Tuesday 7 November 2023

The Destruction of the Imperial Army, vol 2 The Battles Around Metz.

I have been waiting impatiently and with great anticipation for this book to arrive. Like volume 1 it is a hefty tome, at 539 pages.

After the tremendous volume 1, (Click here) this new book in Helion’s ‘from Musket to Maxim’ series‘, The Destruction of the Imperial Army, Volume 2: The Battles around Metz by Grenville Bird is another absolute gem.

Volume 2 focusses on the the three major battles around Metz in mid-August 1870. A new book covering any one of these would be great but to include all three, Borny/Colomby, Vionville/Mars la Tour and the iconic battle of Gravelotte/St. Privat, all fought between 14 and 18 August, is a very welcome treat. The author has again used a vast amount of previously unpublished and translated French language sources and this materiel continues to offer a balance against the usual Prussian-focussed studies of the war. The author picks up where he left off in volume 1 and takes the reader on a deep dive into the detail of these three major engagements. The level of detail in insane (in a good way) and an almost forensic analysis of each battle down to minor tactical details in astounding.

There are 64 colour and black and white images, some contemporary and others are photos of features of each battlefield as they are to be found today. As in the earlier volume many of the battlefield photos show both the ground as it was in August 1870 and in the present day. Volume 2 contains 17 highly detailed colour maps showing the topography and the troops involved, which are helpful to refer to when following the strategic and tactical movements of the armies. Incidentally a visit to the Helion website will give you access to .pdf copies of all the maps in order to avoid too much flicking back and forth. An important factor for me is as usual the use of first hand accounts or contemporary correspondence which in my view always add an interesting insight into how the participants thought and felt at the time.

Fifteen appendices give us orders of battle for each of the battles covered in this volume as well as detailed casualty returns which reinforce what we already know about the shear scale of these battles, in terms of the numbers involved, the casualties  and the size of the battlefields, in particular Gravelotte/St. Privat.

My thoughts on this book are simply that it is jaw-droppingly awesome. It is a fascinating and engaging read, as I’ve said full of detail without being academically dry, and surely is a must for anyone with an interest in the Imperial phase of the war. I fail to see how I am going to resist painting up yet more figures for my already enormous Franco-German War armies. 

I understand volume 3 will be with us soon. By the time the final fourth volume of the series is with us I might have to get a bigger bookcase.

ISBN 978-1-804511-85-5 soft back, 539 pages.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. Its a period and subject I am most interested in and had not hear about it. I will have to look into getting the series.