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Norman Collins: Veteran of the Great War Hardcover – 1 Aug 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Ltd (1 Aug. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0850528631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0850528633
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,369,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This fantastic little WWI book is a must for any budding historians. Collins was underage when he joined the Seaforth Highlanders and was a 19-year-old officer when he led at the battle of the Somme. This book contains extracts from his diaries and a remarkable personal collection of photographs which lend this account a poignancy and immediacy which is often breathtaking. - Scottish Field This is a harrowing tale of battle, loss and the horrors of war. - Scotland Magazine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

The Author came across Norman Collins while researching his best selling TV tie-in book Veterans. He was immediately struck by this truly remarkable character, who was then over 100 years old. Sadly Norman has now died but Richard Van Emden had not been deterred from writing what is by any standard a most exhilarating memoir of an exceptional veteran.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Do not hesitate: if you have any interest in the Great War or a man's experiences at war, you will find no better work than "Last man standing". It is a genuine "cannot-put-down". Editor Richard van Emden has produced a really memorable account of Norman Collins' war, based on Norman's own letters, photographs and descriptive memoir. Norman reached the grand old age of one hundred years and passed away in 1998, but in his later years Richard got to know him well. The story, however, is of a boy who was just seventeen in 1914.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If, like me, you have previously read general histories of the 1st World War, this personal record shows things from a different perspective.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a stimulating and excellent biography of one man's war. I recommend it to all would be military historians. I was amazed that he remained a 2nd Lt despite all the deaths of his comrades and his obvious good performance as an officer.
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A remarkable story about a remarkable man who simply lived through the most perilous of times...the trench warfare of ww1!

Basically the book revolves around the fascinating letters of a 2nd Lt during his service in the UK & France during ww1. The book also comprises personal reflections from Lt 'Norman' Collins, accurate editor comments and a host of photographs of times gone by.

The above paragraph is simply a clinical description of the book whereby the book content is much, much more. It is in essence a horrific historical personal insight to the horrors of trench warfare by a very, very brave man who was twice wounded, who lost most of his friends in the process and who actually lived through the most terrible of times.

The letters are fascinating and there are many stories, good and bad, held within them. In the main however, reading them leaves you shocked and sad at the tragic loss of a whole generation of extremely brave young men. The volume and quantity of the carnage is simple staggering!

The book though is all about the experiences of 'Norman,' told through his eyes but it does not follow the normal format of a story. However it is simply a brilliant chronological read, a historic one at that too. An incredible personal story about an incredible modest man who became one of our last 'tommies.'

I also read this as a Falklands veteran thinking I knew about war, death and it's suffering. I do not....!
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