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From one of our most distinguished historians, an authoritative and vivid account of the devastating World War I battle that claimed more than 300,000 lives At 7:30 am on July 1, 1916, the first Allied soldiers climbed out of their trenches along the Somme River in France and charged out into no-man's-land toward the barbed wire and machine guns at the German front lines. B From one of our most distinguished historians, an authoritative and vivid account of the devastating World War I battle that claimed more than 300,000 lives At 7:30 am on July 1, 1916, the first Allied soldiers climbed out of their trenches along the Somme River in France and charged out into no-man's-land toward the barbed wire and machine guns at the German front lines. By the end of this first day of the Allied attack, the British army alone would lose 20,000 men; in the coming months, the fifteen-mile-long territory along the river would erupt into the epicenter of the Great War. The Somme would mark a turning point in both the war and military history, as soldiers saw the first appearance of tanks on the battlefield, the emergence of the air war as a devastating and decisive factor in battle, and more than one million casualties (among them a young Adolf Hitler, who took a fragment in the leg). In just 138 days, 310,000 men died. In this vivid, deeply researched account of one history's most destructive battles, historian Martin Gilbert tracks the Battle of the Somme through the experiences of footsoldiers (known to the British as the PBI, for Poor Bloody Infantry), generals, and everyone in between. Interwoven with photographs, journal entries, original maps, and documents from every stage and level of planning, The Somme is the most authoritative and affecting account of this bloody turning point in the Great War.


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From one of our most distinguished historians, an authoritative and vivid account of the devastating World War I battle that claimed more than 300,000 lives At 7:30 am on July 1, 1916, the first Allied soldiers climbed out of their trenches along the Somme River in France and charged out into no-man's-land toward the barbed wire and machine guns at the German front lines. B From one of our most distinguished historians, an authoritative and vivid account of the devastating World War I battle that claimed more than 300,000 lives At 7:30 am on July 1, 1916, the first Allied soldiers climbed out of their trenches along the Somme River in France and charged out into no-man's-land toward the barbed wire and machine guns at the German front lines. By the end of this first day of the Allied attack, the British army alone would lose 20,000 men; in the coming months, the fifteen-mile-long territory along the river would erupt into the epicenter of the Great War. The Somme would mark a turning point in both the war and military history, as soldiers saw the first appearance of tanks on the battlefield, the emergence of the air war as a devastating and decisive factor in battle, and more than one million casualties (among them a young Adolf Hitler, who took a fragment in the leg). In just 138 days, 310,000 men died. In this vivid, deeply researched account of one history's most destructive battles, historian Martin Gilbert tracks the Battle of the Somme through the experiences of footsoldiers (known to the British as the PBI, for Poor Bloody Infantry), generals, and everyone in between. Interwoven with photographs, journal entries, original maps, and documents from every stage and level of planning, The Somme is the most authoritative and affecting account of this bloody turning point in the Great War.

30 review for The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    Martin Gilbert has a soulful pen no matter which subject he applies himself to ; the introduction testifies of how a visit to the Somme battlefields touched him in the same manner as Martin Middlebrook, be it that as a pupil of Alan Palmer he was in a better position to meet a host of veterans, Old Contemtible and Bataillon Pal alike. When I first read this shortly before the centennial struck, it pleased my novice mind. Worth keeping at hand while tackling... Peter Barton, for example. Not that Martin Gilbert has a soulful pen no matter which subject he applies himself to ; the introduction testifies of how a visit to the Somme battlefields touched him in the same manner as Martin Middlebrook, be it that as a pupil of Alan Palmer he was in a better position to meet a host of veterans, Old Contemtible and Bataillon Pal alike. When I first read this shortly before the centennial struck, it pleased my novice mind. Worth keeping at hand while tackling... Peter Barton, for example. Not that any help was needed . But you cannot climb the shoulders of both Lynn MacDonald and Prior*. 300-something pages [substracting the endnotes etc] can neither accomodate a tactical overview from north to south and from July to November, nor hope to cover the battle through oral recollections. The ambition is particularly disheartening when the First Day alone is one of those dates in a nation's history that none of those who were there ever forget. This spine should span as wide as the unabridged volumes of his Churchill biography. At least he made an attempt to differentiate this title. *Sommeby Lyn Macdonald The Somme byRobin Prior

