The battle of Le Hamel and the 93 minutes that changed the world
By Peter FitzSimons
Published by Hachette Australia
RRP $35.00 in paperback • ISBN 9780733640087
Many years ago I reviewed an earlier FitzSimons book (Tobruk) and wrote, “those expecting to read a detailed history of the battle will be disappointed”. Quoting the author, I also wrote, “I want my history books to read like novels. I want my reader to feel he’s on Rommel’s shoulders when the Afrika Korps is coming straight at us”.
Fast forward to this latest tome from FitzSimons and it’s clear he has once again strayed into the grey area of combining history with a dash of fiction.
Despite the extensive research undertaken for each book, it explains why his military history books attract the ire of certain military historians and yet are beloved by the general reading public.
The battle of Hamel in July 1918 was, by WWI standards, relatively short (93 minutes) but it did give the newly installed Australian Corps Commander, General John Monash the opportunity to plan and execute the battle without interference.
However I am not sure that FitzSimons’ claim that the battle “changed the course of warfare and shortened the war” would stand up to close scrutiny.
Monash certainly demonstrated how a co-ordinated use of all the elements – infantry, tanks, artillery and air power – could bring speedy results, thus avoiding the terrible carnage of earlier battles. But the Germans were far from beaten and it was the much larger battle of Amiens in August 1918 that really turned the tide for the Allies.
Monash’s reputation seems to grow in stature with each passing year, based on his outstanding war exploits. No one of course mentions his ‘unorthodox’ personal life.