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The opening battles on the Western Front marked a watershed in military history. A dramatic, almost Napoleonic war of movement quickly gave way to static, attritional warfare in which modern weaponry had forced the combatants to take to the earth. Some of the last cavalry charges took place in the same theatre in which armoured cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes were beginning to make their presence felt. These dramatic developments were recorded in graphic detail by soldiers who were eyewitnesses to them. There is a freshness and immediacy to their accounts which Matthew Richardson exploits in this thoroughgoing reassessment of the 1914 campaign. His vivid narrative emphasises the perspective of the private soldiers and the junior officers of the British Army, the men at the sharp end of the fighting.
Matthew Richardson is Curator of Social History at Manx National Heritage and was formerly Assistant Keeper of the Liddle Collection at the University of Leeds. He has a long-term interest in military history and research, focusing in particular on the First and Second World Wars, and the history of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. He has published a number of books including Tigers at Dunkirk and Deeds of Heroes, and is currently working on a major reassessment of the Battle of the Somme.