This book is a companion to the BBC DVD series Walking the Western Front. It includes 150 prints in color and black and white taken during multiple filming trips to the Somme. Historical photos taken 100 years ago are accompanied by shots in the exact same spot today. Many of the modern photos are beautiful, in sharp contrast to the carnage and destruction that occurred in these locations. The captions and narrative accompanying the images is well written and includes interesting historical stories.
The publisher explains that the purpose of this book is to answer “questions asked by visitors to the Somme; where did my ancestor fight?” It uses battle accounts with modern notations on historical trench maps, intended to help the reader locate individual units. The index has an impressive list of military units, but it may not be easy for someone standing on the battlefield today to locate where their ancestor’s unit actually would have been 100 years ago looking at these historical b&w maps.
This guidebook uses a different approach from the previous one above that covers Ypres, and it is much less effective and rather old fashioned. There are no color maps or color photos and the book is not as well organized. For example, the modern map of Serre shows twelve numbered locations, but these appear over the next 28 pages and are not easy to follow. There are many historical photos, including several of the soldiers who fought there with brief descriptions of what these men did.
This is a well-organized and lavishly illustrated guidebook that identifies dozens of key locations around the town of Ypres in Belgium. Three major battles were fought there, in 1914, 1915, and 1917, resulting in massive casualties but moving the frontline at most a few miles. There are dozens of color historical maps and color modern photos with key locations noted on the photos. These are interspersed with the text and are easy to follow. Highly recommended.
Ambassador Shurtleff, a retired American Foreign Service officer who served as President of The World War One Historical Association and as a past President of The Western Front Association – U S Branch, passed away on January 22, 2014. This searchable version of Len’s Bookshelf has been created and will be maintained in his honor.