Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914 - Prit Buttar

This review has been published in Soldier Magazine.

Title: Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914
Author: Prit Buttar
ISBN: 978-1-78200-648-0
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2014
Pages: 472
Photographs/maps: 32/17

 Histories of the First World War tend to focus on the events of the Western Front encompassing land, air and sea operations. Rarely, other than in passing, are the no less dramatic or critical events of the Eastern Front discussed in any degree of detail. The Eastern Front in this case encompasses not only the Russian Empire but also Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. Buttar has done an excellent job at highlighting the major challenges and battles of the Eastern theatre up until the end of 1914. He adroitly emphasizes the significant difference if fighting styles and doctrine application that the geographic realities of the east demanded of the protagonists. 

He commences his study with an analysis of the individual national strategies and aspirations as well as the events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities. He then follows this with a detailed look at the initial deployment phase of he war with special emphasis on mobilization plans, particular national strengths and weaknesses and the impact of the execution of those plans on the effectiveness of the early engagements. It is interesting how the demands of allies dictated the priority of operations and yet there was little to no formal planning for combined operations between the different nations.

Once Buttar has provided the reader with the background he focuses upon the major engagements of 1914: Tannenberg, Masurian Lakes, Galacia, Serbia and  Lodz. Echo's of future challenges are seen in all cases as logistics, time/space and speed of maneuver are all recognized quickly as key elements unique to the East. Additionally, the impact of modern technology on out of date doctrine asserts itself in the form of horrific casualties amongst all of the protagonists. Buttar is able to draw out the lessons in stark detail without breaking the flow of his narrative. Added depth is provided through his use of quotes from personal recollections, histories  and biographies of survivors.

His writing style is engaging and fluid and his research thorough. He has provided a comprehensive bibliography and notes section. It would have been beneficial to have had more detailed maps of the battles themselves but that was a minor distraction. His book was a pleasure to read.

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