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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The true reality of war.
During the Great War the work of the Royal Engineers really came to show us what this completely unappreciated arm were capable of, no army can ever be sustained in the field without their help, but it is rare for us to get a glimpse of the work of the ordinary Sapper in any war litrature.
Sapper Albert Martin took a considerable risk keeping his diaries, it was...
Published on 28 Nov. 2009 by A.J.S. 62

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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sapper Martin
Good historical view from one who was in the trenches of WWI. Gives a fair amount of detail as to what it was actually like on the front line, also shows the trench and service humour for which the forces are renowned. Written in the language of the time - now considered old fashioned.
Published on 19 Feb. 2010

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The true reality of war., 28 Nov. 2009
During the Great War the work of the Royal Engineers really came to show us what this completely unappreciated arm were capable of, no army can ever be sustained in the field without their help, but it is rare for us to get a glimpse of the work of the ordinary Sapper in any war litrature.
Sapper Albert Martin took a considerable risk keeping his diaries, it was strictly against regulations and he probably would have been severely punished had the diaries been discovered.
Sapper Martins diaries were written in an easy reading style yet they hold the readers attention at every turn of the page, I found this book very difficult to put down. It is a fascinating tale of an ordianary soldier doing his duty that shows us the true reality of life at the front, from the mundane existance and boredom to the extreme horror and fear experienced by these men, this book really is a superb read and Mr Van Emden has done an excellent job editing the diaries.
I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone and I fail to see how this book would not be enjoyed by everyone who reads it, it is a book that should be read by those with a either strong or passing interest in the subject.
Thank you to Albert Martin for keeping his diaries, and thank you to Mr Van Emden for making them available to the public.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honour, courage and the common man., 2 Nov. 2009
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
During the first world war the sapper came into their own in this often missed and short life expectancy job on the front line. Here we get the view of the common man, who tells the tale of life in the trenches, the monotony, the repetition and existence in some of the worst trenches that the troops had to face. From the Somme to Ypres this vivid account is the type of history that I want to read. I don't like the generalisation of the war from the Generals or a Historians, I want it from the front line, from those who viewed the full horror and lived to tell the cost of not only friends and family but also of the moral boosts from home with their simple gifts alongside their letters. A true tale of courage, honour and above all bravery of the common man in the adversity of warfare. Van Emden has done a stirling job of condensing the war diaries of Albert and yet retained the voice of the common man.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 122nd Brigade, 41st Division - Required Reading, 13 Dec. 2009
By 
Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
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As the Great War marches out of living memory, it's almost a cliché to say that there has been a steady increase in interest in the experience of the passing generation, and a steady barrage of newly transcribed diaries, memoirs, and collections of letters.

The interest of these books often rests on the nature of the author's service, the theatre of war they served in, their rank and the nature of their service, not to mention their skill as a writer.

Sapper Jack Martin's Diary, ably edited by Richard van Emden, was presumably written in secret (diary keeping was banned at the front) or with the tacit approval of Martin's superiors. It is an outstanding example of an enlisted man's war: Martin's skill as a writer makes this an invaluable addition to the genre.

Martin served in the Royal Engineers, a volunteer from a stern no-conformist background. He served in the Brigade signals of the 122nd Infantry brigade, part of the 41st Division. (His brigade included the 12th East Surreys, 15th Hampshire's, 11th Royal West Kents, and the 18th Kings Royal Rifle Corps - research into these battalions will find this book of particular interest). The Division was deployed in France in May 1916, served o the Somme (where Martin's diary begins in September 1916); in the battle of Messines in summer 1917 and on the Flanders coast. In November 1918 they were sent to Italy to stem the Austro-Hungarian advance and Martin's description of Italy is especially striking. They returned to the Western front in February 1918, enduring the hammer blows of the German Spring Offensive, and after the Hundred Day's advance, finishing the war in occupation duties in Cologne.

Martin has a perceptive and sensitive insight into his condition, and as well as his philosophical insights, his war centres on food, sleep, and companionship, enduring shelling and generally weathering life just behind the front line. Of particular interest are his views of the war, and his anger at `shirkers' as home having a cushy war. It is also interesting to read of the relationship of a well-educated soldier with his officers - Martin's interaction with Lieutenant Buchanan is especially striking.

There is no index, which is a pity - don't miss Martin's account of being sent Sassoon's `Counter-attack' by his fiancé on pages 235-6.

