The Great War Illustrated 1917...


...from Pen and Sword


Title: The Great War Illustrated 1917

Author: William Langford and Jack Holroyd

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47388-161-7

In this 100th anniversary year this new book from Pen and Sword gives an amazing collection of over 1,000 archive images of the events of 4th year of the war.  Adding to the previous titles in the series which cover the three previous years of the war, 1914, 1915 and 1916 we see the changing faces of the new mechanised warfare along with the devastation it brought to parts of France and Belgium.  It was also a year that saw some significant changes to the stalemate of the preceding years.  There was a revolution in Russia that had even wider implications, unrestricted submarine warfare which was to be a major factor in WW2, along with the direct involvement of US troops on the Western Front for the first time.

There are a great mix of stories contained within the photos, some well known and others less so.  The simplest way to tell you what is covered is to say what the 10 chapters cover.  Starting with the German Retreat, Operation Alberich, when they shortened the ir front line and withdrew to the prepared defences of the Hindenburg Line.  Then we have Arras and Vimy Ridge followed by Bloody April and the story of the Red Baron and the air war of the opposing Fighters.  Then there is the failure of the French Nivelle offensive and subsequent rebellion among French troops.  Chapter 5 looks at Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, which includes some excellent picture of a German mine laying submarine UC5 which was captured intact by the Royal Navy.  Others include the complex arrangement of valves and control wheels inside these early submarines.  Chapter six sees the arrival of the Americans and the departure of Russia.  Then the capture of the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge, including the destruction caused by the huge mine explosions, and then the mud an casualties of the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele.  At the end of the year we get to the Battle of Cambrai and the involvement of the tanks in large numbers and rounding off the year with a victory as Allied forces captured Jerusalem.

Among the over 400 pages of restored archive photos there are 32 pages filled with colourised photos.  With such a large number of images it is impossible to adequately describe what you can find.  There are pictures which graphically illustrate the death and destruction of trench warfare.  Add to this the images of both English and French tanks on the battlefield, the fragile nature of the fighter aircraft of the period and so much more.  Of all the pictures, one that particularly struck me was the vast pile of empty shell cases from just one four-gun battery.  The use and effectiveness of artillery was one of the significant changes to the science of warfare that was established in WW1 and it is well illustrated in the book.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.