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Somme [Paperback]

Lyn MacDonald
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 9.90 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

24 Jun 1993

In Somme Lyn Macdonald explores one of the most harrowing battles in British history.

'There was hardly a household in the land', writes Lyn Macdonald, 'there was no trade, occupation, profession or community, which was not represented in the thousands of innocent enthusiasts who made up the ranks of Kitchener's Army before the Battle of the Somme...'

The year 1916 was one of the great turning-points in British history: as the youthful hopes of a generation were crushed in a desperate struggle to survive, and traditional attitudes to authority were destroyed for ever. On paper, few battles have ever been so meticulously planned. Yet while there were good political reasons to launch a joint offensive with a French Army demoralized by huge casualties at Verdun, the raw troops on the ground knew nothing of that. A hundred and fifty thousand were killed in the punishing shellfire, the endless ordeal of attack and counter-attack; twice that number were left maimed or wounded. Here, almost for the first time, Lyn Macdonald lets the men who were there give their own testimony. Their stories are vivid, harrowing, sometimes terrifying - yet shot through with humour, immense courage and an astonishing spirit of resilience.

'What the reader will longest remember are the words - heartbroken, blunt, angry - of the men who lived through the bloodbath...a worthy addition to the literature of the Great War...' Daily Mail

Over the past twenty years Lyn Macdonald has established a popular reputation as an author and historian of the First World War. Her books are based on the accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors, told in their own words, and cast a unique light on the First World War. Most are published by Penguin.


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Somme + Passchendaele: The Story of the Third Battle of Ypres 1917 + The Roses of No Man's Land
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Product details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (24 Jun 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140178678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140178678
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 314,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Somme expresses the full range of meaning of the word 'grim'...I doubt if there are any better than this (John Terraine Daily Telegraph)

A worthy addition to the literature of the Great War (Daily Mail) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Count me in 3 Feb 2002
Format:Paperback
To add to the other reviews (and it *is* a triumph of research, and tells you pretty much all you need to know about the campaign), one thing puzzled me. The book doesn't seem to cover the first day of the battle, the day which most people think of when they think of the Somme. One moment, the troops are about to leap over the trenches - and then we're at the next chapter, and we've skipped several hours into the future.
I assume Ms MacDonald is trying to replicate the 'fog of war' that existed at the time - nobody in charge knew what had happened until several days later, and the people at home had to wait for months - but it's unsatisfying, somehow.
Still, it's a superb book, and you can't fault the sheer hard work MacDonald has put into it - not only did she interview many of the surviving British soldiers (this was back in 1983, so there were more of them), she actually visited the battlefield.
One other flaw, though, is that whilst she interviewed lots of British people, we don't learn much about the Germans. Given that they took just as many casualties in the battle as us, what must it have been like for them, sitting in their trenches, under a towering artillery bombardment, not knowing what was coming next? We don't find out, which is a shame.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lest we forget... 5 Aug 2000
Format:Paperback
I have never read a book before like this where I couldn't put it down but at the same time there was something each time I read it that brought a lump to my throat. I have nothing substantial as proof but I am fairly sure that both my grand-father and his brother fought on the Somme with the East Lancs and KOSB and even from my school years this period in history has always fascinated me.
The first hand accounts of feelings, sights and sounds shot through with an amazing courage and humour defy belief at times; you cannot truly appreciate what drove these men on in the appalling conditions they were serving. The Somme destroyed once and for all the glory of the Great War and this book illustrates the fate of a lost generation in a way that will leave you thinking about what you've read for some time after you've finished reading it...
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This Book 12 Oct 2004
Format:Paperback
The best account of the battle of the Somme I have ever read. Not your usual cold account of history it tells the story of the poor souls who were there. Taken from diaries, letters and interviews with the survivors. This is the first book I have read by Mcdonald and I will be reading them all. A must for students and enthusiasts of the first world war.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Contribution 19 July 2002
By E. A. Redfearn TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I first came across this book in 1983, the year of its publication. It is a fine additon to the immense material on the Somme, but it could have been a little better. The first day on the Somme is barely mentioned. Maybe she thought that because Martin Middlebrook had covered the actions of the first day wonderfully well, she didnt think much more could be said. Told from the viewpoint of the ordinary soldier struggling to survive in terrible conditions, it does succeed in this respect. Moving in parts, it reveals how the ordinary soldier was pushed into battle almost beyond the very limit of endurance. Some good pictures which show the battlefield as it is today. Maps could have been better though. Still, a worthy contribution.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Few battles are as seared into the British historical consciousness as the battle of the Somme, the months-long offensive against the German trenches during the First World War. There the newly-trained divisions of 'Kitchener's Army' suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties, all for advances that were often measured in yards. It was a baptism of blood, one that often depopulated villages back home of an entire generation of young men and left an indelible impression on the minds of its survivors.