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    I am probably going to be in the minority concerning my rating of this book. Sir Martin Gilbert was a great historian and wrote so many excellent books (many of which I have read) that I feel almost guilty giving this less than five stars. But I must for the following reasons: * the narrative did not have the easy flow of his other works and sometimes became pedantic and dry. * although it certainly was important to hear about the lives, feelings and thoughts of those who fought there, their death I am probably going to be in the minority concerning my rating of this book. Sir Martin Gilbert was a great historian and wrote so many excellent books (many of which I have read) that I feel almost guilty giving this less than five stars. But I must for the following reasons: * the narrative did not have the easy flow of his other works and sometimes became pedantic and dry. * although it certainly was important to hear about the lives, feelings and thoughts of those who fought there, their deaths and where they are recognized in the many memorials and military cemeteries in France almost took over the narrative. It became more like a battlefield guide for the present day visitor. * If I had not read about the Somme previously, I would have had trouble following the plan of battle. Possibly that is not the fault of the author since it was a total fiasco but it was still problematic. The Battle of the Somme was the most horrible slaughter of WWI.....a battle of attrition....men walking into machine gun fire across no-man's land......... and the attitude of the leadership. Haig reportedly replied when told that 2,220 men had just been lost in a charge against the German wire, "No problem, I have 1,900 fresh troops to throw into the battle." That gives a whole new meaning to "war is hell".

  3. 4 out of 5

    Derek Beaugarde

    One of the great accounts of the most dreadful battle in world history. An absolutely riveting read from start to finish.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Venky

    A vivid account of one of the bloodiest battles ever to have fought in the history of mankind. Tales of heroism and horrendous despondency rack the nerves of the reader. One cannot complete the book with dry eyes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andreas

    There are three major problems with this book: a) The battle maps are at the end of the book, while they should have been intgrated into the book to increase readibility. This disrupts the reading, especially since the author is all over the map in two or three sentences. b) The book is exhausting in its never ending repetitions of the names of dead soldiers who died in battle without those soldiers really being part of the book. A much better approach would have been to portrait two or three atta There are three major problems with this book: a) The battle maps are at the end of the book, while they should have been intgrated into the book to increase readibility. This disrupts the reading, especially since the author is all over the map in two or three sentences. b) The book is exhausting in its never ending repetitions of the names of dead soldiers who died in battle without those soldiers really being part of the book. A much better approach would have been to portrait two or three attacking batallions and show the tragic loss of their lives exemplary for all the soldiers who fought in that battle. Missing on the other hand is a real focus on the key players from both sides and an analysis of their impact of the overall losses on both sides. While Gilbert provides a weak potrait of Haig he does not portrait his counterpart Falkenhayn at all. Plus he does not explain why he was replaced by Hindenburg/Ludendorf in the midst of the battle and what difference that made for the remainder of the battle. c) The partisanship of the author is unworthy any true historian. If Germans were just fleeing their trenches at first sight of allied troops, why couldn't the allied forces march to Berlin in three months instead of advancing just a few miles into the german trench system. When hundreds or thousands of german soldiers surrendered it would be interesting to know why. Were they shell shocked? Did they believe the war was lost? What was the difference of used artilley on both sides and what did this mean for the common soldier in the trenches. An anlysis like this might have given some insight, but would have required some research from the author's end. Any explanation of why so many german soldiers surrendered is missing, while no number of allied soldiers who surrendered is ever revealed. This book raised more questions than it answered and after I read the book I sold my copy. This book isn't worth to be kept on my bookshelf.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Action and counteraction in the last half of 1916 in the area known as the Somme proved just what the human species could both inflict and survive. That heroism should reveal itself amidst the man-made and natural horrors these men went through is little wonder - stress can expose heroism or break the vessel that carries the spirit. This book details the ongoing actions of French, German, British (and loyalties of) forces in the Somme in 1916. Interlaced with period songs and poetry the work bri Action and counteraction in the last half of 1916 in the area known as the Somme proved just what the human species could both inflict and survive. That heroism should reveal itself amidst the man-made and natural horrors these men went through is little wonder - stress can expose heroism or break the vessel that carries the spirit. This book details the ongoing actions of French, German, British (and loyalties of) forces in the Somme in 1916. Interlaced with period songs and poetry the work brings the reader a greater understanding, intellectually and emotionally, of this battle. It is no easy read for that reason. But the reward one receives from reading the book is well worth the undertaking. The one drawback is that the maps are gathered at the end instead of placed interfiled in the action they described - such a pairing would have been fruitful in a way that having the maps at the end is not.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katie Hilton

    Brilliant. Horrifying. Very, very sad. This is the history of the ill-conceived battle of World War I in an area near the Somme River. The front lines changed very little over the period. Millions of shells were fired, hundreds of millions of machine gun bullets were fired. Some 300,000 combatants died in less than six months. Half of those dead were never identified. For what? The battle achieved nothing but incredible death and destruction. And we know it certainly wasn't The War to End All War Brilliant. Horrifying. Very, very sad. This is the history of the ill-conceived battle of World War I in an area near the Somme River. The front lines changed very little over the period. Millions of shells were fired, hundreds of millions of machine gun bullets were fired. Some 300,000 combatants died in less than six months. Half of those dead were never identified. For what? The battle achieved nothing but incredible death and destruction. And we know it certainly wasn't The War to End All Wars. This is a must-read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gary Turner

    A detailed study of the battle, includes stories of individuals involved.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Derek Niven

    One of the great books on the First World War and the most dreadful battle in human history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Bechtel

    Total waste of life. I didn't care for the poetry. Total waste of life. I didn't care for the poetry.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Trenchologist

    I definitely understand the Battle and its semantics and politics so much better, but am still far from comprehending it. The read is relentless and hard. The Somme was an offensive that was a costly tactic, a last-ditch effort to save Verdun, France, and slow the continuing forward-push of the German Army. When 'Trench Warfare' is coined, The Somme is the very model, of misery in death and endless shelling and mud. This was one of the most succinct, clear accounts of the Battle I've ever read, I definitely understand the Battle and its semantics and politics so much better, but am still far from comprehending it. The read is relentless and hard. The Somme was an offensive that was a costly tactic, a last-ditch effort to save Verdun, France, and slow the continuing forward-push of the German Army. When 'Trench Warfare' is coined, The Somme is the very model, of misery in death and endless shelling and mud. This was one of the most succinct, clear accounts of the Battle I've ever read, made all the more wrenching as it is liberally salted--to purpose--with biographical recountings from those who died there and the very few who survived. I don't think there's a larger than 3-page gap between stories of who died, how they died, and their heroics from simply being there, never mind how they gave up their lives. Brutal, compelling and quick read; made the Battle feel all the more senseless and dully vital for all involved being unwilling to yield. Churchill is quoted and sums up the complete lack of anything achieved, beyond forcing the Germans into a dismal stalemate: "We have not advanced three miles in the direct line at any point. We have only penetrated to that depth on a front of 8,000 yards. Penetration upon so narrow a front is quite useless for the purpose of breaking the line. It would be fatal to advance through a gap of this small size. The open country towards which we are struggling by inches is capable of entrenched defence at every step, and is utterly devoid of military significance.' The only thing left was to waylay, force the hemorrhaging of manpower and munitions, and stall for Verdun; and that is what was done. As a result of the heavy losses, Germany decided to retreat from its fronts all the way back to the Hindenburg line. Said American General Hunter-Liggett, "That retreat, caused by the British success on the Somme, may well have saved the Allies from defeat in 1918 before we could aid them in force." Note of interest: JRR Tolkien was on the ground during much of the Somme, before contracting trench fever and being relieved of frontline duty. Years later he said, "The Dean Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme," as part of battlefield life was being confronted by corpses, often decaying in the mud, that had lain undisturbed, except by the bombardment, for days, weeks, and even months.

  12. 4 out of 5

    James Klagge

    I read this in memory for the 100 years since this battle occurred. It lasted from July 1, 1916, until late November. The story was told mainly from the British point of view. All personal stories were combined with an account of when/where the person died (almost always) or (occasionally) lived on. For those who died we are told where they were buried, or (much more commonly) where their name is memorialized b/c no body was ever found. The shelling and conditions of war were such that most bodi I read this in memory for the 100 years since this battle occurred. It lasted from July 1, 1916, until late November. The story was told mainly from the British point of view. All personal stories were combined with an account of when/where the person died (almost always) or (occasionally) lived on. For those who died we are told where they were buried, or (much more commonly) where their name is memorialized b/c no body was ever found. The shelling and conditions of war were such that most bodies were never identified. This battle takes place nearly 2 years into the war and it seemed that nothing had been learned. The accepted method of attack was endless shelling of trenches, and then a mass attack. The assumption was that the defenses would be destroyed by the shelling, but this almost never occurred. So the mass attack almost always ran into machine gun fire. In this particular case the initial shelling was the most massive to date, and in addition in several places tunnels were dug under German lines and explosions set off from below. BUT the mass attacks didn't begin until 15-30 minutes after the shelling ceased--so inevitably the Germans had time to get out of their deep bunkers (yet again unharmed by the shelling) and man their machine guns in time for the attacks. It never failed to happen, and no one seemed to learn a lesson. The generals just thought that if only we shell them longer we'll destroy them this time. Tragic. The only innovation here was that tanks were used for the first time in September. They had an effect in those cases where they didn't bog down. They were far more effective than cavalry. The British had cavalry on hand to exploit breakthroughs--but there never were any. A sad story with little consolation except the accounts of bravery or more often sheer endurance of human spirit.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    This book was very good in providing first hand accounts of the conditions the soldiers fought in and the horrors they saw and had to endure. The book gives a good overview of the Battle of the Somme and does not way you down with to many fine details. It in forms you about the movements of each battalion and division and what battles they fought in. It is packed with facts about the number of artillery pieces each side had and how many were wounded or died in each assault or defense. Gilbert al This book was very good in providing first hand accounts of the conditions the soldiers fought in and the horrors they saw and had to endure. The book gives a good overview of the Battle of the Somme and does not way you down with to many fine details. It in forms you about the movements of each battalion and division and what battles they fought in. It is packed with facts about the number of artillery pieces each side had and how many were wounded or died in each assault or defense. Gilbert also does a nice job to include what memorials were created later and how many visitors visit the battlefield each year. This book was very moving and had lots of interesting facts in it. For example artillery caused 56% of the deaths with machine gun and rifle fire making up about 30%. The British Empire forces were commanded by Douglas Haig who had hoped the the Somme offensive would open up the German lines enough to allow a cavalry charge through and push the Germans back. Haig also assumed that by assaulting the enemy with such a large amount of troops that the Germans would be forced to pull troops from the Eastern front against the Russians and stop the attack on the French held Verdun. While the front never opened up enough to allow for the cavalry charge enough casualties were had by the Germans that they did retreat to form a new trench system, the Hindenburg Line. However with the collapse of the Russian Empire and the dissolving of the Eastern front allowed for the Germans to place an increased amount of troops on the Hindenburg Line. They successfully lunched a counter attack that pushed the British back past their original front line from July 1916.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    A good and relatively quick read. The work had a great deal more significance as I was reading this en route to a tour of the hallowed battleground. Gilbert is a thorough and detailed historian and for this work, takes pains to describe the actions of the primary combatants, from the lowest private killed on the first day to the actions of General (later Field Marshal) Haig. His primary emphasis is on the main battle (July-Nov 1916), offering the initial buildup to the offensive. From there, is A good and relatively quick read. The work had a great deal more significance as I was reading this en route to a tour of the hallowed battleground. Gilbert is a thorough and detailed historian and for this work, takes pains to describe the actions of the primary combatants, from the lowest private killed on the first day to the actions of General (later Field Marshal) Haig. His primary emphasis is on the main battle (July-Nov 1916), offering the initial buildup to the offensive. From there, is it a detailed look at the first day (1 July) and how the bloodbath progressed from there until the end of the major fighting later that November. Miscalculations and blunders on both side dominate the story, but throughout the work, there are so many individual stories and accounts that help bring life to this work. It proved a great augmentation to the tour of the Somme and putting of things in perspective. This should not replace a guidebook or a guided tour, but I would highly recommend reading this work before doing a physical tour (within 7 days prior). ============================= Ended up re-reading this one recently. A solid read, filled with a lot of personal accounts and recollections. As fast a read as it was before. Of course, a lot has happened between then and now, so it was tough to remember all the details. I could somewhat follow the narrative and picture where I went during that tour of the Somme in 2015. Still would recommend this work for anyone wanting to tour the Somme battlefield for a primer (even if it mostly from the British perspective).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I never knew that there were so many poets serving in WW I. The book personalizes a number of the million deaths that took place in this senseless battle. Throughout the book, Gilbert quotes poetry that was written by some hapless soldier who is inevitably killed hours, days, or weeks after writing it. Gilbert also captures the horror of trench warfare in his descriptions of the battlefield and follows the various troop encounters in the five month battle of the Somme. The book is largely a trib I never knew that there were so many poets serving in WW I. The book personalizes a number of the million deaths that took place in this senseless battle. Throughout the book, Gilbert quotes poetry that was written by some hapless soldier who is inevitably killed hours, days, or weeks after writing it. Gilbert also captures the horror of trench warfare in his descriptions of the battlefield and follows the various troop encounters in the five month battle of the Somme. The book is largely a tribute to the fallen men of the battle. He puts names to some of the dead and provides brief sketches of their lives. He tells you which battlefield cemetery they are buried in if their grave site is known, or he tells you their name is one of the 73,000 inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme if their body was never found. Due to the nature of the fighting, many bodies were never recovered from no mans land, and artillery pulverized many of the men beyond recognition. At the back of the book there is included a large number of maps of the trench lines and troop positions are various times during the battle. There are also a number of maps of the locations of the various cemeteries and monuments to the battle. These maps would make an excellent resource for anyone planning a trip to the battlefields.

