A lost story now told - of a forgotten British Army in a forgotten campaign achieving against the odds... During the final months of the war, the British Second Army fought a successful War of Liberation alongside French and Belgian forces in the Groupe d'Armées des Flandres (GAF), commanded by King Albert of Belgium. General Plumer's troops fought and won two major battles: the breakthrough at the Battle of Ypres 1918 and the breakout following the Battle of Courtrai. The Second Army was the weakest of the British armies in September 1918, with many of its formations rebuilt from cadre using young conscripts and men reclassified as fit to be posted to a frontline unit. Initially, the role of the army was to secure the flank of the Belgian Army, but its early success made it the spearhead of the army group. Its victories assisted Allied forces to clear the Channel Coast and led to the liberation of occupied Belgium. General Herbert Plumer (‘Plumer of Messines'), the army's commander, is considered by some historians to be perhaps the most successful of the British generals - yet he rarely features in the histories of the Hundred Days.
This book examines his leadership in what can be considered as his finest achievement of the war. The story is presented from the perspective of the British Second Army and is based largely on original research - primarily the war diaries of the Second Army formations - together with selected contemporary writing, unit histories and current academic analysis of the latter part of the war. Douglas Haig had agreed to Generalissimo Ferdinand Foch's request to transfer the Second Army to the GAF in September 1918 as part of plans to support the attack by Belgian troops - yet less than six weeks later, Haig took the unprecedented step of threatening to resign his position unless Plumer and his army were returned to his command.
This book describes the background to these events - examining Haig's motives against the dynamic backdrop of the moves by the German High Command to seek an army - as well as tackling aspects of the Western Front in 1918 which have received little or no attention in other writings on the war. It tells of a war of movement; a war of liberation; a war fought for control of farms and towns and villages waged by a coalition of Allied forces... The liberation offensive in Belgium began at the end of September 1918 with the final breakthrough to relieve the iconic Ypres salient - consistently defended with the lives of British troops since 1914. A comprehensive military history of the campaign is presented: planning and preparation, orders of battle, training, strategy and tactics, the fighting on the ground - all drawn from exhaustive research of the war diaries of the British units and formations which took part. As a result, new and challenging conclusions emerge.
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