The French Army at Verdun, Ian Sumner

The French Army at Verdun, Ian Sumner

The battle of Verdun was the defining experience of the First World War for the French, with a huge proportion of the army taking part in the battle as units were rotating in and out of the fighting. This entry in the Images of War series focuses on the French side of the battle, with the Germans generally only appearing as prisoners of war.

The book is organised chronologically, so we start with a series of pictures of the city and fortress before the start of the battle. The next four chapters then look at the battle itself, from the initial German attacks, through the battle of attrition and on to the successful French counterattacks that ended main battle.

The great value of this book is the unusually wide of topics that are covered. The aerial photographs of the battlefield stood out for me, showing the huge crater fields created by the massive artillery bombardments, with the pre-war villages often showing up as little more than a smear of colour on the landscape and even the most strongly constructed forts looking like they'd been almost worn away. The ground level photographs support this image of devastation, but also show the limited width of the band of destruction, with rear areas relatively untouched, and even some of the heavily bombarded forts surprisingly intact (with more damage in the approaches than to the fortifications themselves).

This is one of the best entries in the Images of War series, painting a valuable visual picture of one of the most important battles of the First World War in a way that written accounts can't quite manage.

Chapters
1 - No Longer a Role to Play?
2 - Stopping the Enemy at All Costs
3 - The Road Must Hold
4 - We are Gaining the Upper Hand
5 - Sacrifice and Glory

Author: Ian Sumner
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 160
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016


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