The Battles of Bullecourt, 1917 Australian Army Campaign Series – David Coombe – Book Review

Here is yet another volume in the series of Australian Army campaigns – the seventeenth. It follows last year’s A Greater Sum of Sorrow: the Battles of Bullecourt by the same author. The official purpose of the ‘campaign series’ is that it is written for members of the Australian Army with a focus on leadership, command, strategy, tactics, lessons and personal experiences of war. Each book contains specially commissioned art, digital graphics and 3-dimensional maps from leading Australian military artists.

Big Sky Publishing 2017 Paperback 208 pp RRP: $19.99
Big Sky Publishing 2017
Paperback 208 pp RRP: $19.99

There were two battles of Bullecourt in April and May 1917. The first, though it penetrated part of the Hindenburg Line, was an expensive disaster. The second, part of the Arras offensive, was more successful.

Bullecourt, more than any other battle, shook the confidence of Australian soldiers in the capacity of the British (and indeed the Australian) command; the errors, especially on April 10th and 11th, were obvious to almost anyone. How could the 4th Brigade (3000 strong) sustain 2339 casualties at First Bullecourt? What an effort had to be made to reconstitute this brigade!

This 208-page book is well written and has very good maps. It explains the weapons used in the battle, portrays the commanders and follows the battles from the Battle of Arras through to the two Bullecourt battles and beyond. Its tone is slightly more conversational than the more detailed book, but its scholarship is to the same high standard.

In achieving the object of providing a textbook for the Army, Coombe has also provided us with an excellent battlefield guide (save for comparisons with the terrain today). The author had done a very good job. This excellent series of books sponsored by the Army History Unit deserves to be better known and more widely sold. They are great value for money.

Reviewed for RUSIV by Mike O’Brien, May 2017

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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