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Reconsidering Passchendaele: 60 seconds with Nick Lloyd

The year 2017 marks the centenary of one of the most notorious battles of the First World War: the third battle of Ypres – more commonly known as Passchendaele. At our York History Weekend this November, Nick Lloyd will re-examine the infamous battle, which has come to symbolise the horror and futility of the western front...

Published: October 24, 2017 at 10:26 am
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Ahead of his talk 'A Ridge Too Far?: Reconsidering the Battle of Passchendaele’, we caught up with Nick to find out more…

Q. What can audiences look forward to in your talk? 


A. I will take them through the history of the third battle of Ypres, more commonly known as Passchendaele, and look at why it has become such an infamous and iconic battle. We will then discuss the strategic situation on the western front in 1917, the developments in tactics and technology that defined the battlefield, and what the fighting of 1917 meant for the war efforts of both sides.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, c1918-1919. The cemetery stands on the spot where thousands of British soldiers fell during the third battle of Ypres, also known as the battle of Passchendaele. (The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Q. Why are you so fascinated by this topic? 

A. The First World War is the greatest tragedy in modern history. The 20th century - both its horrors and achievements - are defined, in many ways, by this conflict and its contested outcome. For me, modern history begins with the First World War; it is impossible to overlook.

Q. Tell us something that might surprise or shock us about this area of history.

A. I think that the western front is so much more interesting than our popular perception allows. Far from being a pointless and futile slaughter, full of stale and stagnant attrition, the western front was an arena of incredible tactical development and innovation.

Q. What is the hardest question you¹ve ever been asked about your area of expertise? 

A. Usually some very small point of minor detail that the questioner already knows!

Q. If you could go back in time to meet one historical figure, who would you choose and why? 

A. A great question and not really a fair one. Do you meet someone you have written about or someone who is of the greatest significance? Alexander the Great or Napoleon? Dante or William Shakespeare? The list is endless and difficult to answer. I am currently writing a biography of a major British imperial official during the First World War, Sir Michael O'Dwyer, so I suppose it would be him. I would like him to look over my manuscript and help me to fill in the blanks in his life.

Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III, was a king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. He led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Q. What historical mystery would you most like to solve?

A. The location of Alexander the Great's tomb. This has remained an enduring historical mystery for millennia and there is still something about Alexander's personality, his achievements and his legacy, that remain deeply compelling.

Q. What job do you think you would be doing now if you weren't a historian/author?

A. I dread to think! I suppose I would probably be a journalist of some kind - something to do with writing.


Nick Lloyd is Reader in Military and Imperial History at King's College London based at the Joint Services Command & Staff College in Shrivenham, WiltshireHe will be speaking about the battle of Passchendaele at BBC History Magazine's York History Weekend on Sunday 26 November. 


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