Lyn Macdonald's book is a chronicle of the battle from the viewpoint of the British soldier. She begins by describing how so many of the soldiers came to be on the Somme battlefield, through their recruitment into the ranks in the weeks and months that followed the outbreak of the war. Many of them joined in groups, retaining a collective identity from their civilian life even after they put on the uniform. From there she details the meticulous preparations for the offensive, the training and planning that went into preparing these soldiers for a battle that its planners believed would break through the German lines and pave the way for victory.

The confident expectations were little match for the horrors of trench warfare, however. Instead of a dramatic breakthrough the British 'Tommys' faced unrelenting slaughter, struggling to even make modest gains on the battlefield. In the weeks that followed the initial assault, the British high command threw division after division into the battle, hoping to achieve progress. Throughout each of these efforts, Macdonald captures the experience of combat - the dusty marches, the gory advances, and the reaction of the survivors to their experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing 2 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a fantastic synopsis of first hand accounts of the Battle of the Somme. In places the accounts are shocking, in others humorous. Throughout this book there is a continual background of shelling and other activity, so much so that you can almost hear it, even after putting the book down. After finishing this book, you will be left feeling stunned and empty at the tragic wastage of human life. We should be grateful to Lyn MacDonald for giving the veterans the opportunity voice their memories.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So easy to read and based upon personal reminiscences of the ...
Details galore ! So easy to read and based upon personal reminiscences of the guys doing the job.
I found Lyn's style of writing so easy to follow as she had obviously set out... Read more
Published 23 days ago by twyfordwasp
4.0 out of 5 stars A history of the Battle of the Somme by a great researcher
Lyn MacDonald is a renowned historian of the First World War and in her usual style she allows the people themselves tell their own story from her extensive researched documents... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr Raymond Towey
5.0 out of 5 stars Must be one of the best Somme history books written
The mix between well researched facts, official documents and personal memories is just right and paints a brilliant picture of the battle(s) if the Somme. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars somme
excellent account of the somme campaign 1916 first read when originally published . my only criticism is the small size . making it difficult to read and follow maps
Published 3 months ago by jim metcalfe
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Really brought home what it was like and how terrifying it must have been for those poor boys - for thats what most of them were just boys.
Published 4 months ago by Seph
5.0 out of 5 stars A excellent and well written book of the battle.
Excellent writing by a very perceptive author. Her coverage of the period is detailed and comprehensive. The book will be a monument to those who died in the war.
Published 6 months ago by Buster Carlston
3.0 out of 5 stars Not yet read.
I bought this for my husband for Christmas, but he has not yet read it - too many other books to read first!
Published 6 months ago by Mrs. Mary Carter
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
I've loved military history since I was a boy (I'm reviewing this under my wife's account - my name isn't Jane! Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jane I.
4.0 out of 5 stars From those that were there.
The book is superbly written. It gives the battle from a purely British perspective taking quotes from the soldiers that were there. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Stephen Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read. Puts you in touch with the people who were there whilst...
Like all of Lyn Macdonald's other books it is well written and engaging. The template for the "Forgotten Voices" books which have folowed, this is an inspiring read
Published 17 months ago by Mark Hopcraft
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