The Lost Victory of World War I

Nick Lloyd

Basic Books, New York, 2017, 464 pages

Book Review published on: December 15, 2017

It has been one hundred years since the Third Battle of Ypres, or the Battle of Passchendaele, ended. It is a battle that elicits continuing controversy and discussion over the location, the leadership, and the waste of men and resources by the British Expeditionary Force. Writer and historian Nick Lloyd is the latest to discuss this controversial battle. But, unlike previous discussions, Passchendaele is a more comprehensive retelling of the battle.

This study frames the fighting in Flanders, Belgium, between the British Expeditionary Force—including the forces of the Dominion nations (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada)—and the German army. The book goes into great detail in describing the battle for both the British and German armies from the tactical to the political levels. What is different is the author’s description and discussion of the fighting; unlike in past histories, he presents evidence that the British Expeditionary Force came closer to “victory” than past historians have given Field Marshal Douglas Haig credit. This discussion makes Passchendaele a must-read book on World War I.

For the military reader, Passchendaele is a necessary and relevant source to understand the complexity of modern large-scale ground combat warfare on a continental scale at all levels of war. It is not a narrative of just the fighting; it is a comprehensive study of policy, strategy, and fighting in a level of detail most books on World War I in particular—or military history in general—do not go into. The author takes a complex and detailed series of events and explains them in a way that allows any reader to come away with a clearer understanding of what was occurring during this very trying time in World War I. Lloyd also provides excellent maps to support his text. Reading Passchendaele will educate and develop leaders to recognize all of the issues present in modern warfare and the challenges of major combat operations.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Jeffrey L. LaFace, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas