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Britain's Last Tommies. Final Memories from Soldiers of the 1914-18 War in Their Own Words [Illustrated] [Paperback]

Richard Van Emden
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.00
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Book Description

29 Jun 2006

It is now more than ninety years since the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, and, incredibly, a very few of the six million men who served in that bloodiest of wars are still alive. In BRITAIN'S LAST TOMMIES can be found the stories of those men, and of those who lived to a very old age and died only recently. They tell in their own words of suffering and courage, of humour and comradeship and of experiences that some of them say they would not have missed for the world, in spite of the cost.

Richard van Emden has interviewed veterans over many years and has not only recorded their words and given a brief historical background to each chapter, but, uniquely, included his own memories of these remarkable men, so that in the book we get to meet and know them.

This book is a heartfelt tribute to those few old soldiers who today represent the sacrifices of a whole generation that gave itself in the cause of liberty in the course of the Great War.

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Frequently Bought Together

Britain's Last Tommies. Final Memories from Soldiers of the 1914-18 War in Their Own Words + Boy Soldiers of the Great War + The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, The Oldest Surviving Veteran of the Trenches
Price For All Three: 26.75

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (29 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349120129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349120126
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 12.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 542,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A deeply moving tribute to the courage and suffering of all who took part, and to the fallen (THE TIMES)

A remarkable new book (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Book Description

A compelling and moving history of the the First World War in the words of the last suriviving soldiers to have fought in it

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put this one down 19 Dec 2007
We are fortunate indeed that there are people like Richard van Emden, with that rare ability to transmit through print their own enthusiasm for their subject to that of their readers. As the last rays of dusk set on this unique generation, not surprisingly Britain's Last Tommies is told with great dignity and respect. It was a fact that for sixty or so years following the end of the Great War, no veteran ever spoke of his experiences; as children we were warned by our parents not to ask about it and, with the tantalising exception of an occasional anecdote relating to training or whilst off duty, the horrors and suffering witnessed by these men went unrecorded. It is only a newer generation of historians like van Emden who have used their reservoir of communications skills and personal resources to tease with any success from these last survivors a second hand glimpse of the enormity of what took place in 1914-18, events which continue to shape our lives still.
One doesn't have to be a military history buff to understand and appreciate this book, as it does not demand too much of its reader. I read it on the plane and at the beach; this is one of those "can't put down" books; the narrative flows freely and without excessive repetition, a remarkable achievement as the story nevertheless weaves effortlessly across battlefronts and timelines bringing vividly to the reader's imagination the brutal ebb and flow of human conflict in an industrialised age. Having read the book, the reader is left wondering how, if they too had been born at the same time, they might have coped with the unprecedented privations and demands made so long ago upon the youthful shoulders of these proud and dignified old men, the last heroes of the Great War.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of WWI oral history 30 Jun 2006
Richard van Emden has done it again, with another riveting collection of first-hand stories from the trenches and beyond. As we say goodbye to the last of the Great War veterans, van Emden's work becomes increasingly precious.

His respect for these men shines through every page as he lets them tell their own stories, providing just enough context to maximise the drama and relevance of each scene. By the end, the reader mourns their passing along with the author.

A timeless record of humanity in the face of insanity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy to be Last? 1 Nov 2009
By M. J. Saxton VINE VOICE
This is a very acceptable record of the First World War through the eyes of those who fought it. Emden had a great idea when he thought of putting down in print the verbatim memories of the Tommies. It makes for easy reading, the facts are understandable and straightforward to assimilate.

Emden also puts in some prose of his own as he outlines briefly each stage of the war and makes some comment on those who are reminiscing. He also gives an idea of how difficult it was for each of these men to discuss what happened to them and how long it took.

There are some disturbing passages about injury and death, but they are not too graphic. Herein lies the problem with this book: it is just a bit too comfortable. There is no sense of revulsion evoked; it is too much of a comfortable armchair read. The reader has no sense of the depth of feeling within these men.

We get told it was hard for them to speak, but we don't sense it. What is described is somehow too distant, it's a record but not heartfelt. Without actually hearing the voices we get no sense of reality. This is a historian's record, rather too academic. What is missing is an element of the creative author, not to exaggerate, but to capture and describe emotion and psychology.

Sadly, it just doesn't catch the horror of four years of total war. We are told about mud, fleas, blood, mutilation - the full gamut, but we're not much touched by it.

It's an adequate, comfortable read about a horrendous situation.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the last tommies 28 July 2009
Thank you for the excelent service, in sending this book to me , first class transaction 5*****
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grandson of a Tommy's review 9 Jun 2012
By Iain Harding - Published on
Verified Purchase
This was an emotional read
I have toured the battle fields with my uncle and the landscape is clearly described and mentioned in the book.
Each one of these interviews reminded me of my own grandfather and his stories -not that he would discuss it much.
Highly emotional as I mentioned but very worth while
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