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4.8 out of 5 stars87
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 17 January 2005
I have just finished reading this fantastic book for the 2nd time and feel i must put down in words how i feel about this book.
Mr Middlebrook has put together a book that will stay pride of place on my bookshelf, the first hand accounts that he has collected and placed within this book really take you to the Somme, and interweaved with the background and build up to the first day really bring the magnitude of this disaster to the reader, you can see for yourself that the rating this book recieves does it justice.
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on 20 March 1999
Do not be mistaken by the title of this book: this is not merely an hour-by-hour account of 1 July 1916. No, crucially, in this book Middlebrook gives a comprehensive and most valuable background to Kitchener's Army: the origins of those unfortunate enough to be present, how they were structured, and what was hoped to have been achieved on this the most costly day in British military history. As is usual with Middlebrook, first-hand accounts are in profusion and lend the volume the presence and immediacy that is so characteristic of this author's accounts of armed conflict. Make this the first book you read about the BEF in WWI, particularly if one intends to visit the area. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 20 September 2002
As the title suggests, this book focuses almost entirely on the first day of battle(1st July 1916). Middlebrook offers a short introduction on events leading up to this fateful day, and the need for the British to relieve some of the pressure on the French army following Verdun. In order to relieve some of this pressure, the British would conduct their own offensive against the German army. This offensive would be fought in the Somme dept of Northern France, and would last from July to November 1916.
The book starts with the formation of the 'Pals Batallions'(groups of volunteers from the same town/city). These 'Pals' would go to France and fight alongside each other. It was thought the cameraderie and community would help the men during their time in a foreign land. We learn about the planning and preparation for battle, and the crucial time leading up to 'zero hour'.
An obvious comparison can be made with Malcolm Brown's book 'The Book of The Somme'. Like Brown, Middlebrook uses personal records, eyewitness accounts, diary entries and photographs to push the idea that these were not seasoned veterans going to war, but inexperienced and niave 'normal everyday people'. Henry Webber's story is one that is sure to stick in your mind.
The book offers a morning, noon, afternoon and evening review of the 1st July. The artillery bomabrdments by the British was not successful. All along the front, barb wire was intact and machine gun posts unharmed. Wave after wave of British soldiers went over the top to be mown down. Poor communication did not stop later attacks, and we learn of the power struggle between the Generals involved.
This book should be in the collection of anyone who has an interest in World War 1. Material has been well researched, and the use of primary sources ensures that this work provides a close and personal resume. The accounts tell of slaughter on a huge scale, piles of dead bodies, men injured in no man's land with no chance of rescue, but also sincere patriotism and love for King and country. To show our respect, we owe it to those who died and those who survived to read their story.
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on 30 April 2001
The battle of the Somme unfolds as if your were there. Few wartime accounts are so well researched and this is a "must read" to learn about a generation that gave their lives for this country.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2003
I visited the Somme battlefields for the first time this year and used an excellent walking guide, “Walking the Somme” by Paul Reed. Reed’s book works well if you are physically standing on the ground but in terms of style and content Martin Middlebrook’s book is excellent for those who want a detailed and highly readable account of the first day of this famous battle.
The book contains much more than just a description of the first day of the battle of the Somme. A lot of detail is given to the men, their different backgrounds and the lives of the survivors after the war. It also describes the circumstances that led to the formation of Kitchener’s “New Army” and provides an excellent analysis of the events leading up to the battle.
Like so many books of this genre the story is interspersed with accounts from the people who were actually there. Middlebrook moves seamlessly from his own narrative to the stories of the individual soldiers, which gives the book a really nice flow. Also, unlike other books of this genre, the maps appear in the appropriate places and contain just the right level of detail.
This is a very well written book that depicts a day in which the British Army, including the Armies of the Commonwealth, suffered 57,470 casualties. While a lot of the content of this book is difficult to absorb simply because of the unimaginable horror of the events described, it is a must-read and will stay with you long after you have finished it.
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on 22 August 2003
Having been a member of the Grenadier Guards for 12 years in peace time, I purchased this book in an attempt to uncover some of the regiments glorious past. Instead I found myself uncovering the truths and heroics of a generation of men that can stand as tall as Guardsmen. Who could ever put themselves in the frame of mind of the countless thousands that climbed out into the morning sun on that day. Martin Middlebrook took me in and amongst the hell that prevailed.
On the going down of the sun, we will remember them
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on 27 April 2000
I first read this book in 1973 when I was just beginning my research into the Western Front 1914-1918. This is a must-read! This is a classic work since it tells the story from the viewpoint of the men who were actually there on 1st July, 1916, the day when Kitchener's Army was almost destroyed. Good photos and maps. If you are not familier with the Somme, then you can start with this account. Intensely moving at times.
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on 14 November 1998
An excellent account, drawn from interviews with survivors and other primary sources, of participants on the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. After a five day bombardment, British troops went 'over the top' in a massive attack. By the end of the day 20,000 were dead and 40,000 were wounded. Few of the objectives had been reached. But the British general staff went on to attack again and again, adding to the carnage. The survivors' tales make poignant reading.
One of the best books on WW1, required reading for anyone wishing to gain an understanding of the battles of the Western Front. The eye witness accounts of the ordinary infantrymen are especially important.
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on 22 June 2001
This account left me humbled and very appreciative of the efforts of the men on 1st July 1916. The personable style of recording the memories touch a nerve that for a fleeting moment, make you belive, you are that person. Thankfully it is only a fleeting moment. I drive past a wall mounted 'street memorial' to the dead of the Great War, on my way to work each day in East Yorkshire, Many of these are all over the UK. The book has left an impression on my mind never to ignore such a piece of street furniture and regard it in the light in which it was erected, as a memorial to be honoured. A fascinating account and analysis of the fateful day when defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.
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once i picked this book up it was impossible to put down.the writer martin middlebrooke takes you back to life on that fateful an avid reader of the first world war,this book beats everything ihave read hands down,.what an excellent read.a credit to the author...
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