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Shots from the Front: The British Soldier 1914-18 [Paperback]

Richard Holmes
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2010

A handsomely illustrated photographic account, by the bestselling author of 'Tommy', of the human experience of war as directly witnessed by British soldiers in the First World War.

Richard Holmes, one of Britain's best-known military historians (and President of the British Commission of Military History), has selected over 200 photographs taken for the most part by officers and men rather than by official photographers – mostly unfamiliar ones located in archive collections, regimental museums and private sources.

The book will deal with the whole of the British Army's experience of the First World War – Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and so on – and not just on the Western Front. The photographs will be grouped thematically as extended picture essays; topics include the pre-war army and mobilisation of 1914; the contribution made by nurses; medical treatment and the wounded; infantrymen and their weapons; the campaign in Mesopotamia and more.

Like 'Tommy', the book is about people rather than things, about the human experience of war rather than its strategy or tactics, and at least as much about the everyday or commonplace – a latrine here or a plate of bully beef there – as about the lofty or portentous. It shows us the dirt beneath the fingernails of history.

Frequently Bought Together

Shots from the Front: The British Soldier 1914-18 + The Great War: A Photographic Narrative (Imperial War Museum) + Mapping the First World War: The Great War through maps from 1914-1918 (Imperial War Museum)
Price For All Three: 56.29

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (2 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007275498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007275496
  • Product Dimensions: 18.7 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Holmes was one of Britain's most successful historians and television presenters. Author of the best-selling Tommy, Redcoat and Wellington: The Iron Duke, he has also written and presented television series for the BBC. As well as serving in the TA, he taught military history at Sandhurst and, latterly, as Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. Richard Holmes died suddenly on 30 April 2011 from pneumonia, aged 65.

Product Description


‘An indispensible companion to the letters and journals.The photos are extraordinary … Holmes's commentary is superlative. He notices everything … it provides a calm, outstandingly knowledgeable guide to the carnage’ Daily Mail

‘A very valuable book…Holmes’s expertise in the minutiae of warfare makes him the ideal guide…One of the most readable of military historians…his empathy with his subject is obvious but he does not allow it to cloud his historical judgement. As a consequence specialists as well as general readers will gain much from this book.’ BBC History Magazine (Pick of the Month)

From the Inside Flap

Following the great success of his book Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front (2001), the leading military historian Richard Holmes has selected over 150 rare and unusual photographs to illustrate the wide range of the British Army's experience in the First World War - on all fronts, from Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Gallipoli to the Flanders trenches.

These images, culled from a wide variety of archive collections, museums and private sources, illuminate in evocative, dramatic and richly informative ways the Tommy's wartime life.

The book's topics include the preparations for war and the mobilisation of 1914, the `roses of no-man's land' - the contribution made by nurses; `blighty ones and other ones' - the wounded and their treatment; `brother lead and sister steel' - soldiers and their weapons; scenes from the battlefield and the campaigns where Tommies fought; the armistice and its aftermath. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Latest and best of his WW1 series 10 Nov 2008
Richard Holmes is well known as a military historian who can not only make the details of military campaigns intelligible, but can recognise the human stories beneath. There is little in terms of campaign detail. There is not that much that is especially original, either. But these are trivial matters compared with the book's place as in my opinion one of the best annotated photo albums about WW1. Enormous knowledge is worn lightly; the choice of photos is without exception excellent, with most them having appeared rarely if at all before. The greatest strength is that Holmes teaches us (without seeming to do so) how to read photos of WW1 and probably all conflicts, drawing us into the detail of the picture with warmth and humanity. Highly recommended even at full price.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A typically excellent volume from Richard Holmes as one would expect. With his encyclopaedic knowledge of the First World War his detailed interpretation of the images extracts a wealth of detail and exposes the hidden facets bringing out the real meaning behind the photograph.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book very interesting (superb value, possibly underpriced!) and the photos and commentary text are very readable; my interest was maintained throughout. The shots used are unusual, and many are of the less dramatic side to war- the sitting about, rations, casualty evacuation and the logistical side. There are also some less pleasant subject matters shown.

Richard Holmes also makes those very engaging battlefield documentaries and he's got a way with words too. This should be compulsory reading at secondary school, everyone should be aware of some the potential realities of war, and WW1 in particular.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Picture 24 Sep 2011
Richard Holmes was one of the great authorities on the British Army, especially in respect of the Western Front of the First World War. This book, one of his last, is a fitting summary of that lifelong interest.It mixes a wealth of really interesting photographs with a very down to earth portrait of everyday life there.There is a tendency to-day to see the western front as a scene of unmitigated and unrelenting horror from which no one emerged other than as a shattered wreck. Whilst clearly true for some of the time and for some of those involved it is too glib an explation. Somehow most of those engaged muddled through and for some it was the defining experience of their lives, and not necessarily in a negative way.This is a balanced and sober summary that gives a poignant and fascinating insight into what it was really like for the generally very young men who fought in the First World War. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Par for the course for Holmes 1 Feb 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The usual high standard we have come to expect from Richard Holmes, a fascinating collection of photos telling the story of WW1 from all theatres of war not just the Western Front. I just wonder what we can expect next.
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