Verdun 1917: The French Hit Back

...a new Battleground Verdun book from Pen & Sword

Title: Verdun 1917, The French Hit Back
Author: Christina Holstein
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-52671-708-5

A recent addition to their Battleground guides, this is the sixth book in this series by the author and extends still further our knowledge of the fierce fighting for the city of Verdun. The most famous focus for the French army on the Western Front in WW1, Verdun is a quite fascinating place to visit. Rather than the better known battles of 1916, this goes further by examining the event so of the following year, when much of the ground lost before was retaken by a new French offensive. It also covers areas which remain largely ignored by the battlefield tourist yet there is still so much to see.
This is a 268-page soft-cover book, packed with detail and photos of the area, both archive images and modern day illustrations of what you can expect to see/look out for. The events of the 1917 fighting is explained in 5 chapters, explaining the background and the preparations for the new offensive in August 1917, going through to December of the same year. Over half of the book is the second section, which gives a well detailed description of 4 tours. Two of these are long enough to be done by car, while the other two are walking tours. Tour 2 is slightly different to the others for covering the support areas behind the French lines, with hospitals, airfields and supply dumps among them. The others detail the story of the fighting, including the careful preparation of the offensive, including a huge concentration of French artillery and the involvement of large numbers of troops, as well as tying down some 25 German divisions as well. Within the book there are not the photos but plenty of maps and the text is also illustrated by lots of personal accounts from veterans, and their experiences during the battle.
One of the points made in this particular guide is that much of the area, not frequently visited by tourists, is also a popular hunting area for the locals, so at certain times of year it could be a risky place to wander around, and not just from unexploded ordnance. For those who like to use these guides to follow for themselves rather than go on guided tours, this will make a valuable addition to your references if you like to explore an area that is one of the 'less well travelled'. I learnt a lot more than I knew before about the story of Verdun and now have more inspiration to return to the area to explore it some more. Another excellent addition to this series and having briefly visited Verdun myself, well worth completing the set of Christina's books.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.

Robin