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Sunday, 20 December 2015

"The Price of Glory - Verdun 1916" by Alistair Horne

I have restarted my research for my next U3A talk, the subject being "The Battle of Verdun 1916". The talk is scheduled for February, so I have less than eight weeks to prepare what I want to say.

The book in the title was one of the first books on French history that I read. It is the middle book of a magnificent trilogy by Alistair Horne covering the Franco-Prussian War, Verdun 1916 and the Fall of France May/June 1940. "The Price of Glory" is very important to me. The first time I read it was in the mid-1970s when I was about twenty years old. I was brought up to believe that after Napoleon Bonaparte (who was defeated by the British  Army at Waterloo with a little help late in the day from the Prussians) the French Army was hopeless, useless on the field of battle and could not do anything without British help to bail them out. When I watched the film "All Quiet on the Western Front" I was curious as to why the action in the film is the German Army against the French Army and not against the British. This is when I heard about the Battle of Verdun for the first time. Shortly after, I came across "The Price of Glory" in a bookshop in Manchester and I bought it and read it. This set me to thinking that, perhaps, my peers and my parents/extended family were a little biased in their understanding of the two World Wars and that I needed to do some research for myself.  About the same time I also purchased "Fortress" by Ian Hogg which showed me the beautiful work of Vauban. These were the sparks for my interest in French military history.

My second copy - I'm not sure what happened to the copy I bought in Manchester

"Bonjour you cheese eating surrender monkeys" - French history according to Willie in "The Simpsons"


  1. The only Alistair Horne title I've read is "To Lose a Battle" - is that part of the trilogy? I thought it was very well done - I was going through a catch-up phase of reading about WW2, a subject I think I deliberately swerved for many years, since I found it intrinsically upsetting and too much of the available literature was excessively patriotic or otherwise distorted. I enjoyed James Holland's "Battle of Britain", which was far wider in scope and more objective than I expected, but was less taken with Antony Beevor's "The Second World War" - standard work though it might be - because I found it had some familiar axes grinding. That put the brakes on my WW2 reading, but I have recently got hold of a copy of Julian Jackson's "The Fall of France", which has restored my faith a little.

    I am a confirmed Francophile - my grandfather was English, but lived in Paris from 1930 until 1968 (with a brief sanctuary in Leopoldville during the Vichy years) and my mother spent much of her childhood there - I have never understood, and always resented, our British love of national stereotypical put-downs - apart, of course, from jokes about us by others!

    1. Thanks for your message. Yes, "To Lose a Battle" is part of the trilogy.