Pillars of Fire: The Battle of Messines Ridge June 1917

By Ian Passingham

Published by Spellmount (2012)

Gentlemen, I do not know whether we shall change history tomorrow; but we shall certainly alter the geography,' So said Major General 'Tim' Harington, General Sir Herbert Plumer's chief of staff, at a pre-battle press briefing on the day before 600 tons of explosives were detonated alongside a massive and sudden artillery barrage, the stunning prelude to British Second Army's successful assault on the previously imgregnable German defences of Messines Ridge. Until 1918 it was the only clear-cut Allied victory on the Western Front and came at a time when Britain and her Allies needed it most, boosting their morale whilst shattering that of the Germans. Precisely orchestrated, the attack on Messines Ridge was a truly modern all-arms battle, bringing together artillery, engineers, infantry, tanks, aircraft and administrative units from a commonwealth of nations to defeat a common enemy. Since this book was first published in 1998 there has been a greater understanding of how Britain and her Allies evolved and ultimately defeated a potent and resilient foe by examining battles such as Messines from an Allied and German perspective in ever more detail. In this context, Pillars of Fire remains a major contribution to our wider knowledge of one of the seminal battles of the First World War.

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