Max Arthur's compilation of First World War memories, Forgotten Voices of the Great War
, offers a reminder of the scale of human experience within the 1914-18 conflict. Arthur, a military historian best known for his history of the RAF and his account of the Falklands campaign in 1982, has assembled hundreds of excerpts from the sound archives of the Imperial War Museum. Officers, rank-and-file troops, Australians, Americans, war widows, women in the munitions factories, and German soldiers too, all left oral testimony of their experiences, and these interviews provide the basis of the book. Arthur has put them in chronological and campaign order, and provided a general commentary, but beyond that, has left the rich and moving record to speak for itself.
The sheer humdrum ordinariness of modern warfare--the mud and rain, the relentless loss of life and inevitability of death, the pointless routine of attrition--come over in the matter-of-fact recollections of so many. But so too does the humanity and morality of the ordinary soldier--a factor that rather belies the recent emphasis amongst some historians on how soldiers loved to kill. Arthur might have intruded more. No biographical information is given about the owners of these "voices", nor does he say when, where and how this oral testimony was gathered.
These quibbles aside this is a worthwhile read and should encourage people not only to observe a minute's silence on Remembrance Day, but also to spend a few hours in the Imperial War Museum itself. --Miles Taylor
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"An extraordinary and immensely moving book" (Stephen Fry )
"This extraordinary book is crammed with details, conjuring up the atmosphere of war as vividly as the frequent descriptions of appalling violence" (Daily Telegraph
"The words of the soldiers are as fresh as if they were written yesterday ... extraordinary" (Deborah Moggach Mail on Sunday
"These stories are so harrowing, and their witness so precise and devastating" (Andrew Motion The Times
"The stories of these now long-dead vets simply jump off the page" (FHM