Lost Opportunity

The Battle Of The Ardennes 22 August 1914

Simon J House

Date Published :
August 2017
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Wolverhampton Military Studies
Illustration :
b/w & color photos, c 50 color maps in a separate map book
No associated books available.


On 22 August 1914 - on a battlefield 100 kilometers wide stretching from Luxembourg to the River Meuse - two French and two German armies clashed in a series of encounters known collectively as the Battle of the Ardennes. On that day, 27,000 young French soldiers died - the bloodiest day in the military history of France (most of them in the Ardennes) - and yet it is almost unknown to English-speaking readers. There has never been an operational study of the Battle of the Ardennes in any language: at best, a single chapter in a history of greater scope; at least a monograph of an individual tactical encounter within the overall battle. This book fills a glaring gap in the study of the opening phase of the First World War - the Battles of the Frontiers - and provides fresh insight into both French and German plans for the prosecution of what was supposed to be a short war. At the center of this book lies a mystery: in a key encounter battle, one French Army corps led by a future Minister of War - General Pierre Roques - outnumbered its immediate opposition by nearly six to one and yet dismally failed to capitalize on that superiority. The question is how, and why. Intriguingly, there is a six-hour gap in the war diaries of all General Roques’ units; it smacks of a cover-up. By a thorough investigation of German sources, and through the discovery of three vital messages buried in the French archives, it is now possible to piece together what happened during those missing hours and show how Roques threw away an opportunity to break the German line and advance unopposed deep into the hinterland beyond. The chimera of a clean break and exploitation that was to haunt the Allied High Command for the next four years in the trenches of the Western Front, was a brief and tantalizing opportunity for General Roques. The final part of this book seeks to answer the question 'why?' The history of both French and German prewar preparation reveals the political, economic and cultural differences that shaped the two opposing national armies. Those differences, in turn, predicated the behavior of General Roques and his men, as well as that of his German opponent. With a clear understanding of those differences, the reader may now understand how the French lost their best opportunity not only to stymie the Schlieffen Plan, but to change the course of the rest of the war. The author's text is supported by a separate map book containing c 50 newly commissioned color maps.

About The Author

Simon House is an independent military historian - and Lost Opportunity is his first book. It is the book of his doctoral thesis, gained at Kings College London in May 2012 under the supervision of Professor William Philpott (Bloody Victory and Attrition) and examined by Professor Sir Hew Strachan and Professor David Stevenson. Despite a lifelong passion for military history, Simon came to the profession late in life - having fitted in a 32-year career as an accountant and senior executive at British Telecom before retiring in 2001 to pursue other interests. One of those interests was, of course, military history, which took him to the reading rooms of the Imperial War Museum. There he used his French and German-language skills to research the Battles of the Frontiers. Whilst translating the French Official History’s version of the Battle of the Ardennes, his eye was drawn to a copy of the German History - Der Weltkrieg - which when translated, gave a very different story of the battle. There followed nearly 10 years of painstaking research to unearth the truth about this little-known and misunderstood battle. Simon is 65 years old and is married with three sons. He has six grandchildren and (so far) two great-grandchildren. He lives in Southampton (the UK one) and is currently researching for his second book: this time on the subject of the ‘tipping points’ of the Second World War.


“A very thoroughly researched description and analysis of both sides' efforts…Yet another attractive addition to the Helion stable of specialist military studies.”

- Miniature Wargames

“ … An important book that deserves a wide readership…”

- Stand To!

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