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Early Trench Tactics in the French Army (Ashgate Studies in First World War History) [Hardcover]

Jonathan Krause
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 65.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

28 Jan 2013 Ashgate Studies in First World War History
In the English-speaking world the First World War is all too often portrayed primarily as a conflict between Britain and Germany. The vast majority of books focus on the Anglo-German struggle, and ignore the dominant part played by the French, who for most of the war provided the bulk of the soldiers fighting against the central powers. As such, this important and timely book joins the small but growing collection of works offering an overdue assessment of the French contribution to the Great War. Drawing heavily on French primary sources the book has two main foci: it is both an in-depth battle narrative and analysis, as well as a work on the tactical evolution of the French army in Spring 1915 as it endeavored aggressively to come to grips with trench warfare. This period is of crucial importance as it was in these months that the French army learned the foundations of trench warfare on which their conduct for the remainder of the war would rest. The work argues that many advanced practices often considered German innovations - such as the rolling barrage, infiltration tactics, and the effective planning and integration of artillery bombardments - can all be traced back to French writing and action in early 1915. The work argues that - contrary to received opinion - French army bureaucracy proved effective at very quickly taking in, digesting and then disseminating lessons learned at the front and French commanders proved to be both effective and professional. Such radical conclusions demand a fundamental rethink of the way we view operations on the Western Front.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Ashgate; New edition edition (28 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409455009
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409455004
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 17.8 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 277,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Jonathan Krause

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Gareth Simon TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Early Trench Tactics in the French Army: The Second Battle of Artois, May-June 1915, Jonathan Krause, 180pp, 2013

“At 10.00 on 9 May 1915 the French Tenth Army, commanded by General Victor d’Urbal, launched an attack along a 19 kilometre front, and made one of the most impressive advances of the First World War. On this day the XXXIII Corps d’Armee (CA), commanded by General Philippe Petain, advanced 4.5 kilometres in a mere hour and a half, storming Vimy Ridge and investing a handful of villages and woods. By noon advance guards of the Division Morocaine (DM) and the 77e Division d’infanterie (DI) were engaging the Germans as far east as Givenchy-en-Gohelle, just behind the northern shoulder of Vimy Ridge. The advance was so spectacular that staff officers in Tenth Army refused to believe it for several hours, and held back crucially needed reserves. This unprecedented success was made possible by an incredibly detailed and well-executed artillery preparation, as well as the successful prosecution of early infiltration tactics by then advancing infantry.”

This book, which started life as the Author’s PhD thesis, is, despite that fact, an excellently written and readable account of the French Army and the Second Battle of Artois in 1915. The author refers to it as an almost forgotten battle, dismissed in a few words by English-language authorities due to the fact that no-one has written a modern study of it, and he names names and quotes quotes to justify his claim. Some PhD-speak does creep in here and there, especially when discussing academic practices, as in the Introduction, when the study of military effectiveness is discussed, for example; but it can easily be overcome.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book 10 April 2014
Format:Hardcover
Early Trench Tactics in the French Army: The Second Battle of Artois, May-June 1915
Jonathan Krause
Ashgate Studies in Military History, 2013, 188pp

This book is an invaluable account of the French Artois offensive of 1915. It brings into close focus the French advances in tactics made since the disastrous opening battles of August 1914. After bearing the brunt of the early fighting on the Western Front, the French had opened a series of major offensives in the Artois and Champagne in December 1914. These were painful learning experiences as the French strove to master the new language of trench warfare, or more to the point, the tactical innovations that were required for the French poilus to overcome the nasty combination of German trenches, barbed wire, machine guns and artillery. No-one undertaking serious study of the Western Front in 1914-1915 can fail to recognise the insignificance of the British 'battles' that loom so large in our historiography, in contrast to the massive engagements involving hundreds of thousands of men, backed by hundreds of guns, in the 'real' war fought between the French and Germans. Krause draws attentions to the rapid 'learning curve' of the French generals as they explored the possibilities of artillery bombardments, tried to use early infiltration tactics and generally used their brains to try to square the near-impossible circle of the situation they were in. Sadly for the French, the Germans were also improving their defensive tactics as they too learnt in the twisted laboratory of the Western Front.

I found fascinating the conflicting requirements of surprise/speed and proper preparation for a successful attack.
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