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The Final Whistle: The Great War in Fifteen Players Paperback – 1 Aug 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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  • After the Final Whistle: The First Rugby World Cup and the First World War
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  • Mr Men: The Rugby Match (Mr. Men & Little Miss Celebrations)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752479350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752479354
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 579,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Stephen Cooper has written a haunting and beautiful book. Here we see the grinding slaughter and the everyday humanity of men hurled into the abyss of modern warfare at its most terrible. His book tells the story of men from one rugby club but it is a universal narrative of heroism and loss. He writes superbly and has produced a book of commendable scholarship. I cannot recommend it enough. --Fergal Keane

A fresh and fascinating take on the impact of the Great War with a novel and moving focus. --Ian Hislop

A deeply moving book about the loss of fifteen members of Rosslyn Park Rugby Club during the Great War. A War that scarred Britain and took so many fine men, who had they lived would have enriched this country. The lives of these young men, all so promising, are poignantly and vividly recalled. --Max Arthur

A fresh and fascinating take on the impact of the Great War with a novel and moving focus. --Ian Hislop

A deeply moving book about the loss of fifteen members of Rosslyn Park Rugby Club during the Great War. A War that scarred Britain and took so many fine men, who had they lived would have enriched this country. The lives of these young men, all so promising, are poignantly and vividly recalled. --Max Arthur

About the Author

Stephen Cooper has played and coached rugby for over 40 years. After Cambridge, he worked in advertising, as a freelance travel journalist and now runs a military charity His grandfather survived the Battle of the Somme and inspired in him a lifelong fascination with the First World War. He lives in London.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This brought tears to my eyes on many occasions. How Stephen was able to select those men for 'team' is the mark of a good writer, although I suspect that he would given the same care and attention to any he selected. This is a tremendous read. I couldn't put it down as we went through both the prewar rugby matches and the Great War. You don't have to be a rugby fan to appreciate this because it is so well written that it would keep even the casual reader engrossed. It is well worth it's award.
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Great gift for my son in law.
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I knew I was going to enjoy this book as Rugby and military history are two of my enduring passions, what I was not ready for was the depth of information the author teased out and the interlinking of the various stories. A fascinating cross section of men and differnt wars they fought. I was particularly moved to read of the war poet Nowell Oxlands friend Captain DL Martin whose request to silence a flanking German machine gun before they went over the top was ignored, 160 soldiers (inc. Captain Martin) were buried in the trench they had just left. I had taken a picture of his gravestone on my phone 7 years previously on a visit to the battlefields.
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The Final Whistle is an extraordinary book, beautifully written, astonishingly well-researched, moving and, in many ways, demanding of us, that brings the chronology of the First World war to life through the stories of fifteen rugby players, all members of the same South West London club.
The club was Rosslyn Park, founded in 1879, and it was from its grounds on Henry VIII's ancient deer park at Richmond that many of the finest of England's Edwardian flowering hung their boots up while they dedicated themselves for four long and hard-fought seasons to a more serious game.
The figures are horrible. Of around 350 Park men that took the colours, at least 72 were to die and many more were wounded, often to be maimed forever. The extraordinary contribution of these young athletes was often unrecorded but was also recognised in numerous feats of bravery, by numerous awards including over sixty MCs and two VCs.
In his brilliant opening essay and in the amazingly researched individual biographies, Stephen Cooper is the best kind of historian, making shape of the conflict and bringing into the light from dark and forgotten corners, the stories of sacrifice and bravery of so many of the 'young men, whether from the Australian outback, Indian railway or industrial Wales' who were linked by the companionship of the team and the shared ideals of their club and their country.
As Stephen Cooper himself puts it...'what emerges from the lives of these rugby men is a remarkable history in miniature of the entire war, across all fronts, theatres and engagements.' Through his great skill as a writer he shows us how...'some inherent quality of bravery or natural leadership saw rugby men take the lead as they had on the field' and how...
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As a (sporadic) Rosslyn Park spectator, this book really struck home.
Sensitively, deftly - and with the most astonishing depth of research - the author reveals the inner lives of 15 extraordinary Park men. One especially stays in the mind - Nowell Oxland - whose final haunting poem was sent to The Times by his long-term friend Amy, and published posthumously. Commentators at the time said:'a soul that gave expression to such fine pages must have a wonderful vision of life.' Nearly a century later, it seems Stephen Cooper and Amy have much in common; both have brought a remarkable insight on war to the notice of us all. Don't let these fine pages pass you by.
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disappointing, far too much irrelevant detail spoils what might have been an interesting story.
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This is an extremely well researched history explained with a mixture of pathos, anger, and a fine sense of morbid humor for and on behalf of his subjects. He pulls no punches in his comments on army leadership or, to be more accurate, lack of leadership. Such comments as "...most officers were dead and the NCOs and men knew little or nothing of what was expected of them..", or "....Officers of field rank on entering balloons are not expected to wear spurs....", and "...the price paid in flesh and blood for unpreparedness for war.." jostle for space.

Rosslyn Park lost 72 of its members killed or missing in action. These young men came mainly from the much expanding middle and upper-middle classes that were the engine room of the Empire's march around the planet in the 19th century. The author zones in on the history of 15 of these young men representing not only their rugby and personal backgrounds but that most of them went automatically into the officer ranks and to their death in ignorance of what warfare was all about. They were facing a most professional army that had largely destroyed the British regular army in the second half of 1914 and the beginning of 1915. With little or no real training for themselves and their soldiers, they entered the lists with vigor, hope and expectation of victory.

The author weaves into each story of each of the men not only family history and how each got to where each was when he died, but also a history of the event in which each was involved. We therefore meet a poet, Count Zeppelin, mad kite balloonists, and confused tankers. And also, the Dardenelles, Syria, Italy campaigns, the Easter uprising and Zeebrugge but above all else, the dreaded Western Front.
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