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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2003
I visited the Somme battlefields for the first time this year and used an excellent walking guide, “Walking the Somme” by Paul Reed. Reed’s book works well if you are physically standing on the ground but in terms of style and content Martin Middlebrook’s book is excellent for those who want a detailed and highly readable account of the first day of this famous battle.
The book contains much more than just a description of the first day of the battle of the Somme. A lot of detail is given to the men, their different backgrounds and the lives of the survivors after the war. It also describes the circumstances that led to the formation of Kitchener’s “New Army” and provides an excellent analysis of the events leading up to the battle.
Like so many books of this genre the story is interspersed with accounts from the people who were actually there. Middlebrook moves seamlessly from his own narrative to the stories of the individual soldiers, which gives the book a really nice flow. Also, unlike other books of this genre, the maps appear in the appropriate places and contain just the right level of detail.
This is a very well written book that depicts a day in which the British Army, including the Armies of the Commonwealth, suffered 57,470 casualties. While a lot of the content of this book is difficult to absorb simply because of the unimaginable horror of the events described, it is a must-read and will stay with you long after you have finished it.
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on 4 March 2016
Although slightly dated (1971) it has the advantage of direct personal words of soldiers who served from interviews the author conducted with survivors and follws individuals. A broader strategic approach (done by others) would not have that immediacy nor be able to deal with individual battalions and companies.
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on 30 May 2017
You can feel the tension and the excitement as you get closer to 7.30am on that morning and also the terrible dread in knowing as we know now what actually happened and was about to unfold for these young men. Fantastic book. Unputdownable.
GBNF.
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on 15 May 2017
Read this first over twenty years ago, after a visit to the Somme battlefields. Bought it now in order to re-read it. I remember that Martin Middlebrook's book is so carefully researched and well-written that it makes the century-old events and people come alive again.
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on 18 April 2017
Good book, decent price
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on 23 April 2017
good
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on 30 April 2001
The battle of the Somme unfolds as if your were there. Few wartime accounts are so well researched and this is a "must read" to learn about a generation that gave their lives for this country.
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on 20 March 1999
Do not be mistaken by the title of this book: this is not merely an hour-by-hour account of 1 July 1916. No, crucially, in this book Middlebrook gives a comprehensive and most valuable background to Kitchener's Army: the origins of those unfortunate enough to be present, how they were structured, and what was hoped to have been achieved on this the most costly day in British military history. As is usual with Middlebrook, first-hand accounts are in profusion and lend the volume the presence and immediacy that is so characteristic of this author's accounts of armed conflict. Make this the first book you read about the BEF in WWI, particularly if one intends to visit the area. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 18 February 2017
The book was quite a 'heavy' read for me personally and there was a lot to take in. I thought this was a general book about 'The First Day on the Somme', but as this was only a single day of the Battle, a LOT happened had happened. Lots of information was written about it, and it was quite detailed. So many regiments and battalions were mentioned, the tactics, how many died, who died and where, who was not worthy of command anymore, etc. It was not the most interesting book to read, but I did learn a fair amount about the Somme from a tactical perspective. For some reason I enjoyed the book more to the end..but then that could have been because I wanted to finish it.

It was not a fun read, but it was full of information, tactics, names dates etc. I would probably give it a 3.5, but that is because I did not enjoy it as much as I would have hoped.
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on 17 January 2005
I have just finished reading this fantastic book for the 2nd time and feel i must put down in words how i feel about this book.
Mr Middlebrook has put together a book that will stay pride of place on my bookshelf, the first hand accounts that he has collected and placed within this book really take you to the Somme, and interweaved with the background and build up to the first day really bring the magnitude of this disaster to the reader, you can see for yourself that the rating this book recieves does it justice.
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