Passchendaele 1917

Book review

Trevor James, last updated: 13th September 2017

Passchendaele 1917: The Tommies’ Experience of the Third battle of Ypres, Robert J. Parker, Amberley, 2017, 288p, £20-00.

ISBN 978-1-4456-5571-0

This very coherent commentary and analysis of what we know as the ‘Passchendaele’ campaign in 1917 is sub-titled ‘The Tommies’ Experience of the Third battle of Ypres’ but in reality it provides a much wider commentary.

The author is an American military historian and he carefully places Passchendaele in the wider perspective of the Great War. He has the detachment and objectivity to be able to discuss Field Marshal Haig’s commitment to a war of attrition, with a degree of recognition that, having been unsuccessful with his campaign of attrition on the Somme, Haig genuinely believed that this time his strategy would be successful. Obviously, as an American, Robert Parker is acutely conscious of the reality that the American declaration of war and the subsequently massive flow of troops into Flanders did finally affect the balance between the warring sides, and he also pays tribute to the calm leadership of the combined forces under Marshal Foch in the final stages of the Great War.

Robert Parker has provided a very detailed analysis of all the elements involved in the Passchendaele campaign and the much longer campaign in which it stood, and he does reinforce the sense of tragedy and hopelessness, self-evident to us all in hindsight. Even if we do not fully accept his analysis of the relative roles and contributions of Lloyd George and Haig, this book nonetheless is a very useful introduction to an American perspective on the sad and tragic events of one hundred years ago.