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With our backs to the wall: victory and defeat in 1918

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At the end of 1917 Britain and France faced a strategic nightmare. Their great offensives against Germany had been calamitous, leaving hundreds of thousands of young men dead and wounded for negligible territorial gains. Despite America's entry into the war the US army remained tiny, the Italian army had been routed, and Russia had dropped out of the conflict. The Central Powers now dominated Central and Eastern Europe, and Germany could move over forty divisions to the Western Front. Yet only one year later, on 11 November 1918, the fighting ended in a decisive Allied victory. In his new book David Stevenson retells the story of the final year of the First World War and, in a remarkable and fascinating piece of original research,goes to the roots of this dramatic reversal of fortune, analysing the reasons for Allied success and the collapse of Germany and its partners. Everything from food supply to finance, from strategy to technology, logistics, and morale, is explored in an assessment that lays bare the nerve-racking decisions taken on both sides and the sheer uncertainty faced by the leaders. Ironically Stevenson traces Germany's 1918 disaster to 'Operation Michael', the great spring offensive that tested the British army to the uttermost and led on to Field Marshal Haig's famous 'With our backs to the wall' order to his troops to fight to the last man. This is a rich and compelling study of a turning point in modern history. The consequences of the events of 1918 shaped the whole of the twentieth century - and still touch us today.

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