With 2014 fast approaching, we can expect a flood of books commemorating the efforts of the BEF in 1914, and Jerry Murland’s analysis of one of the lesser known battles of the First World War will be a welcome addition to most military enthusiasts’ libraries. As the book’s blurb acknowledges, this title is the latest in a series of over one hundred Battleground titles and like its companions it follows a tried and tested format: an analysis of the events followed by some suggested tours to take in the battlegrounds; key events and personalities picked out for the intrepid traveller. The book is published in a handy-enough format to be able to sit inconspicuously on a bookshelf or be slipped into a Barbour (or these days, Super-Dry) coat pocket.
Jerry Murland has obviously done his homework well and if I do have a niggle it’s the usual one about a paucity of footnotes pointing to the very many direct quotations and images. Helpfully, and indispensably, an Order of Battle for the BEF is given as an appendix, but that Order of Battle could have been even more helpful if it had indicated the dates on which the troops arrived. Those with an interest in the movements of a specific BEF Division will be pleased that chapters have been allocated to each. This will suit the family historian who is looking to see what Great Uncle Alf did (and they’ll know that Great Uncle Alf was in the 4th Division because they’ll have seen in the appendix that the 2nd Seaforths were part of the that Division). For those who simply want to read a chronological account of the battle and re-live it as it unfolded, this format may not suit them as well. But on the scale of things these are small matters. The book is well illustrated and the tour itineraries are detailed and helpful. A good bibliography rounds off a thoroughly researched topic.
Aisne 1914 is published by Pen & Sword at £12.99