After having published a series of all recommendable books, like “Beneath Flanders Fields”, “The Somme”, and “The Battlefields of the First World War” (1), the historian, Peter Barton, published recently in 2010 a new book: “ARRAS - The spring 1917 offensive in panoramas including Vimy Ridge and Bullecourt”. (2)
Together with researcher Jeremy Bannings and in association with the Imperial War Museum Peter Barton surprised me again with his new well designed book. It may look strange, that I first start about the lay-out and the design of the book instead of beginning to write about the quality of the content of Barton’s narrative. But every first time, when I open a new Barton book, I am immediately impressed by the design of Barton’s books. Now again the lay-out of this book, designed by Les Dominey, forms its first impressive eye catcher. Paging only at first glance through this hard cover “tile” with a weight of more than 1,5 kg. is already a pleasant experience. Besides over 50 British and German army panorama photos (“Rundbilder”) the book contains a lot of dazzling illustrations; two large fold-out photos, beautiful period pictures in sepia or black & white, often even in page-size format, details of trench maps, details of artillery barrage timing maps, German and British period aerial photographs, modern colour situation maps, sketches of the German defence systems, sketches of British dug-outs, and modern times panorama pictures. Barton succeeds to amaze me again with his selection of rare period pictures, which I have never seen before.
In 304 pages, divided in 18 Chapters, Barton explains the historical backgrounds of the Eastern Offensive of Arras and Vimy Ridge of 9 – 24 April 1917. In detail the author describes for example the political implications before the start of this Artois battle, about who was in command, about the German Operation "Alberich", the planned withdrawal on the "Siegfried Stellung" and its consequences, about the complex military process and logistical implications of the battle preparations and of course about the battle itself. In between Barton explains a lot about all kinds of tactics, from mining warfare, aerial and balloon photography, the construction of trenches, barbed wire entanglements, and dug-outs, to artillery barrages, and all other aspects of the battle.
Like the author, Jack Sheldon, Barton belongs to the extraordinary "school" of English historians, who also pay detailed attention to the German side of this history. In an italic font Barton varies his easy to read narrative with interesting quotes of personal war diaries, letters, and army war journals. As the author himself writes in his Introduction: “This book is again predominantly based upon the words of eyewitnesses of those actions, the most accurate chronicles we possess.”
I imagine, that all your questions about this battle, that you could ever possibly have, could be answered by this book. In November 2009 I opened my series of Pierre’s Book Reviews with these words: “The moment I decided to write English book reviews, I also decided to write only about interesting and recommendable books. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with bashing less interesting works.” Merely based on the fact that I took the effort to write this book review about Barton’s “ARRAS”, you may consider this concise article as my enthusiastic recommendation to read this book. For my regular visitors from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia I recommend this book in particular because of the involvement and important contribution of the troops of these countries to the Artois April Battle of 1917. With “ARRAS” you will enjoy an interesting reading experience, as close as you can get to the futuristic concept of travelling in time. I bet that you will not be disappointed!
(1) Other recommendable Barton books:
- “Beneath Flanders Fields: The Tunnellers' War, 1914-1918”
- “The Somme - a new panoramic perspective”
- “Passchendaele - Unseen Panoramas of the Third Battle of Ypres”
- “The Battlefields of the First World War: The Unseen Panoramas of the Western Front”
(2) Peter Barton: “ARRAS - The spring 1917 offensive in panoramas including Vimy Ridge and Bullecourt” . Format: 267x37x217 mm. Weight:1.645 grams. ISBN: 978-1-84529-421-2. Also available in the Dutch language!
TIP 1. Read also my first book review about Robert Mueller’s battlefield guide, “Fields of War - Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium”, and about the Robinson’s interesting “Handbook of Imperial Germany”, and click HERE .