December has been a good month.
The University of York course on the History of the Crusades has been very well written and delivered by the tutor. Part one is now finished. Part two starts mid-January. I decided to do a little light background reading. It was very interesting, 800 years of history in such a slender volume, it cannot go very deeply into the history but it was well written and the artwork is excellent.
U3A York Military History Group meeting heard a talk on the Battle of Arnhem, Operation Market Garden in September 1944. It was thoroughly researched and delivered with good graphics. During the break, I was chatting to a fellow listener; he said this was very much to his taste, that he much preferred battle reports to talks on strategy and high-level overviews so, probably, he would not have liked my main reading effort for December, "Marshal Joffre, the Triumphs, Failures and Controversies of France's Commander-in-Chief in the Great War". Written by retired French Army General André Bourachot and translated by Andrew Uffindell. I shall quote from the dust jacket.
"André Bourachot, in this lucid and highly readable study of Joffre's career, focuses on his performance during the opening phase of the Great War. He offers a fresh and carefully considered view of the man and the soldier."
I really enjoyed this book and learnt something from it. I was not aware of the bad blood between Joffre and Gallieni or that Joffre would not visit the wounded in hospitals. The author demonstrates that in 1914, neither the Army generals nor the politicians had any ideas or understanding of the totality of warfare in the 20th century. How, in 1914, does a general like Joffre or Moltke control and organise and communicate with a fighting force of over half a million men over a very fluid front of 100 kilometres in the age of horse delivered orders? How does an army break a 500 kilometre stalemate? For me, this is fascinating stuff and these are great questions to ask and ponder now that I have the time to do the pondering.