The Great War in the Argonne Forest written Richard Merry and  published by Pen & Sword Books – £25.00 – Hardback – Pages 256

The annals of the First World War record the Argonne Forest as the epicentre of the famous Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918. The largest American operation launched against the Germans during the conflict. During 1914 and 1915 though, amidst the dense forest, French and Italian soldiers withstood the German assaults. All sides suffered horrendous casualties, as each sought to break through the lines. The epic four-year campaign is the subject of Richard Merry’s vividly written account. His great-uncle arrived there in September 1914 and started corresponding with his family. Richard traces the stories of some of the men – and women – who became embroiled in the epic forest struggle which culminated in the cold, gas-filled autumnal mist of 1918 when the New Yorkers of the 77th ‘Liberty’ Division fought there. One of their number, Charles Whittlesey, and his ‘Lost Battalion’ held out against insurmountable odds. Sergeant Alvin York, the Tennessee backwoodsman and pacifist, overcame his religious convictions and wrote himself into American military history.

This is an excellent book about one particular area during the First World War, the Argonne Forest. The book doesn’t cover the American or one side of the participants but it also covers the French forces too. It was actually nice to just read the book about one particular area, like being able to view in a microcosm. The book cleverly looks at the various battles that took place through the eyes of individuals such as Erwin Rommel and even the authors’ Great Uncle. It was nice to learn about certain snippets of information that happened with various allies, such as just like the explosive bombs that took place and would have killed a large number of men, but the craters of those explosions still exist today. As well as the writing the book also contains a number of maps, photographs, pictures all of which are brilliant especially in the first half of the book. The book is also separated into years for each chapter which helps separate out the stories and the battles for each allied force. A really good book to read and I would happily recommend this.