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The Soldier's War: The Great War Through Veterans' Eyes Paperback – 1 Jun 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747598738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747598732
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'Thousands of books have been written about the Great War, but perhaps none so vividly evocative as The Soldier's War an extraordinary homage to a lost generation' Daily Mail 'In The Soldier's War, Richard van Emden has toiled in archives and hunted down caches of letters to tell the story of the war chronologically through the eyes of the Tommies who fought it' The Times 'Not the least remarkable aspect of Van Emden's trawl through the memories of these survivors is that they are accompanied by around 100 unpublished photos Since original images from the war's sharp end are rarities, these pictures - blurred and fuzzy though many of them are - are themselves worth the price of the book' Literary Review 'Van Emden manages to establish in an immediate empathy with these ordinary men of Britain, thrown into such horrendous conditions. They hope, moan, laugh, grieve, despair and pray their way through the four years of the 'war to end all wars" Time Out

Review

`Profoundly moving ... extraordinary homage to a lost generation'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I don't normally feel compelled to comment on any books I read, however this new book by Richard Van Emden is so good that I couldn't resist making my views known.
The book progresses year by year through the duration of the war, each chapter is full of amazing personal accounts most of which have never previously been published, through these Mr Van Emden sets out not just to tell us of the utter horror of the war, but also of the everyday experiences of the troops out of the line.
However it is not just the superb text that makes this book a must buy, the book also contains many truely excellent unpublished photos that I have never seen before. Most of these photos were taken by troops using their own cameras which was strictly against regulations, but thanks to their efforts they give us a remarkable view of their world.
This book isn't just for those who have a major interest in the war, but should be read by just about everyone in order to give us all a better understanding of what this generation suffered.
A really superb read.
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Format: Hardcover
The Soldiers' War is genuinely exceptional. There are other Great War anthologies around, but this one stands out by a country mile. The book claims to contain primarily unpublished stories from 1914-1918 and whilst I do not know enough about the period to comment, I do not recognise any accounts that I have read before. Furthermore, the breadth and exquisite balance of the tales here makes this book so very gripping.
The book contains not just the familiar stories associated with the war, but others that I have never even thought about: There is a man pulling 18th Century pewter from a dugout, another finding a Roman Sword uncovered by a shell explosion. There are stories of the survival and the beauty of nature, and of men locating trout ponds behind the Somme Battlefield for a spot of fishing.
Some of the stories are frightening and, at times, violent; many others are deeply moving and occasionally almost poetic, emotionally charged as they are. Others are genuinely funny, such as the officer who writes about two Geordie friends one of whom is shot and wounded. One man rips open the tunic of the other, looks at the wound and says `ee man, its champion'. The friend, pleased with the nice wound, replies: `Howay, Geordie, gan awa and shake hands with the German for bein' sae canny.' The incredible gallows humour of conflict.
I found the illustrations extraordinary, not least because the soldiers themselves took them, using their own private cameras, which were banned and therefore illegal. I've never seen such privately taken images elsewhere, although one slight nit-picky point here is the quality of reproduction - it's good, but given their historical importance might have been a little better. That said, on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, this book is an outstanding tribute to those men who lost so much, and whose sacrifices we must keep on remembering.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whilst this is in no way an original format for WW1 books, much of the material is. I have to be honest and say I was expecting more interesting new photographs, but they are remarkable from the point of view that they were taken on Kodak pocket cameras that were banned for most of the war.

The book is mainly a selection of personal accounts, and are a great way for those who have never taken an interest in WW1 to quickly get a feel for the experiences of soldiers without having to study the dry minutiae of war tactics and so on. My personal favourite cameo was one where a British soldier goes to steal some chickens for lunch, but comes across a German doing the same. The German merely nods to acknowledge the Tommy, and both carry on with catching their respective chickens and returning to their trenches.

In all, I think it's been a bit over-marketed on the new photos, but the book is certainly a must-read.
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Format: Hardcover
There are a couple of truisms about the Great War: that it was a famously squalid and horrible four years entailing the senseless loss of swathes of Europe's youth; and that it was the war that the combatants (such as my own grandfather) would never talk about.

It's in this context that this is such a good book. It builds up a compelling, multi-layered body of evidence about the daily (and nightly) experience of the soldiers. No matter how well we might feel we understand the war - not least from fictional works such as Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' trilogy, or Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong - there is something extraordinary about being told, in the words of those who were there, why there was a general order not to shoot rats, what it was like to watch a firing squad shoot a deserter, and how poison gas moved across the battlefield.

There are numerous frank admissions of terror, as well as the personal means by which the soldiers (both Tommies and officers) overcame this. There are also numerous descriptions of the appalling carnage and the casually witnessed dead - the soldiers playing cards using as their table the level back of a frozen soldier. For the generations that knew such scenes had taken place, but had not found a relative prepared to talk about it, this is an engrossing and important book.
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