An in-depth account of the First Battle of Ypres, a turning point in World War I—and in the history of warfare
The First Battle of Ypres changed how wars are fought.
Ypres was the staging ground for the realization that bullets rather than bayonets would be the weapon of the future. It gave birth to “no-man’s-land,” that spectral space of shattered trees and pockmarked earth, a battleground where thousands of men fought to gain thirty feet of territory, only to lose it again the next day. Ypres was where the commanding officers of both sides—many of whom knew about war only through studying it in a classroom—realized that the combination of grand cavalry maneuvers and gallant charges with twentieth-century weapons was a losing, fatal one.
From Sir John French, the compulsive womanizer who led Britain’s forces, to Albert of Belgium, who may have been history’s last warrior king, down to the young staff officers and military journalists, Robert Cowley brings Ypres to life, using the accounts of commanders and soldiers alike.
Weaving together a wide array of source material based on thirty years of research, Cowley explores the extent to which the Germans’ rigid training cost them thousands of men, debunks the myth of the “singing attacks,” and reveals a crucial, overlooked “What if?” of history: the afternoon of October 31, 1914, when the Germans hesitated to attack the depleted British forces and lost their best chance of winning the Western Front.