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4.4 out of 5 stars
SUBALTERN ON THE SOMME
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2014
Max Plowman gives an erudite and sensitive appreciation of his time as a junior officer in the Great War.

Plowman himself is capable and brave, well-respected by his men and fellow officers. He is acutely aware of how character determines a man's response to the demands of war in the front line, in both officers and men. Character portrayal is a strength of the book.

Top Brass is seen as falling short too often: "...the colonel himself ...never managed (though to give him his due he tried very hard) to reach the trenches". And " At Beauquesne we passed some large country houses that are said to be in use as army headquarters. One could not help admiring the command's taste". Also "For the higher command the war is a great adventure and into it they can and do put tremendous zeal and endless thought. At the same time they have all the excitement of a bigger game than any other"

He is also concerned about the mechanisation of war. "We have endowed machinery with the power once confined to a man's right arm, and now the machine continues to function long after our natural instincts have spent themselves. That is what makes this war so ghastly. It is machine-made."

Plowman became increasingly disillusioned with the conflict. If only the British public knew what was going on, he thought: "...in the words of our battle-hymn, 'They'd never believe it'"

Following recuperation in England from a bomb blast he wrote to his battalion adjutant asking to be relieved of his commission on the grounds of religious conscientious objection to all war. What is not in the book is that he was arrested and tried by court martial for refusing to return to his unit. He was dismissed from the army without punishment.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2012
Amongst the dozens of WW1 memoirs written by junior infantry officers, this one stands out as being particularly well-written. Max Plowman, who originally wrote the book under the name of "Mark Seven" gives us atmospheric episodes from his six months on the Western Front, and it rings completely true in every respect. My grandfather too was a junior officer on the Somme, and his reminiscences, told to me as a teenager, are in total accord with this fine book.

I read this book in a couple of days, and almost at once became dismayed at how fast it was going by and how near I was to the end. I am about to read it a second time: it is that sort of book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2013
A powerful and emotional account by a soldier during of one of the most dreadful events in our history. The memoir is engaging and vivid, offering a raw and real look into World War I by a very talented and classical writer. Max Plowman was a very admirable man and I have much respect for not only his abilities as an author, but also his endurance through a time that is almost unimaginable these days. I found every chapter to be just as captivating as the other and with the visually rich, detailed writing painting a picture through each chapter in the mind, it ended up leaving a lasting impression on me that proved hard to fade.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an unadulterated and raw look into the events that occurred on the Western Front through an intelligent author's perspective.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2014
Very good book it was good to get another view of a horrific war what those men went through is unbelievable and the mistakes the senior officers made was disgraceful. Well worth a read
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2014
One of the few officers who made it through WW1, this is a very human and moving account of the best and the worst of life on the front. Well written, full of action, polite (except perhaps to certain staff officers) this is a book that really deserves reading by the millions of people today who lost relatives in the trenches of the Great War.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2014
I read this as a follow-up to Margaret McMillan's 700 pages The war that ended the peace. Together they give some understanding of the causes of WW I and the misery of those common soldiers who fought in it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2013
An interesting and illuminating book about the day to day life in the trenches. Whilst there is no "over the top" action, the trials suffered by the troops in the mud of the trenches are no less demanding and life threatening than the bullets and shells of the enemy. Could people today endure what was endured?, I think not.
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on 1 September 2014
Probably the most authentic feeling book of the great war that I have read. I was brought up in the 1930s and 40s surrounded by ex soldiers who would not discuss their experiences which were too terrible to mention. Accordingly my actual knowledge of that conflict was very slight. The second world war then arrived and for years during and afterwards , stories of that time were openly discussed and portrayed in films etc. The comparison of coverage of both terrible wars was very different! This book accurately portrays the unbelievable conditions the participants had to endure,which I now realise were far worse than I had considered possible.No wonder my father and relatives would never wish to be reminded of them !
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on 23 May 2014
In the narratives of war a matter-of-fact style of presentation seems to work best and this is a fine example of that style. Things just happen, as they did; and the narrator's sense of surprise, almost, that they survived and were not killed, is a surprise shared intimately with the reader. The obvious fact that we are reading the narrator's words does not diminish our expectation that disaster will strike, eventually, nor our surprise when it does not. We are involved. We may be killed ourselves. So many are killed. We feel danger ourselves.
This is a fine book and it involves the reader, subtlety, in the day-to-day business of conflict on a large-scale.
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A brilliant book and the writing is superb and electrifying....I found I difficult to put it down till the next day. He has a way of writing to resurrect the horror of all that happened and to involve one in it (Heaven forbid). He really could write down all the consternation, dismay, dread, fear, fright and panic with the terror they all felt all the time they continued to fight....as they were told they must. His writing is about the most loathsome fighting but intensely vivid and exceptional I have read on extracts of the First World War.
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