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201910th May: How the war ended, by WFA Patron, Sir Hew Strachan
In the first half of 1918 the Germans launched five offensives in the west, and by July the German empire was at its greatest ever extent. With the US entry to the war, the allies know they could win if they could hold out long enough. They might win the war in 1919, or at worst in 1920. In the event the Germans signed an armistice on 11 November 1918. Why did the war end so quickly? What was the balance between the western fronts and the other fronts? Did the war at sea play a part? And how important was the situation at home?
The Mesopotamia Campaign, fought in what is today Iraq, was the largest of the forgotten campaigns. Fought between November 1914 and October 1918 in constant contact with the enemy and in the worst of climates, the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force (MEF) reached a maximum size of 440,000 men. Yet it is the least known of the Middle Eastern campaigns.
When one thinks of lessons from the Great War (1914-1918), most historians would point to the Kirke Report of 1932. Yet the recent centenary commemorations of the First World War provided an opportunity for the modern British Army not only to remember the conflict, but also to study it afresh in order to derive some pertinent lessons for today. Many professional military historians were sceptical to say the least, but once they had joined one of the British Army’s three major battlefield studies on the Western Front run in 2014, 2016 and 2018, they saw how much of contemporary value was being discussed. As the Army’s senior adviser to this project and responsible for designing and helping to run these activities, my talk details the approach we took and what we learned.9th August: Professor John Derry TBA