Battlefields of the First World War: A Traveller's Guide

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9781851453641: Battlefields of the First World War: A Traveller's Guide

Mons, Ypes, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge, the Somme...The names are no less poignant three-quarters of a century on, and the emotional pull of the physical reminders of the First World is undiminished. This book covers all the major battlefields of the Western Front, including Mons, where the British Expeditionary Force under Sir John French went into action for the first time to halt the German advance through Belgium; Le Cateau, scene of the last of the old style one-day battles; Verdun, the fiercely defended stronghold which came to symbolize the fighting spirit of France; the Somme, where the British suffered a scarcely credible 60,000 casualties on the opening day of the five-month battle; St Mihiel, the first all-American action and a striking success for Pershing's Doughboys; as well as Cambrai, the Kaiser's Offensive and the British and American breakthrough on the Hindenburg Line. At each historic site the book describes the events leading up to the battle, the aims and tactics of the commanders and the action itself. They then provide detailed directions for a manageable tour of the battlefield, taking in all the significant landmarks and reminders of what took place, from key fortifications and trench lines to scenes of crucial turning-points and outstanding acts of courage. Among the most poignant reminders are the scores of cemeteries with which whole swathes of Flanders and Picardy are quilted, and the national memorials: to the Indian dead at Neuve Chapelle, the Americans in the Meuse-Argonne; the Welsh Dragon at Mametz Wood, the sublime Canadian memorial on Vimy Ridge, and the majestic Menin Gate in Ypres, where every evening the Last Post is sounded for the 55,000 British who died in the Salient in the first three years of the war and who have no known grave. This book is both a practical guide for visitors to the battlefields and a moving and sensitive response to all this harrowing evidence of the sadness and the sacrifice, the horror and the heroism of "the war to end all wars".

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