Book review: Ospreys Campaign 187 “Cambrai 1917, The birth of armoured warfare”

06 Sep

Today I want to start something with new. For me part of the hobby is historical research. Obviously this means reading books, too. Now I do not have as much time for that as I would like these days, but from time to time I manage to finish a book. So here is the first, Ospreys Campaign 187 “Cambrai 1917, The birth of armoured warfare” by Alexander Turner.

Cambrai 1917

Facts first. The book itself contains 96 pages, filled with contemporary photographs, the Osprey specific colour paintings (by Peter Dennis) and a number of maps. It covers the timeframe from the planning stages up to December 7th 1917, or in other words roughly 6 month. The rough historical context, planning stages and descriptions of forces and commanders cover the first 36 pages. The actual combat (November 20th to December 4th) covers pages 37 to 87 and the rest is the aftermath, historic notes and so on.

This actually shows the biggest deficit of the book… too little room for such a large battle. In both major fields (preparation, the battle itself) there simply is not enough room to do more than scratch the surface. For example when it comes to the commanders, it only covers two British (General the Hon. Sir Julian Byng and Brig.-Gen. Hugh Elles) and two Germans (Kronprinz Rupprech von Bayern and Gen. von der Marwitz) each of them receiving about 1/3rd of a page. Same holds true for the parts covering the combat as well. At times you get a paragraph or two covering the battle for a village, other times the action of a whole Regiment only gets a sentence or two. In the end it makes it hard to understand the whole strategic or even tactical context.

Unfortunately this is about all I can say about the book. It is too short and as a result far too basic to cover something as big as this battle. The photos, paintings and maps make it worthwhile, but the text… well one should rather save the money and buy a real book on the topic.

So how do I rate the book as a whole? I have decided to rate the books I review by relating their real value to their official retail. So if you really want to buy the book… official retail is 18,95 US$, but it is only worth about 5 US$.

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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Books, Reviews, WWI


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