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4.7 out of 5 stars
55
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Diary|Change
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on 28 November 2009
During the Great War the work of the Royal Engineers really came to show us what this completely unappreciated arm were capable of, no army can ever be sustained in the field without their help, but it is rare for us to get a glimpse of the work of the ordinary Sapper in any war litrature.
Sapper Albert Martin took a considerable risk keeping his diaries, it was strictly against regulations and he probably would have been severely punished had the diaries been discovered.
Sapper Martins diaries were written in an easy reading style yet they hold the readers attention at every turn of the page, I found this book very difficult to put down. It is a fascinating tale of an ordianary soldier doing his duty that shows us the true reality of life at the front, from the mundane existance and boredom to the extreme horror and fear experienced by these men, this book really is a superb read and Mr Van Emden has done an excellent job editing the diaries.
I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone and I fail to see how this book would not be enjoyed by everyone who reads it, it is a book that should be read by those with a either strong or passing interest in the subject.
Thank you to Albert Martin for keeping his diaries, and thank you to Mr Van Emden for making them available to the public.
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on 5 October 2010
a very good read. recommended reading for anyone who wants a better insight into life in the trenches of the western front.
the book is jack martin's diary of day to day life as a sapper in the trenches. it follows his life from 1916-1919.
it gives people a better understanding of what life was like for the tommies, and the conditions they lived in by someone who had to live in the filth of dug-outs and trenches and missing things taken for granted these days like hot baths, fresh food,etc.
the rats,lice,mud, dead bodies, the stench of decomposing flesh,not bathing for weeks on end these are just some of the things he writes in his diary.
for anyone who wants to learn more about life in the trenches during ww1, read this, a real eye opener!!!!
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on 29 August 2017
I liked it, hadn't read much about Sappers before so it was a enjoyable read.
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During the first world war the sapper came into their own in this often missed and short life expectancy job on the front line. Here we get the view of the common man, who tells the tale of life in the trenches, the monotony, the repetition and existence in some of the worst trenches that the troops had to face. From the Somme to Ypres this vivid account is the type of history that I want to read. I don't like the generalisation of the war from the Generals or a Historians, I want it from the front line, from those who viewed the full horror and lived to tell the cost of not only friends and family but also of the moral boosts from home with their simple gifts alongside their letters. A true tale of courage, honour and above all bravery of the common man in the adversity of warfare. Van Emden has done a stirling job of condensing the war diaries of Albert and yet retained the voice of the common man.
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on 3 February 2013
An insight into life in the trenches in the 1st world war, written in diary format. Not sure how it will read to an expert, but for my general interest was fine
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on 24 April 2014
This guy had a very charmed life, not however the condition or attitudes he had to work in or with
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on 22 November 2015
My husband was once a sapper and thought he would enjoy this book. He did :)
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on 16 May 2017
What sad reading.
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I'm turning into something of a Richard van Emden fan though, in truth, I've read very little of his writing. Why? Well, he specialises in WWI eyewitness accounts; as far as I can see, to the extent of not having published anything else. He is wise enough to let his sources talk, so in his books he acts more as an editor than as an author.

This 'un is a prime example of that and, were I feeling unkind, I should say that van Emden can take very little credit - Jack Martin really could write! The author has sympathetically reduced the original diaries by about a third, mostly removing repetition, so he says. What's left is sublime. You can compliment it on all levels. In & of itself, it is beautifully written. It's from a Royal Engineer, & I've seen precious little over the years from that branch of the service. It's from a ranker, rather than an officer. It is, by turns, funny, poignant, pointed, even painted (when Sapper Martin waxes lyrical, his words are worth a picture or two). It is always lucid & hugely readable. I said of van Emden's Soldier's War "If you're only going to buy one book of the soliders' own testimony as to their experiences of WWI, it should, without any doubt, be this one." I've changed my mind. Buy this one instead. It's even better!
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on 26 December 2012
First world war described by "illegal" diary. Those men really suffered but we still seem to think that war (even those which we should not be involved in) should look at this
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