The battles won and battles lost that shaped the outcome of the greatest conflict in history

Battles Won and Lost


Every battle is both a victory and a defeat – it depends which flag you fly.

The First World War was a war of attrition. Opposing armies faced each other at a front fighting each other with very little gains in terms of territory and resources for either side. This can be illustrated in no better way than the Battle of the Somme, a battle which has been described as the 141 Days of Horror. The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. For five months the British and French armies fought the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a 10-kilometre front. By its end there were over one million dead and wounded on all sides. Over the course of this battle, British and Allied forces took a strip of territory 10-kilometre-deep and a little over 30 kilometres long.

World War Two was a completely different war.

The Second World War saw the introduction of new types of warfare, including the extensive use of tanks, commando raids, amphibious assaults, mobile desert warfare and blitzkrieg or lightning war – a word that Hitler thought was silly, but a term that has come to embody the nature of the type of conflict that dominated World War Two.

This revealing two-part documentary brings together some of the foremost scholars of the Second World War, including Dr Ben Mercer of the Australian National University’s School of History; Dr Peter Stanley and Dr Deane Peter Baker from the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society and acclaimed authors and historians, David Strahel, Gregory Blake and Peter Pedersen.

The series looks at the bloody conflicts of the Russian Front, with attention to Nazi Germany’s ill-fated and disastrous Operations Barbarossa and Citadel, the latter of which saw the construction of close to 9000 kilometres of trenches and the clash of 900,000 German soldiers with 2500 tanks against 1,300,000 Russians with close to 3000 tanks. It’s fascinating and brings a terrifying reality to hear first-hand accounts from retired Red Army officers Colonel Dmitry Gerasimovich Starykh and Captain Georgy Alexeevich Vinogradov.

World War Two: Battles Lost and Won also refers to some of the lesser known yet extraordinarily pivotal battles of this horrific war. The Raid on Saint Nazaire or Operation Chariot as it was known in military parlance, took place in March 1942 and was one of the most daring operations of the Second World War. It was an amazing feat of stealth and daring that helped to shape the war at sea.

This superbly crafted documentary does not focus entirely on the war in Europe.

Renowned Australian author and historian Peter Pedersen illuminates the Arakan Campaign of 1942 – 43.  This was the first tentative Allied attack into Burma, following the Japanese conquest of Burma earlier in 1942. The British, British Indian and Allied armies were repeatedly repulsed by Japanese defenders occupying well-prepared positions. Ultimately, they were forced to retreat when the Japanese received reinforcements and counter-attacked.

These battles won and lost would determine possession of territory, of resources, and of the strength to go on fighting. For some of the battles it was the victory that most influenced the future course of the war. For others, it was the defeat. From sweeping offensives to special operations, this is the story of the battles won and battles lost that shaped the outcome of the greatest and bloodiest conflict in history.


By: R. J. Hawksworth