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Through German Eyes: The British and the Somme 1916 Hardcover – 8 Jun 2006
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Excellent idea... fascinating first-hand reports... enlightening. (LITERARY REVIEW)
'Christopher Duffy's subtle and intelligent book... is a refreshing addition to the literature of the Western Front experience' (Patrick Bishop DAILY TELEGRAPH)
fascinating records of the interrogations... show what soldiers thought weeks, if not hours after coming out of the front line. (THE OBSERVER)
Duffy's book is crisply written and an easy read. (THE SCOTSMAN)
The key battle of the First World War from the German point of viewSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
The words of Robert Burns have already captured the impact of this book.
At last we are seeing more books based on research of the available German Great War archives and this book is a superb addition, mainly because it helps to answer the question `How' rather than `What'.
What happened during the Battle of the Somme is largely a matter of record and has been addressed by many authors, but in general there are few books that attempt to explain the process and psychological framework that conditioned the participants. In other words we know what happened, but how did the men prevail over such dreadful conditions and circumstances? That this book examines the issue `from the other side of no-man's-land' is very useful and the image we have of British POW's under post capture questioning (one hesitates to use the term interrogation) is of men released from the horrors of battle and ready to impart information to an enemy with whom they shared much. The clever use of interrogators who shared values with the captured is highlighted. German airmen would tend to question British airmen as the shared values of aviators encouraged conversation.
The willingness of POW's to impart what they considered as unimportant information actually assisted the Germans in gaining the insight into the British character that was one of their main objectives.
This is a book that any serious Great War researcher or enthusiast should have, and will attract the general reader because it is presented in a very readable style. It is provocative, erodes many preconceptions, and adds significantly to the wider understanding of how men reacted to the circumstances of their service and capture. In short their motivation and how they saw themselves within the attrition process of industrial warfare. A cracking book highly recommended!
Editor, The Battle Guide
Guild of Battlefield Guides
For almost forty years, beginning with John Terraine and building up through modern research by the likes of Peter Simpkins, Gary Sheffield and John Bourne, a less partisan, realistic view has been emerging. Yet there is something missing - a rigorous appraisal of the impact of the Somme on the German side (and for that matter, the French). "Through German eyes: the British & the Somme 1916" , following fast on the heels of Jack Sheldon's "The German Army on the Somme 1914-1916", goes a long way in filling this key gap in our understanding.
Christopher Duffy draws extensively on German archive material to define the enemy's views and reactions. His findings simply destroy the "Lions led by Donkeys" mythology. By the end of 1 July 1916, the Germans had realised they were facing a concerted Allied effort and that the moment was perhaps decisive. Indeed it was. Less than a week later, British forces had pressed on to such a worrying extent that Falkenhayn called off the Verdun offensive. As the fighting intensified, German counter attacks proved every bit as costly as the British advance: the realisation came that this was not about holding ground, but about attrition, about sheer weight of force. It was materialschlacht. There was and possibly could not be any breakthrough at Verdun or the Somme. Yet as Duffy found, German observers believed "the roots of the outcome of the war lay in just these battles". By the end, Germany knew it could not fight another Somme.
The book covers the entire battle, from intelligence about Allied intentions right through to the final actions in November 1916. There is also an interesting analysis of development of arms and tactics during the battle. There is too an extensive list of German references and a thorough bibliography. The phases of action are accompanied by some decent maps.
This is an important book. It is well written and a good read, and deserves to be read by anyone who is minded to explore beyond the facile mythology of the Somme.