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A Visitor's Guide: The First Day of the Somme (Paperback)

Gommecourt to Maricourt

WWI Somme Battlefield Guidebooks 1916

By Jon Cooksey, Jerry Murland
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 233
ISBN: 9781473827998
Published: 20th June 2016

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Many guidebooks cover the Somme offensive in 1916, the five-month struggle that has come to be seen as one of the defining episodes in the history of the fighting on the Western Front during the First World War. But no previous guide has concentrated on the first day, 1 July 1916, when the British Army suffered around 60,000 casualties. That is why, on the centenary of that great battle, this new volume from Pen & Sword is so timely.

In a series of tours that can be walked, biked or driven, expert authors Jon Cooksey and Jerry Murland take the visitor along the eighteen-mile front line that was the starting point for the Somme offensive, from Gommecourt in the north to Maricourt in the south. The tours allow the visitor to trace the entire course of the opening day on the ground. In vivid detail the authors describe what happened, where it happened and why and which units were involved, and point out the sights that remain for the visitor to see.

“A visitor’s guide” is well written and concise. Each stage of a tour is relatively quickly described: a battlefield visitor could easily follow the route and history by reading it while on the ground.

Read the full review here.

The Long Long Trail

There is something strange yet compelling about a preserved battlefield and none had been better kept than the Somme. In The First Day of the Somme, a Visitors' Guide by Jon Cooksey and Jerry Murland, you can easily follow the maps and places as you discover who did what and where.

This England, December 2016

I’ve used a host of Battlefield Guides during my many trips to Civil War battlefields. This guide ranks right up there with some of the best I’ve seen. There’s plenty of information within it’s pages to help make a visit to the Somme quite detailed. With all the “as is now” photos it will be easy to pick out important land marks as they look today. Things change, especially over one hundred years!! I enjoyed how the authors presented each section with historical context, units that participated in action in the area one is in, and some of the notable figures that were involved. The text is well written, and matches with the pictures perfectly. I like this book a great deal, and would be an essential piece to my travel kit when going over there!! Even if I never make a trip to the battlefield, this book will be a good jump off point to further my interest in WWI in general, and this battle in particular.

I would recommend it to anyone interested in the War to end all wars or anyone traveling to visit the field over there.

International Plastic Modeller Society USA

The original edition of this guidebook was among the first battlefield related books that I amassed when I first started out as a guide. It was very much ahead of its time in its content and style of presentation. The unique selling point of this guidebook is however not its high standard of presentation, it is the range of military history it captures. As you would expect the Somme's First World War battlefields are examined in detail but it is the inclusion of the 1346 Crecy campaign and the 1940 Blitzkrieg that make this such a useful book. An ideal starting point if you are planning a technology themed Battlefield Study.

International Guild of Battlefield Guides Summer 2016

The original edition of this guidebook was among the first battlefield related books that I amassed when I first started out as a guide. It was very much ahead of its time in its content and style of presentation. The unique selling point of this guidebook is however not its high standard of presentation, it is the range of military history it captures. As you would expect the Somme's First World War battlefields are examined in detail but it is the inclusion of the 1346 Crecy campaign and the 1940 Blitzkrieg that make this such a useful book. An ideal starting point if you are planning a technology themed Battlefield Study.

International Guild of Battlefield Guides Summer 2016

The original edition of this guidebook was among the first battlefield related books that I amassed when I first started out as a Guide. It was very much ahead of its time in its content as its style of presentation. The unique selling point of this guidebook is however not its high standard of presentation, it is the range of military history it captures. As you would expect the Somme's First World War battlefields are examined in detail but it is the inclusion of the 1346 Crecy campaign and the 1940 Blitzrieg that make this such a useful book. An ideal starting point if you are planning a technology themed Battlefield Study.

Despatches, Summer 2016 - Mike Peters

As featured in.

Forces War Record 2016

As featured in.

Forces War Record July 2016

As featured in.

Stand To! Western Front Assc No.106

Cooksey and Murland have produced a whole series of excellent battlefield guide books covering some lesser known locations but here they focus on the Blackest Day of the British Army – 1st July 1916, the First Day of the Battle of the Somme. The book looks in detail at the whole battlefield from Gommecourt to Maricourt, and the authors provide battlefield trails that can be followed in a car, on foot or by bike. The directions and maps are good, the text very well researched and backed up with excellent modern photos and some useful contemporary ones. This is a really superb Somme guidebook which should be in the knapsack of everyone going to Somme100 and who wants to explore the 1st July battlefields in depth.

www.somme1916.com

NOTE: Paul Nixon's review is based on receiving an A4 proof copy before finished production.

The First Day of the Somme, by seasoned authors and Western Front travellers Jon Cooksey and Jerry Murland, is not due for release until the 30th June but I know, having seen a proof copy, that it is going to be an indispensible companion to anyone with an interest in walking the Somme battlefields. As unwieldy as my proof copy is, I shall certainly make sure it is tucked into my rucksack when I head over for France myself in time for the 100th anniversary commemorations.

The narrative never bores and is interspersed with accounts written or narrated by men who were there. Additional text and photographs pick out memorials, cemeteries, portraits of participants and the landscape itself. Emboldened text draws the reader's eye quickly to named individuals and places.

This is a GOOD book, and quite possibly a GREAT book. I suspect that it will be more useful on a Kindle than in book format, but nevertheless I'm going to grasp the bull by the horns and take my A4 proof copy secured in a plastic ring binder and pore over the pages as I tramp across the fields of northern France. Thankfully the book also notes places to rest and refresh and so that's covered too.

Read the full review here

Army Ancestry

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Books Monthly

About Jon Cooksey

JON COOKSEY is a leading military historian who takes a special interest in the history of the world wars and the Falklands War. He is the former editor of Battlefields Review and the current editor of Stand To!, and his articles have appeared in many of the foremost military magazines and in national newspapers. As an experienced battlefield guide, he regularly leads tours to the battlefields of both world wars as well as the Falkland Islands. His TV and radio appearances include the Channel 5 programme on the 1914 Christmas Truce and and Great War soldier Ronald Poulton Palmer and Gallipoli Victoria Cross winner Frederick Potts for the BBC. His books include The Barnsley Pals, Flanders 1915, Calais: A Fight to the Finish and 3 Para Mount Longdon – The Bloodiest Battle.


About Jerry Murland

Jerry Murland served in the Parachute Regiment. He is the author of Departed Warriors and Aristocrats Go To War (Pen and Sword Military). He lives near Coventry.

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