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The Face of Battle
Cover of The Face of Battle
The Face of Battle
A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme
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Military historian John Keegan's groundbreaking analysis of combat and warfare

The Face of Battle is military history from the battlefield: a look at the direct experience of individuals at the "point of maximum danger." Without the myth-making elements of rhetoric and xenophobia, and breaking away from the stylized format of battle descriptions, John Keegan has written what is probably the definitive model for military historians. And in his scrupulous reassessment of three battles representative of three different time periods, he manages to convey what the experience of combat meant for the participants, whether they were facing the arrow cloud at the battle of Agincourt, the musket balls at Waterloo, or the steel rain of the Somme.

"The best military historian of our generation." –Tom Clancy

Military historian John Keegan's groundbreaking analysis of combat and warfare

The Face of Battle is military history from the battlefield: a look at the direct experience of individuals at the "point of maximum danger." Without the myth-making elements of rhetoric and xenophobia, and breaking away from the stylized format of battle descriptions, John Keegan has written what is probably the definitive model for military historians. And in his scrupulous reassessment of three battles representative of three different time periods, he manages to convey what the experience of combat meant for the participants, whether they were facing the arrow cloud at the battle of Agincourt, the musket balls at Waterloo, or the steel rain of the Somme.

"The best military historian of our generation." –Tom Clancy

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    PENGUIN BOOKS

    THE FACE OF BATTLE

    John Keegan was for many years Senior Lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He is the author of many books on military history, including The Book of War, The Mask of Command, The Price of Admiralty, The First World War, The Second World War, and A History of Warfare. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

    John Keegan

    The Face of Battle

    Penguin Books

    List of Illustrations

    between pages 192 and 193

    1 Skull of a Swedish soldier killed in 1361

    2 The effect of archery on cavalry at short range, 1356

    3 A 'wall of bodies' of the dead and wounded, fifteenth century

    4 Men-at-arms at the mercy of archers, fifteenth century

    5 A square of Highlanders receiving cavalry at Waterloo

    6 Scotland for Ever: Waterloo

    7 A German attack on a British line of 'scrapes', autumn 1914

    8 Russians charging a German or Austrian trench, autumn 1914

    9 A French counter-attack at Dien Bien Phu, spring 1954

    List of Maps

    1 Agincourt, 25 October 1415

    2 Waterloo, 18 June 1815

    3 The Somme, 1 July 1916

    4 Relative positions of the battles

    Acknowledgements

    This book has been written chiefly from printed sources, some of which are listed in the bibliography. But I have also derived much information and many ideas from colleagues, pupils and friends (it is one of the pleasures of teaching at Sandhurst that these categories overlap), in particular from the following serving or retired soldiers: Brigadier Peter Young, D.S.O., M.C., Brigadier D. W. V. P. O'Flaherty, D.S.O., Major-General A. H. Farrar-Hockley, D.S.O., M.B.E., M.C., Colonel E. M. P. Hardy, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Barclay, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Lieutenant-Colonel Jeremy Reilly, D.S.O., Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Major Charles Messenger, Royal Tank Regiment, Major Michael Dewar, Royal Green Jackets, Captain Terence Johnston, Coldstream Guards, Lieutenant Timothy Weeks, Light Infantry, and Lieutenant Hugh Willing, Royal Green Jackets; from the following members of the Sandhurst academic staff: Dr Christopher Duffy, Dr Richard Holmes, Dr Gwynne Dyer, Dr John Sweetman, Mr David Chandler, Mr Peter Vigor and Mr William McElwee; from our homologues at the École spéciale militaire de St-Cyr, Lieutenant-Colonel Michel Camus, Légion étrangère, and Commandant Marc Neuville, Chasseurs à pied; from Major-General Alastair Maclennan, O.B.E., of the Royal Army Medical College, Mr A. S. Till, F.R.C.S., of the United Oxford Hospitals, Dr John Cule, Dr H. Bleckwenn of Osnabruck and Dr. T. F. Everett, my father-in-law, who died before this book was finished; from Dr M. Haisman and Dr M. Allnut of the Army Personnel Research Establishment; from Mr Michael Howard, Professor Richard Cobb, Professor Geoffrey Best, Mr Harmut Pogge von Strandmann and Brigadier Shelford Bidwell. I also corresponded fruitfully with Professor Bernard Bergonzi and Dr C. T.

    Allmand. Brigadier Young, Mr Howard and Mr Chandler were kind enough to give permission for extracts from their books to be used for purposes which do not do justice to their quality. I owe special debts of gratitude to Mr Barrie Pitt and Mr Derek Anyan. Mr Anthony Sheil, Mr Alan Williams and Mr David Machin have been unfailingly encouraging; I hope I have not disappointed them. It is a pleasure to thank Lieutenant-Colonel Alan Shepperd, M.B.E., the Librarian (and creator) of the Central Library, R.M.A. Sandhurst, and his friendly, helpful and efficient staff for all their help; Mr R. W. Meadows is particularly to be thanked for...

Table of Contents-
  • Acknowledgments

    Chapter I: Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things

    A Little Learning
    The Usefulness of Military History
    The Deficiencies of Military History
    The "Battle Piece"
    "Killing No Murder?"
    The History of Military History
    The Narrative Tradition
    Verdict or Truth?

    Chapter 2: Agincourt, 25 October 1415

    The Campaign
    The Battle
    Archers versus Infantry and Cavalry
    Cavalry versus Infantry
    Infantry versus Infantry
    The Killing of the Prisoners
    The Wounded
    The Will to Combat

    Chapter 3: Waterloo, 18 June 1815

    The Campaign
    The Personal Angle of Vision
    The Physical Circumstances of Battle
    Categories of Combat
    Single Combat
    Cavalry versus Cavalry
    Cavalry versus Artillery
    Cavalry versus Infantry
    Artillery versus Infantry
    Infantry versus Infantry
    Disintegration
    The Wounded

    Chapter 4: The Somme, 1 July 1916

    The Battlefield
    The Plan
    The Preparations
    The Army
    The Tactics
    The Bombardment
    The Final Preliminaries
    The Battle
    Infantry versus Machine-Gunners
    Infantry versus Infantry
    The View from across No-Man's-Land
    The Wounded
    The Will to Combat
    Commemoration

    Chapter 5: The Future of Battle

    The Moving Battlefield
    The Nature of Battle
    The Trend of Battle
    The Inhuman Face of War
    The Abolition of Battle

    Bibliography

    Index

Reviews-
  • Reviews for The Face of Battle by John Keegan The most brilliant evocation of military experience in our time

    -C.P. Snow

    "In this book, which is so creative, so original, one learns as much about the nature of man as of battle."

    -J.H. Plumb, The New York Times Book Review

    "This without any doubt is one of the half-dozen best books on warfare to appear in the English language since the end of the Second World War."

    -Michael Howard, The Sunday Times

    "A totally original and brilliant book"

    -The New York Review of Books

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A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme
John Keegan
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