The Price of Glory; Verdun 1916 by Alister Horne; Penguin Books: New York, 1964.

No other campaign, save for that of the Somme, epitomizes the "meat grinder" character of the Western Front in WWI more than Verdun. Some 1,250,000 casualties were incurred by the French and Germans in about ten months for a piece of land "little larger than the combined Royal Parks of London." Although almost forty years old, this account is probably the best in English and is meticulously researched and exquisitely written. This book TRULY shows the horrors of the Great War and the absolute futility of Verdun. The only downside is where the author assumes that the reader has a classical education, because he constantly interjects snippets of French into the book... still, a MUST HAVE!

World War I Trench Warfare (1) 1914-16--The regular armies which marched off to war in 1914 were composed of massed riflemen, screened by cavalry and supported by artillery; their leaders expected a quick and decisive outcome, achieved by sweeping manoeuvre, bold leadership and skill at arms. Eighteen months later the whole nature of field armies and their tactics had changed utterly. In sophisticated trench systems forming a battlefield a few miles wide and 400 miles long, conscript armies sheltered from massive long-range bombardment, wielding new weapons according to new tactical doctrines. This first of two richly illustrated studies explains in detail the specifics of that extraordinary transformation, complete with ten full colour plates of uniforms and equipment.
World War I Trench Warfare (2): 1916-18--The Allied attempt to break the stalemate of trench warfare by the 'big pushes' of 1916 led to massively costly battles of attrition. The Germans responded by developing schemes of defence in depth anchored on concrete bunkers; the Allies, by sophisticated artillery tactics in support of infantry assaults, and by the introduction of the tank - at first an accident-prone novelty, but later a front-breaking weapon. On both sides the small, self-reliant, opportunistic infantry unit, with its own specialist weapons, became the basic tool of attack. This second of a fascinating two-part study of the birth of 20th century tactics is illustrated in colour and includes rare photographs.
The French Army 1914-18--
Reviewer: Carter Rila (off Amazon.com)

This of course, is far from a comprehensive work on the period. Its major emphasis is on the soldier's life and clothing and equipment while serving in combat, mainly on the Western Front but does cover the Balkans operations. The colonial forces except as they were used in France are ignored.

That said, this should satisfy the general reader mainly curious about the Great War.

Before the Great War of 1914, the French Army had yet to reform itself after the defeat of the Franco Prussian War. Though they had some excellent weaponry including the splendid French 75mm field gun, and the Hotchkiss heavy machine gun M1914, they lacked heavy guns and most of all, a modern appreciation that the outmoded doctrine of "l'audace" and always attack would win through. They seem to have completely ignored the lessons of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 which proved that the only way for infantry to survive cannon fire and machine guns was to go to ground especially when attacking dug in and barbed wire protected opponents. To compound all this, for political reasons, the Army had been unable to develop a new less visible field uniform and began the war wearing great coats of blue with red trousers; this of course, highly pleased the German machine gunners. By the end of 1915, they had adopted a horizon blue uniform and a steel helmet of rather complex construction with poor ballistic properties. Based on a French fire brigade helmet it at least was dashing. :-) (For some reason, the Paris Fire Brigade was then actually part of the Army.)

This work is a splendid example of the new emphasis of the publisher on producing comprehensive works in a handy cheap format compared with the earlier broad brush treatments which covered too much in too little detail.

The new emphasis is on sets and volumes covering various national armed forces in as much detail as is available, consistent with the current purpose of the works in the series, which have evolved from an original emphasis on serving the military miniature maker market into works intended to enlighten the general reader in enough detail to satisfy the merely curious and to point the way to further reading.

This should be read along with the volumes on the Foreign Legion 1914-1945. If you want an introduction to the fascinating variety of clothing and equipment of the forces covered, this is for you.

World War I Infantry in Colour--Never before have actual battle uniforms, personal equipment, insignia and weapons of the infantryman of the Great War been illustrated in such authentic detail. Original surviving uniforms, harness and weapons--painstakingly assembled from rare private collections--are illustrated in full colour 'on the man,' just as they were worn on the battlefield. Each of these 31 soldiers--British, German, French, Russian, Austrian, Italian, American and Belgian--is photographed from both front and back, with key-diagrams; and accompanied by a detailed commentary by leading experts who themselves are collectors, identifying and explaining each item of uniform and equipment.
Back To the Front by Stephen O'Shea.

