaele: The Lost Victory of World War I

Passchendaele: The Lost Victory of World War I

Nick Lloyd. Basic, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-465-09477-6

Lloyd (Hundred Days), reader in military and imperial history at King’s College London, confirms his position among the best young scholars of WWI in this comprehensively researched, convincingly presented analysis of the still-controversial 1917 battle of Passchendaele. Lloyd asserts that Passchendaele was less an ill-fated farrago of total incompetence than “in some respects, one of the ‘lost victories’ of the war.” He demonstrates that British civilian-military relations were confused and that the result was a British failure to develop, even at this late date, a “detailed and considered appreciation of how the war was to be won.” Had an approach of measured, limited advances—based on timing and firepower, and well within British capacities—been pursued systematically from the beginning instead of on an ad hoc basis, Lloyd suggests, “a major victory could have been won in the late summer and autumn of 1917.” He supports this position with a careful analysis of Passchendaele’s deleterious effect on the German defenders. Instead, a knockout blow was sought amid the grind of attrition. Britain and the Dominions paid the price for high-level strategic dissonance and the culpable amateurism that sustained it. Lloyd’s thesis is controversial, but his scholarship makes it impossible to dismiss. Maps. Agent: Peter Robinson, Rogers, Coleridge, and White (U.K.). (May)