A VISITOR’S GUIDE: THE BATTLES OF ARRAS: SOUTH
A visitor’s guide: The Battles of Arras: South: Bullecourt, Monchy-le-Preux, Wancourt and the Valley of the Scarpe
- Author: Jon Cooksey & Jerry Murland
- Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (2019), 134 pages, numerous photographs & maps
- Price: £14.99 (Softback)
- ISBN: 9781526742391
Publishers’ blurb … The First World War battlefields to the south of Arras - including Battery Valley and Observation Ridge, Telegraph Hill, Monchy-le-Preux, Wancourt, and Bullecourt - are among the most famous and most visited sites on the Western Front, rivalled only by those around Ypres and the Somme, and this clearly written, highly illustrated guide is the ideal introduction to them. Visitors can trace for themselves the course of each battle across the modern landscape and gain a fascinating insight into the nature of the fighting in the area - and the wider conflict across the Western Front - throughout the war. The book covers the key battles fought in the southern sector of the Arras front, including the 1917 battles fought at Battery Valley, Monchy-le-Preux, Wancourt and Bullecourt. Expert guides Jon Cooksey and Jerry Murland have devised a series of routes that can be walked, biked or driven, explaining the fighting that occurred at each place in vivid detail. They record what happened, where it happened and why, and point out the sights that remain for the visitor to see. Their guidebook is essential reading for visitors who wish to enhance their understanding of the war on the Western Front.
I had the pleasure to meet the late Jon Cooksey on many occasions, often chatting on the phone talking all things First World War. Editor of the fabulous Western Front Association journal, a prolific author and an experienced battlefield guide he has partnered with Jerry Murland, who equally has a long list of published works on both First, and Second World War battlefields, for this book series. With both author’s pedigree's it was no surprise that this was an enjoyable read, also courtesy of Pen & Sword.
As a writer of similar battlefield guidebooks, the key is not just knowing your subject, but conveying it in a way that the reader understands not only the history, but how a modern day battlefield relates to past events. In particular it has to be more than just a narrative, the text needs to be a clealrly laid out with good maps, photographs and guidance notes that can be easily followed. In addition, the history needs to be woven into each tour that brings both observations and stories alive. This book does not disappoint.
Arras, a somewhat overlooked battlefield, although Pen & Sword do have the adjoining ‘North’ volume by the same authors as well as the excellent Walking Arras by Paul Reed, and the equally good Bullecourt by Graham Keech and Monchy-le-Preux by Colin Fox. I am not clear why this series sits outside of the familiar Battleground Europe series as style-wise it is not dissimilar, but regardless the Cooksey and Murland visitor guide series compliments all the other books and will hopefully encourage further footfall on this particular battlefield.
This book, seventh in the series, includes eight routes, from Feuchy Redoubt, Battery Valley, Roeux, Telegraph Hill, Monchy-le-Preux, Wancourt and Bullecourt. The last route is a 27-mile car tour which incorporates all of the other individual routes. The main tours are up to 5 miles and can be done on-foot or by bike. Alternatively, they can be done in conjunction with a car, of course parked at a suitably location for the return journey. Because of this the tours are done in a circular fashion to avoid walking back over ground already covered. As with any guidebook like this where the history will be ‘light’, pre and post-tour reading should be done for the traveller to gain the most out of the trip. As with any battlefield tour I still believe that you cannot truly understand the battle until you have trodden the ground, and for that, this book will be a welcome guide.
Whilst the black and white photos of the modern day battlefield do serve their purpose, I do wish that the publisher would include colour photographs as they are far easier to identify key features. That said, the quality of the book is very good, as is its pocket-size and durability (which has already been used on one battlefied trip in 2021). If you are planning a trip to the Western Front, this book is certainly worth packing as part of your key kit arsenal. Recommended reading.
Purchase link to Pen & Sword Link: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/A-Visitors-Guide-The-Battles-of-Arras-South-Paperback/p/16893