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The French Army on the Somme 1916 (Paperback)

Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives

Military Photographic Books WWI > Battles & Campaigns > Somme WWI > Photographic Books

By Ian Sumner
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Images of War
Pages: 144
Illustrations: 200
ISBN: 9781526725486
Published: 13th November 2018



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So much has been written about the 1916 Battle of the Somme that it might appear that every aspect of the four-month struggle has been described and analysed in exhaustive detail. Yet perhaps one aspect has not received the attention it deserves – the French sector in the south of the battlefield which is often overshadowed by events in the British sector further north. That is why Ian Sumner's photographic history of the French army on the Somme is so interesting and valuable.

Using a selection of over 200 wartime photographs, many of which have not been published before, he follows the entire course of the battle from the French point of view. The photographs show the build-up to the Somme offensive, the logistics involved, the key commanders, the soldiers as they prepared to go into action and the landscape over which the battle took place. Equally close coverage is given to the fighting during each phase of the offensive – the initial French advances, the mounting German resistance and the terrible casualties the French incurred.

The photographs are especially important in that they record the equipment and weapons that were used, the clothing the men wore and the conditions in which they fought, and they provide us with a visual insight into the realities of battle over a hundred years ago. They also document some of the most famous sites on the battlefield before they were destroyed in the course of the fighting, including villages like Gommecourt, Pozières, La Boiselle and Thiepval.

This is an ideal introduction into the history for newbies and the buffs will be quite content with what is on offer.

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War History Online, Mark Barnes

I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to get the full picture of this iconic battle, or for anyone interested in learning more about the French Army in the First World War.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

With so much attention directed at the British and German troops, a strong visual matching presentation of the French Army in action is long overdue. The images are of high quality and well lit. They show how the French soldiers lived, and also those civilians who decided not to leave the area. The uniforms are shown, together with equipment in common use. This is a nicely executed book and important to any enthusiasts library of WWI history.

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In the photos throughout the book we get to see the conditions in which the French soldiers lived and some fine references on their uniforms, weaponry and equipment. No tanks at this stage of course, but plenty of artillery, including railway guns, do feature. In terms of other equipment we do see narrow gauge railways, aircraft and observation balloons. All this will be interesting to the WW1 historian, while the detailed references for French uniforms and equipment, along with unusual elements such as a hospital barge, so the military figure modeller and re-enactors will find it very useful. Another good WW1 reference.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

As featured 'On The Shelf'

Wargames Illustrated, November 2018

About Ian Sumner

Ian Sumner is a prolific writer and researcher who specializes in local and military history. He has made a particular study of the French army during the First World War, his many books on the subject including French Army 1914-18, French Poilu 1914-18 and First Battle of the Marne 1914. He is the author, with François Vauvillier, of French Army 1939-45, and has also published books on the Royal Navy, the British army, the Indian Army, the Anzacs, the German air force and the history of Yorkshire.

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The French Army in the Great War Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives (Paperback)

There have been few books written in English about the French Army during the Great War. Those that have are scarcely illustrated. This book aims to provide a highly readable and succinct account of the work of the French Army on the Western Front, as well as provide the reader with a wealth of photographs that show the daily life of the French soldier both in and out of the trenches. All of the images are contemporary, many coming from war-time and post-war magazines, interspersed with many previously unpublished images. The book aims to give a concise overview of the war seen through French…

By David Bilton

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