Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front Paperback – 7 Mar 2005
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Tommy is Richard Holmes's tribute to the ghosts of the millions of ordinary soldiers who fought in the First World War. The book also reflects the dissatisfaction he feels at the way we still remember it. Too often we approach World War I through the literature it inspired. The poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and others have their own truths to offer, but Holmes would dispute the assumption that they represent the experiences of the majority of those who endured the trench warfare of the Western Front.
To discover new voices and new perspectives on the war he has trawled through the rich archives of letters, diaries and memoirs that still exist, most of them written while the fighting still continued. From these he has constructed an extraordinarily vivid and moving picture of what it felt like to be one of the millions of men who served in the British army during the four years between August 1914 and the armistice on November 11, 1918. From Private Albert Bullock rejoicing in the discovery of 200 Woodbines in the pack of a fellow soldier who had fled the front line, to Private Eric Hiscock describing the horrors of finding himself entangled in barbed wire. The Tommies, whom Richard Holmes rescues from obscurity, prove powerful witnesses to the diverse realities of the war. Beneath the stereotyped images of the First World War that we all carry in our heads, the real lives of the men who fought it are still there to be discovered and Holmess book brings them forcefully to our attention. Nick Rennison --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
‘Holmes is one of our foremost military scholars and a skilled writer who knows his audience well. This is excellent popular history: scholarly, highly readable and utterly absorbing.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Monumental … Every page of this is worth reading.’ Time Out
‘Where Holmes’s book comes brilliantly to life is in his use of first-hand accounts of the trench experience … It is Holmes’s achievement to make this familiar landscape come alive with the humanity of those who fought in it.’ TLS
‘Holmes has produced yet another fascinating, balanced and original book of a highly emotive subject. ‘ Sunday TelegraphSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Richard Holmes had a hard act to follow - he has dominated popular military history on television ever since his 'War Walks' TV series in the 1990s. More recently, he achieved best seller status with a brisk, populist but highly readable biography of Wellington. This followed closely a deserved triumph for his volume 'Redcoat', detailing the ordinary soldier in the age of the musket.
Well, this new volume carries on the story of 'Tommy Atkins' who Holmes so touchingly personifies in the opening chapters of 'Redcoat' and 'Tommy'. This is the story of the greatest army the United Kingdom has ever placed in the field - by 1918 over 5 ½ million men were serving in the British Army, and Holmes takes as his subject their motivations, their hardships, their resilience, their morale, and their enduring sacrifice.
If you know Denis Winter's book 'Death's Men', then you have some idea of the content, but Holmes goes so much further than Winter. He narrates the entire story of the Army in the Great War, drawing on the expertise shown in his series and book 'The Western Front' by giving an efficient digest of battles and actions, before moving on to giving the men of the Great War their own voices, by drawing on a huge array of accounts and sources.
But this is no a 'veteran's accounts' book like Lyn Macdonald or Max Arthur. Holmes rightly leans his book closely to the values and ideologies that motivated these men at the time, rather than accounts heavily tailored by a world far more interested in the view of the war as 'futile', than the spirit that sent millions to volunteer in 1914.Read more ›
"Tommy" is a long book, but Holmes is, as ever, impeccably readable. Rather than presenting a history of the Great War, he describes different aspects of the military experience through a dense web of reminiscences, official documents, and academic research. The structure of the book is somewhat reminiscent of Holmes' earlier "Redcoat", although the historical focus is much tighter.
As the veterans of the Great War diminish in numbers there is a very real need for a comprehensive portrait of them, of their experiences, and of their fates. I believe that this compelling and understated book commemorates the extraordinary experiences of that generation.
Ninety years after the outbreak of the Great war, this book and its material is a must for all historians and not just for war buffs. Over fifty black and white prints show some shocking and unusual views of the many battles.
The book itself is structured around many interesting personal accounts of the war with some incredible annecdotes providing light relief.
The names of the men mentioned throughout the book show the multi national makeup of the British lines at the time and will be of historical and human interest to all.
A great read and very useful refference source.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have a paperback and an ipad copy. Well thought out book, well written anyone interested in the events of WW1 should read. Read morePublished 4 months ago by jarvo
Excellent. Richard Holmes has researched the contents of this book to the nth degree. It is a long read and at times the references to the various regiments are difficult to... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
Gripping and detailed. Anyone wanting an insight into "how it was" should read this bookPublished 12 months ago by derek c honour
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