27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Possibly the best book on the Somme.,
This review is from: The German Army on the Somme 1914-1916 (Hardcover)
It is very difficult indeed to find fault with this book.
It is a magnificent addition to anybody's Great War library and quite simply an invaluable resource.
We are given, from primary sources, the German view of the Somme battlefield as a counterpoint to the many books over the past thirty years giving the view from British sources.
Perhaps as a consequence of the German tendency towards sentimentality in comradeship, the accounts by German soldiers seem to have greater detail and poignancy compared with the rather more reserved approach of their British counterparts with which we are familiar. The emotions of the German soldier and his pain and frustration at often being unable to help comrades during the horrific artillery `drumfire' helps us establish an empathetic response and emotionally engages us in his fate.
The use of both personal accounts and army archive sources allows the narrative of the battle events to be skilfully interwoven with the primary sources but without becoming an overpowering litany of horror stories. The German Sommekampfer of July 1916 is seen as a skilful motivated and very effective soldier who is eroded by the constant battering of five months of battle. We see from the accounts that he is still at the end of the battle a formidable opponent, but one that is missing that spark of brilliance. His words show the sadness of the loss of so many comrades, and the Sommekampfer above all knows that these were the best of the German army, now gone forever.
Some of the source material is known, but much is new. It adds greatly to our knowledge and sources and because so much is new it is definitely not a regurgitation of established work previously available to the mainstream reader.
The only, and I mean only, criticism is the failure to produce maps that place the accounts in their detailed context. It would have been magnificent if for example we had a detailed map showing the position of Unteroffizier Otto Lais and his other machine gun teams near the Serre - Mailly Road. If that were done in each case it would provide the missing link between the men and the ground. Those of us who know the Otto Lais account can see the significance of his story in context but such a map would help the reader new to the ground. Do not however let this minor criticism deter. It is still a 5 star book and is a key resource for the understanding of the human dimension on the Western Front.
Editor, "The Battle Guide"
Guild of Battlefield Guides.