on 19 November 2013
The Secret Battle is told from the point of view of a man narrating, and lamenting, the fate of his friend, Harry, who he served with in World War One. Harry begins, like many other young men of his era, with a strong sense of patriotism and excitement about fighting, but as the harsh realities of warfare wear him down he begins to lose his faith in fate, without feeling able to leave.
I found this book particularly interesting as most of the fiction I have read on the First World War tends to have been set on the Western Front, in the trenches. The Secret Battle however, is set mainly in the Middle East - narrating the problems faced by troops fighting in Gallipoli. Instead of rain and soggy trenches they were faced with blistering heat, sandstorms and plagues of insects, as well as various diseases, the most common being dysentry.
It is a sad book, but an important one and a must read for anyone interested in the experiences and courage of the soldiers who fought during the Great War.
on 2 December 2015
This is very moving and gritty account of the grind and horror of the First World War. It is a savage critique of the appalling treatment meted out by the High Command to the men on the front line. Its main characters are the story teller an older more experienced officer and the hero Harry Penrose, a young, idealistic, naïve but extremely brave junior officer. The Author A.P.Herbert served in both Gallipoli and the Western Front as an infantry officer so he knows his subject. The Gallipoli section of the book certainly brings home the hellish conditions the men fought in. In summary Harry Penrose serves bravely in both theatres and continually exposes himself to danger and death. At the conclusion of the book he is worn down and finally succumbs to battle fatigue and shell shock and which point he is arrested and shot for cowardice in the field. As story teller notes ' .....my friend Harry was shot for cowardice - and he was one of the bravest men I ever knew'. Don't buy the Amazon paperback version as the print is so small it's virtually unreadable. I had to set it aside and purchase the Kindle version in order to read it.