Retreat is based on the authors combat experiences as a British Fifth Army artillery officer during the massive German advance in March 1918. The book centers on the British retreat as experienced by an egotistical chaplain ill suited to combat. The soldiers have little interest in religion and the pacifist priest is useless in their environment. Juxtaposed against the chaplain is a battle-fatigued officer who maintains his courage in the face of insurmountable odds through an empowering sense of national duty. In this theater of battle, the author describes the cruel injustices of the war as he knew it and the inadequacies of religion to address the harsh circumstances on the front.
Charles R. Benstead (1896-1980) served with distinction as an artillery officer in World War I and as a naval training officer in World War II. He wrote eleven other books on topics ranging from naval combat to Cambridge history, though none approached the critical and commercial success of Retreat. Hugh Cecil is an honorary lecturer at the University of Leeds and cofounder of the Second World War Experience Centre in Leeds, United Kingdom. His numerous publications include The Flower of Battle: How Britain Wrote the Great War, Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced, and At the Eleventh Hour with Peter H. Liddle.
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