  16. 4 out of 5

    columbialion

    From July to Nov of 1916 this ill advised battle claimed over a million young lives. The book is literally a collection of first person accounts of the total savagery of "The Great War" The Somme distinctly becomes a testimonial monument to the brutalization of soldiers under the command of delusional old men, who after multiple attempts (Ypres, Gallipoli) continue to harbor visions of massive "breakthroughs" on the trench warfare battleground, and sacrifice massive human life in their pursuit From July to Nov of 1916 this ill advised battle claimed over a million young lives. The book is literally a collection of first person accounts of the total savagery of "The Great War" The Somme distinctly becomes a testimonial monument to the brutalization of soldiers under the command of delusional old men, who after multiple attempts (Ypres, Gallipoli) continue to harbor visions of massive "breakthroughs" on the trench warfare battleground, and sacrifice massive human life in their pursuit of folly. The author describes the untenable position of all the combatants, from the onslaught of the Somme rat, to its deadly and all consuming mud, notwithstanding the previously mentioned continued offensive efforts to thwart a well defended entrenched defensive battleground. The author alludes to the politics of "total war" where for the first time in human history entire nation/state economies are metastasized into producing the necessary industrial weapons needed for total annihilation of the enemy. The Somme in particular and the Great War in general was responsible for vaporizing most of the youthful European generation of the twentieth century, and whose dictates and summations are still largely in force in our present day geopolitical environment.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peg - The History Shelf

