“Official but not history” is the pithy and often quoted remark attributed to David French. Whilst it is catchy, it is also wrong. To automatically write off a piece of work merely due to the presence of the word “Official” in its title would be misleading, pointless and would lead to a poorer range of source material for military studies. The Official Histories are a critical source of information for all interested in the Great War, this in turn reinforces the stated aims of the series editor, Brigadier-General Edmonds. In a letter soon after his appointment and in the preface to several volumes Edmonds describes the Official Histories as being an account for the layperson, a text for future military students and also a counter to other works that had appeared.
However, controversy has continued from publication to the current day over the value of the Official Histories and to assess the validity of the arguments it is useful to look at them through the prism of a volume that covers one of the most controversial of the campaigns, Third Ypres, more emotionally know as Passchendaele, a distinction which the Official History tried to enforce and which modern day historians, writers and enthusiasts still attempt to exploit depending on their motivation.
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