Top critical review
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Good but problematic
on 1 July 2016
Right, just say first off - this is an excellent reference book, with excellent content. Sure, some of the detail varies but that's to be expected when dealing with war diaries written in a trench/dog out by a tired officer at a time that could be minute-by-minute, or days later from memory. Or just a typed report.
So why 3 stars? Well, I found it a bit of an irritating task navigating & orientating myself. A really good book with this kind of small-unit action is made or broken on the maps within the text. It NEEDS an overview map the entire day for a start, with all the Corps sectors, major towns etc at the very front of the book.
It does contain the official history maps of each Corps sector and a list of these in the front. But NO page numbers, rendering that page singularly useless. Finding a specific map becomes a page flick-fest.
The book is divided into sections based on the Corps and roughly N to S. Fair enough. Then it is straight into the battalion's after a brief overview. The budding researcher might ask himself "Remind me which division did this battalion belong?", or "What divisions were in which Corps?" to which the answer would be, for both questions "Look in another book".
Finding specific battalions is easy enough - they are indexed. However when trying to consider an 'overview' and what was happening on the flanks, I found I had to keep diving in other books to find divisional orders of battle then diving back into this book to find said battalion. It got annoying.
So yeah, to conclude: Great little history archive, but needs (1) an large map of the entire first area; (2) an order of battle as an appendix - corps, divisions, brigades, battalions. A few pages extra at the most; (3) improve navigation, ie actually adding the page numbers to the maps list, or order battalions by division etc.
It's a shame as these could all have been picked up and fixed before publication. However it is a fantastic bit of research to have sat on the book shelf so well worth the money - I just need to cover it in page labels to find things quickly.
I would definitely recommend a set of original WW1 British Army maps bought in addition - my set of seven sheets came from ghsmithbookshop.com (you can buy individually or look for the Battle of the Somme set which covers the first day. This potentially allows plotting of some of the map references in the text, and trench names etc and you can get really deep into it. I had pencil marks, notes and arrows all over book & map alike (soft pencil, mind).