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The Battle on the Aisne 1914: The BEF and the Birth of the Western Front Hardcover – 6 Nov 2012

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The Battle on the Aisne 1914: The BEF and the Birth of the Western Front + Retreat and Rearguard 1914: The BEF's Actions from Mons to the Marne
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Ltd (6 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848847696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848847699
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 252,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jerry Murland was born in 1946 and after leaving school served for a period in the Parachute Regiment before training to become a teacher. He retired from a successful teaching career in 2006, a career that spanned 32 years in both secondary and primary schools and culminated with appointments to the headship of two schools in Coventry. Since retirement he has devoted more time to writing and pursuing his interest in the Great War of 1914-18. He is married and has two children. He lives in Coventry and Rhayader.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Chris Baker VINE VOICE on 10 Dec 2012
Format: Hardcover
Another work from the prodigious pen of Jerry Murland, following on the heels of his "Retreat and reaguard" which followed the fortunes of the British Expeditionary Force in its withdrawal from Mons to the River Marne in 1914, "Battle on the Aisne 1914" picks up the story from there. Just as in the case of the fighting of late August and early September 1914, this period receives great attention in the British Official History yet aside from coverage in memoirs and regimental or divisional histories has received surprisingly little since. But just like waiting for buses, two come along at once and it was only in May 2012 that Paul Kendall's admirable "Aisne 1914: the dawn of trench warfare" covered, quite literally, the same ground. Both are typical of the modern scholarly genre, drawing upon a wide range of primary and secondary sources to assess the battle from strategic, high command level down to the experience of the Tommy and the bullets.

The valley of the River Aisne and the heights on the north bank, the Chemin des Dames ridge, is a pretty place today: quiet, wooded slopes; some small villages. For the most part its importance is as a Franco-German battlefield, for the BEF was here for only two short periods in the war, both unhappy and costly. Stand on the ridge today and it is easy to appreciate why the German armies chose to halt their withdrawal from the Marne here and to dig in, for it dominates the river valley below. Walk up the slope from Troyon to the sugar factory at Cerny and imagine coming under fire from the ridge above and from the spurs of hills on either side - a frightening prospect indeed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter Hart on 14 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is a continuation of Jerry Murland's previous work on Mons and the Great Retreat. As such the opening introduction is a clear review of 'events so far'. The Battle of the Aisne is a fascinating and dramatic passage of arms but Murland takes care to point out that the BEF was a very minor player in the bigger picture. Having said that this book tracks the BEF in a story that includes moments of dramatic excitement that match fiction. Whether it is a whole brigades teetering across single plank bridges above the swirling Aisne, or the desperate struggles of the sappers to create pontoon bridges, there is plenty to stir the blood.

The book does not fail to address the failure of Sir John French and GHQ to spur the BEF forward with sufficient urgency in the advance from the Marne. In truth French did not understand the situation, failing to have any real inkling opportunities that may - or may not - have briefly existed to seize the Chemin de Dames heights before the Germans had brought up reserves and consolidated their defensive grip - and the door was slammed shut in the faces of the BEF. The confused fighting raging on the spurs running down from the main ridge gave copious opportunities for German flanking fire and the overall superiority of their artillery caused heavy British casualties. Some of the fighting was savage with both sides occasionally transgressing the accepted rules of war in 'white flag' incidents. Then as the front line froze in aspic, so trench warfare began to make its appearance. Everything was new, everything had to be learnt from scratch. The advent of the 'Jack Johnsons' and 'Black Marias' - large shells crashing down on the lines certainly caused much comment. It was impossible to imagine that such things would have to be endured for years....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mark mckay on 1 Jan 2014
Format: Hardcover
JERRY Murland's excellent book Battle on the Aisne 1914 recounts a seldom-remembered episode the British Army's experience in the early months of the First World War.

The book brings to life the experiences of British Tommies as they attempted to gain a foothold on the northern bank of the River Aisne and dispel German forces on the Chemin des Dames ridge which offered unobstructed views of the valley below.

Murland has weaved together extracts from memoirs, unit war diaries and secondary literature to form a gripping narrative which is both detailed and accessible.

The book's introduction provides the all-important context of the attacks on the ridge.

It explains how in September 1914, the German Army's attempt to swiftly knock France out of the war failed when its forces were halted barely 30 miles from Paris on the River Marne.

The Germans, with their supply lines stretched to the limit, pulled back to the wooded slopes on the Chemin des Dames ridge which overlooked the Aisne valley and which provided a perfect defensive position.

Murland tells the story of largely unsuccessful British attempts to force their way through the German positions of increasingly well-prepared trenches and machine gun posts.

Murland astutely - and rightly - places these attacks in the context of the early stages of trench warfare which came to symbolise the Western Front and the Great War.

But when the British attacks began in mid-September the permanence of trench warfare which characterised the war's later years was far from the minds of the men who hastily dug their positions on the Aisne, Murland points out.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
war of manuver 6 May 2013
By david l. poremba - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to imagine the First World War in the West being fought without miles and miles of trenches with very little movement and tremendous casualties. Jerry Murland's book very vividly reminds us of the beginning of the conflict, when it was a war of maneuver and focuses on the September, 1914 battles on the River Aisne. Using a plethora of primary sources from both sides, Murland brings this story to life. It is primarily a story of the British efforts to capture the Chemin des Dames ridge, which are the heights on the north bank of the Aisne, and held by the well dug-in Germans. The BEF (British Expeditionary Force), had difficulty sighting in their artillery; a lengthening and weakening logistics chain; and were not at all prepared for battle. The three British Corps lost over seven hundred officers and fifteen thousand men in the three major engagements covered in this book.
These figures shocked the English nation; never before had anyone suffered such losses in such a short period of time, and it was just the beginning.
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