AISNE 1914 – Review by Mark Barnes


AISNE 1914
By Jerry Murland
Published by Pen & Sword Military
ISBN: 978 1 78159 189 5

Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online

These books always come with neat press releases enticing the reviewer with hints of what they will find in the things. Apologies all round, because I have had this book for a few months and not got round to it. But a recent trip over the water to France went so well I find myself inspired to look for new places to visit and this book kind of hits the spot.

These Battleground books are so accessible and make planning a trip easier. Even when we are talking of very well trodden ground, they always have something to bolster knowledge and inspire you to get to a particular farm track or churchyard. The battles on the Aisne are much less appreciated in the routine of the British experience. I’ve driven through the area to get to other sites with little thought of stopping. Although I was aware of the Brits fighting on the Chemin de Dames, I, like so many others pretty much associate the place with the Nivelle offensive of 1917. I would not have considered the events of 1914 when I have still so much to see around Le Cateau and elsewhere.

The format is pretty much standard for the series and it all works. I like the brief looks at other conflicts reminding us of events when the panzers rolled through in 1940 and references to Napoleon. One thing I always enjoy from these books are the stories of the men who were there, often accompanied by superb photographs or those overly dramatised illustrations of heroism which appeared in the British media, often without any similarity to real events. Jerry Murland knows his ground and his subject and makes the most of a relatively brief period of battle by showing us just how much there is to see of it. Sections on cemeteries and memorials and features from later battles all add to the mix.

I sometimes think these books are really hard to review, especially in this case when it covers a region I do not know. They are all collectable to give you a solid reference for when you eventually load up the car. The important thing is to have confidence in the knowledge shared and I doubt we have any worries there. I might not get on the Aisne next year, but I have taken note. Job done.

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.