Walking in the Footsteps of the Fallen: Verdun 1916
By Christina Holstein
Pen & Sword, 2019
It is difficult to review what is essentially a ‘battlefield tours’ book without having visited the area. Yet this gives me an element of impartiality – having never visited, how easy is it to follow? Is enough background and contextual information given?
With ‘Walking in the Footsteps of the Fallen’ Christina Holstein adds to her already extensive catalogue of ‘Battleground’ Verdun titles, with this latest offering focusing more on describing some of the events of the campaign through the stories of the men who fought and died in the area.
Holstein uses a variety of sources to enhance the narrative, from war diaries to personal accounts. These provide a chilling insight into the ferocity of the fighting in the area – one entry in particular reads ‘Violent bombardment of our first line…Since then, no news of the regiment. Casualty figures for the day: 1,728.’
The book does not cover all you would need for a comprehensive trip to Verdun (see Holstein’s other books such as Fort Vaux, Fort Douamont, and Walking Verdun to complete the set). It is not designed to cover the main visitor sites, but to take the visitor off the beaten track and into the areas where the battle raged, but are largely now overlooked and overgrown.
The four walking tours in the book cover the period February – October 1916, and explain the course and conduct of the operations often via the neglected and sometimes-forgotten memorials to (mainly French) fallen soldiers that dot the area. The maps seem clear, with instructions easy to follow.
With Walking in the Footsteps of the Fallen Holstein manages to humanise a battle where the sheer numbers and ferocity often make it hard to comprehend on a smaller scale. Verdun has been on my ‘to visit’ list for some time, and reading this book simply reinforces that wish. If and when I do make it, this is one book I will certainly be using.
Buy this book from Amazon here:
Walking In the Footsteps of the Fallen: Verdun 1916 (Battleground I)