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VINE VOICEon 14 September 2007
It was, I suppose, inevitable that the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Somme offensive of 1916 would encourage a considerable volume of new and reprinted work about the campaign. My guess is that, as usual, much of it will equally inevitably focus on the horror of the first day of the infantry attack, 1 July. The latter phases of drudgery, tedium and constant danger in the muddy wilderness of Lesboeufs or Le Transloy will barely receive a mention, yet it is the mud and grinding to and fro of attack and counter attack in these months that defines the Somme much more than the bloody mess of 1 July in the sunshine. Here is a book that puts the totality of the Somme into a more realistic context, despite it being only a snapshot of a typical twelve day stint for a weary infantry battalion, and it is therefore welcome.

It is not only the subject matter that appeals to me: the narrative is honest, gripping, emotional. Sidney Rogerson was a subaltern with the 2nd Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, a regular army unit that still possessed a few old soldiers - with their use of Hindi and Indian Army vernacular - despite having seen much action and loss by late 1916. We may be thankful for his clear memory, ability to recall and record, and his humanity. He takes us through the move from rest camp into a wasteland front where there is no discernable front line and to get there meant passing through a deep shell-swept zone with no landmarks; the tense days of front line duty and patrol without anything really unusual happening except the inexplicable disappearance of a brother officer; the agony of footslogging for miles to a flooded tented camp; the resentment at having to provide working parties within hours of coming out ; and eventually out to rest once more. There are no heroes here, no VCs; no "lions led by donkeys"; no glittering brass hats: the tale of ordinariness in these squalid, bitter conditions tells it own story of heroism. "Twelve days on the Somme" is deservedly a classic memoir, originally published in 1933.

The Greenhill version of the book includes a thorough introduction by author and historian, Malcolm Brown. This is itself a most interesting essay and a worthwhile scene-setter for Rogerson's powerful work.
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on 9 August 2012
A good 25 years ago I found myself working in a rented room in an old people's home (we ran a Talking Newspaper for the Blind) and inevitably we came into contact with the residents. One old guy, a big tall 6 foot 4 man, used to move about on a zimmer - not due to bad legs: he was partially blind, but he knew exactly where in the gardens he could stop and pull out the massive cigars he stored for a smoke without Matron seeing him.

One day we sat and had a chat (he was a potential Talking Newspaper listner), and the only line of conversation I could start with (I was only about 20) was I was born the year England won the World Cup, when he was already in his 60s. A couple of hours breezed by as I discovered he had fought at the Somme - something I had never been taught about at school. He lied about his age and signed up at 16. He told me of the mud in the trenches. I thought he was kidding when he told me they used to listen to the Germans 'digging' tunnels. Only many years later did I start to learn some of the history of the time.

A quarter of a century on and old Fred is probably dead and gone, bless him. And all those memories are gone because I never thought to ask more and write it down.

Then you come across a book like this from some else that was actually there.

12 Days on the Somme is literally that - a simple and graphic retelling of some of Sidney Rogerson's time at the front 12 days in fact. Clearly he has been there longer than the couple of weeks he retells from 1916. And clearly from the fact he describes the fate of some of those around him as late as 1918 shows he fought beyond that.

This is the 'real' history of WW1. Yes there is an element of Black Adder in there (the idiotic orders and the boredom and the fear), a little of All Quiet but at the end of the day it's a simple factual tale of 12 days in the middle of a war that has been going on for two years and will last two more.

I wrote a review of the Harry Patch book Last Fighting Tommy, which I thought was a dreadful meandering life history of someone who had fought for about three months in WW1 and had little else to its credit excepting the chap was then over 100. A lady commented that I was wrong to review the book the way I did, but at the end of the day I stand by it. That was a book that told you nothing about WW1.

12 Days, if it has any faults, is the fact that you want more. Like that chat I had 25 years ago, the time reading this will fly by.

A few older style grammar and phrases might throw you, but this is a true life history, if only of just 12 days.
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This is a wonderfully understated book which gives a quite different view of life in the trenches to the `Forgotten Voices' series and similar books of that genre that have been published in the past few years. Here Sidney Rogerson, an officer in 2/West Yorks, a regular battalion, gives what seems a very matter of fact account of the everyday reality of trench life. Not the dramatic litany of death and destruction, but the insight into how officers and men coped with the cold, boredom and routine of trench existence and life behind the lines. This is therefore a reliable and accurate account of the front line lifestyle, given that for most soldiers, sight of the enemy, let alone aiming rifle shots at him, was rare. A good read, and a book written by a man whose interest, care and regard for his brother officers and men under his command shines through.

Mike McCarthy

Editor, "The Battle Guide"

Guild of Battlefield Guides
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on 20 September 2012
I bought this book as I was doing some research into my grandfather's time in the 1st WW and wanted to get an idea of the kind of conditions he might have had to deal with. I found that once started it was difficult to put down, and, like another reviewer, would have liked to read more! I have been put off other war accounts by too much requirement for an understanding of military terminology/in depth discussion of precise movements of companies/battalions etc. This was a relatively simple account of one man's experience, without too much reference to the bigger picture of what was going on elsewhere - in fact at the time, he had no idea of the bigger picture, so I felt closeted in the little world he found himself in, in those trenches and camps. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the men rather than the battle plans. It is not gloomy, manages to be funny at times and above all is a testament to all that is good in human nature.
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on 5 May 2007
Sidney's book should be better known. I first heard about it through an excerpt published in a magazine a while ago, but have only just got round to buying and reading it. Previously I had little interest in history, and almost no knowledge of the First World War. This book has corrected both of those faults. It is an easy read, although it does not skimp in bringing home the realities of day to day life in the trenches. For those of us born post 60's, he provides a vital insight into humanity, as well as a reflection on the inhumanity of our current day to day working lives. Highly recommened reading that may change your perspective on life.
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on 3 January 2009
For a book about the horrors of war this book succeeded in making me laugh out loud in parts. It also made me sad at times and grateful for what I have and for the times I live in. A great book and a fulfilling read. The writing is of a very high quality with a charming style. Very informative. Great!
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on 18 January 2014
If you can get past the introduction which does go on a little (not written by the Author) its a fascinating insight into 12 days on the Somme. Would have loved the book to have covered his whole war time experiences, but he like many probably had his own demons to remember.

His descriptions of life in the trenches, painted a vivid picture of the horrors, trials and tribulations of the Tommy in the trenches during the 14/18 war.

Would recommend this book to anyone interested in this period
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on 1 May 2011
I read Birdsong by Sebastien Faulkes last year and put it in my top ten of favourite books. I thought it fitting to read Twelve Days On The Somme by Sidney Rogerson which is his true account of a period of trench life in WW1. Don't expect blood, guts and drama but do expect a good honest account by an Infantry Officer of the West Yorkshire Regiment. There is a short introduction by Jeremy Rogerson (son)and an inroduction by historian Malcolm Brown. The latter has a lot of references to other books but don't let this put you off.
The overwhelming feeling you get from Rogerson's account is that respect for others even your enemy at times with a good dose of humour will get you through the worst conditions you can be put through both physically and emotionally. The phrase "stiff upper lip" springs to mind on many occasions and you find yourself having new found respect to what the troops went through for their country. It's not all action but rather the simple daily routines, sights and smells that make this an interesting read.
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on 18 August 2011
Good read and inforative on what realy happened in warld war one.just how brave were our men all captured in this small book. this is a book that everyone should read it puts our life into praportion the book is well writen that has stimulated my husband to mark his grandfathers grave who receved the millatery meddle on the first day of the somme
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on 29 August 2014
As advertised reasonable condition
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