It's worth remembering that these are transcribed diaries, written up by Martin in the 1920s. They are an invaluable part of a Great War library, and especially valuable to the history of the neglected 41st Division.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Enjoyable., 6 Jan. 2010
This diary, whilst being necessarily (and who can tell how well) edited is a wonderfully preserved and presented slice of Great War life from someone who served in Flanders and France from the latter part of the battle of the Somme through Pashendale, on to Italy then back to the Western Front just in time for Germany's 1918 offensive and the subsequent "100 days" leading to the eventual allied victory. "Sapper" Jack Martin narrates the daily events of his service with a great degree of humility and yet lacks the often perceived, fore-lock-tugging deference that many of the Georgian working and middle classes (at least on the surface) appeared to affect; this makes for a refreshing and humorously wry read.
I found this book to be highly compelling and I would strongly recommend it to any student of not only the Great War but also of early 20th Century.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A historical gem, 27 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin (Diary)
I've read most of the Amazon reviews on this book and they are generally highly complimentary. It seems to me that most miss the point that this is a valuable historical document, an 'illegal' war diary brought to light and skillfully edited to make a very readable novel.
Sapper Martin was an incredible man of his times. Courageous but not fearless, as he states that he sometimes got 'windy' (afraid) when working in lonely areas where he could be wounded and left undiscovered for days. His job was to keep the signal wires in working order after being blown apart by German artillery 'strafes'.
What come across strongly is his indomitable courage in the face of constant danger of sudden death. How many of us in our soft society of today would keep going for months on end with good humour, never knowing which day would be your last?
Some reviewers stated that Martin was a highly educated man. But again I think that this misses the point. Martin was an ordinarily educated man of those times. I have read WWI war letters from wives to their husbands, and vice-versa, that are both eloquent and moving, well spelt and constructed. These were from ordinary working people of the day. It would shame our current education establishment where literacy appears to be optional.
I heard a story recently read from a soldier's account of the Battle of the Somme. He states that when the whistles blew and the men emerged from their trenches to attack the German positions they stretched to left and right as far as his eyes could see. After ten paces half were gone. After twenty paces he was advancing alone. But still advancing. That to me brings Sapper Martin's courage and dedication to duty, and that of his comrades, into focus. A diary full of the mores of the time and the strength of mind of those who were bidden to fight for their country.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden masterpiece, 9 Nov. 2011
By 
Alastair Dandy (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin (Diary)
Why Sapper Martin did not have this diary edited and published during his lifetime is beyond me. It has all the marks of a classic. It is an eloquent, moving and honest window into the world of one of our long-forgotten heroes.

Had this been published just after the First World War, I am certain that it would now be up there alongside Sassoon and Graves.

Following Sapper Martin from his arrival in France in 1916, through the Somme and Ypres battles, on to the Italian front, then back to the Western Front for the end-game, the diary records everything from the mundane to the tragic, using often-beautiful language but with an all-pervading and disarming modesty. As far as it is possible to be, you are there with him; you know him and you like him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read autobiographical account of a Sapper's WW1, 5 Jan. 2010
As I got to know Sapper Martin, I was impatient to read what he thought about each unfolding event, what his opinions were, because he is very much his own man and a thinker and observer of his fellow soldiers and the landscape of the trenches, at the same time as being every "Tommy" there ever was. I wish there had been more photographs. The book kept me rivetted to the end, because it is well edited to keep the story moving along, without stifling Sapper Martin's own voice. The immediacy of his voice brings history alive.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sapper Martin, 26 Sept. 2010
By 
H. Sharratt (UK) - See all my reviews
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A brilliant book! Sapper Martin sometimes shows humour in the face of adversity. Comments are made about the way the Troops are treated back in the UK - not much has changed!! What brilliant, brave men!! They have my utter respect and admiration. I'm now going on a WW1 trip to find out more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I keep this book by my bed. If I ever think my life is hard, I pick it up., 8 Nov. 2011
By 
M. Littlewood - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin (Diary)
There is no doubt Sapper Jack Martin was pretty much a normal regular guy. Largely self-educated, wry, refreshingly unambitious, normal. His war life made him extraordinary. He kept a diary (not allowed to), he didn't shoot through the ranks, he didn't become institutionalised, he didn't become bitter, self pitying, politicised or moan. He remained remarkably calm and intact. His story is extraordinary because it is so rare to hear the voice of someone in his situation.

The diary is fascinating, descriptive, evocative and wonderfully readable. It also makes you realise, almost 100 years later, just how far our society has come in some ways - for good and for bad. While we might be able to thank inventions and innovations like the internet and twitter for example for playing a part in keeping our politicians a bit more honest (we like to think anyway), the fact remains that people like Jack Martin and his experiences make most modern lives seem utterly over-privileged in comparison.

Read this. Enjoy it. Then pick it up if you ever think you are badly done by.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sapper Martin War Diary, 26 Dec. 2009
By 
M. Newnham (I.O.W England) - See all my reviews
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This book does a fine job of chronicling the war of sapper Martin, the trick of this sort of book, is in the editing, and in this respect, Richard Van Emden has done a superb job. There is just enough historical background information to assist the reader, but not so much as to distract from the narrative. Sapper Martin himself comes across as an intelligent man, who was only a private in rank, but never the less, due to his position as a signaler to brigade HQ, he is able to tell us how decision's were implemented, and the ordinary soldiers reactions too them.
This book is much more than a collection of diary entries cobbled together to form a book.
To any body interested in the great war, I can thoroughly recommend this book.
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Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin
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