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Some Desperate Glory: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917 Paperback – 1 Feb 1989

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Touchstone Books; Reprint edition (Feb. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067167904X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671679040
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,951,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on 5 Dec. 2005
Format: Hardcover
Edwin Campion Vaughan, a 19 year old novice joins the war 'trained' for the often deadly position of Oficer. At first he is naively excited, in blissful ignorance of the horrors to come. On his arrival in France, Vaughan is almost dissappointed not to be met with wire entanglements, shell bursts and trenches. His sense of army discipline receives a severe shock as he watches men lounge around smoking cigarettes. In his youth, Vaughan in incredulous - the battalion was supposed to be 'the last word in fighting effciency' and does not seem to live up to his expectations. At first, he wonders why others do not share his enthusiasm for the war, not realising that many of the men had been fighting for months and some even years. However, within a few days his attitude changes and he longs for the war to be over before his turn in the trenches.
Vaughan likes and respects the men placed under his charge, although at first he cannot relate to them well. The desolation felt by soldiers contrasts sharply with Vaughan's boyish nature. His youthful exuberance was unleashed onto physically and mentally drained men, so it is understandable that he was not always thought of kindly. It is through numerous 'ticking offs' that he receieves from other ranking officers (often infront of his troops) that builds the rapport that Vaughan later had with his men. Perhaps because of his youth, the troops saw a vulnerable and human warmth to an officer's personality that was often concealed from them by higher ranks.
I was struck by the banality of life of an army in action. Vaughan describes frustrating and monotonous tasks, such as moving troops to a destination only to be sent back again and many futile errands performed in intense cold, rain and endless swamps of mud.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Literally hundreds of memoirs of the Great War began appearing in the 1920's amongst them was Edwin Campion Vaughan's excellent 1917 diary.
Those who kept a day-to-day diary in the trenches or generally on the Western Front often found they couldn't make any literary sense of it when they thought about publishing them.
"Some Desperate Glory" manages to be poetic and informative and is an excellent addition to any First World War library.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x90e4d30c) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90da83f0) out of 5 stars An Important Contribution 2 Sept. 1998
By Michael A. Halleran ( - Published on
Format: Paperback
Many readers have ended their inquiries concerning the First World War with diaries by well known authors such as Robert Graves or Siegfried Sassoon. Less well known, but easily at home with more famous Great War accounts, Edward Campion Vaughan's work provides an unpolished, but equally shocking glimpse of the World War. Vaughan's vivid, and thoroughly candid account of his experiences as a young lieutenant on the Somme during the First World War lacks some flourish -- but the details and travails he describes transcend his journeyman style. Vaughan's tools are honesty, realism, and a good hard look at the ordinary cares and hardships of a soldier. There are no elevated themes in this book - no glimpses of liberty or democracy, king or country, no metaphysical questions -- just a 19 year-old coping with leadership, war, death, the enemy and duty. That this book has even survived into reprint is miraculous considering the reluctance, noted in the preface, of his family to release the manuscript (it was thought it would reflect poorly on the author's reputation that the book details his increasing resort to drink in the trenches). This is an excellant book and a valuable contribution to WWI scholarship.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x912764ec) out of 5 stars An Account without Peer 3 July 2008
By Harry W. Forbes - Published on
Format: Paperback
Vaughan's diary is a very worthwhile read. His months at the front begin at a "quiet" sector of the Somme near Peronne where he grows accustomed to the daily rhythm of the war, and the periodic return to the rear afforded by relief. Then his unit is transferred to Ypres for the great attack of 3rd Ypres in August 1917. This was the attack stymied in mud that cost over 500,000 Allied casualties and gained just a few kilometers of muddy ruin. It is the attack that caused the name Passchendaele to enter our vocabulary. The battle devastates Vaughan's unit.

Vaughan's account of his experience in this battle, and the contrast with his other experiences on the Somme is simply gripping. He is matter-of-fact throughout. He had no idea that the images he wrote about would haunt the European memory for decades. He simply wrote down each day what he saw and happened to him.

I read the hardcover (and plan to read it again). My only complaint is with the 2 maps, which are quite inadequate and spread across 2 pages so they are split at the binding. Nor do the maps show the location of the front lines. [ Isn't it an old military saying that "a battle is an event in war that occurs at the edge of 2 maps"?]

If you put the names of the villages Vaughan mentions into Google Maps you can trace many of the same roads that Vaughan describes walking along. The population of these villages and the roads connecting them do not seem to have changed much in almost 100 years. It is sometimes eerie to do this, but much better than referring to the poor maps in the book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x911de42c) out of 5 stars As If You Were There With Him 13 Jun. 2003
By Stephen MacDonald - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have read much history, and much about the Great War. Nothing I have ever encountered had the impact of this small volume. The war recored here gravely wounded our civilization, and in these pages you can see that wound at its creation.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90e69e4c) out of 5 stars Eight Months on the Western Front 7 Jun. 2008
By Kindle Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book brings to life the figures depicted in WWI photographs and videos. Vaughan's matter of fact descriptions of daily "wastage" as well as the horror of "the attack" are gripping especially when juxtaposed with doubts about his courage and ability to lead, and his fear of appearing "windy." His more age appropriate hi-jinx described when he is in reserve jarringly remind the reader of Vaughan's youthfullness. Vaughan is not a diary quote or letter extract--he is very real to the reader. The irony of his death by medical misadventure, having survivied the Western Front is also striking. Highly recommended for anyone interested in who fought the Great War on the Western Front.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90d7e0a8) out of 5 stars A graphic and unvarnished personal diary of a young officer of the British Army in the Great War 8 Feb. 2014
By Fantasyman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have never read a more compelling and descriptive account of life in the trenches on the Western Front in World War I. I'm not sure I possess the vocabulary to do this work justice. This is the frank, honest testimony of a young officer taken from the diary he kept during a portion of his time on the Western Front. You won't find any rah-rah, stiff upper lip nonsense here, the author didn't write his diary for publication, indeed, his family only discovered the contents and published his diary 40 years after his untimely death. Vaughan survived the war only to die from a medical mistake in 1931. What you will find in this book is as honest an account as you are ever likely to find of life in the trenches in WWI. Those who value unvarnished first person accounts will enjoy reading this book. I'm not going to pretend that it is going to leave you feeling better when you finish it, rather, I think you will wonder how this young man kept his sanity amidst the truly horrifying experiences he relates. This quote from the last entry in his diary pretty well sums it up, "...out of our happy little band of 90 men, only fifteen remained." Sobering stuff to be sure.
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