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"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"

The words of Robert Burns have already captured the impact of this book.
At last we are seeing more books based on research of the available German Great War archives and this book is a superb addition, mainly because it helps to answer the question `How' rather than `What'.
What happened during the Battle of the Somme is largely a matter of record and has been addressed by many authors, but in general there are few books that attempt to explain the process and psychological framework that conditioned the participants. In other words we know what happened, but how did the men prevail over such dreadful conditions and circumstances? That this book examines the issue `from the other side of no-man's-land' is very useful and the image we have of British POW's under post capture questioning (one hesitates to use the term interrogation) is of men released from the horrors of battle and ready to impart information to an enemy with whom they shared much. The clever use of interrogators who shared values with the captured is highlighted. German airmen would tend to question British airmen as the shared values of aviators encouraged conversation.
The willingness of POW's to impart what they considered as unimportant information actually assisted the Germans in gaining the insight into the British character that was one of their main objectives.
This is a book that any serious Great War researcher or enthusiast should have, and will attract the general reader because it is presented in a very readable style. It is provocative, erodes many preconceptions, and adds significantly to the wider understanding of how men reacted to the circumstances of their service and capture. In short their motivation and how they saw themselves within the attrition process of industrial warfare. A cracking book highly recommended!

Mike McCarthy
Editor, The Battle Guide
Guild of Battlefield Guides
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VINE VOICEon 21 May 2006
During the war and for some years afterward, the British effort on the Somme in 1916 was regarded by those who were there as a very considerable achievement. Denied by David Lloyd George in his scurrilous "War Memoirs" and, in the descending gloom of the thirties, denigrated by the highly seductive and pernicious view of waste, disenchantment and futility purveyed by poets and intellectuals, the Somme descended into mythology that persists to this day. Alan Clarks "The Donkeys" and "Oh It's a Lovely War" in the anti-establishment sixties perpetuated the myth, building it into a fortress that has proved virtually impregnable. Thousands of accounts - at times you would never the believe the war continued after 9am on 1st July 1916 - of brave pals, never before into action, slaughtered by the machine guns of Serre, Beaumont Hamel, Thiepval, La Boisselle. Powerful imagery, deep emotion. The impact of the loss on 1 July was immense and still has the power to shock us today and quite rightly. But where is the memory of hard-fought success on the first day; of the brilliant capture of the German second line on 14th July; of the incredible intensity of the fight for Guillemont; the extraordinary advances on 15th September; the fast-paced development of new structures of command, of tactics, of logistics; even of the monumental effort to fight in the mud of October? "But we lost hundreds of thousands of men ... surely stupid... how can you call that a success"? Surely those who took part deserve better of us than to keep on accepting this line. Surely we need to take the Somme into proper perspective. "Through German eyes: the British & the Somme 1916" is certainly among the most powerful works to help us do so.

For almost forty years, beginning with John Terraine and building up through modern research by the likes of Peter Simpkins, Gary Sheffield and John Bourne, a less partisan, realistic view has been emerging. Yet there is something missing - a rigorous appraisal of the impact of the Somme on the German side (and for that matter, the French). "Through German eyes: the British & the Somme 1916" , following fast on the heels of Jack Sheldon's "The German Army on the Somme 1914-1916", goes a long way in filling this key gap in our understanding.

Christopher Duffy draws extensively on German archive material to define the enemy's views and reactions. His findings simply destroy the "Lions led by Donkeys" mythology. By the end of 1 July 1916, the Germans had realised they were facing a concerted Allied effort and that the moment was perhaps decisive. Indeed it was. Less than a week later, British forces had pressed on to such a worrying extent that Falkenhayn called off the Verdun offensive. As the fighting intensified, German counter attacks proved every bit as costly as the British advance: the realisation came that this was not about holding ground, but about attrition, about sheer weight of force. It was materialschlacht. There was and possibly could not be any breakthrough at Verdun or the Somme. Yet as Duffy found, German observers believed "the roots of the outcome of the war lay in just these battles". By the end, Germany knew it could not fight another Somme.

The book covers the entire battle, from intelligence about Allied intentions right through to the final actions in November 1916. There is also an interesting analysis of development of arms and tactics during the battle. There is too an extensive list of German references and a thorough bibliography. The phases of action are accompanied by some decent maps.

This is an important book. It is well written and a good read, and deserves to be read by anyone who is minded to explore beyond the facile mythology of the Somme.
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As is often the case with books by Christopher Duffy I fair whizzed through the book which I found exactly at the level I wanted. I was not looking for a comprehensive history of the Somme, or for more breast-beating or for more revisionism. My aim was to see, as the book's title says, the campaign through German eyes. Duffy does an excellent job of showing how the Germans regarded the British and (indeed) how the British regarded themselves. This is dealt with both in general matters (including the now lost Anglo-German links, both family and Germans living and working here) in attitudes and in perceived strengths.

He then treats each phase of the long campaign in sufficient detail for its outlines to be clear and for the effect on and reaction of the German Army to be fully described. The slaughter of closely-packed units may be a Somme memory in Britain but here we see the German equivalents; the mud, the bombardments and the RFC attacking them for most of battle until the German airforce made its reappearance. Particularly effective use is made of the interrogation reports of British prisoners. No need to torture when a kind ear and a warm beverage is given to battered prisoners.

