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Book Review: Breaking Point Of The French Army by David Murphy

David Murphy
David Murphy has undertaken a painstaking analysis of the Nivelle 1917 offensive , a battle that was intended to break the German line and instead took the French Army to mutiny and the edge of disaster.

The book looks at Nivelle's rise from an artillery full colonel in 1914 to Brigadier in 3 months ,and Corps commander in another 13 months. It also examines French officer corps morale prior to the war and political in fighting. It is not a biography of Nivelle.
The Nivelle offensive was to be low on allied casualties by the employment of concentration of artillery at a level of one gun per 15 metres , calibres up to 400mm and use of chemical shells. The new French tanks would be committed (Gunners will be intrigued that French tanks were initially regarded as artillery assets!)All this would be controlled by use of field telephone and pre timed rolling barrages. If there was no decisive breakthrough the intention was to break off to avoid another attritional battle akin to Verdun. The objective would be to kill or capture German troops ,seizure of ground would be of secondary importance.

Unfortunately the pre battle phase was hampered by the Germans pulling back to new positions in depth, many on reverse slopes. Also by the same loose French attitude to security that was to bedevil the Free French in the Second World War.

The battle is dissected in detail along with the political machinations that turned the offensive into another Verdun. The accounts are meticulous in fine tooth detail.

David Murphy has produced a book that is a good buy for the military historian to extend their knowledge. The book runs to 165 pages with excellent notes and bibliography. There is also an invaluable appendix for readers planning a visit to the battlefield. Pen & Sword have produced the book to their usual high standard with photo quality illustrations and useful maps.

The book may be a bit dry for the generalist reader but is certainly a good tool for filling in gaps on an area not always covered in detail by British war historians.The hardback costs £19.99 and there is a kindle version on Amazon at about £15.75
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