Battle on the Aisne 1914: The BEF and the Birth of the Western Front, Jerry Murland

Battle on the Aisne 1914: The BEF and the Birth of the Western Front, Jerry Murland

The first battle of Aisne of 1914 was the moment at which the war of movement that had characterised the first few weeks of the First World War ended and the stalemate of the trenches began (on the map the Race to the Sea can also look like a war of movement but it really involved parallel marches on both sides of an ever-growing trench system and a failure to find an open flank that might have allowed the real movement to resume). 

The BEF played a fairly minor part on the Aisne, covering about a tenth of the front, but the battle did start with a BEF attack, and for a brief moment there was even a chance that the British could advance into a gap in the German lines.

The battle fell into three rough parts - first the slow advance behind the retreating Germans as they pulled back to the Aisne, second the first attempts to force the Germans off their new defensive positions to the north of the river and third the start of the period of trench warfare. This book examines that second phase in the most detail, with a chapter for each of the five British divisions involved. The account of the fighting is supported by copious eyewitness accounts, which give a feel for how the battle was perceived as it was happening. There are also interesting sections on the involvement of the artillery, which was learning how to fight a new type of battle and the RFC, which was inventing an entirely new form of warfare.

This is a very valuable account of the British contribution to one of the defining battles of the First World War, the moment where movement ended and the spade started to become one of the most valuable weapons on both sides of the front line.

1 - The Marne
2 - A Slow and Cautious Advance
3 - Parrying the Blow
4 - Bridges over Troubled Waters
5 - The Left Flank - 4th Division
6 - The Centre Left - 5th Division
7 - The Centre Right - 3rd Division
8 - The Right Flank - 2nd Division
9 - On the Chemin des Dames - 1st Division
10 - Trench Warfare
11 - The 6th Division
12 - Ubique
13 - Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
14 - Prisoners of War
15 - Epilogue

Author: Jerry Murland
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 247
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012

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