Monday, 10 June 2013

Chemin des Dames books

Last week I brought Some books for Michiel, since he's going to camp around Compiegne in France this summer. Right in the middle of a number of WWI battlefields.

For a number of years I used to go to the nearby Champagne Ardennes region for a weekend in summer with a bunch of friends. On a few occassions we visited the Chemin des Dames battlefields, and I picked up the books in the picture.

One local guide, with a cover by Tardi, the French comic artist who has had a great impact on the way we see WWI. And another a more extensive account of the many battles fought on the Chemin des Dames, starting with the 1814 battle of Craonne (Napoleon's Last Victory), the 1914 battles, the disastrous 1917 offensive and the German offensive of 1918.

Added are two monographies: Pyrrhic Victory by Robert Doughty on the French Army in WWI and Pierre Miquel's book on the Chemin des Dames. And finally an issue of the French WWI magazine Tranchées, dealing with the offensive with limited objectives, among which the capture of Fort Malmaison on the Chemin des Dames in October 1917.

So Michiel is well prepared for his holiday.

Michiel bought me a Dutch translation of Albert Nofi's book on Waterloo for my birthday. An interesting take, you can spot the wargamer from miles away.


  1. That's a great selection. Thank you so much for sharing these titles.

    I am really interested in the setting up the tank actions around Berry-au-Bac in April 1917 on the table top. I don't think I've seen many wargamers (at least in the UK) trying to recreate this action, despite it being a key moment for the French army. I'd like to recreate just part of the action at a large skirmish level and I'd really value your thoughts about which if the above titles might be the most useful for me. I've got "Pyrrhic Victory", and its pretty useful for the 'big picture' background. How would you rate the Pierre Miquel book, or one of the other titles, for a wargamer?

    Thanks again. I really enjoy the blog!

  2. Hi Sidney,

    Working from memory here, as I lent them out (and haven't read them from cover to cover)...

    The Tranchées issue has an article on the French armour at Chemin des Dames in 1917, so should definitely be useful. If you have trouble locating it I can photocopy the relevant pages.

    The guide with the Tardi cover is very general, but the Chemin des Dame 1914/1918 might offer some interesting stuff in maps and the use of armour, as it was special to the battle.

    Pierre Miquel is more of an impressionist writer. Very critical of high command, focussing on the plight of the poilu in the trenches. Not sure how useful it is for tactical stuff, but good to set the mood.

    Love your work on the Verdun project. I am hoping you will turn to colonial infantry at some point as I´m still struggling with my 10mm Tirailleurs Senegalais. They are not well covered in the Blanford and Osprey series, but there´s some stuff on the internet to help.

    But I was really impressed by your Being There post. Not only does it capture a number of valuable elements of a participation game (although they apply to wargames in general as well), the images enhance your arguments. Thanks for that!

  3. Thanks Jan, that's really helpful.

    I'd love to get a copy of the Tranchées article - I'll try and order one from the website, but if not, I'd love a photocopy. I'll also try and hunt down the "Chemin des Dames 1914/1918" book - I'm really looking for detailed maps, and any first-hand descriptions from tank crews of the Schneider CA-1 and St Chamond tanks in action during 1917.

    My intention is to write something on French tank tactics from 1917 on my blog. I'm far from being an expert on source material, but information on squadron level French tank tactics is rather difficult to come by in the English language. My feeling is that a lot of British wargamers may not be as familiar with the French use of tanks in 1917 as they are with the British use of tanks in 1916 and 1917. I think that's a shame, as the development of French tank tactics was just as remarkable as that of the British.

    Also, thanks for your comments regarding the Verdun Project. On the painting table, I've a platoon of Tirailleurs Senegalais in 28mm - hope you like those when I get around to them in July. I have a very useful book in French on the Tirailleurs Senegalais. Would you like to ping me an email with your address - I'd be happy to send the book over once I've painted up my unit and you can use it for your guys. My email is adamblakemore2003 at yahoo dot co dot uk


  4. Hi Sidney,

    I'll get working on those copies from Tranchée. HAve you also got the Osprey Vanguard on French WWI tank development? It's an excellent introduction, although not too detailed on tactics.

    Concerning the TS book, let's try the traditional way first. Give me the title and author and I'll see if I can get hold of it that way. Otherwise I might pick you up on your offer.



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