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French Poilu 1914-18 (Warrior) Paperback – 10 Feb 2009

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French Poilu 1914-18 (Warrior) + The French Army, 1914-18 (Men-at-Arms)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (10 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846033322
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846033322
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 0.6 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 949,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"[This book] tells how [the Poilu] were recruited, how they were trained, how they were clothed, the weapons that they used, and the tactics they used. It tells of life in the trenches, during battles and what happened to them once they were wounded. They were fighting for their nation as were all troops in that war, and thanks to author Sumner, we can get a good look at what it was like to be one of these men... A book that I found eminently readable and fascinating. I know you will as well." - Scott Van Aken, "" (March 2009)

About the Author

Ian Sumner was born in 1953 in Eccles, near Manchester, UK. He originally trained as a librarian in Newcastle-upon-Tyne but now devotes himself to full-time writing. He has written numerous titles for Osprey, and also several books on the history of the East Riding of Yorkshire, where he now lives with his wife. He has written a number of books on the French soldier in World War I and contributed to Osprey's "War on the Western Front." The author lives in Yorkshire.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Daniel King on 30 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
not in line with the other warrior books so do not expect a lot of art work in the centre pages as i did, its a good book to start with if your interested in the Poilu of the great war could have done with more photos of weapons and equipment. Still a nice book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An exceltent start on a much over looked topic. 28 Dec. 2009
By Graves - Published on
Format: Paperback
Since it's 1940 defeat in record time to the Germans the French army has been considered something of a weak sister unable to hold it's head up. Sumner's work on the French infantry man of the First World War goes into detail on the French Army when it *could* fight and did. Because most writers write in a language they are comfortable with, English language books on the average French soldier in the First World War are less easy to come by and this makes Sumner's new work for Osprey all the more useful.

While offering very basic knowledge; weapons used, uniforms and gear, how they were organized, trained and (mis)used by their officers. How they lived and were treated for wounds and just the wear and tear of the trenches. He is also able to inject some of the esprit de corps shown by some units, showing that not all French units were the same but often had, like British Regiments, their own sense of style. It is useful to have this all in one book to save jumping around between several sources.

Sumner's writing style is very easy and the work flows without becoming too encumbered in too much detail. You know it's there if you want to go looking for it but this is the overview that will help you set the tone.

I do have two complaints. First off several of the pictures have appeared in other Osprey monographs. With a war that lasted years there should be no lack of pictures to illustrate his words, by recycling photos from other titles from the same publishing house there is a vague sense of `re-run' to the look.

Secondly it is known to students of the war that almost half the French army mutinied in 1917, protesting not the war but how they were used in it. To students of the war familiar with the conditions the soldiers were protesting, the surprise is not that the soldiers mutinied in 1917, but rather that it took so long to happen. While Sumner's style is very light and easy, it seems to at the very least fail to properly explore their situation.

For all this though I did enjoy this work. Like most Osprey titles it is hardly the definitive work but for those us without the language skills to go to primary sources on the situation of French Soldiers in WW1 it is a good overview and certainly puts the student's feet on the path to a further understanding of the topic.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Provides Good Soldier-level Look at French Army 20 April 2009
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
Format: Paperback
After years of getting a primarily Anglo-American perspective on the First World War, we are finally beginning to see a fair number of English-language works on the only Allied army that fought from the first day to the last - the French Army. Robert A. Doughty's Pyrrhic Victory in 2005 did a great job of detailing the French army's role from the strategic viewpoint and Ian Sumner's French Poilu 1914-18 does a great job providing the French soldier's viewpoint on the war. Overall, the volume is faithful to Osprey's Warrior-series format and provides good coverage on a range of topics, from recruitment, equipment, uniforms and the experience of battle. Graphically, the photos and color plates were also very good and generally added to the author's narrative.

French Poilu begins with a 10-page section that describes the recruitment process and the effort to retain a regimental structure based upon territorial call-ups (which was eroded by the heavy losses of the First World War). The author also tries to set the tone for Army service in the French Republic, although he doesn't really discuss motivation (e.g. the desire to regain Alsace-Lorraine) and omits mentioning that France shifted from a defensive strategy to an offensive strategy just between 1908 and 1913, which had important tactical consequences in August 1914. He then spends about 14 pages on uniforms and adequate, which provides a good summary. The next 24 pages cover life in the trenches and battle; these sections are adequate but tend to ramble a bit. It's nice to know how much a French private was paid and how much tobacco he was issued (the food section is fairly detailed), but important issues like hygiene in the trenches are all but ignored. This may seem trivial to civilian readers, but field hygiene in the environment of the trenches (dead bodies lying in the open for months, waste disposal for thousands of troops in cramped trenches, no running water) could cause more casualties than enemy bullets. The combat sections mention squad organization changes, but don't delve seriously into examining what the French army learned between 1914 and 1918 and how it adapted to the battlefield (although it does cover new weaponry such as light machineguns and gas masks).

The final section covers topics such as casualty evacuation, leave and discipline although curiously, there is no discussion of morale - which clearly had a major impact upon the Poilu after 1917. This volume has a total of 7 color plates, depicting various uniforms and situations between 1914 and 1918. Overall, I found the volume an interesting read but felt that it was really only scratching the surface. Unlike British soldiers, who spent most of their effort narrowly focused in Flanders, the French Army was spread across a far broader section of front and had to deal with more varied circumstances, including places in the Vosges where proper trenches could not be built or mountainous terrain near the Swiss-German tri-border area. French tactical improvements in tanks and heavy artillery are not even alluded to here. With a bit more focus, perhaps looking at the French soldier in his three main incarnations - aggressive novice in 1914, stolid veteran in 1916 and wary survivor in 1918 - this could have been a superb volume. Nevertheless, French Poilu does serve to enlighten English-language audiences about the army that bore the brunt of the Allied effort.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent for the size 8 May 2009
By Col McFetridge - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a welcome and long overdue contribution to understanding the French soldier of World War 1. English speaking, particularly American, readers often lack an understanding of the immense sacrifices and contributions of the French to the Western Front. French casualties were enormous while their successes are largely forgotten, excepting only Verdun. This volume helps redress the balance, if only in a limited way because of the size restrictions of the Osprey format. The color plates are very good. I note the Belgian Army is upcoming and am looking forward to it.
Much discussion on WHAT was happening to the French army but not much analysis as to WHY the events were occurring. 23 Feb. 2015
By Bayard B. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An OK book, in my opinion. I was expecting something more -- maybe more discussion on the morale of the French army at the time of the 1917 mutinies, for example. Much discussion on WHAT was happening to the French army but I just don't perceive much analysis as to WHY the events were occurring. There is much discussion on the pre-1914 French army senior generals' obsession with attack, but that is about as sophisticated as it gets. It misses discussing what (if anything ) the army leadership learned from the disasters of 1914 - 1916. Maybe they didn't learn anything, but that would make a good topic of analysis, I would think.
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