on 6 September 2002
Malcolm Brown's Book of the Somme is powerful in its analysis of one of the greatest battles in British military history.
The book is written with great attention to detail, by an author who not only has a deep interest in this time period, but is also, and rightly so, recognised as one of the leading figures in World War 1 military history.
What makes the book so special is that it is not purely a factual narrative of the events from July to November 1916. Of course, the book does describe in depth the planning of the battle, the key strategists involved, and the intended outcomes, but it also contains many personal accounts in the form of letters and correspondance.
Malcolm Brown has made excellent use of both British and German archived material, and given the book a very personal touch. By doing this, he has ensured that we never forget the massive sacrifice given by normal everyday people.
The Battle of the Somme showed how decisive the machine gun, barbed wire and artillery were in modern warfare. It also demonstrated the arrogance of the British and the huge loss of life that was acceptable in this war of attrition. The French had learned their lesson at Verdun, the British would learn theirs at The Somme.
There are only two books you will need in your library of the Somme battle. This book by Malcolm Brown is one of them. The second is Martin Middlebrook's famed work The First Day on the Somme. Together they will provide a harrowing and thoughtful account of this famous battle.
on 2 March 2010
A superb, authoritative, well researched and gripping account of this conflict. Drawing heavily upon contemporary letters and diaries Malcolm Brown weaves a compelling mixture. The book tells the moving stories of individual soldiers who fought and died at the Somme set against the military and political backdrop to the battle.
The first three chapters give the background to the conflict, the initial build up and countdown to the first day. The fourth and fifth chapters give detailed accounts of the terrible first day on the third and fourth army fronts. Chapters six and seven cover counter-attacking operations and chapter eight the long drawn out summer on the Somme. Chapter nine attempts to capture the conflict from a German perspective with contemporary accounts from the writings of German soldiers. Chapter ten describes the September offensives and the introduction of tank warfare before chapter eleven describes the misery of the 'pitiless Somme' during the closing stages before Ancre and the closedown in chapter twelve. Chapters thirteen and fourteen give an account of life away from the front in the bars and estaminet and chapter fifteen the anticlimax as the Germans make a strategic withdrawal to a more defensible line. The book could have ended at this point since this is the end of the conflict traditionally known as the Battle of the Somme but it doesn't. Instead it goes on in chapters sixteen and seventeen to cover the second battle in 1918 when the ground that had been fought for so bitterly in 1916 was first ceded to the advancing German troops during the spring offensive and then recovered again during the allied counter attack of that year.
Malcolm Brown does a brilliant job of bringing to life this terrible battle and of capturing both the horror and the humanity of the conflict - both 'the mud and the stars'.
on 11 February 2004
Malcolm Brown's "The Imperial War Museum Book of the Sommme" is an account which quickly as a previous customer stated "absorbing" and it is one of the most astonishing accounts on the horrific battle yet. Malcolm Brown guides you through the Somme in elegant passion to the subject and shares the letters, diaries and other accounts from the battle to offer a perfect view of the battle. Complete with many unseen photographs and elegant beauty within this book, this is a definate buy for anyone interested in the subject.