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A view from the other side of the line.
on 11 July 2006
"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!
Editor, The Battle Guide
Guild of Battlefield Guides