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The German Army on the Somme 1914-1916 Paperback – 18 Jan 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military; New edition edition (18 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844155137
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844155132
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 617,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Jack Sheldon is an experienced author and battlefield guide who lives in France --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most impressive books that I have read on the Somme, providing something which has been conspicuously absent from all too many books- namely the German view. Meticulously researched and footnoted, it succeeds in telling the 'other half of the story', from the early clashes with the French in 1914 through to the closing down of the Allied offensive in November 1916.

The book is based upon material drawn from a multitude of German unit histories and archives. The various accounts, the majority of them firsthand, have been skilfully incorporated into an accessible narrative, punctuated throughout by pertinent insights into the Allied as well as the German experience of the campaign. It contains a good selection of photographs, and some excellent appendices dealing with the organisation of the German Army and its order of battle for the period July-December 1916. It is hard to fault this book, but minor criticisms might be that the reproduction quality of some photographs could have been better, and that a different choice of typeface might have proved somewhat easier on the eye.

In summary, this is an excellent book, which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone with more than a passing interest in the Somme, or indeed the Western Front generally. I can only hope that the author produces similar works on other campaigns of the Great War.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A bit heavy at times but a good read overall.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover
Jack Sheldon proves himself once again to be a master educator on the subject of the first world war . There are hundreds of well researched accounts from the British and Commonwealth side of the conflict , but writing as he does from German archive sources we gain a much fuller picture .

I read the German Army on The Somme in tandem with Peter Burtons The Somme the unseen panoramas , and was often able to co-ordinate dates and times of various actions from both sides .Sheldons regimental archive material is brought to life by the regular introduction of eye witness statements and letters written by the combatants themselves to paint an apocalyptic picture of , misery and human suffering on both sides .

In one chapter he relates how a German trench was reduced back to little more than ground level .The surviving German garrison having to lie motionless in shallow scrapes often not even deep enough to offer full body cover , and unable through the sheer weight of incoming fire to move into and link shell holes together into a defensive line , a common practice at the time . At the end of reading the passage turn to page 252 of Bartons book to look at the 3 pictures of the gradual obliteration of the German Monquet Farm defences and Sheldons account becomes even more graphic .

And thats the thing with his work , as well as standing in its own right as a superb work of academic history , it further enhances accounts of those previously published from the British side .Mr Sheldon has made a huge contribution to the further understanding of this horrendous conflict .
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Format: Hardcover
Let me start with my only small criticism of this book.

When I first started reading this book I thought I had made a mistake in buying it. I put it down and instead read another book I had purchased at the same time on the Somme Battles. I realised that the book failed, for me, in putting each account into its overall context within the main battle. So my recommendation is if you know very little about the Somme then spend a couple of hours on the internet bringing yourself upto speed on its pure scale and slaughter and why it was fought to maximise the reading of this book.

It was only after having a clearer perspective on the overall battle did the brillance of this book come to life. Here was an eye level personal view of the battle as reported by German men in their reports and letters. Suddenly point 152 on some battle map comes to life as you start to understand what it was like to be there.

After days of constant artillery fire you can feel the sudden release in their accounts when they finally get to crawl out of their mud shelters and man their Machine Guns.

Two things struck me as I read this book. One was the fact that by the time the Artillery had finished its work there were basically no trenches left, men fought over and died in a sea of mud holes. Two that these men who lived ordinary lives before the war, became extraordinary in the suffering they endured and the friends they lost.

This book is a worthy addition to any collection of books. Put it this way, I immediately purchased his book on Passchendaele.
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