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Walking Verdun : A Guide to the Battlefield
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Walking Verdun : A Guide to the Battlefield


Christina Holstein
Pen & Sword Books Ltd
Format : 13,5 x 21,5 cm
2015 - 176 pages


Code EAN 13 : 9781844158676
Code ISBN : 9781844158676
15.00 €


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This is a book that all visitors to the battlefields of Verdun 1916 will welcome. All of us who have been to this evocative, menacing, impressive - almost overwhelmingly so - place will be grateful to have to clear  and lucid guide that has been so well crafted by Christina Holstein. We have had quite some time to wait for this ; it was in 2002 that Christina's outstanding Fort Douaumont in this series was published. But the passing time has not been wasted and the results of her labours ans considerable knowledge of both events and ground are now available to all of us. Verdun really has needed a book like this : there are plenty of guides to notable positions on the Verdun battlefield - such as Forts Douaumont and Vaux, but nothing of any great consequence beyond that. There are excellent narrative histories of the battle, not least Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory, and there is a paper mountain of published and unpublished memoirs, diaries and letters. However, because of the sheer slogging match that characterized so much of the fighting ; because of the utter confusion of the infantry battles and the almost ceaseless blasting of the landscape (helping to remove 10 metres from one of the summits of Mort-Homme, for example), it is not a battle that lends itself easily to detailed unit accounts, for the most part. The "fog of battle" is not the only thing that has made it difficult to understand Verdun. The policy of leaving villages as they were at the end of the war means that there are few landmarks and buildings that help to orientate the visitor. Of greater impact has been the post-war forestation programm, which removes sight lines and minimizes the ability to understand the significance of ground and features. Quite frankly, it is not a battlefield that is easy to understand on the ground ; its impact comes from the awesome ossuary and from the hulking concrete ruins that witnessed so much carnage, along with the searing memory it left in the collective consciences of France and Germany. This book does not clear away the trees and the undergrowth, but it puts you on the trail of the events ; it takes you to the crucially important valleys and ravines that formed a vital part in the tactics of both sides ; it explains the significance of ruined, decrepit bunkers and fortified systems, hidden away in the forest. It takes you to panoramic views that explains the raison d'être of particular fortifications and the significance of topographical features. It puts you on several via sacra of the fighting soldiers of France and Germany, men whose courage, fortitude and persistence in the face of such horrendous adversity must surely leave anyone who knows about them filled with awe and horror. Undoubtedly it will provide greater understanding of the story of this, the longest batlle of the Great War.


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