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Meeting the Enemy: The Human Face of the Great War Paperback – 24 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (24 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408843358
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408843352
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Remarkable ... Richard van Emden is a World War I specialist who has found a niche, little explored, charting the personal contacts between Britons and Germans and their feelings about each other as the war progressed . Makes you think rather differently about the so-called 'Great War For Civilisation' (Daily Mail)

Richard Van Emden's tour-de-force of research casts a fascinating new light on the human face of the Great War, allowing us into the strangest of meetings between British and German enemies in the trenches, behind the lines and on the home front ... Extraordinary and often inspirational stories of comradeship between foes ... Among many compelling photographs in this book, there is a grainy and heartbreaking image of a bowed and broken British prisoner tied to a post and left in the snow (Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, The Times)

From the horrors of the First World War battlefields are tales of extraordinary camaraderie between British and German soldiers (Daily Express)

In Meeting the Enemy, the historian Richard Van Emden shifts his focus from the grim fields of the First World War to the small, all but unknown instances of compassion across enemy lines (New Statesman)

Richard van Emden uncovers myriad encounters between German and British forces ... Van Emden's tales of friendship and honour between enemies only heighten the mystery of how these men slaughtered each other in their millions for four years (Metro)

Meeting the Enemy is a meticulously researched account of contacts between the British and Germans during the war, mainly in the trenches, but also as prisoners of war and as "enemy alien" wives. It is full of fascinating information and will appeal particularly to great war gluttons, the people who can't get enough of this stuff (Observer)

An interesting chapter on what happened to those in mixed Anglo-German marriages ... Van Emden wants to remind us that not all was hellish: there was also humour, mutual baiting and occasional easy-going relations. As well as direct contact during the Christmas truces, this book explores indirect contacts, using many unpublished letter and diaries (Peter Conradi, Spectator)

A real cracker (Literary Review)

Book Description

The first book to concentrate on what actually happened when enemies met face to face as human beings in the First World War, whether on the battlefield, as prisoners of war or as relatives of the fallen after the fighting was over

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Lance Grundy TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Written by one of Britain's foremost experts on the First World War this fascinating book provides a refreshingly different take on what must be one of the most written about conflicts in history. Van Emden specialises in first-person testimonies of the Great War and here he uses his considerable knowledge and resources to illustrate the depth of the tragedy which befell the people of Britain and Germany when their countries went to war in 1914.

Examining the pre-war social, political, economic and cultural ties that existed between Germany and Great Britain, van Emden notes that in 1914 the Germans were the 3rd largest immigrant group in Britain and there were tens of thousands of German-owned businesses across the country and inter-marriage was common. Indeed, one of the most revealing things in this book is how the German people, from the Kaiser down, just couldn't believe that the British - with whom they had so much in common - had gone to war with them in the first place.

Once war had been declared though, Anglo-German relations deteriorated quickly - especially on the home front. Thousands of 'aliens' were interned in both Britain and Germany and numerous families were split up by the rigid internment process. Attitudes hardened even more as the war progressed and in both countries 'enemy aliens' were singled out for rough treatment. When the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915 the city of Liverpool erupted in anti-German violence and rioting crowds smashed up German-owned businesses in Everton and Birkenhead. Yet on the battlefield itself things could be quite different. As one Tommy recalled: "the nearer you were to the battle the less hate there was".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bob Richards on 30 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book looks at the Great War from a totally different perspective than any I have come across before. It looks at the civilians "casualties" caused by pre-War mixed marriages between British and German subjects. Because of some often bizarre government legislation on all sides, many of these people were left almost stateless, unable to move around freely, treated as guilty spies and harassed by an over zealous system.
It also looks at combat situations in a different light where Christmas truces extended in some cases into the New Year, where "Gentlemen's agreements" led to long spells where the two sides communicated quite freely and openly agreed not to shoot each other until, in most cases the inevitable orders from above saw them throwing everything into what is seen as the general picture of this awful War, trying every means possible to wipe the opposition off the face of the Earth.
Fascinating personal accounts, an extremely well researched subject and an easy style of writing make this an overall five star read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G. G. Curtis on 15 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fascinating insight into how we treat one another in war, but not just at the sharp end where soldiers are expected, indeed told to kill each other, but how so many innocent English born women who had been living quite happily in England for years and years suddenly became unwelcome 'resident aliens' simply because they had married a German or an Austrian, and were treated abysmally by insensitive and bloody minded bureaucrats at the instigation of HMG. It was not, however, a one way street, because the same impositions were applied just as vigorously by the German Government to English-born residents living in Germany .

But the book also covers what it was like for soldiers on both sides in the trenches, with examples of 'pure humanity' alongside accounts of totally impersonal cold blooded killing and hatred.

This book is up there alongside All Quite on the Western Front with regard the utter futility and pain and suffering during the First World War, a lesson that mankind still does not appear to have heeded
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Micah Parsons on 5 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback
This is my 2nd book by Richard Van Emden (the first being Boy Soldiers and the 3rd being The Quick and The Dead)

This really is a facinating read covering the truces of 1914 and 1915 as well as the suprising political talks between Germany and England (and visa versa) thoughout the war. I really did enjoy this book.

This book covers everything from the home front to life in Germany. Most suprising of all is the English priest with full assess to places around Germany.

I have to be quite frank but reading Richards books conveys the human aspect of war covering emotions and unseen diary and pictorial evidence. Lots of time and effot has gone into these books and you can tell.

For me if you get a chance to buy a book from Richard Van Emden no matter what the title or date published you are getting an incredible read.

I have just Ordered the Trench and looking forward to reading Richards latest book Tommy's War.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pat Terry on 28 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover
An excellent read about the rarely visited social aspects of WW1. Excellently researched, the author writes in plain easy to follow English making it a pleasure to read. Very highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Black on 12 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the most interesting book I have read for a long time. The story of Capt Campbell's leave from Magdeburg POW camp is almost unbelievable and that of Major Yate's suicide so sad.
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