THE CATASTROPHE OF 8 AUGUST 1918
By Thilo von Bose
Published by Big Sky Publishing
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RRP $34.99 in hardback, 521 pages, with maps
Thilo von Bose’s 1930 book The Catastrophe of 8 August 1918 was the 36th and last volume in a series of popular semi-official German histories of the First World War.
It documents in great detail the ‘black day of the German Army’ at the Battle of Amiens in August 1918, a turning point that set the Allies on the road to victory just 100 days later.
The fundamental aim of the series, says Dr Tony Cowan, the editor of this edition, was to make up ‘for the perceived deficiencies of traditional military history, with its emphasis on higher levels of command, reluctance to criticise and anonymous authorship.’
Cowan compares this approach with that of Australia’s official historian, C.E.W. Bean. By focusing on the lower levels of the military hierarchy, the series would ‘satisfy the need of veterans and the families of the dead to understand the context …’.
Bose describes the causes and catastrophic nature of the defeat inflicted by a combined force of Australian, Canadian, French and British troops. Alongside his powerful critique of the failure of German command, Bose tells the human story of German soldiers as individuals rather than an anonymous field-grey mass.
This book is the most detailed account available of 8 August 1918 from the German side.
The point that Cowan makes regarding the uniqueness of this book is a good one: Bose had access to German war records that were later destroyed in World War II.
This edition presents the original German text in parallel with the first ever English translation.
The introduction, appendices, separate individual maps and photographs explain and illustrate the historical and military context, allowing the reader to navigate through Bose’s account.
This unique combination of content makes the book a key resource in introducing a new audience to scholarship on the First World War. It will also assist those keen to research the German side of the conflict in more depth.
The text was translated by David Pearson and Paul Thost with Tony Cowan who is a former British diplomat who took a PhD at King’s College London. His thesis was on German operational command on the Western Front in 1917. He has contributed book chapters on regional identities in the German army, and on the development of German defensive tactics.