Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Complete: "Trench" by Stephen Bull

Complete: Trench: a history of trench warfare on the Western Front by Stephen Bull, 2010, 9781472801326.

This was quite good. Bull knows what he is talking about. Bull throws in his some pointed commentary at times but the book mainly a highly informational piece on how trench life and warfare changed during the war.

The battlefield and tactics were revised and changed over the four years of warfare. "Over the top" is one of the lasting images but, fortunately, those tactics did not last for the whole war. We miss the advances in artillery, tanks, mining, machine guns, gas, patrolling, the depth of built-up defenses with concrete bunkers, mortars, artillery attacks, machine gun attacks, etc. Wars are, after all, a time of quick technological research and achievement.

Troops did not spend a lot of time in the front line. Units were rotated in and out of the line. I think a week at time at the front was usual but rotations depended on the individual division and the army. I remember from several Western Front memoirs how the men would rotate to the rear and officers would take courses in artillery. machine guns, patrolling, etc.

The middle of the book had an handful of paragraphs that wonderfully explained how the war and tactics evolved over the four years. Damned if I can find that section. I looked and scanned but I found zilch.

Plenty of photographs and illustrations. An historian's look at events and people - he doesn't focus on heroic stories and apocryphal tales. Bull points out how the remaining trenches and storng points in France and Belgium differ from their active use. Erosion and settling have down their work and even rebuilt trench lines differ from 100 years ago.

Bulls' topical chapters are:  New Weapons and Tactics, Gas, Raiding and Sniping, Mining, Concrete, The Tank, Over the Top.

Comment: I finished this in 2015 so I am backdating this post. Written 1-17-2016.

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