Walking the Somme – Paul Reed

Anybody familiar with touring the battlefields of The First World War, will be familiar with the various series of books that allow the battlefields to become accessible to anybody with a passing interest in The Great War. There are two series that particularly stand out as pioneers in the way battlefields are interpreted by people who might otherwise have access to the knowledgeof the historical importance of the little Belgian villages or the numerous French sunken lanes through which they trek. These series are Major and Mrs Holt’s Guides and the Battleground Europe series.

I will be reviewing Paul Reed’s “Walking The Somme” which forms part of the Battlefield Europe series so renowned within the community of Military Historians and Battlefield Tourists.

Containing 16 walks covering the whole British Somme front, the reader can gain a deep understanding into actions, not only on 1st July but all the way through the battle until its culmination in mid-November.

“Walking The Somme” is, in my opinion, a must have for anyone with even a passing interest in The Great War or, more specifically, The Battle of The Somme. The reason I make this statement is thanks to the author’s ability to find a perfect midpoint, equidistant from the extremities of a book full of maps and statistics and a narrative of personal anecdotes and actions which Paul Reed achieves by drawing on his hundreds of interviews with WW1 veterans to personify every notch and ridge of the landscape. It is for this reason that “Walking The Somme” can be read at home to familiarise yourself with the ground before you embark upon your journey because of its easy to read layout, including a large collection original never before published pictures showing many of the places/objects of interest that you may come across on The Old Frontline. Alongside the original aerial photographs and postcard images there is a small selection of coloured images showing certain battlefield sites today, helping to bring the battlefield to life.

This book can be used by an individual, on their own personal pilgrimage, or a more seasoned battlefield tourist thanks to the depth of information and quirky facts and statistics that remain in your consciousness well after you have finished reading. An example of which is there is only one South African soldier buried in Flat Iron Copse Cemetery, Mametz.

On a previous trip to the First World War battlefields, on which I was required to present information to a group of paying customers, “Walking The Somme” was vital to my planning and preparation to refine the information that I would present. It provided a detailed enough account of each aspect of the appropriate sites to make sure I had the necessary information to be able to paint a picture for the listeners, a high proportion of which were on their first visit to the Somme battlefields.

In conclusion I would recommend this book as an investment for the future as, no doubt, it will be used thoroughly, if you do make the purchase. It would be a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf…if you can keep it on, that is.

You can buy a copy direct from the publisher here:

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Walking-the-Somme-Second-Edition-Paperback/p/3041

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