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The Somme 1916 (Paperback)

Touring the French Sector

Military > Battlefield Guidebooks WWI > Battles & Campaigns > Somme WWI > By Year > 1916

By David O'Mara
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Battleground: WWI
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 120
ISBN: 9781473897700
Published: 22nd January 2018



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With a few notable exceptions, the French efforts on the Somme have been largely missing or minimised in British accounts of the Battle of the Somme. And yet they held this sector of the Front from the outbreak of the war until well into 1915 and, indeed, in parts into 1916. It does not hurt to be reminded that the French army suffered some 200,000 casualties in the 1916 offensive.

David O’Mara’s book provides an outline narrative describing the arrival of the war on the Somme and some of the notable and quite fierce actions that took place that autumn and, indeed, into December of 1914. Extensive mine warfare was a feature of 1915 and beyond on the Somme; for example under Redan Ridge and before Dompierre and Fay. The French limited offensive at Serre in June 1915 is reasonably well known, but there was fighting elsewhere – for example the Germans launched a short, sharp, limited attack at Frise in January 1916, part of the diversionary action before the Germans launched their ill-fated offensive at Verdun.

The book covers the Somme front from Gommecourt, north of the Somme, to Chaulnes, at the southern end of the battle zone of 1916. The reader is taken around key points in various tours. For many British visitors the battlefields south of the Somme will be a revelation; there is much to see, both of cemeteries and memorials, but also substantial traces of the fighting remain on the ground, some of which is accessible to the public.

It has always been something of a disgrace that there is so little available, even in French, to educate the public in an accessible written form about the substantial effort made by France’s army on the Somme; this book – and subsequent, more detailed volumes to be published in the coming years – will go some way to rectify this. British visitors should be fascinated by the story of these ‘forgotten’ men of France and the largely unknown part of the Somme battlefield.

Not only is this a useful guide to those planning on visiting the French sector, but it also serves as a great introduction to the French involvement in the campaign, which is bound to fill a gap in many a First World War enthusiast’s collection.

Read the full review here

WW1 Geek

This highly readable work adds greatly to our knowledge of a much neglected aspect of one of the biggest battles of the war.

Stand To! Journal of the Western Front Association

Exhaustively-researched book.

Gun Mart, June 2018

The author and publisher are to be applauded for their efforts to redress the balance and ensure the French efforts on the Somme are noted.

Superb guide. 10/10

The Great War magazine, May 2018

The authors Sources and Bibliography reflects the extensive work that he has done on this area and, in turn, his authority on this topic. It incorporated many French language sources, French Regimental Histories, as well as English and German language sources.

Jon Sandison, Freelance

David O’Mara has been charged with writing the Pen & Sword series of Battleground Somme books dealing with the French contribution to the 1916 battles. He has proved an excellent choice as this book – an overview of their campaign – proves an excellent introduction to a part of the Somme which has been erased from the British perception of the battle...

Read the complete review online here.

Great War Book Review Page

The book is rounded off with 5 appendices, French Cemeteries on the Somme: Gazetteer of French wartime Nomenclatures; Ranks Table; French Army Abbreviations 1914-18; and French Army Orders of Battle. It all makes for a well written tour guide from an author who not only knows his subject, but clearly shares his enthusiasm for it as well.

Read the complete review here.

Military Model Scene - Robin Buckland

About David O'Mara

The late David O’Mara’s interests spanned back further than he could remember, it is quite possible that his (almost) life-long study of subjects around the First World War stemed from his receipt of one of the first editions of Rose Coomb’s ‘Before Endeavours Fade’ for a birthday present prior to a family holiday to the Ypres Salient in the late 1970s. This first trip to a Western Front battlefield only encouraged a vivacious hunger for hundred more trips – with his parents at first, and then alone or with friends before travelling with his own family – ensued over the following decades. Over the years, David visited the whole length of the Western Front several times over. Though interested in most aspects of the First World War, reading Blaise Cendrar’s ‘The Severed Hand’ at a young age encouraged an interest in the French side and David specialised in this study for many years, with the main focus of his battlefield visits for the past couple of decades being to the French sectors. David originally joined Western Front Association in 1983 and became the founding member and first chairman of the East Lancashire Branch in 2008. Since 2010, he had been the official research partner for the Western Front Association's ‘Remembered: On this Day’ project. David's interests also moved to the French army and their areas of operations and he built up a considerable resource of histories and illustrations on it. He explored and walked miles of the French front, from the North Sea to the Swiss border. With extensive knowledge of both the major allied armies, combined with his knowledge of the ground and ability to work with German sources, he was the ideal person to write about the French Somme, a part of the story of that terrible battlefield that had previously been largely neglected.

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