The French Army on the Somme 1916...


...Images of War from Pen and Sword



Title: The French Army on the Somme 1916

Author: Ian Sumner

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52672-548-6

Another addition to the Images of War series from author Ian Sumner.  We commonly think of The Somme as a British battle of 1916, but perhaps we overlook the role of the French Army in the southern sector.  Their role could well have been greater, but even in the planning stages the German assault on Verdun drew away important elements of the French Army.  Verdun was to become the greatest focus of the French Army, rather as The Somme was to for the British. Though reduced, there was still a significant contribution to the Battle of the Somme from the French Army.

The book is split into five chapters, each one starting with a few pages to provide the historical background, and then supported with over 200 appropriate archive photos, gathered from various French archives, and all with helpful captions. It starts with the background, and how the area was relatively quiet  for 1914 -1915. Chapter 2 deals with the Plans, which had to be changed when Verdun was attacked. The Offensive Begins in chapter 3, with the French having a good deal of initial success.  German resistance stiffened and things ground to a halt.  In chapter 4 we see the attempts to get the offensive moving again, though British and French tactical ideas were not really in line, though some level of agreement was reached that come September some more effort was made.  It had at least helped reduce the pressure on Verdun.  In chapter 5 we get to the End of the Offensive.  Limited success had been achieved but the casualties had been high.

In the photos throughout the book we get to see the conditions in which the French soldiers lived and some fine references on their uniforms, weaponry and equipment. No tanks at this stage of course, but plenty of artillery, including railway guns, do feature. In terms of other equipment we do see narrow gauge railways, aircraft and observation balloons.  All this will be interesting to the WW1 historian, while the detailed references for French uniforms and equipment, along with unusual elements such as a hospital barge, so the military figure modeller and re-enactors will find it very useful.  Another good WW1 reference.


Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.