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4.9 out of 5 stars
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4.9 out of 5 stars
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on 11 July 2012
The second battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers is without doubt the most written-about battalion in the most written-about war in history. From this unit we have memoirs by, among others, Sassoon, Graves, and Dunn (The War the Infantry Knew - surely the finest WW1 memoir of all), but they were all officers. Frank Richards was a private soldier who repeatedly refused promotion (that he was pure Sergeant-Major material oozes out of every page) and left this wonderfull plainly-written and easily-readable memoir.

Richards was an intelligent man, but not well-educated or cultured, and we learn about the war from the point of view of a tough man, a Welsh miner by trade, who will only have a drink as long as there is enough of it to get properly drunk, and who is excited at the discovery of a chateau-full of antique furniture because of the vast amount of firewood it can be broken down into.

From Le Cateau in 1914, to La Cateau again in November 1918, Richards defied the odds and survived - this is no fiction: extensive records and writings show that Richards' account is surprisingly accurate. His friends and companions are constantly being wounded or dying, and it is chilling to note that in WW1 among Regular Army battalions, 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers suffered merely average casualties.

As a soldier's account, rather than an officer's, Richards' book is an essential read for anyone interested in the war, not least because it is quoted by so many WW1 historians, and it is good to see all those quotes in context, and so get a measure of the man and how he expressed himself.

A wonderful book.
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on 26 January 2013
Frank Richards was recalled to the colours in 1914 and spent the entire war as a private in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as a "rifle and bayonet man" as he refers the the fighting soldiers and as a signaller. He fought in all the major battles on the Western Front and survived, a 1 in 20,000 chance. His description of the fighting including enduring severe artillery bombardments and the loss of his friends is excellent with no over exaggeration. He was decorated with the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the newly instituted Military Medal which he believes was done so to avoid the pension that the award of the DCM brought. His only complaint emerges at the end when he applied for a war pension but was denied anything since he had never reported sick! I've read this book twice since it arrived (my memory isn't what it was) and was an enjoyable and impressive read each time. Well recommended for anyone with an interest in the PBI and an elite infantry regiment.
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When you get to the last couple of pages, it becomes obvious why Frank Richards wrote this; not well-provided for after de-mob, he must have needed the money. Three years later he wrote "Old Soldier Sahib", covering his time in the army before WWI. If the latter is more jolly & entertaining, this is no less important for its gritty descriptions of his time as a private (he refused all promotions) in the war. In contrast with some of the reviewers, I find no difficulty with his style. He wrote as, no doubt, he spoke - very plainly. And if his memory seems to one reviewer exceptional, I can only point out that, in earlier ages, people HAD to rely far more on memory. Memory is a skill and, in less literate cultures, it is a skill much more practiced; it has to be!

I am not suggesting that everything he writes is 100% accurate, but there is nothing here that seems false. He may be filling out a few details but, without reference to newspaper cuttings, photo's, TV & video, how many modern folk could write a coherent account of a time in their life from 15-20 years ago? It might seem odd that he can remember the details of what people wore when he first met them, but then consider; he was in the army, and what would be memorable would be what would stand out from the uniform(ed) mass. Maybe it's not so strange after all.

This is an excellent, vivid, and important account from a little-voiced majority; the rank & file. You may or may not find the style easy to read but, if you have any interest in The Great War, you ought to persevere. Even if you find it hard going, I do believe your effort will be rewarded.
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on 5 February 2007
When asked to recommend one or two books covering the Great War, I have always suggested Martin Middlebrook's " First Day of The Somme" as a starter, however, having read this most excellent volume I firmly believe that this

title is without a doubt a must read too and therefore a very valuable addition to any military historian's library.

This splendid publication - heralded as one of the finest memoirs of the Great War ever written, follows on from Frank's previous volume (Old Soldier Sahib) which excellently detailed his pre war service in India and Burma. Having been recalled to the colours, this particular volume takes over where the last one left off and provides the reader with a fascinating insight into his experiences between 1914 and 1918.

Frank landed in France in August 1914 and like many British Tommies soldiered in some of the worst conditions imaginable. How he and many others managed to survive this conflict as his friends and colleagues were killed within inches of him on an almost daily basis I will never know- I can only presume he had a guardian angel looking kindly on him.

His graphical and remarkable account of the fighting and life in the trenches is a true tribute to those who fought and so often died for the freedom. There are however light hearted moments too as he describes the gambling, drinking and fatigue dodging and other scams that were also part of everyday life - however in the face of adversity, it is good to know the British soldier still had a sense of humour, a will survive and to carry on as normal as possible.

Frank Richards was a obviously a very modest man. Despite being awarded the DCM and MM during the war, he made only a casual mention of it in his book. He was a very talented man too, to be able to write in the style he has, is a credit to him. This book will provide readers with a very entertaining read and a superb source of reference for many generations to come.

In summary, I have just one word to sum the volume up - remarkable!
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on 17 November 2015
I first came across this book when I was idly browsing through the Reference Library collection in Nottingham many years ago. I ws totally enthralled by the details and the completely unself-conscious way it had been written. The fact that Frank Richards lived to tell the tale is remarkable. I spent many years trying to track it down again and I am enormously thankful that with all the WW I memories it has been reissued. I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone who is researching or studying the period. It has the added interest because Frank Richards was one of the ordinary soldiers who was in the same battles as Siegrfried Sasoon and I think Robert Graves. This was the life of this ordinary infantryman at the time, whose voice comes through as absolutely authentic and refreshingly unheroic. He recounts his many brave actions as mere matter of course approaches to his comrades. However it is not for the faint-hearted.
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on 27 November 2005
This really is the Great War from the eyes of a private. Not easy reading, but none the less a real account from one who witnessed the horrors of that war. Read 'Old Soldier Sahib' by the same author, and then this title, to gain an understanding of a generation now almost gone.
A great read.
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on 7 August 2016
This matter-of-fact telling of life at the front in WW1 is both gripping and thrilling.
There are occasional moments when Frank Richards' descriptions could be perceived to be 'not very politically correct' (his views of anyone who isn't British are 'colurful') but it would be churlish to turn your nose up at this as we're talking about the views of someone a century ago.

I really 'enjoyed' this book (not sure if that is the right word for a tale about death and destruction but I felt fully informed - but not in a 'worthy' way).

Anyone seeking to understand what life in the trenches was like for a simple private (rather than say one of the officer-class poets) should start here.
Gritty, touching and at times even funny.
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on 21 June 2016
A front line soldiers account of life and death in the trenches told with brutal honesty and typical British Army gallows humour. I don't know how he survived that hell hole, can't even say "different man different era" plenty men he was with crumpled and lost their minds he's just that breed who are oblivious, bullet proof and play Pontoons under shellfire.
One of the best war books I have read to date and a snapshot of the British Army in the early 20th century I devoured it and wished it was twice as long.
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on 5 January 2015
After reading Lynch's memoirs , I heard this book being read on local radio. If you appreciate that it's written using vocabulary from a different era and are not offended because of that then I would recommend it as an eye witness account of the true horrors faced by every day people. Life is good luck. Death is bad luck. Your either lucky or not, day in day out . The authors opinions on life and living from what he saw prove to be interesting.
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on 28 July 2016
A basic account of life in the trenches by a normal everyday soldier who managed amazingly to survive the full four years at the frontline and his subsequent and rightfully his disgust at the non distinction between survivors of the trenches and those who never put themselves in danger and still picked up the same or even better war pensions than him.
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