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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Great War memoirs
Do not hesitate: if you have any interest in the Great War or a man's experiences at war, you will find no better work than "Last man standing". It is a genuine "cannot-put-down". Editor Richard van Emden has produced a really memorable account of Norman Collins' war, based on Norman's own letters, photographs and descriptive memoir. Norman reached the grand old age of...
Published on 8 May 2012 by Chris Baker

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Last Man standing
This was an interesting read. It provided an overview of life during the first world war. And his letters home to his family,during the war. There is a change in his letters home he just wants the war to end.
Published 18 months ago by Richard Devine.


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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Great War memoirs, 8 May 2012
By 
Chris Baker "The Long, Long Trail man" (Leamington Spa, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Do not hesitate: if you have any interest in the Great War or a man's experiences at war, you will find no better work than "Last man standing". It is a genuine "cannot-put-down". Editor Richard van Emden has produced a really memorable account of Norman Collins' war, based on Norman's own letters, photographs and descriptive memoir. Norman reached the grand old age of one hundred years and passed away in 1998, but in his later years Richard got to know him well. The story, however, is of a boy who was just seventeen in 1914.

Norman Collins was perhaps typical in that he was keen to get to war, to the extent that he did not tell his parents and went as far from his home as possible to enlist, joining the Seaforth Highlanders as a ranker in mid 1915. He had already seen some of war's brutality, in the form of the German naval bombardment of his home town of Hartlepool. From the time he joined, Norman was very evidently proud to be a "kiltie". He was a good soldier, rapidly promoted through the ranks and commissioned after officer training at Lichfield. His descriptions of life there and previously at Seaforths barracks and camps at Fort George and Ripon paint a detailed and absorbing picture of the soldier's life in training.

Once in France he sees a great deal of action, serving with the 4th and 6th Battalions and going over the top at Beaumont Hamel (November 1916) and Arras (April 1917). His experiences inevitably include the deaths of close friends, comrades and even his young servant. Norman is also detailed to lead a burial party after the attack at Beaumont-Hamel, in which his men find around 1000 bodies including many skeletal remains from 1 July 1916. It is perhaps unsurprising that this episode gives him nightmares; but he also suffers a recurring dream which affected him for many years, of the marching boots of his comrades, leaving him behind as last man standing.

Although wounded and spending months in hospital and convalescence, Norman made a sufficient recovery to return to service and an eventual requested transfer to the Indian Army, with which he saw post-war service on the North West Frontier. He went on to a most interesting and illustrious career of which we see only a glimpse in the book but perhaps enough to demonstrate the character of the man. Norman only returned to the old battlefields in the 1990's, encouraged to do so by his son. It was a last chance to say goodbye to many of his chums, whose graves he visited. He is no doubt with them again, no longer the last.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last Man Standing, 3 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
If, like me, you have previously read general histories of the 1st World War, this personal record shows things from a different perspective.

Norman Collins was unusual in that all his letters home were kept, thus giving a remarkably complete record of his army life and thoughts from the date of his joining the army as a young volunteer until shortly after the end of hostilities.

He had joined his school cadet force which gave him a sound introduction to army life. His letters during his army training show how the army set about things: everything is covered - from food, sleeping accommodation, leave, exercises and so on. He, and his volunteer colleagues, looked forward to the prospect of war and to joining the regiments they were keen on, seeing things more or less as an adventure - not knowing of course what the reality would turn out to be. 'The day war broke out I was thrilled' he wrote and rushed down to the recruiting station. Patriotism, he says, was assumed.

Fairly quickly, his confidence, abilities and the encouragement of his CO lead him to apply for a Commission, which he duly attained.

In France he proved to be a very competent officer judging by the tasks he was allotted. And he gave much thought to the needs of the men in his charge. Early on he says 'On the whole I prefer this to being at home as I am doing something at last and although it is a very hard life it is not so monotonous'. He was just 19.

Physical conditions were often appalling. Apart from the fighting there was the mud, sometimes almost waste deep. One of his tasks was to collect the dead. Rats scurried from the chest cavities of some of the bodies.

Later, his enthusiasm was less marked, though he always continued to be an effective officer. He was incensed when he once went back to brigade headquarters and found the officers there living in considerable comfort - white tablecloths for full meals, and polished buttons and belts, and food parcels from Fortum & Masons, etc. In the line trenches you didn't wash, you just scraped the mud off.

He never pretended he was not scared before a battle - but he knew he had to set an example to his men, which he did. 'You could not avoid the bullets, or the shells; it was sheer chance' he wrote. Writing to his brother he said 'You know how keen I was about the army and wanting to get out here, so I know what I am talking about. It is the nearest approach to Hell on earth that there is'.

He later described war as futile: both sides were losers he said. He thought the war could have been ended much sooner.

The book is well presented with interesting photographs, some by Norman Collins himself. I did not notice any typos. I found it a very absorbing and sobering read, and a complement to my previous reading about WW1. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good first-hand account.., 15 April 2013
By 
C. D. Nash (Nr Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
..of a fairly ordinary young man who served throughout WW1 but who was a brave and observant soldier. A recommended read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrors of War, 17 April 2013
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
What a stimulating and excellent biography of one man's war. I recommend it to all would be military historians. I was amazed that he remained a 2nd Lt despite all the deaths of his comrades and his obvious good performance as an officer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for WW1 enthusiasts, 14 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
A great insight into the thoughts and feelings of a truly brave young soldier on the front line told from his memoirs at the time and accounts in later life.

If WW1 is of interest to you then this is a must. A snip at only 0.98

Purchase now
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story of close family and human endurance through the killing fields of WW1, 28 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
This story is a terrific read and reveals an era at the beginning of the 20 th Century of close family, personal ambition, loyalty to your country and the real horrors of war.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Read, 13 Jun 2013
This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
It felt like a privilege to read this. I possibly have a better understanding of WW1 now than I've ever had. I think it was the immediacy of it, composed as it is largely of letters written home, either from his training periods, or else from the Front itself. The day-to-day-ness of the book made it so much easier to comprehend than serious, weighty historical tomes ever could - in my opinion, anyway. And I found myself liking this man enormously. The book also cleared up something for me. In my ignorance I'd always felt that, either with the volunteers during the first two years of this war, or else the conscripts from 1916 onwards, officers and men alike were more or less given a uniform and a rifle, shipped over the France, then told to just get on with it. Nothing, it seems, was further from the truth, because they were trained meticulously for many months before they were deemed fit to go and fight.

Norman didn't consider himself to be a hero. I beg to differ.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars last man standing, 11 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
A pleasure to read. A true gentleman who tells an honest story without bravado, the pictures were charming and showed a time of lost innocence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last Man Standing.........., 21 April 2013
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
I liked this book and would recommend it to readers of the First War history. I remember seeing Norman Collins' interviews on TV and his record of what he went through is well scripted. He brings home what happened without over or understating facts. Many of his letters home are reproduced along with photos he took at the time and they make interesting reading/viewing.
I recommend this book to anyone with and interest in First War history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting personal recollections, 10 April 2013
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This review is from: Last Man Standing: The Memoirs, Letters & Photographs of a Teenage Officer (Kindle Edition)
Having read a good deal on the First World War, including many diaries and anthologies, I found this book slightly different from most. It is not written solely about his experiences of war. For me the strongest aspects of the book are around the words and actions of a young man trying desperately, through his letters and thoughts, to remain linked to his family life at home. Good.
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