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The Western Front Reviews

The Western Front by Nick Lloyd

The Western Front

A History of the First World War

Nick Lloyd

4.00 out of 5

5 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: Viking
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 4 Mar 2021
ISBN: 9780241347164

Far from being an arena of static, stale attrition - and despite mistakes and wrong turns along the way - the Western Front was a 'cauldron of war' that saw unprecedented innovation, adaptation and tactical development. Lloyd conveys the visceral assault of the battlefield, and skilfully moves the focus in and out, giving both the bigger picture and telling detail. He recreates the decision-making and experiences of the war as it was at the time as well as with hindsight, and in doing so redefines our understanding of this crucial theatre in this monumental tragedy.

4 stars out of 5
10 Apr 2021

"The approach may be traditional, but The Western Front is whizz-bang up-to-date. "

Lloyd has taken military history back to basics. To understand war fully, we need to grasp its operational dynamics and brutal realities. That is what he has laid out in this, the first volume of a projected trilogy on the first world war. If he can do the same for the Eastern Front and the wider war, this project will establish a useful baseline on which future histories can build. In the meantime, The Western Front sets a fine example of operational military history. It is the best modern single-volume history of war on the Western Front and is likely to remain the standard account for some time.


3 stars out of 5
7 Apr 2021

" Nick Lloyd is a talented historian, and there is much to admire in this book."

Nick Lloyd is a talented historian, and there is much to admire in this book. It is solidly based on recent scholarship and primary sources. He gives a very clear description of the various phases of the Western Front fighting. These were complex operations, and so this is no small achievement. Moreover, Lloyd has a good eye for a quotation. He neatly captures the problems of inexperienced American troops in the Argonne fighting in 1918, by quoting a young Doughboy who viewed the carnage: “They’d pushed in with the same spirit as Pickett’s brigade at Gettysburg and with about the same results”. Lloyd deserves plaudits for avoiding an anglocentric view. The German Army gets good coverage, and, building on the work of scholars such as Elizabeth Greenhalgh and Robert Doughty, the French Army gets its fair share of attention. The French, as Lloyd shows, bore the burden of the fighting on the Western Front between August 1914 and July 1916 and played an extremely significant role thereafter.

In many ways, The Western Front is an impressive achievement. It will, I am sure, become the standard narrative account, and deserves a wide readership. But I was left wishing that the author had been more ambitious.

5 stars out of 5
Simon Heffer
7 Mar 2021

"a magnificent start to a must-read historical trilogy"

This is the first of three volumes which, when completed, will comprise a magisterial account of the warfare between 1914 and 1918. The second will deal with the Eastern Front, a subject still relatively little known to British readers – which is unfortunate, since the drafting in to the West of dozens of German divisions from that front after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ended the war there was instrumental, paradoxically, to Germany’s defeat; for once their great advance petered out, there was no hope of repeating it and carrying on. Lloyd’s third volume will be about the other theatres of war, such as the Middle East. On the evidence of this book, the next two will be keenly awaited.

3 stars out of 5
Max Hastings
21 Feb 2021

"Lloyd is excellent on detai"

Lloyd’s book will be cherished by military history buffs. It may not, however, satisfy those who seek to study the past in a wider context. Most 21st-century historians recognise the importance of social, political and above all economic forces, which are scarcely discussed here. The book is short on novelty and big ideas. If war is too important to be left to the generals, the best modern war history ranges far beyond their headquarters.


5 stars out of 5
17 Feb 2021

"Nick Lloyd has written a tour de force of scholarship, analysis and narration"

Senior and junior commanders disagreed on priorities and methods. Lloyd guides us through the many meetings where generals and politicians proposed and debated potential war-winning strategies. Accounts of these conferences make lively reading, with egos clashing, nerves snapping and tempers flaring. In March 1918, when the Germans were slicing through the British line, the normally steady Pétain declared: “The Germans will defeat the British in open country after which they will beat us as well.” The French prime minister Georges “Tiger” Clemenceau rebuked him: “Should a general speak or even think in this way?” Professional pride mattered; so did patriotism.