This book does not make the British (and I use British to encompass all the imperial troops) sacrifice any the less but it demonstrates that the grass was not greener on the other side.
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on 5 April 2011
Although this book wasn`t quite what I expected I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having been brought up on a diet of books from the allied perspective it has been a bit of an eye opener seeing things from the German side. I would have liked more maps to reference the text but that apart, it`s good.
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on 29 June 2006
Christopher Duffy is an acknowledged expert on the Austrian and German army between the 1800's and 1945 and therefore readers can be sure that the content of this useful volume will be accurate, as it will be based on firm facts, a great deal of extensive research and a wealth of experience. It is sure to be an invaluable addition to any military historian's or battlefield guide's library and will be ideal for future reference especially when wanting to add a new and different dimension to your battlefield tours.

Anyone who has heard of the Battle of the Somme is aware that it was one of the key battles of the Great War and also learnt of the horrific waste of human life - especially on that fateful 1st July day, when no less than 58,000 British troops became casualties or were killed in action. This fact alone has left a lasting legacy of an image of British incompetency and brave "Tommies" being sent to their certain deaths by blundering generals, therefore branding the initial attack and following sequence of events a disaster.

Just as the title implies, this volume deals with the battle from the German perspective and will provide the reader with a very different view of the thought processes all those years ago. Contrary to modern British belief, the Germans did not believe the British troops were useless, in fact as the author's research now reveals, they had a great and growing respect for the professionalism, performance and mentality of their enemy - especially as they were mostly volunteers.

The German view of the British and events at the time has only just come to light and therefore the contents of this volume will make fascinating reading. The author has drawn on previously inaccessible and obscure archive documents that include unpublished memoirs and records of interrogation with British prisoners-of-war, who at the time of their capture still believed Britain would win the war, thereby by fuelling concerns in German minds that they would be defeated!
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on 18 September 2014
Great War addicts need and must read, this superbly researched History of the Somme Battles, simply because it puts the story straight. The many Biography's and Autobiography's are 95% Brit' based but this reveals the German view and how their typical German methodical analysis meant they knew all about the build up to the Somme day by day. Balanced and accurate and statistically revealing. The Germans were asking the question so many Brits were asking, as to why two countries so closely linked thru bloodties, education and history could ever have ended up fighting in such a way. Read it.
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on 25 April 2014
Needed this book for a forthcoming trip and it will greatly add to my tour. The author, an acknowledged expert, writes straightforwardly and offers good advice on specific tours in the area. I'd previously borrowed this book from the local but mislaid it, so I was delighted to be able to buy an as new pb to return to the library and an ex-library hb for my own bookshelf. Got the 2,incl p+p, for less than the cost of one pb in a shop. Sorry,bookshop owners.
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on 13 December 2010
Well-researched, comprehensive and fast-moving. I got this for Xmas last year and it languished at the bottom of the gift pile until November. When all the others had been read I picked this one up and was very pleasantly surprised. It is well-written, doesn't dwell on irrelevant minutiae and has benefitted from what appears to be painstaking research. This book told me things I didn't know about the British and German armies in 1916 and threw the whole campaign into a completely new light. Heartily recommended.
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on 20 July 2010
The idea of showing the Somme campaign from the point of view of the Germans is an important idea. However World War 1 is one of the areas of history where there is a glut of books because they sell well. This means that quality can be decidedly patchy as the publishers know the topic will do the selling rather than the merit of the book.

At this point I must point out that the most glowing review is written by Michael McCarthy who looking through his other reviews is obviously an expert on WW1 and WW2 and therefore he's presumably more interested in the data rather than quality of the writing because if you are a casual reader I assure this is not a well written book. I say this as our opinions have differed on other books too that I have found tiresome and he has loved. So if you agree with Mike- then buy the book, if you aren't so sure then read on.

It starts out promising enough but it takes a third of the book before it gets to the battle- a little too much build up perhaps? Also it is still very Britain centric as more is written about the German view of the Brits than about the Germans themselves. This is interesting for a while but you do wonder when is it going to end and surely with the title there could have been more on the Germans?

Come July 1st 1916 it rapidly turns into the worst sort of historical writing as you get lines like- the 6th battalion moved in an Easterly direction towards the schwartzenburgenfuhrer ridge. Ok I made the name up but that's only because I found the descriptions of combat so mind numbingly dull. There are moments of interest but again we get as many quotes from British sources as we do German- could I have my money back please that's not what I paid for. In good historical books a day's battle can be summarised, it's a myth that you must know what formation was where with how many men in it to understand what is going on. Get that from another source because it is little more than lists and certainly the first day of the Somme is very little more than massacre at the hands of rifle and machine gun it doesn't need that level of repetition and listing of division after division running up to the German lines only to be pushed back at horrendous cost. Interestingly that level of detail isn't sustained as the story does go on until November and gets better when you get incidents that highlight what's going on rather than the utterly dull detail on the first day.

The book is not terrible and the research is interesting as is the point of view of the Germans (when it's actually written about), it's just a missed opportunity and as for reading history for enjoyment or recreation this is a hard slog. One for the hard core fans of military history I think.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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on 14 July 2015
Fantastic book, the Germans were surprised how good we were, the Somme wasn't a disaster - more people would realise this if they read this book. It's a must read book from my perspective, so don't hesitate!
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