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Harry's War Hardcover – 31 Oct 2013

4.9 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (31 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091957214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091957216
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 148,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A lost diary of the Great War so brutally vivid you'll feel you are there in the trenches" (Daily Mail)

"One of the best diaries of the First World War" (Rodderick Suddaby, former keeper of the Department of Documents at the Imperial War Museum)

"Unique ... an unvarnished view of the war’s horrors – and its occasional joys" (Telegraph)

"A remarkable insight into the mind of a man who went through WW1 as an infantryman in the trenches, private and officer ... No-one who wants to understand the truth about the trenches can ignore this book" (Colonel John Hughes-Wilson)

Book Description

The remarkable First World War diary of Private Harry Drinkwater, published for the first time

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Both my Grandfathers served in the trenches, so I've always had an interest in what they must have experienced and have read countless testimonies and accounts of what a soldier's life was like. These diaries strike me as unique and bring an entirely new perspective in that they are contemporaneously written, amazingly detailed, and cover 5 years from Harry's enlistment in late 1915, his training, service in the trenches of France as a private, his promotion to officer, further service in France, a period in Italy, the raid in which he won his MC, through to the end of demobilisation. Other histories tend to focus on incidents, action, or general description, whereas Harry's War provides a comprehensive account and vividly portrays the reality of daily life. What overwhelmed me was the relentlessness of the experiences they suffered: relentless fear and risk of death or injury, relentless exhaustion, relentless mud, relentless bread bacon and jam. Many aspects of their existence never came across to me before, for example, how they would march to the front line in the evening, be ready for action all night, then march back in the morning and spend the entire day labouring in the mines as the Engineers tunnelled under the German lines, only to return to the line again that evening. The utter exhaustion is unimaginable, yet the penalty for falling asleep could be death. Harry's War is such a compelling account that one almost might doubt its authenticity, but the provenance of the diaries and verifiable historic record ensure there is no doubt that these beautifully written diaries are honest and among the most remarkable accounts of the soldier's lot ever to emerge. An absolute must read for anyone with any interest in the subject.
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Format: Hardcover
Harry's War: The Great War Diary of Harry Drinkwater
Ebury Press, hardback, £20.00, 395pp., ills, index.
ISBN: 9-780-091-957-21-6

This book is a real pleasure to read. It has been skilfully edited by Jon Cooksey - with the wholehearted support of David Griffiths, the current owner of the diary - with just the right amount of additional background text. Too often one finds editors seeming to want to crowbar in the whole history of the war. Refreshingly, Cooksey evades such an elephant trap by restraining himself to the bare minimum of commentary, allowing Harry Drinkwater to tell his own story. I particularly like that the editor has looked up and confirmed the fate of the men we encounter in turning the pages.

The diary entries are a veritable torrent of fascinating information. I have conducted many oral history interviews for the Imperial War Museum and this diary shares the immediacy of those oral accounts, bringing to life the very zeitgeist of the experience for millions of men in the trenches: the awful smells and dreadful sights; being lathered in sweat from the back-breaking working parties, or drenched by the pouring rain; men up to their knees in mud, blood and water. All the clichés perhaps, but given depth and meaning here by the very restraint with which Drinkwater expresses his trials and tribulations.

Life was certainly not mundane for Harry Drinkwater at the front with the 15th Royal Warwickshire Regiment - the 2nd Birmingham Pals. Rapped on the helmet by a sniper's bullet, mining and visceral crater fighting near Arras, in the thick of it and going 'over the top' on the Somme, once covered in maggots from a bloated corpse, blasted by shells here, there and everywhere, he led a charmed life.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This edited book is based on a diary written by Harry Drinkwater a private soldier in the Great War who became an officer in the British Army. As writing a diary was forbidden, Harry wrote his in secret over a period of nearly 5 years. He initially was refused becoming a soldier because he was half an inch too short. Eventually, he joined a Pals battalion, most of whom were killed. Harry was awarded the Military Cross for bravery during a trench raid. Such a diary is probably unique.

It is a moving account of an infantry man's experience on the Somme, at Arras, at Ypres, and in Italy. He was wounded twice. After the war as a Major he narrowly escaped being murdered in Egypt. He records life and death in the trenches plus vivid descriptions of the vagaries of war. It is a refreshing and candid account of the mixed fortunes that befell him.

Harry was born on 19 February 1889 in Stratford upon Avon. His Dad was a boot dealer whose shop was close to the house where Shakespeare was born. Harry was one of 5 children, two of whom died at an early age. The family were staunch Methodists.

His diary reflects life in the Royal Warwickshires telling how becoming an officer changed his world. Now he gives the orders knowing that life as a platoon officer was short on the Western Front.

His diary covers his many experiences in training, action, and as an officer cadet.
He had never intended it to be published. It is a remarkable and absorbing read.

I have only one small caveat given the existence of those who deride the war as futile. This account is one by someone who had the education to put pen to paper. Thousands were not able to do this. Also, Harry was in the infantry.
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