by Jim Storr
‘The Hall of Mirrors’ is perhaps the first analysis of the wars and warfare of the 20th century as a whole.
What can we learn from war, and warfare, in the 20th century? Surprisingly, the question has not been addressed.
After the First World War four empires ceased to exist. Eight new countries were born in Europe. After the Second World War, Japan and Germany renounced militarism and ceased to be major players on the world stage for decades. The border of Russia effectively moved 800km west, to the Oder (if not the Elbe). War is hugely important. It is not futile, although it sometimes seems so to those taking part.
But how effective, for example, was the allied Combined Bomber Offensive in the defeat of Germany in the Second World War? There is, in practice, no real consensus. How did the western navies win the Battle of the Atlantic, when there were far more U-boats at sea late in the war than in the early years? There is very little discussion, and apparently no agreement, as to how the western allies defeated Germany in north west Europe in 1944-5. Was it just superior numbers? (No.) Yet all of those campaigns took place over 70 years ago. Why are those questions unanswered?
Some of the book’s findings are quite startling. For example, the so-called ‘Falaise Pocket’ of August 1944 was misunderstood by the senior commanders involved. The critical period was 16-19 August 1944. But was the pocket to be closed along the line of the River Orne, or the River Seine?
In practice thousands of Germans escaped across the Orne. The great majority of them, and many others, also escaped across the Seine. 23,000 vehicles were also evacuated.
‘A wide ranging and thought-provoking analysis of warfare in the last century, outlining enduring and essential lessons. Reading it will make you reconsider what you thought you knew.’
General Sir Rupert Smith KCB DSO OBE QGM
‘A highly stimulating, thought-provoking analysis of warfare in the twentieth century … clear thinking, full of insights and never shy of controversy.’
Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely KCB MC
I’m the author of two other books. ‘The Human Face of War’, based on the doctoral thesis I prepared under the guidance of Professor Richard Holmes, was published in 2009. ‘King Arthur’s Wars’, which provides a revolutionary re-assessment of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of England, was published by Helion in 2016. A revised paperback edition is available now.
I’m not an historian. My first degree was in civil engineering; my master’s is in defence technology. I see myself as an analyst. I try to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead, and no matter how uncomfortable that may be. I also try to think critically what the evidence tells us.
Although British, I could be considered a bit of a globetrotter. We lived in four different countries (and England!) before I went to university. I then served as a Regular infantry officer for 25 years. My service took me to many different countries. Since leaving the Army I’ve worked as a consultant, writer, researcher and analyst. I’ve taught and lectured in several countries.
I’ve now started work on my next book, which will look at the tactics of the unfought battles of the Cold War. After that I’m thinking about a book on command: the organisations, structures, processes and people.
The Hall of Mirrors: War and Warfare in the 20th Century can be ordered here.