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The Western Front [Paperback]

Richard Holmes
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2001
For the British, World War I was the Western Front, the trench line stretching from the Swiss Frontier to the North Sea. It was there that most of the 9 million British and Dominion soldiers who enlisted during the war served, and there that most of the 947,000 killed met their deaths. Richard Holmes brings the Western Front to life in this richly detailed and authoritative book, in a way that goes deep beneath scholarly debate, ripping off the veneer of cliche which now covers the war as it really was. The book, like the series, is both chronological and thematic, following the story of The Western Front whilst picking out particular episodes in its history to highlight more general themes. Individual events are thus used to illuminate wider truths to form a descriptive yet deeply analytical book.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (1 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563537841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563537847
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,430,468 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

Amazon Review

Best known for his BBC series presentations in War Walks and War Walks II, military history buff Richard Holmes chronicles the bloodiest days of World War I in The Western Front. This detailed compendium covers everything from how the front was created and the British Army in France, to the battle of Verdun and the last Hundred Days of the war. Those put off by lengthy historical accounts will find comfort in Holmes' concise layout and heartfelt narrative. What's more, it's filled with photos, illustrations, diagrams, maps and quotations that give needed imagery to a highly complex and inhuman four years of history. As in the words of one French solider who was not able to distinguish "if the mud were flesh or the flesh were mud."

Of the 947,000 allied soldiers who died during the war, 750,000 died on the front; 128 000 are missing. Holmes captures the scale and intensity of the Great War and never lets you forget the human price: "As we now are, so once were they; as they now are, so must we be. Let us remember them all, not with bravado or bombast, but with the respect that their sacrifice demands." --Ida Kulest --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Of the myriad accounts available, few are better than Holmes: authoritative, concise, wide-ranging and readable; it is hard to see how it can be bettered. -- Nigel Jones, BBC History Magazine

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is intended to accompany the television series of the same name and as such is not a "heavyweight" history of the war. It is by necessity brief and concise. However, what it does, it does very well indeed. There are a large number of one volume histories of the war available. These are the books to which most readers looking for an introduction to the Great War will look at first. However, many of these one volume histories, while still relevant as part of the war's historiography, argue views which are heavily influenced by personal politics and are not consistent with much of the excellent research which is being produced today, which is doing something to redress the balance in favour of the much maligned generals. One volume histories which fall into this category include, in my opinion the works of A.J.P. Taylor and B.H. Liddell-Hart, both of which are texts which frequently find their way into the hands of Great War virgins. As someone who falls very much into the camp that would like to look at the war more in terms of military, rather than social, history this book fills the gap in the one volume market nicely. The introduction also provides an excellent section dealing with the historiography of the war, which should be of further use to the novice enthusiast. If you're looking for a one volume history of the war, you could certainly do far worse than to get your sticky little hands on this. If you're looking for a book that deals with the specifics of any particular campaign or aspect of the war, this is not really for you. Also note that it does not deal with fronts other than the Western Front in any detail. Given the title however, I think it can be forgiven this! Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasing new book 9 May 2000
There has been plenty of time since the end of World War 1 for appraisals and only recently have they become more balanced and fair than the ones written before when hate was still in the hearts of many. Holmes book is a brilliant overview of the war written in a manner we have come to expect from this outstanding historian. That it differs so much from the quite trite TV series that it supports, says a lot about the medium.
This is not a detailed description of the war. Rather an overview and a outstandingly fair one. Not only does he carefully discuss the stance taken by many of his colleagues but he also explains things from the German point of view. For many people, World War 1 is some vague happening in the distant past. Few realise that it moulded this century and that we are still experiencing its effects. That interest in the war is increasing is only a good thing and modern fair books like this one are needed now.
As a starting point, one could do no better than Holmes book. My one grizzle is the lack of references.
His chapter on the generals will annoy anyone who still believes the Lions led by donkeys approach, a view thankfully now discredited. It is a fair, accurate and most plausible explanation of the role of the generals that goes a long way to explain why horrors like The Somme were perpetrated.
Frankly I can't wait for him to turn his attention to Gallipoli, that other ignored and vital war zone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very wel written book. 7 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If someone should like to read a book about the first world war on the western front you should read this work by Richard Holmes.It is a clear and good understandable work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT BOOK 30 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
But then, so are all of Richard Holmes' books. He was a great military historian, who saw service, understood the squaddie, and walked or rode over many military engagements to help him understand the military decisions made in times of conflict.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 6 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A great description, without too much detail. A final chapter about the overall war putting the western front into perspective was very interesting. A sadly missed author.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not really a history 29 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having just returned from an excellent coach visit to the Ypres Salient and the Somme I was interested in getting a wider perspective of the war on the Western Front. Alas this book provides a very detailed account of pretty well everything that moved there - I was looking for a more comprehensive overview. I knew that the author had been a guide on these tours and this book almost seemed like his notes. Its a pity and I made a mistake - his reputation describing battles on TV mislead me. Just wasn't the book I was looking for I'm afraid
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