Category Archives: World War 1

Review of The First Nazi: The Life and Times of General Erich Ludendorff of Germany by William Brownell, Alex Rovt (With), Denise Drace-Brownell (With)

A powerful argument that Erich Ludendorff should be seen as one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century.

Brownell argues convincingly that Ludendorff’s World War 1 actions possibly added 2 years to that conflict and he was also directly responsible for the rise of Soviet Communism and Hitler.

Ludendorff believed that by sending Lenin is a sealed train to St Petersburg he would undermine Russia’s provisional post-tsar government and force a peace treaty. He was correct in that theory, but inadvertently fostered Stalin and the resulting 70 odd years of the Soviet Union.

Following the end of World War 1 Ludendorff propagated the “stab in the back” legend that became accepted as fact, in addition to a noxious cocktail of blame being placed on the Jews. Brownlee states that these two fictions directly created a climate that allowed the Nazis use these “stories” to seize power.

Where Brownell does struggle is with the paucity of information on Ludendorff’s family and home life. One wife ended up in an asylum and the other divulged very little in her lifetime. Much of his section on World War 1 appears to list the key moments of the war without any major insight into Ludendorff himself who remains somewhat of an enigma throughout the book.

Overall interesting and believable arguments as to why Ludendorff should be up there with Hitler and Stalin and questions what Europe might have been like without his influence.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review of ” Go-Betweens for Hitler” by Karina Urbach

Despite the title almost half of the book is about the royal back channel communications during WW1, however this detail is a necessary precursor to understand the Nazi period.

Urbach’s account is detailed and readable covering many royal go betweens and suggesting some interesting events despite the closure of many royal archives.

Amongst other revisionist claims, Kahn suggests deeper complicity of Edward VIII with the Nazis than those stated in Phillip Ziegler’s biography.

A fascinating book that begs the question, why are the Royals still afraid to open up their full WW2 period Archives?

Review of “Grey Tide in the East” By Andrew J Heller

Disappointing alternative history of World War 1.

This quick (only 160 pages long) alternative history based in the theory of Germany not invading Belgium in 1914, but concentrating on France and Russia fighting leaving Britain neutral.

Although the premise is a fascinating one the delivery is somewhat leaden and leaves a lot to be desired. Heller has obviously done his research but the book’s characters are very one dimensional and the narrative plodding.

Apart from some cameo appearances of historical characters such as Churchill, Joe Stilwell and Churchill from later “real” history the book leaves this reader feeling short changed.

Apart from Harry Turtledove there’s surprisingly few World War 1 alternative histories out there and I can’t help feeling that if David Downing had written this with same quality as his Moscow Option: An Alternative Second World War then I would be giving a far more supportive review.

Review of “The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War ” By Tim Butcher

An excellent multi layered history/travelogue/personal story tracing the journey of Gavrilo Princip from remote Bosnian village to initiator of World War 1.

Tim Butcher brings alive the story of Gavrilo Princip by physically following the young Bosnian Serb’s journey from his remote village to the streets of Sarajevo. The author paints a fascinating story as he visits the remote hamlet where Princip grew up to discover still living descendants, takes on epic treks through the now land mine infested mountains that Princip knew, as well as discovering new insights into this infamous young man.

Whilst combining travelogue with history not necessarily a novel approach Butcher brings a wholly personal aspect as he intertwines Princip’s history with the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. The author was a journalist present in the region during those wars and some of his personal experiences make uncomfortable reading but necessary reading.

I’d highly recommend this for anyone interested to the start of World War 1, 20th Century European history or anyone who enjoys stories of travel to the lesser known parts of Europe.

Review of A History of War in 100 Battles by Richard Overy

A must have for your history library.

Overy is a historian of some reknown and certainly knows his stuff amply shown by his ability to explain succinctly the key aspects of battles from 331 BC to the 20th century.

I have treasured copy of Creasy’s 15 Decisive Battles written in
1851 and Overy has not tried to create an updated version. Instead he has intelligently segmented the battles into five decisive factors that delivered victory to one of the sides.

Overy distills the essence of those battles into a few pages and as
such to the military history purist this book may seem too lightweight, however I do consider myself a military history purist and this book fired interest for me in historical periods that I would never have touched previously.

For those who are less hardcore this book provides a great intro into the great battles of history and should fire their interest into the fascinating genre of military history.

A must have for your history library military or otherwise.

Review of “Ring of Steel – Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War 1”

I thought this would be a slog at 800+ pages, but found it a surprisingly readable and a thought provoking book.

Ring of Steel tells the story of World War 1 from the “other side of the hill” and claims to be the first modern history from this viewpoint.

Being a World War 2 devotee this book really opened my eyes to the German/Austro Hungarian viewpoint and decision making in World War 1. It really is a fascinating read telling the story of how Germany and Austria-Hungary initially mobilised the support of their populations to but as military losses mounted, and Allied blockades caused hunger and hardship on the homefront, doubts set in.

Whilst politics are key to understanding the German/Austro-Hungarian position social and economic effects of the war are covered extensively too.

Some nuggets from the book that I hadn’t necessarily realised:

Russia mobilised before Germany, sparking German fears of invasion from the East that unified support across all political divides of the German and most of the Austro-Hungarian populace.

The general belief in Germany and Austro-Hungary that the war was purely a defensive reaction contrary to the Allies view of Germany/Austro-Hungary as the aggressor.

How complex the Austro Hungarian Empire was with its collection of separate nationalities and eleven spoken languages creating no ethnic, language, or national unity as in Germany.
There’s many more, but I’d recommend buying the book for those.

Whilst a lot of books are currently being produced from the Allies point of view Alexander Watson has filled a vacant space in our knowledge of the German and Austro-Hungarian viewpoint. Highly recommended.