Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking and valuable addition to the literature of the Great War, 10 Jun. 2008
This review is from: The German Army on the Somme 1914-1916 (Hardcover)
Author Jack Sheldon has performed a real service to readers in providing a rare glimpse into the first-hand accounts, thoughts and actions of German soldiers of the Great War. For the first time the authentic voice of German veterans can be read by non-German speakers.

Expertly combining first-hand accounts, archival material, as well as large numbers of narratives from German regimental histories, the author weaves together the story of soldiers in combat using their own words.

The value of his writing transcends those interested in the German Army, to those, who reading about their own countries troops, would like to learn more about the men who fought, and often died, "on the other side of the hill."

One of the primary sources left to those researching the German Army of the Great War is the extensive series of regimental histories. With the destruction of the Heeresarchives in 1945, along with almost all official operations and unit files, these histories take on an importance which cannot be overstated. Author Jack Sheldon displays his expert knowledge of the sources with a comprehensive explanation of the use and limitations of the regimental histories. By careful cross checking of facts contained in archival files with those detailed in the regimental histories he demonstrates the fidelity of the regimental accounts.

The primary purpose of the German regimental histories was for the veterans of the units themselves, and to maintain the traditions of units disbanded after the war. The actual writing of the regimental histories was undertaken by single authors or in some cases by regimental associations. With this in mind the author reminds us of the natural (and understandable) human tendency to put endeavors in their best light. It is worth noting that though the regimental histories were not written by the Reicharchivs, influence was exerted in the form of editorial agreements which potential authors had to sign to gain access to the all important unit files in the archives. This being said, it was also written guidance that failures of the unit could be written about honestly.

By explaining the value and limitations of the sources left to researchers of the German army in the war, the author clearly shows that his readers are in good hands.

In summary Jack Sheldon's books offer a valuable look into the up till now closed experience of the German soldier in the Great War. By his able writing and expert use of material he has provided a valuable resource to both students and experts of the Great War.
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