Another work from the recently prolific pen of Jerry Murland, this Battleground Europe guide book follows on from his book by the same publisher, "Battle on the Aisne 1914". This work is in the usual Battleground Europe style of a pocket-sized and quite durable paperback that is part-history, part-guidebook to the battlefields. It is profusely illustrated (although the images are invariably small and often not too sharply reproduced) and accompanied by a selection of maps drawn from various relevant sources. In the first half of the book Jerry takes us through a history of the fighting on the slopes above the River Aisne, breaking it into chapters that each look at the involvement of one of the divisions of the British Expeditionary Force. As the reader might expect, this is in effect a distillation of the author's larger work on the subject. The second half comprises six tour routes through the area, two which are long enough to need a car and the others that could be walked or travelled by bike. These are well worked out and promise to be enjoyable and educational in practice: the Aisne valley is a very pretty area of France. I must say that even though I have been to the Aisne of numerous occasions, Jerry's book took me to some places I had not seen, notably on the British left flank around Bucy-le-Long and Missy-sur-Aisne.
The book ends with some short appendices covering the British and German order of battle, a bibliography and short descriptive listing of military cemeteries in the area.
Good value at £12.99 or at the inevitably discounted price at which Battleground Europe volumes are usually sold.
on 7 October 2014
ON the plateau north of the River Aisne is a road once used by the daughters of Louis XV, the Chemin des Dames - the ladies' path.
It was here, on the wooded slopes and spurs off on the southern tip of the plateau that
the British Army first went to earth during the First World War in September 1914.
For too long the Britain's story of fighting in 1914 has been one bookended with tales of heroism from the Battle of Mons the month before and last stands at Ypres in November.
But author Jerry Murland is almost single-handedly redressing this perspective, first with his 2012 book Battle on the Aisne 1914, swiftly followed by this Battleground Europe edition Aisne 1914.
It not only explains the bitterly-fought actions as the British tried to follow-up the success of the Battle of the Marne weeks earlier, it also offers comprehensive guides to this seldom-visited part of the Western Front.
The book is broken down into easily digested chapters on each of the six British divisions which fought their way to a standstill on the northern bank of the river.
For anyone wanting more detail on these then the I wholeheartedly recommend the author's previous book on the subject.
What this Battleground Europe edition offers in addition though is six tours of the battlefield. Given the paucity of guides on these actions, this is another welcome addition in a rapidly-expanding Battleground Europe series.