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Six Weeks: The Short And Gallant Life Of The British Officer In The First World War

Six Weeks: The Short And Gallant Life Of The British Officer In The First World War [Kindle Edition]

John Lewis-Stempel
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Best research resource ever. Beautiful book (Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) )

a harrowing but engrossing meditation on a national tragedy... This book could not demonstrate more vividly how those ideals [of chivalry, patriotism and self-sacrifice] which inspired such bravery were shattered. (DAILY MAIL )

a superb study... Lewis-Stempel's marvelously evocative book is full of throat-catching moments... The result is the most moving single book on the Great War that I have ever read - and I have read many... his book pays the subalterns the respect they deserve by entering into their distant mindsets. (Nigel Jones LITERARY REVIEW )

This well researched book tells the harrowing story of the men - or adolescents, many of them -who unhesitatingly answered the call by War Minister Lord Kitchener for volunteers, and continued to answer it even after it became clear that the life expectancy of a subaltern in the trenches averaged only six weeks... Lewis-Stempel is excellent on life in the trenches... for all the horror and pity of their struggle, their legacy is our freedom. (Andrew Roberts MAIL ON SUNDAY )

woven with great narrative skill...presents an incomparable portrait of a generation (MILITARY TIMES )

It is only rarely that a book deserves to be recommended unreservedly but John Lewis-Stempel's Six Weeks falls firmly into that category...This is a book that should be read by every young man who aspires to serve as an officer in the Army; it will educate him about how to behave in command of soldiers and about how to face the perils of war. (THE GUARDS MAGAZINE )

a valuable addition to the vast literature of the First World war (DAILY EXPRESS )

Book Description

The extraordinary story of British junior officers in the First World War, who led their men out of the trenches and faced a life expectancy of six weeks.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1643 KB
  • Print Length: 379 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (28 Oct 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0047DVIDY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #117,822 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John Lewis-Stempel is a writer predominantly known for his books on nature and history. He lives in Herefordshire, on the very edge of England before it runs into Wales, and within a stone's throw (with a decent gust of wind) from where his family were farming in the 1300s. His many books include the best-selling Six Weeks, Fatherhood: The Anthology, England: The Autobiography, The Autobiography of the British Soldier (Sunday Express '5 stars') and The Wild Life (Sunday Telegraph 'Timely and Compelling') and Foraging: The Essential Guide to Free Wild Food. His books have been published in languages as diverse as Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese, are available on all continents apart from Antarctica, and have sold more than a million copies. He has two degrees in history, writes books under the pen name Jon E. Lewis, is married with two children, and also farms. The Guardian's video interview with him about The Wild Life can be seen at
Six Weeks, his book about British frontline officers in the First World War, published in November 2010 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson was described by The Literary Review as 'the most moving book I have ever read on the First World War' and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) said it was 'the best research resource ever.' The book became a number 1 bestseller in WW1 category on Amazon.His 'The War Behind the Wire', about the life, death and glory of British PoWs in WW1 was published in January 2014, and his Sunday Times Top 30 hardback non-fiction bestseller Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field was released in May 2014. The book was featured on Radio 4's Start the Week, and was Countryfile's Book of the Month.
He writes a column on the Great War for the Sunday Express.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book everyone interested in WW1 needs to read 8 July 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There has been considerable debate on the internet about the title of this book which comes from a quote by Robert Graves of 2/Royal Welch Fusiliers who wrote: "A soldier who had the honour to serve with one of the better divisions....could count on no more than three months' trench service before being wounded or killed; a junior officer a mere six weeks". So he wasn't saying that six weeks was LIFE EXPECTANCY since only approx. a third of casualties were fatalities: but that this was how long an officer lasted before being a casualty of some kind. This has exercised quite a number of people, and alas has led them not to take the book as seriously as they should.

That quibble apart, this is a well-researched, well-written book, and it is amazing that The Great War, the most written-about war of all time surely, should have a huge gap that this book is able to fill: namely the role, life and (sadly mostly) death of the junior officer on the Western Front.

I came to this book whilst researching my grandfather's Great War. The son of a Glasgow shop-keeper, he volunteered to join the 5th Scottish Rifles in Oct 1914 as a Private, and was commissioned into the 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers in Jan 1916 as a 2nd Lieutenant, ending the war as a Captain. Wounded three times (a bullet through the arm at St Eloi, buried-alive by a howitzer-shell but dug up badly bruised and shell-shocked on the Somme, badly gassed and temporarily blinded 10 days before the end of the war) he later became a doctor, and died aged 92.

