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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Voices of the Great War
This is a remarkable work. Max Arthur has distilled hundreds of hours of interviews into small pieces which he then assembles in to a patchwork gradually forming a picture of the Great War. No knowledge of the details of the war are needed; this is a view from ordinary people from all sides, including women of the Land Army and medical staff.
The voices are of their...
Published on 24 Nov 2002

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but difficult to put in context.
This is an excellent collection of first-hand accounts of the Great War, from a variety of different contemporary contributors to that war.

The only problem with this book is that it divorces the account from much of the wider picture, so it tends to foster a 'I've read that book, I know all about WW1 now' sort of attitude. Perhaps it's just a reflection of...
Published on 22 May 2008 by WeatherNerd


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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Voices of the Great War, 24 Nov 2002
By A Customer
This is a remarkable work. Max Arthur has distilled hundreds of hours of interviews into small pieces which he then assembles in to a patchwork gradually forming a picture of the Great War. No knowledge of the details of the war are needed; this is a view from ordinary people from all sides, including women of the Land Army and medical staff.
The voices are of their time which adds to the sense of authority. These men are confused, weighed down, horrified, but they keep their feelings very much to themselves, if indeed they actually allow themselves the luxury of feeling. It describes a world of chaos, mud and endless discomfort, poor sleep, infection and yet this becomes their home, somehow preferable to being back in England. Their are tales of heroism, but none of the voices see themselves as heroes.
This book is in the great tradition of oral history, and has now been written so future generations can gain a glimpse through the words of those who were there.
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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Voices of the Great War, 27 Nov 2002
By A Customer
This is a unique book. It is an oral history of the First World War, the stories of many people, soldiers, women of the Land Army, soldiers from all sides of the conflict. Max Arthur has skilfully woven a patchwork, distilling hundreds of hours of tapes of interviews with the survivors, reassembling them into a book that slowly unfolds the story of the war in their words. It is not about great people or great moments although there are many of these. It is about the day by day horror of the unfolding drama and their survival.
The voices speak with a different tone, almost unrecognisable today. It is one of humility, of a lack of self importance, of the greater good of the country and faith. There is in some ways a lack of depth in their descriptions as we are now so used to mining the extent of our inner experiences. Then, suddenly a comment will illuminate the ordeal and lend it terrible power.
It is extraordinary to see the dreadful conditions, the mud, infections, rats, sleeplessness, bombing and killing and maiming, slowly become habitual and even, bizarrely, preferable to being at home. One sees the same men start out strong and hopelessly optimistic and naive, slowly being ground into a new, darker personality.
This book is a treasure trove of individual experiences, now saved before the last of these men are lost forever. Max Arthur not only edited the tapes but also was able to interview some survivors himself.
It is the ideal book for primary source material and should be of importance to schools and universities. It helps remind us of what happened by listening to the last echoes of those who were there. Every library should have one.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great insight into REAL people's war, 3 Oct 2002
By A Customer
This book is the only oral history of the Great War that concentrates on the experiences on ordinary men and women who were doing ordinary jobs, such as working in munitions factories or on farms. It also records the experiences of low ranking soldiers; the courageous snipers, infantrymen, engineers and drivers who formed the backbone of the army. Their stories are often told in the most extraordinarily matter of fact way - they seem oblivious to how courageous their actions were. But it isn't all about courage and honour, some of the most moving accounts focus on young boys shot for desertion, for example, or the stupid women back in London who handed out white feathers to any men they saw out of uniform, assuming that they had weasled their way out of active service. Of course many of these men had simply been invalided out of the army after suffering horrible injuries, but they still felt humiliated when accosted in public. Max Arthur has found a wealth of wonderful stories in these veteran's memories, and it's marvellous to see them collected together in this fascinating book.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars White Feather, 8 Jan 2004
By 
d f gardner (runcorn, cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
"Almost the last white feather I recieved": thus one of the contributers remembers two women on a bus; one of whom gave him a white feather. He had returned from the front and was sat in civies. "For a brave soldier" said the woman who handed him the feather. Cleaning his pipe with it he handed the feather back. Those who took part in this conflict came home, tongue-tied; wanting to get back to the real reality with their mates at the front. They had no words for the folks back home. The folks back home were being served with patriotic post cards and the exploits of the cross-eyed pin-up Kitchener. So many mistakes are made by the ignorant and unwitting. This book seeks to help us to understand the mistakes made by all in the propogation and sustation of this dreadful conflict. If you you are just beginning to research this subject 'The GreatWar'. This is where you you must begin your studies.
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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a poignant book., 26 May 2003
By 
Richard (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I've read many, many books on the First World War. I can't remember ever reading one that moved me so much though. The voices of those who fought really comes through in this book.
This book will make you appreciate the thoughts and feelings of those who fought in World War One.
The feelings of those forced to participate in firing squads for example,is something few books have dealt with so poignantly. One of the voices tells of his disgust at witnessing a friend shot as a deserter when he had volunteered for action in the first place and had fought bravely throughout. One moment of fear and madness was enough to bring a court martial and death sentence.
The voice continues to tell how the victim's parents were never told the truth, and never got to know that an English bullet had ended their son's life. In a sick ironic twist, the devastated father's response was to join up himself as he felt he had to avenge his son's death at the hands of the Germans.
There are countless examples like this in the book-tragic episodes that would otherwise have gone to the grave with the few soldiers aware of them.
I can't imagine anyone not being able to gain some insight or degree of empathy from reading this book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read, 24 Nov 2002
By 
Max Arthur’s new book covering the Great War is quite unique in that its content is nearly all first-hand accounts from people who experienced the horror of the Great War. The author has utilized a number of tape recorded interviews conducted by the Imperial War Museum in 1972. Many of the tapes from the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive had been forgotten and left unheard for years.
Now Max Arthur has put together many of these unheard voices from the Great War to produce this spellbinding and captivating book. I must admit that I was reluctant to buy this book as I was worried that a book full of short accounts would be too disjointed and really not detailed enough to satisfy my interest. I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed reading this book.
Each chapter of the book was a year of the Great War and was commenced by an introduction by the author offering a brief run down on the major events of that year. Then we heard from the men and women who participated in these events, from both sides of no-man’s land. The author has concentrated mainly on the Western Front and Gallipoli and has tried to run the oral segments in chronological order.
I was really taken by these segments and I found it hard to stop reading. The accounts from these soldiers and civilians alike were at times humorous, strikingly direct, horrifying and on many occasions quite sad. I was really taken in by these accounts and I don’t think that any World War One library would be complete without this title sitting on the shelf. I can honestly say that I learnt quite a few things from this book and I would place it along side such works offered by Lyn MacDonald. Well done to the author and the Imperial War Museum for allowing these veterans, many now long dead, the last word on their experiences in the Great War. This is a great book, you won’t be disappointed.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of its kind?, 22 Dec 2003
Max Arthur uses the Imperial War Musuem sound archive to great effect to enable people who lived through the time of the Great War to tell their story. In fact this is perhaps the greatest strength of an excellent book in that it captures a period in time with the authenticity only one written by people who lived through it can.
Although primarily recalled through the memories of military personnel we also hear from a cross section of non-combatants ranging from school children to conscientious objectors. Max Arthur has created a living time capsule of the first world war and the result is an enlightening book which deserves high praise and a wide readership.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voices of the Lost Generation, 30 July 2008
By 
D. Evans - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Forgotten Voices of the Great War is a collection of real life experiences of the First World War, as told by the ordinary people who lived through it.
I must admit that my knowledge of the First World War is a little blank. My only previous experience of this period was through school lessons about trench warfare, or by watching Blackadder goes forth. Therefore I can't make an analysis about the historical accuracy of the book. But what I can say is that I found it a very powerful and poignant work.

