Michel Goya’s ‘Flesh and Steel during the Great War’ is one of the most thoughtful, stimulating and original studies of the conflict to have appeared in recent years. It is a major contribution towards an understanding of the impact of the struggle on the Western Front on the theory and practice of warfare in the French army.
In a series of incisive, closely argued chapters he explores the way in which the senior commanders and ordinary soldiers responded to the extraordinary challenges posed by the mass industrial warfare of the early twentieth century. In 1914 the French army went to war with a flawed doctrine, brightly coloured uniforms and a dire shortage of modern, heavy artillery. How then, over four years of relentless, attrition warfare, did it become the great, industrialised army that emerged victorious in 1918?
To show how this change occurred, the author examines the pre-war ethos and organisation of the army and describes in telling detail how, through a process of analysis and innovation, the French army underwent the deepest and fastest transformation in its history.
FLESH AND STEEL DURING THE GREAT WAR The Transformation of the French Army and the Invention of Modern Warfare
Delivered in an easily read style, Goya gets at the heart of how armies learn from previous experience. Not only does he recount what changes occurred, but more importantly what were the factors that drove change and those which impeded it. While change occurs during peacetime, in the end, however, it is the brutal experience of war that drives relevant reforms. A worthy addition to any Great War bookshelf.