Max Egremont

General Incompetence

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918

By

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It is often said that the Germans came nearest to winning the First World War twice – at the start in 1914 and near the end in 1918. In his new book, David Stevenson turns this on its head. He contends that the huge German offensives in the west that began in March 1918 set off a process that led to Germany’s defeat later that year. He also makes clear that when, with their ally Austria–Hungary, the Germans started the war in 1914, they took a terrific gamble the odds of which were already against them. So a predictable result was merely delayed by four years and the deaths of millions. The predictability, however, was obscured by the often poor generalship of Germany’s enemies.

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