Posted 23 April 2012 - 08:00 am
My views are rather diffrent. Herewith my Review for Stand TO!
Oh my but this is such an angry book. Its very title - almost certainly chosen by the publisher - gives warning of annoyed overstatement. Whilst clearly a better researcher, the author’s anger seems to match that that of Dennis Winter in his evaluation Haig, and John Laffin's against all in command. The title reflects this anger. The word has lesser shades of meaning, but my dictionary defines massacre as “complete defeat or destruction”. The New Zealanders certainly suffered fearful losses, at Passchaendaele. They were not completely defeated nor completely destroyed.
All that said, I do not question the authors diligence, his detailed research, analysis or broad conclusions of the New Zealander’s almost total failure in Flanders on 12th October 1917. Glyn Harper is an ex-soldier, an established author, professor of war studies. So, much of his criticism of command in his evaluation of the New Zealander’s suffering at Passchendaele on 12th October 1914 seems fully justified for it triggered worst military disaster the islanders splendid soldiers ever suffered.
The arguments about Passchaenadle, its planning, its continuance after many - then and now - felt, and feel, it should have been halted roll on. Certainly the decision to continue the successful New Zealand assaults on October 4th - despite conditions, despite the concern of many officers – on the 12th over ground rendered a morass looks faulty. Wire was uncut, artillery preparation grossly inadequate. Finally it cost some 3,000 casualties and achieved little. In all no less than 1,200 are listed on the pages of Massacre At Passchaendale taken from memorial to the missing at Tyne Cot Cemetery. They fill 70 pages of this 208 page work.
The book’s writing is clear, mapping and photography adequate, if muddy, perhaps quite aptly so. Yet, the author’s burning passion against at virtually every level of command and his bitter deployment of blame is so strong that I became restive at its un-relentlessness, drawn to seek better moderated views.
One such is that offered by another New Zealander, another estimable author and currently Senior Lecturer in War Studies at RMA Sandhurst. His more sober, 16 page, analysis, The New Zealand Division at Passchaendaele seems to offer a far cooler analysis of blame which places, more directly, more accurately on one man Lieutenant-General Godley, the commander of 11 ANZAC Corps.
Of a captive German officers comment that “….. no troops in the world would have attempted an offensive with such facilities of approach”. Pugsley comments simply “No troops should have, and it was Godley’s fault that they did”. This, rather than Harper’s scattergun condemnation of all levels of command on the day of “New Zealand’s worst military disaster” seems a fairer one.
Nevertheless this remain is a book which should be read.