In September 1918 Second Army was the weakest of the British Armies on the Western Front; many of its formations had been rebuilt through young conscripts and men reclassified as fit for the frontline. It was, however, commanded by General Herbert Plumer (‘Plumer of Messines’), considered by some historians to be perhaps the most successful of the British generals. During the final months of the First World War, Second Army fought and won two major battles. In coalition with Belgian and French forces in the Groupe d’Armées des Flandres, Second Army became the spearhead of a successful war of liberation which drove the German occupying forces out of Flanders. Its victories assisted Allied forces to clear the Channel coast, and led to the liberation of occupied Belgium. The story is presented from the perspective of Second Army and is based largely on original research – primarily the war diaries of the Army’s formations – together with selected contemporary writing, unit histories and current academic analysis of the latter part of the war. This volume describes events on the Western Front in 1918 which have received little or no attention in the available literature on the war. It tells of a war of movement… a war of liberation… a war where men fought and died for control of cottages and farms, villages and towns. The liberation offensive in Belgium began on 28 September with the final breakthrough to eliminate the iconic salient around Ypres – it ended on 11 November with the British Commander-in-Chief Douglas Haig threatening to resign his post unless Second Army was restored to his command. The background to these and other events are addressed in this comprehensive military history of the campaign. From the initial planning and preparations, strategy, tactics and subsequent fighting – all examined through exhaustive British war diary research. As a result, novel and challenging conclusions emerge.
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