Abingdon GP examines an overlooked aspect of First World War in new book

The Oxford Times: Dr Prit Buttar with a copy of his new book Buy this photo Dr Prit Buttar with a copy of his new book

AN Abingdon GP has recounted the titanic struggle between three empires during the opening stages of the First World War in Eastern Europe.

Dr Prit Buttar spent a year poring over archives in Berlin, Vienna and Freiburg before starting work on Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914.

The 488-page book charts the sweeping opening moves between the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian forces over the vast expanses of Eastern Europe in 1914 in which hundreds of thousands of men died.

Dr Buttar, 54, who works at Abingdon Surgery, in Stert Street, said: “The Eastern Front is an overlooked theatre of war, but the battles were every bit as huge and costly as those on the Western Front.

“It was also a very different war. We are used to pictures from the First World War of entrenchments and barbed wire entanglements, but the Eastern Front was a war of movement.

“For example there is a German unit which marched across Poland twice before the first Christmas.”

The multi-lingual doctor said he translated foreign sources thanks to O-Level German he learned in 1970 and with the help of fellow historian Oleg Dovshenko, a military enthusiast he got in touch with online.

Dr Buttar said Collision of Empires is the first in a series about fighting on the Eastern Front, and he has already researched up to June 1915 for its sequel.

He said: “My Russian is a bit ropey but with the help of friends I can get by. With it being an older war the advantage is that a lot of the books are out of copyright, but it was so long ago tracking some down was tricky.

“It was a fascinating time to research. There are extreme characters that came to my attention.

“The war in the east was the end of the 19th century with aristocratic and romanticist ideals and then the Bolshevik Revolution.”

It is the third book the doctor has written after two about the Second World War – Battleground Prussia and Between Giants – were published.

Dr Buttar said: “It was nice to move away from the Nazi era and the horrors that go with it.

“I had a wish to research a completely different era.

“It was when I started reading about it that I realised that the two wars were separated by a generation, but they seem a century apart.”

Dr Buttar is married to an Army nurse, Debbie, and is father to Dan, 24, an officer in the Royal Navy, and Lottie, 21, who has just finished studying history at the University of Cambridge.

  • Collision of Empires, which costs £20, has been published by Osprey Publishing & Shire Books and is available from bookshops or online at ospreypublishing.com
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