Review of Peter Hodgkinson’s “The Battle of the Selle”

The Battle of the Selle: Fourth Army operations on the Western Front in the Hundred Days, 9 – 24 October 1918
by Peter Hogkinson
published by Helion & Company 2018
Hardback 286 pages plus appendices, extensive bibliography, index. Illustrated.
ISBN 978 1 911512 63 9
Cover price not stated.
Reviewed by Chris Baker

This book is produced the the very high standards that we have come to expect from Helion & Company: heavyweight and durable materials, glossy paper, use of colour. That we can buy such a book for a relatively low price is credit to their methods and approach, for it makes work of a high academic standard accessible to all.

This is the author’s second outing with Helion, following his “Glum Heroes” in 2016. Before that he had produced his excellent study of British battalion commanders, published by Ashgate in 2015 and drawing upon his MA and PhD obtained with the University of Birmingham’s Department of War Studies. “The Battle of the Selle” has all the hallmarks of PhD-level research and analysis, drawing upon a wide range of primary and secondary sources. The end product is thorough, deep and will make a lasting reference work on the subject. With relatively little previous coverage of this battle outside the British Official History and Archibald Montgomery’s “The story of the Fourth Army in the Battles of the Hundred Days, August 8th to November 11th, 1918”, Hodgkinson’s book is an especially valuable modern take on events.

The book covers the Fourth Army’s work in preparing for an executing a major attack. It forms a key phase of the series of operations often called the “Hundred Days Offensive” and followed the recent achievement of breaking through the formidable German defences of the Hindenburg Line. The force that carried out the attack was mainly British, but with the two divisions of the United States II Corps also taking part. The Australian Corps, which had spearheaded much of Fourth Army’s work since August 1918, was now in reserve. Of the British divisions, it is notable that several of them (particularly 25th, 50th (Northumbrian) and 66th (2nd East Lancashire)) had been completely rebuilt after their near destruction during the German offensives of spring 1918.

Illustrated with a number of good, clear and simple maps and several annotated “now” photographs of the ground, the book describes the action in depth. There are endless footnotes and the narrative is at a detailed level, so it is not, perhaps, easy bedtime reading but is about as complete as it is possible to be. Excellent – and about time that the succession of major British victories in 1918 was afforded such attention.

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Links

The Battle of the Selle

Downloadable “The story of the Fourth Army in the Battles of the Hundred Days, August 8th to November 11th, 1918