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The First Day on the Somme (Penguin Classic Military History) [Paperback]

Martin Middlebrook
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Mar 2001 Penguin Classic Military History
A thorough and detailed survey of the events of the first of July 1916 including not only official records and information gleaned from regimental histories but also using first hand accounts from both German and British survivors.

Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (29 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141390719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141390710
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"A particularly vivid and personal narrative."

About the Author

Martin Middlebrook is a Lincoln shire farmer and lives in Boston. In 1967, while on a visit to France and Belgium, he was so impressed by the military cemeteries on the 1914-1918 battlefields that he decided to write a book about the soldiers of the First World War. This book, The First Day of the Somme, was published by Allen Lane in 1971 and was widely acclaimed both in this country and the United States. His second work the Nuremberg Raid, a disastrous nigh for the RAF Bomber Command, followed ad this was also published in Germany. Convoy, published in 1976, completed the trilogy on the theme of the part played by the ordinary men of the three armed services in two world wars. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They dont come any better! 17 Jan 2005
I have just finished reading this fantastic book for the 2nd time and feel i must put down in words how i feel about this book.
Mr Middlebrook has put together a book that will stay pride of place on my bookshelf, the first hand accounts that he has collected and placed within this book really take you to the Somme, and interweaved with the background and build up to the first day really bring the magnitude of this disaster to the reader, you can see for yourself that the rating this book recieves does it justice.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Do not be mistaken by the title of this book: this is not merely an hour-by-hour account of 1 July 1916. No, crucially, in this book Middlebrook gives a comprehensive and most valuable background to Kitchener's Army: the origins of those unfortunate enough to be present, how they were structured, and what was hoped to have been achieved on this the most costly day in British military history. As is usual with Middlebrook, first-hand accounts are in profusion and lend the volume the presence and immediacy that is so characteristic of this author's accounts of armed conflict. Make this the first book you read about the BEF in WWI, particularly if one intends to visit the area. Thoroughly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A day not to forget 20 Sep 2002
As the title suggests, this book focuses almost entirely on the first day of battle(1st July 1916). Middlebrook offers a short introduction on events leading up to this fateful day, and the need for the British to relieve some of the pressure on the French army following Verdun. In order to relieve some of this pressure, the British would conduct their own offensive against the German army. This offensive would be fought in the Somme dept of Northern France, and would last from July to November 1916.
The book starts with the formation of the 'Pals Batallions'(groups of volunteers from the same town/city). These 'Pals' would go to France and fight alongside each other. It was thought the cameraderie and community would help the men during their time in a foreign land. We learn about the planning and preparation for battle, and the crucial time leading up to 'zero hour'.
An obvious comparison can be made with Malcolm Brown's book 'The Book of The Somme'. Like Brown, Middlebrook uses personal records, eyewitness accounts, diary entries and photographs to push the idea that these were not seasoned veterans going to war, but inexperienced and niave 'normal everyday people'. Henry Webber's story is one that is sure to stick in your mind.
The book offers a morning, noon, afternoon and evening review of the 1st July. The artillery bomabrdments by the British was not successful. All along the front, barb wire was intact and machine gun posts unharmed. Wave after wave of British soldiers went over the top to be mown down. Poor communication did not stop later attacks, and we learn of the power struggle between the Generals involved.
This book should be in the collection of anyone who has an interest in World War 1.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and moving account of a dreadful day 30 April 2001
The battle of the Somme unfolds as if your were there. Few wartime accounts are so well researched and this is a "must read" to learn about a generation that gave their lives for this country.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!! 5 Aug 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I visited the Somme battlefields for the first time this year and used an excellent walking guide, “Walking the Somme” by Paul Reed. Reed’s book works well if you are physically standing on the ground but in terms of style and content Martin Middlebrook’s book is excellent for those who want a detailed and highly readable account of the first day of this famous battle.
The book contains much more than just a description of the first day of the battle of the Somme. A lot of detail is given to the men, their different backgrounds and the lives of the survivors after the war. It also describes the circumstances that led to the formation of Kitchener’s “New Army” and provides an excellent analysis of the events leading up to the battle.
Like so many books of this genre the story is interspersed with accounts from the people who were actually there. Middlebrook moves seamlessly from his own narrative to the stories of the individual soldiers, which gives the book a really nice flow. Also, unlike other books of this genre, the maps appear in the appropriate places and contain just the right level of detail.
This is a very well written book that depicts a day in which the British Army, including the Armies of the Commonwealth, suffered 57,470 casualties. While a lot of the content of this book is difficult to absorb simply because of the unimaginable horror of the events described, it is a must-read and will stay with you long after you have finished it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Day on the Somme 22 Aug 2003
Having been a member of the Grenadier Guards for 12 years in peace time, I purchased this book in an attempt to uncover some of the regiments glorious past. Instead I found myself uncovering the truths and heroics of a generation of men that can stand as tall as Guardsmen. Who could ever put themselves in the frame of mind of the countless thousands that climbed out into the morning sun on that day. Martin Middlebrook took me in and amongst the hell that prevailed.
On the going down of the sun, we will remember them
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book
I've recently returned from a visit to the Somme and really wish I'd read this book before my visit. Read more
Published 19 days ago by R. Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
I bought this as I knew my grandpa got a mention in it but it's a really interesting read too, so much to learn from this that never gets a mention in history lessons at School
Published 1 month ago by Guinness
5.0 out of 5 stars The complete manual of the Somme Battle and the units ...
The complete manual of the Somme Battle and the units involved. Along with the Peter Barton publications we learn all we need to know.
Published 2 months ago by twyfordwasp
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent. Such detail
Published 2 months ago by Joan M Christianssen
5.0 out of 5 stars person enjoyed reading it
Another present, person enjoyed reading it
Published 2 months ago by k lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars it arrived quickly and I have been told by the person I gave it too...
This was a present, it arrived quickly and I have been told by the person I gave it too that it was a good read.
Published 2 months ago by H. Levitt
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Book
I inherited this book from my grandfather (a London Poly terrier, he was embodied on 4 August 1914) who was there on 1 July as a machine gunner and who also contributed to Martin... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Steve
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical aaccount
I read this prior to a trip to the Somme to walk the battlefields and visit some of the main historic sites. Read more
Published 7 months ago by KD
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, inspiring, humbling, superb history...
There probably is no better book on the subject of July 1st 1916.
Middlebrook's timeless assessment and narrative of the events that took place on the Somme battlefield has... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Nglaws
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