Review from Booklist

In places the Western Front still slashes across Belgium and France, visible among the cemeteries, ossuaries, and monuments as grassy, cratered terrain, zig-zagging trenches, crumbling pillboxes and forts. O'Shea, while working in publishing trenches in Paris, grew curious about the war's physical aftermath, and in several trips gathered his observations for this sensitively nuanced tour. For preparation, he steeped himself in the war's history and got reacquainted with the trench experience of his two Irish grandfathers. Both motifs contribute to the book's structure, which unfolds geographically as O'Shea hoofs it from the sea to Switzerland, encountering formerly muddy slaughterhouses euphemized as Ypres, the Somme, or Verdun. At each battle area O'Shea summarizes what generals hoped would happen and how they seemingly never learned from what did happen, a mulish obstinacy that palpably angers him. His contemporary vignettes vividly animate the trip, as do his reflections about the meaning of monument making. With this ambulant meditation and protest against militarism, O'Shea has created a high-stature addition to the classic works about the Great War. Gilbert Taylor

cover The Road to Verdun: World War I's Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of Nationalism--"If you haven't seen Verdun, you haven't seen anything of war," said one veteran infantryman of the First World War, referring to a particularly gruesome episode in a four-year clash known for its monotonous brutality. More than 300,000 men were killed at Verdun, out of more than 700,000 total casualties. "By any standards, the figures are formidable: almost one death a minute, day and night, for the ten months that the battle lasted," writes Ian Ousby, who expresses astonishment at "how much suffering was expended and how many lives were lost over strips of ground so small, so insignificant." It began in February, 1916, when the Germans launched an offensive against the French. Neither army made much headway against the other, even as the deaths on both sides rose to staggering proportions. This was typical of the trench warfare of the time. In one sense, Verdun was not much different from other battles in the war; Ousby even calls it a "microcosm" of the larger conflict. Yet, he also argues that it was the war's bleakest and most hopeless scene of engagement. Ousby offers a chronicle of the fighting, and writes from the French perspective--much of the book, in fact, ruminates on the meaning of French nationalism. This combination of military and intellectual history makes The Road to Verdun a top-rate addition to First World War literature. --John Miller
Verdun 1916: They Shall Not Pass--On 21 February 1916 German General Erich von Falkenhayn unleashed his hammer-blow offensive against the French fortress city of Verdun. His aim was nothing short of the destruction of the French army. Falkenhayn was sure that the symbolic value of Verdun was such that the French would be 'compelled to throw in every man they have.' He was equally sure that 'if they do so the forces of France will bleed to death.' The massed batteries of German guns would smash the French troops in their trenches and bunkers. But the French hung on with immense courage and determination and the battle became a bloody war of attrition. This title describes the destructive events of this pivotal First World War battle.
The World War One Source Book by Philip J. Hawthornthwaite.

Reviewed by Shawn Smith (on Amazon.com) from Cumberland Gap, TN United StatesThe book has everything you need in order to understand all aspects of the war. The first part reviews the campaigns, naval operations, casualty lists, and chronology of the different fronts. The second part reviews the weapons and tactics from both sides. And, the third part, which is truly amazing, the author gives detailled reports on all the nations involved. The author obviously spent a great amount of time researching all the information required for the novel. The novel should be highly recommended for anyone interested in this dark period of our history.

The First World War by John Keegan. Despite the avalanche of books written about the First World War in recent years, there have been comparatively few books that deliver a comprehensive account of the war and its campaigns from start to finish. The First World War fills the gap superbly. As readers familiar with Keegan's previous books (including The Second World War and Six Armies in Normandy) know, he's a historian of the old school. He has no earth-shattering new theories to challenge the status quo, no first-person accounts to tug on the emotions--what he does have, though, is a gift for talking the lay person through the twists and turns of a complex narrative in a way that is never less than accessible or engaging.

Keegan never tries to ram his learning down your throat. Where other authors have struggled to explain how Britain could ever allow itself to be dragged into such a war in 1914, Keegan keeps his account practical. The level of communications that we enjoy today just didn't exist then, and so it was much harder to keep track of what was going on. By the time a message had finally reached the person in question, the situation may have changed out of all recognition. Keegan applies this same "cock-up" theory of history to the rest of the war, principally the three great disasters at Gallipoli, the Somme, and Passchendaele. The generals didn't send all those troops to their deaths deliberately, Keegan argues; they did it out of incompetence and ineptitude, and because they had no idea of what was actually going on at the front.

While The First World War is not afraid to point the finger at those generals who deserve it, even Keegan has to admit he doesn't have all the answers. If it all seems so obviously futile and such a massive waste of life now, he asks, how could it have seemed worthwhile back then? Why did so many people carry on, knowing they would die? Why, indeed. --John Crace, Amazon.co.uk

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