From the Channel to the Ypres Salient
...The Belgian Sector, 1914-18, a Battleground Guide from Pen & Sword
Title: From the Channel to the Ypres Salient
Author: Chris Baker
Publisher: Pen & Sword
New in the Battleground Ypres series of guides, this covers the Belgian Sector 1914-1918, north from Ypres to the North Sea coast. A 257-page soft-cover battlefield guide, providing the historical background along with a number of tours described in detail. A little different from the other books in the Battleground Great War series, as this focusses in particular on the story of the Belgian Army during the war.
The first half of the book sets out the history of the area in the period from 1914, through to just before the final stages of the war in 1918. It sets out the different elements to the area, and the initial response to the German invasion of what was supposed to be the neutral state of Belgium. Much smaller and weaker in terms of their armed forces, Belgium needed the agreed assistance of both Britain and France to resist the German invader. Much of the coastal area is flat and low lying, so the defenders made use of the numerous waterways to flood large areas of land, an inundation which brought the invaders to a halt. In response to the war, a number of civilian ladies in the UK organised groups of nurses to travel to Belgium to help out, and their work is included. The war in the area remained fairly static, though various actions are described. The story is accompanied by plenty of archive images, some showing the devastation caused to small Belgian villages, and with a number of detail maps to illustrate the text. The second half of the book is devoted to the 5 different tours. After a general introduction to touring in the area, the 5 tours, A to E, cover Nieuwpoort, Lombardsijd & Ramskapelle; Diksmuide; The Belgian Rear of the Yser Front; Drie-Grachten, Merkem & Steenstraat; and finally, The Towns of the Belgian Rear. Each tour has a map, it very well detailed about where to go and what to look out for, along with not only more archive images but others which show the places and memorials to look for today.
I feel this is another great addition to the Battleground series of guide books, and an ideal size and format to pop in your bag/car and take with you for a battlefield exploration adventure of your own, in an area well served by the road system. Particular spots warrant parking up and taking a walk to see specific sites, what I think makes for a good mix. An area, and with the Belgian Army, a part of the war that perhaps we overlook in our interests in the Western Front of the Great War.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.