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Forgotten Voices of the Somme: The Most Devastating Battle of the Great War in the Words of Those Who Survived [Hardcover]

Joshua Levine
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Oct 2008
1916. The Somme. With over a million casualties, it was the most brutal battle of the First World War. It is a clash that even now, over 90 years later, remains seared into the national consciousness, conjuring up images of muddy trenches and young lives tragically wasted. Its first day, July 1st 1916 - on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead - is the bloodiest day in the history of the British armed forces to date. On the German side, an officer famously described it as 'the muddy grave of the German field army'. By the end of the battle, the British had learned many lessons in modern warfare while the Germans had suffered irreplaceable losses, ultimately laying the foundations for the Allies' final victory on the Western Front. Drawing on a wealth of material from the vast Imperial War Museum Sound Archive, Forgotten Voices of the Somme presents an intimate, poignant, sometimes even bleakly funny insight into life on the front line: from the day-to-day struggle of extraordinary circumstances to the white heat of battle and the constant threat of injury or death. Featuring contributions from soldiers of differing backgrounds, ranks and roles, many of them previously unpublished, this is the definitive oral history of this unique and terrible conflict.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; First Edition edition (2 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091926270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091926274
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joshua Levine is the author of Operation Fortitude and On a Wing and a Prayer. He is also a playwright and writer for television. His last book, Beauty and Atrocity, a history of the Irish Troubles, was shortlisted for the Writers' Guild Non Fiction Book of the Year Award.

Product Description


Joshua Levine is an experienced oral historian and author of Forgotten Voices of the Blitz and the Battle for Britain and On a Wing and a Prayer. He has also had plays performed on the London stage and on Radio 4, as well as scripting a television documentary about 18th century London for BBC2. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The definitive oral history of the most infamous and bloody conflict of the Great War

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A picture of a forgotten time 23 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read much of the writings of the Great War, some good and some bad, but there is a special quality in the memories who were there and experienced the horrors and the companionship of the trenches. I read the book upon returning from a further visit to the Western Front, always a moving experience for me, and these memories of ordinary men who survived extraordinary times threw a vivid light on the places seen and the times I had tried to visualise on the ground,
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
There are many books out there that contain soldier's recollections of the First World War, so why read this one? What sets it apart from the rest?

Firstly, as suggested in the title, the book focuses solely on the battles that took place on the Somme. Whereas other `recollective' style First World War books tend to focus on the entire war, this book gives a comprehensive account of soldier's experiences that fought solely on this particularly brutal front.

Secondly, I found that this book made me laugh at several points when soldiers recounted comical experiences and situations. Some books structured in this manner don't always contain humorous entries and whilst interesting, are often depressing reads. The author has cleverly selected and balanced the entries which he has included in this book, resulting in an end product which highlights the futility of the offensive, but also shows the soldiers in all their glory as human beings - flawed and vulnerable.

I really enjoyed this book, it certainly manages to convey the human aspect of trench warfare and it has the ability to stir powerful emotions as you progress through it. This book does not contain multiple maps or endless technical detail surrounding `which battalion engaged the enemy on which date' etc. It is a lasting testimony and valuable record of the experiences of many normal, frightened but ultimately brave men who fought in these dreadful battles.

Recommended to anyone with an interest in the First World War and trench warfare.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
I read and was very deeply moved by the first book in the "Forgotten Voices" series - "Forgotten Voices of the Great War". With a life-long interest in and appreciation for world history, especially that of the First World War, often also referred to as The Great War, this new book, "Forgotten Voices of the Somme" is a most welcome addition to a fine series. It, like the first book on The Great War, does not weigh us down with facts and figures, but tells the story through the recorded words of those people who actually were there and who survived to relive their experiences for us. Men and women, officers and enlisted men, civilians, all from both sides of the conflict share their varied views of a horrific war and battle with us. It is thankfully as close to actually being there in the muddy trenches, fighting the enemy, the weather, the rats and feeling the fear of dying at anytime as we will ever get. A must read and very highly recommended.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By David
This is a brilliant book.I have always been interested in the First World War and this book gives you a real insight to those who lived day to day in the trenches of the Somme.You can never know what it was like unless you were there but you can get a feeling of it from this excellent book.

I think people of all ages will get something from this book.It's about everyday bravery in terrifying conditions and not about those who got medals.All I can say is read it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and humbling 12 Nov 2010
By Marand TOP 500 REVIEWER
I have no interest in military history but am fascinated by social history. I have struggled through more academic books on the first world war but read this one through in one sitting. The approach, providing a brief introduction to each section describing the events but then leaving it to quotes from those who participated to tell the story, works wonderfully. There is a great sense of immediacy. The entries cover the whole gamut of emotions: fear, terror, courage, pathos, stoicism, relief, exhaustion, anger and even humour (the story of a farmer & his cow falling through a camouflaged net covering a gun emplacement raised a smile amidst all the gloom). The comments are all drawn from records held in the Imperial War Museum sound archive. At the end of the book, one of the soldiers whose story has appeared throughout explains "Just as its not fashionable now to talk about war - it wasn't then. It's a very strange thing. I've never told any of these stories to anybody before; people just don't want to know." I think it is marvellous that we still have these records, to remind us today of the appalling carnage and loss of life on the Somme.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another top rate book in the collection 18 Jan 2012
I have read and own most of the forgotten voices books and even the CD's and again I cannot fault any part of them. I have a relation that died on the first day of the Somme and to read what he would have experienced if only for a brief moment really makes you think. This book makes your heart beat faster as the moment of going over the top comes. It really makes you feel as if you are standing along side anyone of the heros who died or the heros who returned. This collection of books should be handed out to every school in Britain so that they will not forget what so many brave men and women died for. Maybe it will teach them a bit respect that they seem to be lacking these days. I bet during history lessons there will not be a sound and even a few tears. I cannot wait for the next one to come along.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
as advertised reasonable condition
Published 3 days ago by Threadle
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Most Readable Books RElating to the History of the First...
I was first lent this book by a friend of mine, but I found the book provided such a vivid picture of the life of a soldier at that time that I purchased my own copy of the book. Read more
Published 24 days ago by thegreypanther
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect.. taking us back to sit alongside the ...
Perfect..taking us back to sit alongside the squaddies involved. a great publication.
Published 1 month ago by twyfordwasp
5.0 out of 5 stars God bless the Accrington Pals.
Being born and bred in Accrington, I have read a great deal about the Accrington Pals. The accounts in this book by the very people that were in or fought alongside the Accrington... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr P Davison
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical fact
Gives us an insight to an era that ordinary men and women suffered for our country in wartime. Recommend to all.
Published 4 months ago by Bernie Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and captivating..
This is a fascinating and thoroughly captivating book about the battle of the Somme from the men who witnessed and fought it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Zoe
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
I love reading about WW1 and this was ok but also the life prior and after this battle and the soldiers insight to how they coped from the Private, NCO's and the odd Officer
Published 7 months ago by Philip Featherstone
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
This book was a great read ,it gave you a insight into what those brave men had to put up with.It also remind you what a waste of life.
Published 7 months ago by Mr. Frank S. Warburton
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable background reading.
Along with Max Arthur and others this chronicles the reality of war from the soldiers' perspective without sentiment. Invaluable for understanding WW1.
Published 8 months ago by Hod Carrier
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
It is a history lesson which we should all learn and must never forget or repeat to this day. A great read!
Published 8 months ago by Michael Astbury
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