    A superb book. The right blend of historical fact with personal letters and reflections of the men who fought and died along the Somme in 1916. This battle was horrific in the loss of life and in the manner those lives were lost. What is truly sobering and leaves you wide-eyed in disbelief is that this battle was just a microcosm of the many universes of battle that made up World War I. People tend to forget about WWI in light of the more cosmetically appealing "Good War" of WWII. But WWII canno A superb book. The right blend of historical fact with personal letters and reflections of the men who fought and died along the Somme in 1916. This battle was horrific in the loss of life and in the manner those lives were lost. What is truly sobering and leaves you wide-eyed in disbelief is that this battle was just a microcosm of the many universes of battle that made up World War I. People tend to forget about WWI in light of the more cosmetically appealing "Good War" of WWII. But WWII cannot truly be understood without a firm knowledge of what happened in WWI. WWII was a direct outcome of the "unfinished business" of the First World War. More study should be applied to this oft-neglected piece of history - not only for history's sake but to honor the memory of so many lives needlessly and brutally slain. Never forget!

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    The story of the Allies' offensive from July to November, 1916 in the region of the River Somme, told largely from Britain's point of view. This was an battle of staggering magnitude: there is a memorial at Thiepval to honor only British and South Africans killed there who have no known grave, and they number 73,335. That is to say, more than all American dead from the entire Vietnam War. Such a strange war, which saw the first widespread use of aircraft and tanks, the last general use of horse ca The story of the Allies' offensive from July to November, 1916 in the region of the River Somme, told largely from Britain's point of view. This was an battle of staggering magnitude: there is a memorial at Thiepval to honor only British and South Africans killed there who have no known grave, and they number 73,335. That is to say, more than all American dead from the entire Vietnam War. Such a strange war, which saw the first widespread use of aircraft and tanks, the last general use of horse cavalry, and perhaps the peak use of chemcial weapons. Excellent maps, by the author, but their placement at the back of the book makes it hard to follow the action. This is a well-worked vein, so Gilbert focuses on stories of individual sacrifice and pathos.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Abhay

    Martin Gilbert brings out the horrors of the struggle most wonderfully. His narration of the struggle is superb and effortless. The scale of destruction in one single battle is mind boggling. I think no nation having lost that kind of life and the cream of its youth can ever forget. His description of individuals who actually have been killed and buried there drums the facts continuously the suffering that would have been caused after ones loved ones are no more. This battle saw the Prime Minist Martin Gilbert brings out the horrors of the struggle most wonderfully. His narration of the struggle is superb and effortless. The scale of destruction in one single battle is mind boggling. I think no nation having lost that kind of life and the cream of its youth can ever forget. His description of individuals who actually have been killed and buried there drums the facts continuously the suffering that would have been caused after ones loved ones are no more. This battle saw the Prime Minister of England lose his son, Winston Churchill command a Battalion in the trenches and having understood and thereafter been critical of the carnage and unnecessary waste of life. Truly a wonderful and poignant book. Least we forget those who gave their lives to make this world a better place.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    If you are not familiar with the battle or World War I, this is a reasonable book to start. There is a fair amount of detail on the battle and all the aspects that made it such a horrendous affair. The main defect in the book that I did not appreciate was the repetition of the author relating the deaths of individuals in the battle. Yes, it was terrible loss. Yes. it was insane how the British continued to use the same tactics resulting in the same extreme casualties. It was not necessary to rep If you are not familiar with the battle or World War I, this is a reasonable book to start. There is a fair amount of detail on the battle and all the aspects that made it such a horrendous affair. The main defect in the book that I did not appreciate was the repetition of the author relating the deaths of individuals in the battle. Yes, it was terrible loss. Yes. it was insane how the British continued to use the same tactics resulting in the same extreme casualties. It was not necessary to repeatedly use the pattern of here is a person in battle, how they died, and where they were buried in the memorial cemeteries. The repetition starts to lose the desired effect.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is not a regular military history of a battle,more of a human story of men in battle. Every soldier mentioned in the narrative has his grave or name on which memorial mentioned. This book gives you the facts of the battle but mixed with poetry and diary extracts makes it all the more human. The staggering day one british forces death toll of 19,240 is still the most shocking thing of it all. I was at the O2 in london recently watching Iron Maiden.If all the people in the O2 had been on the So This is not a regular military history of a battle,more of a human story of men in battle. Every soldier mentioned in the narrative has his grave or name on which memorial mentioned. This book gives you the facts of the battle but mixed with poetry and diary extracts makes it all the more human. The staggering day one british forces death toll of 19,240 is still the most shocking thing of it all. I was at the O2 in london recently watching Iron Maiden.If all the people in the O2 had been on the Somme on day one we would all have been dead.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James Webster

