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Last Man Standing: The Memiors of a Seaforth Highlander during the Great War Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
Norman Collins was unusual in that all his letters home were kept, thus giving a remarkably complete record of his army life and thoughts from the date of his joining the army as a young volunteer until shortly after the end of hostilities.
He had joined his school cadet force which gave him a sound introduction to army life. His letters during his army training show how the army set about things: everything is covered - from food, sleeping accommodation, leave, exercises and so on. He, and his volunteer colleagues, looked forward to the prospect of war and to joining the regiments they were keen on, seeing things more or less as an adventure - not knowing of course what the reality would turn out to be. 'The day war broke out I was thrilled' he wrote and rushed down to the recruiting station. Patriotism, he says, was assumed.
Fairly quickly, his confidence, abilities and the encouragement of his CO lead him to apply for a Commission, which he duly attained.
In France he proved to be a very competent officer judging by the tasks he was allotted. And he gave much thought to the needs of the men in his charge. Early on he says 'On the whole I prefer this to being at home as I am doing something at last and although it is a very hard life it is not so monotonous'. He was just 19.
Physical conditions were often appalling. Apart from the fighting there was the mud, sometimes almost waste deep. One of his tasks was to collect the dead. Rats scurried from the chest cavities of some of the bodies.
Later, his enthusiasm was less marked, though he always continued to be an effective officer.Read more ›
Norman Collins was perhaps typical in that he was keen to get to war, to the extent that he did not tell his parents and went as far from his home as possible to enlist, joining the Seaforth Highlanders as a ranker in mid 1915. He had already seen some of war's brutality, in the form of the German naval bombardment of his home town of Hartlepool. From the time he joined, Norman was very evidently proud to be a "kiltie". He was a good soldier, rapidly promoted through the ranks and commissioned after officer training at Lichfield. His descriptions of life there and previously at Seaforths barracks and camps at Fort George and Ripon paint a detailed and absorbing picture of the soldier's life in training.
Once in France he sees a great deal of action, serving with the 4th and 6th Battalions and going over the top at Beaumont Hamel (November 1916) and Arras (April 1917). His experiences inevitably include the deaths of close friends, comrades and even his young servant. Norman is also detailed to lead a burial party after the attack at Beaumont-Hamel, in which his men find around 1000 bodies including many skeletal remains from 1 July 1916.Read more ›
The book itself chronicles the time of his youth, his desire to get into the war after witnessing Germany's first naval shelling of the Scottish coast and, later, the absolute horrors of that war. Buried alive by a shell burst at The Somme, he was only saved because one of his fellow officers happened to be looking at him when it occurred and was able to muster a few others to dig Norman out. He later served in India. He told me that after his adventures in service, he decided to live every day as if it were his last. He did so, much to the benefit of many. It was an honour to know this great man and I'm immensely pleased to know his publishers have been wise enough to republish this work. England should never forget him and his benefit to the nation during two tumultuous wars as well as his business contributions to a great industry, Perkins Engines in which he had a powerful impact.
Most recent customer reviews
Bluntly honest account of first hand experience of a remarkable teen becoming a man in war. A strongly recommended read.Published on 2 May 2015 by pladoy
Very injteresting insight into the reality of WW1 as he experienced it.Published on 30 Oct. 2014 by John H.
Incredibly well written memoir which Richard Van Emden has crafted with his expert technique. Having been over the ground at Beaumont Hamel recently I found no better words than... Read morePublished on 5 Sept. 2014 by Micah Parsons
A very interesting and sometimes poignant true story which gives a good insight into the great war.Published on 8 Aug. 2014 by Bookworm24
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