Pen and Sword Digital 2014
One in the series of DVDs that Pen and Sword have put together to explain to the casual and expert battlefield student, events as they unfolded at specific flash points in Belgium and France in the opening stages of The Great War.
Battlefield guides and historians have been brought together to describe and explain what happened and where, with most of the narration from the locations as they are today, which provides an excellent feel for the topography of the locations where specific actions took place. This overcomes the problem of there being a dearth of photographs and film footage from the time, breaks up the narrative, avoids being vapid and leaves the viewer with a better understanding of a time when the clashes with German forces were ones of manoeuvre and counter-manoeuvre; these manoeuvres and the main leaders involved (von Kluck, Smith-Dorrien, Maxse, Haig) are covered adequately. The interpretations by the guides and historians are clear and concise, and the interspersion of maps is cleverly calculated to assist in a visual understanding of events such as Mons and Le Cateau.
Interwoven with the narration, re-enactors representing the British "Tommy" have been filmed in 'action' and also help to explain their equipment (for example the Lee Enfield rifle, and also why the wire was removed from flat caps – the tops reflected the sun and gave away your position). The crucial role of the RFC is also covered, as the British struggled to understand from where the Germans were advancing. The provision by British cavalry of a screen as the PBI withdrew is emphasised too, as well as the British 'moral ascendency' over German cavalry. The Royal Horse Artillery Victoria Crosses at Nery are also covered in detail.
The Bonus section provides information on the Schlieffen Plan.
Reviewed by Richard Pursehouse