The author, Max Arthur, has spent several years listening to thousands of recordings of the men and women who lived during this period. These tapes were kept as archival records in the Imperial War Museum, after they were collected in 1972. These are essentially the voices of a lost generation. The book is divided into chapters that cover every year of the war, from 1914 to 1918. Within these chapters are accounts taken from individual campaigns or battles such as Gallipoli, The Second Battle of Ypres, or the Battle of Mons.

Arthur has sifted through these records to bring out the most varied and unique stories. We are told about gas attacks, boredom or banter between soldiers, but we also get to hear the points of view of people like Elizabeth Owen, who was a schoolgirl at the outbreak of the war. Many of these stories are touching and funny, while others can be truly horrifying. In the section on Gallipoli for instance, we get a story of the games played between British and Turkish soldiers, with some of them throwing tinned bully beef and strings of figs to each other as presents. In the same section it also tells you of the horrible and undignified deaths caused by dysentry and other diseases, which will probably be some of the most terrible accounts of the war you will ever read.

This is an incredibly powerful and important book. If you have ever wondered about life during the First World War, then this book should be the first one you read. Extraordinay.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, moving book. Highly recommended., 15 Jun 2009
There are few books I've read where I have actually been moved to tears - actually REAL tears - whilst reading them. This is one of those books.

FVotGW is a superb collection of memories, anecdotes, insights and real-life tales from those who experienced WWI first-hand.

While such compendiums may have been published before, what comes across in FGotGW is the sheer, over-whelming humanity of people who recorded these thoughts and experiences and the situations they describe. The everyday, mundane aspects of being at war are described as poetically and meaningfully as the high-tension, terror-filled conditions in the trenches and on the battlefield.

The most touching excerpt for me was when the limbless veteran having returned from the Front bumped into a young woman who had - prior to his posting - presented him with a white feather for his alleged cowardice. She saw him in the street, recognised him, but face struck in horror at his disfigurements, walked on ignoring him. She was prepared to humiliate him owing to her own misunderstanding and ignorance of his circumstances, but then did not have the strength of character or humanity to stop and speak to him when he had given so much.

A moving book. An important book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A window through time, 5 Nov 2008
By 
Straightforward (Twickenham) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
War is never going to be a pleasant thing to read about, and this is no exception - it consists of testimonies from survivors, which have been cut into chunks and organised so that they refer to events in the order that they happened.

I happened across this in a charity shop at the end of October, and I can think of no better way to understand the real meaning of Armstice day - the absolute horror of the things they went through is something that I'd never be able to do. You get a real flavour of the way people were then too - women back in England handing out feathers (the symbol of a coward) to men in the street, completely unaware that a lot of them were back from the trenches sans uniform, which really affected the soldiers.

I won't go into the individual stories, but you can hear the voices rising from the page as you read - as an ex-actor, this is excellent source material if you're doing something set in this period.

A REALLY REALLY GOOD READ. Not many books have affected me as much as this one.
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