The battle of the Somme is probably the subject of more English language books on the First World War than any other aspect of the war, so a new volume needs to have something unique to stand out. This book achieves that by a Commonwealth War Graves Commission guide to their own cemeteries, organised into four car based day tours. We begin with a brief history of the battle – why it was fought, the plan, the disasters and successes of the first day and the long battle of attrition that followed. This is followed by a brief guide to exploring the battlefield, before we get onto the four tours, each of which takes us around a thematically linked part of the battle.
The book is physically well designed to act as a guide book. The pages are ring bound, so the book will stay flat at any point. The covers are larger than the text, to protect the pages from rain, and the entire thing is water resistant, with good quality glossy paper inside. The covers both fold out to double their normal size, to act as book marks, while the inside of the front cover has a map that shows all four of the tours. This all goes to make it a much more practical guidebook than many.
What makes this book stand out is the direct connection that is made between the various cemeteries and the actions fought around them. In many cases the most famous incidents close to a particular cemetery weren’t actually responsible for that many of the burials, with most coming from the more general battle of attrition. This is a rather thought provoking approach that makes you realise just how costly even the ‘quiet’ periods of the battle were. This approach also gives it more value to those readers who aren’t planning a battlefield visit. However this book really is aimed at those people who are planning to drive around the battlefield, who will find it of great use.
The Battle of the Somme
Exploring the Battlefields
Battlefield Trails (The North; The Southern Advance; Thiepval Ridge; Attrition)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission