Victoria Crosses on the Western Front

Third Ypres 1917: 31st July 1917-6th November 1917

By Paul Oldfield

Pen & Sword, 2017

Paul Oldfield’s latest instalment of his comprehensive account of Victoria Cross winners of the First World War covers the seventy recipients of the award relating to actions during Third Ypres, or Passchendaele.

The book follows the same format as its predecessors; one third of the book lists the actions chronologically within the context of the campaign, with the remaining two thirds dedicated to in-depth biographies of the men.

The actions of the men really speak for themselves, with some staggering acts of bravery. Many of these are well-known, such as Noel Chavasse selflessly searching out the wounded, whereas others may be less familiar to readers.

In some respects I feel the biographies go into too much detail – is the average reader really interested in the life stories of the recipients’ great uncles, for example? Oldfield should absolutely be commended for the depth of his research, but it feels as though he has felt the need to include every nugget and snippet of information he has uncovered, which in most cases does not really add to our understanding of the man, the context, or his actions.

Oldfield also asserts that the book is ‘written for the battlefield visitor’, but it would be an intrepid traveller who ventured to carry this book with them to Flanders, as it clocks in at over 800 pages and weighs a whopping 2kg. However, it would definitely come in useful when planning a trip to visit the sites and graves/memorials associated with VC actions from the campaign, and it is unlikely you will ever need any other book on Third Ypres VCs – should you have room on your bookcase!

Buy this book from Amazon here:
Victoria Crosses on the Western Front – Third Ypres 1917: 31st July 1917 to 6th November 1917