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on 16 March 2014
WHEN scores of British battalions attacked on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, many did so into a maelstrom of shrapnel and small arms fire.
By the day's end, almost 60,000 had become casualties which included 19,000 killed; it was, and still remains, the British Army's bloodiest day.
In Slaughter on the Somme, historians Martin Mace and John Grehan have, for the first time, presented the war diaries of those battalions which went over the top on July 1, 1916, to form the most comprehensive and unique narrative of that fateful day.
The diaries are presented on a corps by corps basis, and start from the northern end of the battlefield.
It is here that men of the 1/6 North Staffords and 1/5 Sherwood Foresters, part of the 46th North Midland Division launched their disastrous attack at Gommecourt.
Many families in East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire would have had relatives who fought here, and for those who want to find out about what their ancestors went through this book would be an ideal place to start.
While each battalion would have kept a war diary, the level of written detail does vary considerably between each unit. For example, the entry from the 1/5 Sherwood Foresters includes a detailed account from T.F.C Downman, who led a platoon during the attack. However, the entry for the 1/6 North Staffords is less detailed.
But that does not detract from the book, which is essentially primary source material in its purist form.
The book has been formulated from transcribing literally scores of handwritten diaries, which given their age and the conditions in which they were written is no mean feat.
The comprehensive scope of the book also means this will surely become a standard reference text for anyone from the amateur family historian to the academic scholar and will stand alongside other great works on the battle.
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on 30 June 2013
`Slaughter on the Somme' by Martin Mace and John Grehan is a wonderful book that contains the war diaries of each battalion that went over the top on the 1 July 1916 during the opening day of the battle of the Somme. This volume is required reading for anybody interested in the most disastrous day ever experienced by the British Army when they lost an unprecedented 57,470 casualties in a single day. Each diary is placed next to each other within their Corps and contains raw and sometimes detailed accounts of the operation, written shortly after it had happened and makes compelling reading.
Martin Mace and John Grehan have made great efforts to collate this extensive collection of war diaries into one volume. It is an enormous task that they have undertaken. I can empathise with their efforts because I have spent a lot of time researching through the same war diaries at the National Archives for own forthcoming book on the first day of the Somme campaign. To any student of this absorbing subject to have all the battalion war diaries in one volume is fantastic and will save future researchers and authors a lot of time venturing to the National Archives at Kew or downloading from their website and isolating the sections relating to this topic. Purchasing a copy of this book is money well spent.
The book will be of particular interest to anyone who has an ancestor who took part in that significant day in British history, to persons embarking on their own pilgrimage to the Somme to walk in their footsteps for it provides accounts of the action along the entire front attacked from Gommecourt in the north to Montauban in the south.
What I like about the book is that everything in the battalion war diary relating to the first day of the Somme campaign is included. For someone like myself in my book, I can only include extracts to substantiate my narrative, but I am pleased to see in this book that the battalion war diaries are presented in their entirety. `Slaughter on the Somme' by Martin Mace and John Grehan will not only serve as in important reference book, it will stand alongside Martin Middlebrook's ground breaking book `First Day on the Somme: 1 July 1916' as a lasting tribute to the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that day. I would like to congratulate and thank Martin Mace and John Grehan for producing such an important piece of work.
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on 20 July 2014
For the ex Military amongst us, this is another Bible from the Technical viewpoint. The Unit war Diaries although not always complete or fully written at the time, cannot be questioned. A well constructed edition.
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on 12 August 2014
Very detailed account of the Somme using factual information from War records, diaries etc. The maps could be clearer otherwise recommended.
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on 3 December 2013
Top class collection of Diaries that would take a lot of time (and £££s) to collect yourself. Highly recommended for the serious war historian.
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on 6 April 2015
This is a book for Somme specialists rather than the general reader. It needs a map close at hand to follow the fighting. Or someone on the ground with a Tablet, would make better sense of it.
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on 20 March 2016
An excellent resource for anyone interested in the first day of the Battle of the Somme written in the language of the time
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on 26 February 2015
An excellent book. A must-have for all First World One 'anoraks'.
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on 16 April 2014
In just two years time it will be the centenary of this slaughter, (1st July 1916) . brave men going out to meet their death or injuries believing the lies told by their generals. there is a lot taken from war diaries of regiments who went 'over the top' on that fateful day, and from the survivors.
Hard hitting factual and well worth the read.
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on 27 March 2014
This is a must read of the stupidity of war.The carnage from this battle is horrendous and should be read by the youth of today as a deterrent against all violence.
Highly recommended and heartbreaking for such slaughter for a meaningless result.
A member of my own distant family was killed on the first day in this action.
Read and learn
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