    I've read quite a lot of the recent literature about the Somme so much was already familiar to me. There were some new things for me in this (it's especially good for first-hand accounts) but overall it was a bit disappointing. There was some sense of the overall rhythm of battle but no strong sense of the punctuations of the four months of battle. A bit more willingness to express the authorial voice would pull things together: Haig is quoted extensively but Gilbert doesn't gloss these quotatio I've read quite a lot of the recent literature about the Somme so much was already familiar to me. There were some new things for me in this (it's especially good for first-hand accounts) but overall it was a bit disappointing. There was some sense of the overall rhythm of battle but no strong sense of the punctuations of the four months of battle. A bit more willingness to express the authorial voice would pull things together: Haig is quoted extensively but Gilbert doesn't gloss these quotations either way, for example. What actually does he think?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Glyn Longden

    Rating: 6/10. I think I might have rated this book too high. It's a pretty conventional account of the preparation and execution of the Somme campaign in WWI told from the British side. I've probably read a dozen books on this battle. One of the formations he keys in on is the Newfoundland regiment and its decimation on July 1st and that was quite interesting. My impression is that this book was a 'knock-off' to make a few bucks between the author's well-known Churchill volumes. Rating: 6/10. I think I might have rated this book too high. It's a pretty conventional account of the preparation and execution of the Somme campaign in WWI told from the British side. I've probably read a dozen books on this battle. One of the formations he keys in on is the Newfoundland regiment and its decimation on July 1st and that was quite interesting. My impression is that this book was a 'knock-off' to make a few bucks between the author's well-known Churchill volumes.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike Bloom

    Excellent history of the subject battle. In addition to a conventional narrative, the author combines a multitude of first person accounts, mostly letters, with the eventual fate of the quoted person, which is usually death in the battle. This is a very compelling method for conveying the human costs involved, which (along with the contemporaneous Battle of Verdun) were some of the most extensive in the history of warfare.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alfred Keep

    I was impressed with the detail in the book. It was very interesting. I had forgotten most of the details I had learned in school a long time ago. I really think we would have gotten our butts kicked, when Russia and Germany signed their Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Thankfully this was when the USA entered the war. I really think they saved our skins.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Khalekan

    Although depressing in many ways, the tales of ordinary people being killed in an absolutely futile enterprise are relentless, I thought this was an excellent book which genuinely eviles images of what life as a WW1 soldier must have been like. Such aprajic waste.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wesley

    This book was sad,interesting, and a great memorial for the soldiers who fought and died at the Somme. See my full review on my blog: http://libraryeducated.blogspot.com/2... This book was sad,interesting, and a great memorial for the soldiers who fought and died at the Somme. See my full review on my blog: http://libraryeducated.blogspot.com/2...

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

    Poignant account of individual soldiers within the context of the description of the battle. Brief vignettes includes whether they died and if so where they are buried or memorialized. Extensive good maps of the battle and maps of cemeteries throughout the region.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Edward Burton

    All wars are wasteful, but this book has taught me World War One was the most wasteful war ever waged. The book reads like one long compendium of obituaries. This is perhaps the saddest book I've ever read. All wars are wasteful, but this book has taught me World War One was the most wasteful war ever waged. The book reads like one long compendium of obituaries. This is perhaps the saddest book I've ever read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cannonhistory Potter

    Puts into perspective the Lions led by Donkeys perception of the bloodiest battle in Britain's long military history. Puts into perspective the Lions led by Donkeys perception of the bloodiest battle in Britain's long military history.

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