The junior British infantry officer suffered higher casualties than virtually any other class of soldier in any army during WW1, and this book has given me a unique insight into the day-to-day duties and life of unimportant junior officers such as my grandfather, who has consequently greatly risen in my estimation: I highly recommend it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of the war the officers knew 21 Jun 2011
"Six Weeks" is sub-titled "the Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War". It's a detailed, compelling and fascinating account of the Great War from the perspective of the British junior officer - the first and second lieutenants and captains on the Western Front. There are many books focusing on the lives of British soldiers in the War, often from the perspective of the British Tommy. But this is the officers' story. It is a book about (to paraphrase another famous title) "the war the officers knew".

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's comprehensive, following the service history of officers from school, through training, to the trenches, and into battle. The journey traces the time after combat, looking at "rest and leave" hospitalization and (all too often) death.

It is a book which is rich with period details. Some of these are from a world which has passed up by - the world of the personal servant and of utterly rigorous class divisions. Other period details are infinitely personal, including the letters written by the officers to their wives and children. There are first-hand quotations from a wide variety of sources (including letters and diaries). The photographs are of excellent quality, most of which I had not seen before. Certain sections of the book are unremittingly grim, although parts are light hearted and amusing.

In all, "Six Weeks" is an excellent read which I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in the Great War, and anyone interested in any war from the perspective of a junior officer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Timely Reminder. 10 Oct 2011
By Anjou
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It has been fashionable for some time to misuse the quotation 'Lions led by Donkeys' (possibly from the Crimean War and used by the late Alan Clark for the title of his book 'Donkeys'). It was originally a criticism of the High Command, especially in the Great War. It was never intended to apply to the junior officer in the trenches but is all too frequently so used nowadays.

This book is a marvellous, and desperately tragic, account of the spirit, gallantry and also the depth of the thousands of officers who fought, and so often perished, in that most terrible of wars. It is a most timely reminder of the truth about a generation of men whose loss left the country bereft of its very best. We still feel the lack of such men and their qualities.

This book should be read by anyone with an interest in the way the twentieth century unrolled.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In awe of this book 3 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
On second reading, I'm still in awe of this book. 'Six Weeks' is a brilliant piece of wide-ranging research, beautifully organised and written, which traces the life of a typical front-line officer in the First World War from school and university, through volunteering and training to front line service and the alternate pathways of death or survival. Every detail imaginable is covered: uniform and weapons, means of transport, leave, medical treatment, the growing contribution of the 'Temporary Gentlemen', the cost of survival.... On a basis of solid factual information, the author uses the words and experiences of many young officers to build the picture and he pays his subjects the compliment of listening to them and presenting the war as they knew it, not as later generations have imagined it to have been.

A book on this subject was long overdue. It's hard to imagine that anyone could have done it better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The hell of WWI
Those most likely to die in WWI were the young junior officers leading the men in the trenches, a life expectancy of six weeks. Read more
Published 4 days ago by G. J. Weeks
5.0 out of 5 stars A horrifying and riveting account of young officers in the ...
A horrifying and riveting account of young officers in the First World War. I had to read to the end.
Published 1 month ago by Mave Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book for anyone wanting to get an insight into ...
An excellent book for anyone wanting to get an insight into the 1st World War. Incredibly well researched and very poignant
Published 2 months ago by Mr D.E.V Hoogewerf
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read in a long time
well written, well researched, should be required reading for everyone, dispels so many of the myths that people still hold as truth. Great for an aspiring young officer also! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brought it home to me
Really brought it home to me how bad things were. An excellent study.
Published 2 months ago by Dave Cole
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Bought as a present
Published 3 months ago by k lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most moving recent books about WW1
We don't look on World War 1 through the same eyes as those who fought in it, and even those who fought were changed by the experience so their perception often differs now... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravery on the Western Front
Because it is an excellent account of the life of young officers on the Western Front. One can only assume that they felt
that if they had survived the rigours of the public... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Bullingdon5
5.0 out of 5 stars A great little book
One of the most fascinating and well researched histories of WW1 that I've read. The book concentrates on the social history of the conflict which really gives the reader a new and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Martin H. King
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for those interested in WW1
I found this book to be a fascinating insight into a little mentioned section of the BEF in the First World War. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nick
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