is Richard Holmes's tribute to the ghosts of the millions of ordinary soldiers who fought in the First World War. The book also reflects the dissatisfaction he feels at the way we still remember it. Too often we approach World War I through the literature it inspired. The poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and others have their own truths to offer, but Holmes would dispute the assumption that they represent the experiences of the majority of those who endured the trench warfare of the Western Front.
To discover new voices and new perspectives on the war he has trawled through the rich archives of letters, diaries and memoirs that still exist, most of them written while the fighting still continued. From these he has constructed an extraordinarily vivid and moving picture of what it felt like to be one of the millions of men who served in the British army during the four years between August 1914 and the armistice on November 11, 1918. From Private Albert Bullock rejoicing in the discovery of 200 Woodbines in the pack of a fellow soldier who had fled the front line, to Private Eric Hiscock describing the horrors of finding himself entangled in barbed wire. The Tommies, whom Richard Holmes rescues from obscurity, prove powerful witnesses to the diverse realities of the war. Beneath the stereotyped images of the First World War that we all carry in our heads, the real lives of the men who fought it are still there to be discovered and Holmess book brings them forcefully to our attention. Nick Rennison
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
‘Holmes is one of our foremost military scholars and a skilled writer who knows his audience well. This is excellent popular history: scholarly, highly readable and utterly absorbing.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Monumental … Every page of this is worth reading.’ Time Out
‘Where Holmes’s book comes brilliantly to life is in his use of first-hand accounts of the trench experience … It is Holmes’s achievement to make this familiar landscape come alive with the humanity of those who fought in it.’ TLS
‘Holmes has produced yet another fascinating, balanced and original book of a highly emotive subject. ‘ Sunday Telegraph