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Trench Warfare 1914-1918: The Live and Let Live System (Pan Grand Strategy Series) Paperback – 6 Feb 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; first thus edition (6 Feb. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330480685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330480680
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 397,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Tony Ashworth was raised in the Ithon Valley and educated in Radnorshire, Sussex and the Universities of Leicester and London. He has served with the Royal Air Force and lectures in the University of Wales, Cardiff. He now lives in the Vale of Glamorgan


Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

The sub-title of this book is "The live and let live system", which led me to believe that it would provide an interesting insight into the nature of trench warfare and soldiers' existence in "quiet" periods of the war. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Mr Ashworth has written what he intends to be a scholarly study of ways in which soldiers on opposite sides of No Man's Land made life a little more peaceful for themselves by refraining from active warfare. There is very little in the way of first- or second-hand description of trench life, and instead the book concentrates on a dry, quasi-academic analysis of the live and let live phenomenon.
The style, however, is more schoolmaster than scholar and after a few chapters it becomes quite grating. The book is also far longer than is necessary (not that it is particularly long anyway - 226 pages) and I am quite sure that what he has to say could have been covered in half the space. More of a long essay than a book. To achieve this supposedly more respectable length, the author seems to have taken the old trainer's adage to heart - "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you've told them". Just to be on the safe side, he has then added "tell them again, and again".
Stripped down to essentials, the book does make one or two interesting observations.
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Ashworth's book looks at the times in trench warfare when there was not a battle on as such. These periods made up the largest part of the life of most soldiers. As the war went on, the efforts of the military hierarchy to oblige soldiers to be permanently aggressive against the enemy in the trenches opposite became more and more systematic, and the efforts of soldiers to avoid war, or sometimes refuse war, became more sophisticated.

Ashworth gives many examples but a few will do. Night raiding was a tactic which soldiers often avoided, because it upset the "live and let live" agreement which tacitly reigned in many trenches outside the "elite" regiments. Until the end of 1915 the initiative for night raiding was left to local leadership - after 1916 it was centralized. Batallions had to do "their quota" of night raids. In some cases the superior officers even demanded that they bring back samples of German barbed wire to prove the raid had been carried out. The cleverer soldiers hid a roll of German barbed wire so that samples could be readily available.

A second example is mining - digging tunnels under the enemy in order to blow them sky high. Again this was a danger to the live and let live atmosphere, and once more the military hierarchy centralized decisions on mining in 1916, since local leadership could not be trusted to be "aggressive enough".

Ashworth gives many more examples and the statistics to back them up.
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A very good book for anyone studying trench warfare at A-Level or above. I bought it for my degree and was able to use it to great effect. Also an interesting read if you happen to just be into this sort of thing.
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Interesting look at the fighting away from the big battles. The book is, however, marred by some glaring inaccuracies. Two examples:- the book claims that poison gas was first used at Ypres (by the Germans) - in fact it was used against the Russians first, they just didn't bother to tell anyone. Another error that should have been picked up by the editor or proof reader is the date of the German offensive in 1918 - the book gives April 9th whereas the correct date is March 21st. Apart from this sort of stuff, the examination of the less active parts of trench warfare is long overdue.
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Its well researched and quotes well its sources.
Lots of touching anecdotes.
It presents a wide view and provides an understanding of the different stages of the war and the effects on those involved.
Excellent reading. It was recommended in a book on another subject (the prisoner's dilemma). I was not disappointed as I found examples of the dilemma referred to. But also a rich, human description of the trench warfare of 1914-18.
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