The Bef Campaign on the Aisne, 1914. Jerry Murland by Jerry Murland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Battle on the Aisne in September/October 1914 is often overlooked, coming as it did between the epic fights of the Marne and Ypres. It was along the river Aisne, however, that trench warfare started on the Western Front. After a long retreat to the Marne, the British and French armies turned around and pursued the Germans back to the River Aisne, where the Germans dug in along the highlands behind the river. Repeated attempts to dislodge them failed, and the Allies found themselves digging in as well.
Murland gives a detailed account of the British part of the battle, with gripping personal reminiscences to make to story come alive. The author also gives details about the weapons and abilities of both forces, with interesting insights such as that the Germans were better prepared for trench warfare because they had to storm the Belgian forts, and were thus armed with far more grenades, trench mortars, and heavy artillery than their opponents. Enough of the French part of the battle on both sides of the British lines is given to understand the action, but the book really focuses on the BEF.
Sadly, my understanding of this battle was marred by this volume's insufficient maps, which are poorly organized in the text. I wasted much time flipping back and forth trying to find the right one. Even when I did, these maps are the merest sketches with no troops movements shown. The text was also peppered with frequent typos, many of which could have been caught with a simple spell check.
This is a four-star book given a two-star treatment by its publisher. I hope for Murland's sake that a new edition will remedy these errors and give his work the treatment it deserves.
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