The Somme 1916, Touring the French Sector...

 

...A Battleground Guide from Pen and Sword

 

Title: The Somme 1916, Touring the French Sector

Author: David O'Mara

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47389-770-0

This is a new addition to Pen and Swords excellent Battleground series of touring guides.  It also provides for something just a little bit different in its' topic.  Plenty has been written on the Battle of the Somme, but usually on the British viewpoint of the battle.  This one looks at the events involving the French armies on the southern flank.  From the French point of view, the offensive on the Somme, involving the BEF as well as French forces, was to divert the attention of the German army away from the serious situation around Verdun.  While the battles of the Somme did achieve some advances, not as far as was hoped and some important high ground remained in German hands.  It did though relieve some of the pressure on Verdun.

Accompanied by maps and plenty of archive photos, the first section of the book tells the story of what happened in the French sector of the Somme, taking us on to page 86.  The remainder of the book, another 150 pages or so is devoted to the various battlefield tours, obviously the key part of any battlefield guide.  Illustrated with maps and a mix of archive and present day photos showing what you will find there today.  These include memorials, cemeteries and in some places, the remains of trench lines, dugouts and even villages.  Another sign of modern times with each element is the inclusion of a series of GPS waypoints.  There are three detailed tours, with the first subdivided into 3 separate parts, the second subdivided into 2 parts, plus an alternative route for the first one.  The third tour is done all in one.

The book is rounded off with 5 appendices, French Cemeteries on the Somme: Gazetteer of French wartime Nomenclatures; Ranks Table; French Army Abbreviations 1914-18; and French Army Orders of Battle.  It all makes for a well written tour guide from an author who not only knows his subject, but clearly shares his enthusiasm for it as well.  The area has some beautiful countryside today and is not as busy in terms of visitors as the British battlefields of the Somme offensive so you can enjoy the area at your leisure.  Another Battleground guide which is an ideal size to take with you in your car on holiday to France.

Robin