on 23 October 2011
I have read much of the writings of the Great War, some good and some bad, but there is a special quality in the memories who were there and experienced the horrors and the companionship of the trenches. I read the book upon returning from a further visit to the Western Front, always a moving experience for me, and these memories of ordinary men who survived extraordinary times threw a vivid light on the places seen and the times I had tried to visualise on the ground,
on 16 October 2013
A piece of history and a valuable record. The author has done the greatest service to the men who served and came home; he has listened to their stories. In so doing, he has done greater service to those who did not come home; he has told theirs.
Lest we forget
on 15 January 2010
There are many books out there that contain soldier's recollections of the First World War, so why read this one? What sets it apart from the rest?
Firstly, as suggested in the title, the book focuses solely on the battles that took place on the Somme. Whereas other `recollective' style First World War books tend to focus on the entire war, this book gives a comprehensive account of soldier's experiences that fought solely on this particularly brutal front.
Secondly, I found that this book made me laugh at several points when soldiers recounted comical experiences and situations. Some books structured in this manner don't always contain humorous entries and whilst interesting, are often depressing reads. The author has cleverly selected and balanced the entries which he has included in this book, resulting in an end product which highlights the futility of the offensive, but also shows the soldiers in all their glory as human beings - flawed and vulnerable.
I really enjoyed this book, it certainly manages to convey the human aspect of trench warfare and it has the ability to stir powerful emotions as you progress through it. This book does not contain multiple maps or endless technical detail surrounding `which battalion engaged the enemy on which date' etc. It is a lasting testimony and valuable record of the experiences of many normal, frightened but ultimately brave men who fought in these dreadful battles.
Recommended to anyone with an interest in the First World War and trench warfare.
on 7 November 2008
I read and was very deeply moved by the first book in the "Forgotten Voices" series - "Forgotten Voices of the Great War". With a life-long interest in and appreciation for world history, especially that of the First World War, often also referred to as The Great War, this new book, "Forgotten Voices of the Somme" is a most welcome addition to a fine series. It, like the first book on The Great War, does not weigh us down with facts and figures, but tells the story through the recorded words of those people who actually were there and who survived to relive their experiences for us. Men and women, officers and enlisted men, civilians, all from both sides of the conflict share their varied views of a horrific war and battle with us. It is thankfully as close to actually being there in the muddy trenches, fighting the enemy, the weather, the rats and feeling the fear of dying at anytime as we will ever get. A must read and very highly recommended.
on 11 January 2010
This is a brilliant book.I have always been interested in the First World War and this book gives you a real insight to those who lived day to day in the trenches of the Somme.You can never know what it was like unless you were there but you can get a feeling of it from this excellent book.
I think people of all ages will get something from this book.It's about everyday bravery in terrifying conditions and not about those who got medals.All I can say is read it.
I have no interest in military history but am fascinated by social history. I have struggled through more academic books on the first world war but read this one through in one sitting. The approach, providing a brief introduction to each section describing the events but then leaving it to quotes from those who participated to tell the story, works wonderfully. There is a great sense of immediacy. The entries cover the whole gamut of emotions: fear, terror, courage, pathos, stoicism, relief, exhaustion, anger and even humour (the story of a farmer & his cow falling through a camouflaged net covering a gun emplacement raised a smile amidst all the gloom). The comments are all drawn from records held in the Imperial War Museum sound archive. At the end of the book, one of the soldiers whose story has appeared throughout explains "Just as its not fashionable now to talk about war - it wasn't then. It's a very strange thing. I've never told any of these stories to anybody before; people just don't want to know." I think it is marvellous that we still have these records, to remind us today of the appalling carnage and loss of life on the Somme.
on 18 January 2012
I have read and own most of the forgotten voices books and even the CD's and again I cannot fault any part of them. I have a relation that died on the first day of the Somme and to read what he would have experienced if only for a brief moment really makes you think. This book makes your heart beat faster as the moment of going over the top comes. It really makes you feel as if you are standing along side anyone of the heros who died or the heros who returned. This collection of books should be handed out to every school in Britain so that they will not forget what so many brave men and women died for. Maybe it will teach them a bit respect that they seem to be lacking these days. I bet during history lessons there will not be a sound and even a few tears. I cannot wait for the next one to come along.
"Forgotten Voices" is a a series that extends to over a dozen books. This particular one I have as part of an 8 pack I bought (at tremendous value) for a mere tenner. As one of my particular interests is WWI, I started with the Great War; the next I read was the the VC one. The universal fault of the series is the pictures being printed on ordinary paper. The quality suffers accordingly, as you might expect. Some are not affected; on others, detail can be badly compromised.
Aside from that, my other 'universal' criticism of the series is the repetition of the same passages in multiple books. In actual fact, that wasn't very noticeable in this one, partly because several of those bits that were repeated were in a longer, more complete, version. Whilst the book purports to be about the Somme, its scope is actually much wider than that. It starts with lengthy descriptions from (later to be-) Somme soldiers of how they came to join up. It moves on to training, works its way up to life in & out of the line before the battle; the largest section of it, as you would expect, covers successive periods of the battle. It passes beyond that before it ends.
Despite the one great weakness of the series (pictures), this is undeniably the best of the series that I have read so far; certainly the best of those "Voices" that include WWI. On its own or as part of the series, it is well worth a 5* rating.
on 9 April 2014
This is a fascinating and thoroughly captivating book about the battle of the Somme from the men who witnessed and fought it. The stories some of these men had to tell were interesting to say the least - not all of them were doom and gloom. There was a lot of camaraderie and trust.
I learnt a lot about the battle from this book and it was far more interesting than reading a text book style book full of facts and figures.
I actually found myself laughing at some parts of the book through the wit these men had. These men might have been petrified but they never lost their spirit and they were patriotic right until the very end.
You have to have a lot of respect for the men who were willing to share their stories with us and for those who weren't able to. I feel honoured to have been able to have read it from the view points of the people who were actually there.
on 16 June 2015
I'm not a book reviewer so don't expect too much. I read books of war, mainly WW2. I decided that as we mark the 100 years I should learn more about WW1. A marvellous book that puts you right there. Accounts of simple things to death on a truly huge scale. My God, they were brave men.