Acts of War: The Behaviour of Men in Battle (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) Paperback – 2 Sep 2004
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... a powerful, thought-provoking picture of how the conditions of war affect a man. His sources are several centuries of warfare and the personal recollections of veterans of conflicts across the world. Holmes presents the results of his ambitious and exhaustive research in a very readable form, carefully balancing fact and emotion, detachment and compassion which adds considerable depth to the wisdom expressed. (ARMOUR (Nov/Dec '03))
Mr Holmes makes a convincing case that the human being remains the central weapon of military conflict, technology notwithstanding. What emerges is a compelling and very human portrait of war. (THE ECONOMIST (21/2/04)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The reality of what it is to be a soldier, by Britain's foremost military historian.See all Product Description
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Very early Holmes points out that other species generally possess some mechanism for avoiding serious aggression within the species, although he goes on to also point out that war is an aberration, in a sense the opposite of politics rather than its continuation. The psychology of ‘Groups’ plays a large part in Holmes’ examination of warfare. He points out that: “The narcissistic image of ones own group is raised to its highest point, while the devaluation of the opposing group sinks to its lowest. One’s own group becomes a defender of human dignity, decency, morality and right. Devilish qualities are ascribed to the other group; it is treacherous, ruthless and basically inhuman.”
Combat is neither pervasive nor orderly – long stretches of time may be spent with waiting for things to kick off, and the following day may be spent in the exact opposite. Continuous shelling and bombardment, no opportunity to rest, sleepless nights, the continual shoring up of the trenches. “For much of the First World War large sections of the Western Front lapsed into unofficial truce, while on all fronts during the Second World War there were lengthy periods in which sporadic shelling, mortaring and low-level patrol activity were the rule while battle was the exception.” Soldiers, meanwhile suffered appalling conditions. Sleep deprivation, rats, lice, nervous exhaustion, a monotonous diet, food shortages, lack of medical attention, in many cases. And above all, fear. Fear that when it came to it, you might run, you might desert your post, that you would not be equal to what you might have to bear.Read more ›
At its best it is very interesting, notably when it is uncovering things not reported in official histories or in most memoirs. The statistics on desertion or how many men admitted to losing control of their bladders or bowels in acute stress was new to me but too much was familiar. Yet despite being generally very easy reading I also found it unsatisfying.
Why? In part, while Holmes communicates clearly, the message isn't always memorable. Each chapter is probably written around 7-8 themes or issues if I think hard about it but these are not clearly drawn out (e.g. by giving each a section heading). Holmes doesn't volunteer any hypotheses to be tested or advance a different line of argument, nor does any section reach any striking conclusions.
This makes for an undemanding read but this narrative style, the tendency to take an example and draw a generalisation from it, starts to come unstuck as the examples begin to contradict each other.Read more ›
Don't buy both.
Fantastic read - brilliant author.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An excellent book on the Military mind during time of war. Thoroughly recommended.Published 1 month ago by K. R. Clements