3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The tragedy of the Great War in words and pictures,
This review is from: The Faces of World War I: The Great War in words & pictures (Hardcover)
Primarily focusing on the Western Front, this magnificently illustrated history book provides a visually stunning [and at times quite moving] record of World War One. High quality photographs are combined with well-chosen quotations from soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict to create a comprehensive account of the First World War in words and pictures [many of the quotes are taken from the author's acclaimed 2003 book Forgotten Voices of the Great War]. From the optimism of 1914 to the despair of 1918, and all the suffering in between, the handpicked photographs capture it all.
As you'd expect there are plenty of grim images to be found here and the deterioration of both the men themselves and the conditions they fought in is plain to see as you turn the pages. However, there are some sparks of light amidst all the darkness. As Ian Hislop says in the foreword, it's striking how often "the men smile at the camera when, to our eyes, there can be so little to smile about" and there are numerous photographs of the soldiers smiling and laughing while engaged in everything from football matches to pillow fights.
One thing I did read in this book that I wasn't previously aware of is that in some regiments the soldiers used to play football together as they went 'over the top'. To keep their morale up they'd pass the ball to each other as they crossed over no-man's land towards the enemy guns. As one Tommy recalls about the very first time he 'went over': "I remember the ball dropping at my feet and I passed it to Captain Maxwell. 'That was a good pass you made, young Withers' he shouted, before he thumped it towards the German lines". A great little anecdote, I thought, of the kind that would make this book a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the First World War.