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The Somme (Cassell Military Paperbacks) Kindle Edition
A major new history of the most infamous battle of the First World War, as described by the men who fought it.
On 1 July 1916, Douglas Haig's army launched the 'Big Push' that was supposed finally to bring an end to the stalemate on the Western Front. What happened next was a human catastrophe: scrambling over the top into the face of the German machine guns and artillery fire, almost 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed that day alone, and twice as many wounded - the greatest loss in a single day ever sustained by the British Army. The battle did not stop there, however. It dragged on for another 4 months, leaving the battlefield strewn with literally hundreds of thousands of bodies.
The Somme has remained a byword for the futility of war ever since. In this major new history, Peter Hart describes how the battle looked from the point of view of those who fought it. Using never-before-seen eyewitness testimonies, he shows us this epic conflict from all angles. We see what it was like to crawl across No Man's Land in the face of the German guns, what it was like for those who stayed behind in the trenches - the padres, the artillerymen, the doctors. We also see what the battle looked like from the air, as the RFC battled to keep control of the skies above the battlefield. All this is put in the context of the background to the battle, and Haig's overall strategy for the Western Front, making this the most comprehensive history of the battle since Lyn MacDonald's bestselling work over 20 years ago.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
Hart superbly depicts these months of brutal combat in all their complexity. (The New York Times Book Review )
From Hart's book I was able to learn and grasp (and even picture) the historic importance of the "creeping" or perhaps better say "staggered" barrage. Hart succeeds in showing how the gunners got steadily better (as did the guns). If you have tears to shed, you will prepare to do so when you read of the "Pals" battalions that were formed out of men from single localities and neighborhoods. (Christopher Hitchens - The Atlantic Monthly ) --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00GU32YDW
- Publisher : Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st edition (December 20, 2012)
- Publication date : December 20, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 7619 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 602 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #139,858 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The Somme is the river in France which was the biggest battlefield of war on the Western Front in 1916. On July 1, 1916 (100 years ago General Douglas Haig commander of the British Army directed the assault of his troops against strong trench and fortress defenses held by the Imperial German Army of well trained experienced troops. The vast majority of the lads from England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and India were untested and raw soldiers. The result was mass slaughter. The four months of the bloody mess ended up with nearly one million casualties with little accomplished.
The story of the Somme has been told many times but what makes this book of interest is the hundreds of eyewitness accounts recorded by members of the Allied and German forces. Through their suffering eyes we see an indelible picture of the utter terror of mechanized war. Many of the troop died due to disease and the terror of artillery shells,. Medical care was primitive. Tanks were ineffective. Over 20,000 Allied troops were killed and wounded on that horrible Sunday July 1, 1916. Hart has done his research gathering these accounts and the book contains good maps and a fine bibliography. History writing at its finest. A vivid example of man's inhumanity to man.
Simply stated, 'The Somme' by Peter Hart, captures like no other the feelings, hopes, fears and general plight of the ordinary soldier engaged in that hellish battle. But it also manages to give an overview of the aims and ambitions of the generals who directed the war with such tragic ineptitude.
The interwoven narrative of the author and the contemporary accounts written by the soldiers complement each other to produce a powerful image of what it was like to be a combatant in the Great War.
The book's most powerful message is it's inescapable conclusion that there is no glory in war. War is a futile and barbarous activity, conducted at the behest of a few powerful men who reap untold wealth and riches at the expense of the poor bastards who suffer and die in squalor.
The author relies on quotes from personal diaries of common soldiers and officers. In fact in many chapter I would bet fully 70% of the written text is excerpts from letters. I think the book could have been shortened and just as impactful if the author would have cut back on the excerpted letters.
That said, the letters are very moving and paint a great picture of the brutality of life in the trenches and what it meant to "go over the top". Especially memorable for me was a chapter in the middle of the book in which a medical officer was extensively quoted on the conditions of his medical station and what it was like to try and save men there.
Good chapter on life in the trenches when there isn't any active combat - the lice, the mud, the water, the foul smells from decaying corpses and sewage, the rats gnawing on you as you sleep. Very gruesome and well depicted literature.
I am not a fan of a large amount of verbatim transcripts being pasted throughout the book.
However, I did enjoy the book and learned a lot about the battle.
It is still hard to comprehend how such a battle could be continued after the first day, but this book helps further understanding of the reasons and there is a helpful analysis near the end.
Top reviews from other countries
His book on the Somme Battle is full of personal accounts. We get to see the preparation and understand the real hope that this battle would be the start of the great breakthrough on the Western Front. It, of course, doesn't happen. Over 19,000 men are killed on July 1st 1916 in a tragic day for the British Army. Peter describes each section of the battle on that day in turn, telling us what happened and quietly revealing the casualties. It is beautifully done and honouring to the those who sacrificed so much. The later parts of the battle are, again, treated with real empathy on all levels - the generals trying to strive with technology and outdated communications; the officers in the trenches trying to work out how to lead their men; and the soldiers themselves, preparing to go over the top and do their bit alongside their mates.
Peter has produced a book that is readable, doesn't shirk away from the awful subject matter, yet is full of compassion for those involved. If you have an interest in the First World War, you need a copy of this book.
I think Peter succeeds in making the reader aware that, with hindsight, this battle should probably never have taken place and that during the battle some decisions made were disastrous, but what we should remember was that this was a new type of war and no-one had much of an idea how to fight it.
Overall, a very good book. Very sad and moving in parts but also very informative.