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The Somme 1916 (Paperback)

Touring the French Sector

WWI Somme Battlefield Guidebooks 1916

By David O'Mara
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Battleground Books: WWI
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781473897700
Published: 30th 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.

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About David O'Mara

David O’Mara’s interest spans back further than he can remember, it is quite possible that his (almost) life-long study of subjects around the First World War stems 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 more and hundreds of 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 has visited the whole length of the Western Front several times over and will, hopefully, continue to do so for many years to come.

Though interested in most aspects of the war, reading Blaise Cendrar’s ‘The Severed Hand’ at a young age encouraged an interest in the French side and David has 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 has been the official research partner for the W.F.A’s ‘Remembered: On this Day’ project.

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