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on 22 September 2005
This is one of the most impressive books that I have read on the Somme, providing something which has been conspicuously absent from all too many books- namely the German view. Meticulously researched and footnoted, it succeeds in telling the 'other half of the story', from the early clashes with the French in 1914 through to the closing down of the Allied offensive in November 1916.

The book is based upon material drawn from a multitude of German unit histories and archives. The various accounts, the majority of them firsthand, have been skilfully incorporated into an accessible narrative, punctuated throughout by pertinent insights into the Allied as well as the German experience of the campaign. It contains a good selection of photographs, and some excellent appendices dealing with the organisation of the German Army and its order of battle for the period July-December 1916. It is hard to fault this book, but minor criticisms might be that the reproduction quality of some photographs could have been better, and that a different choice of typeface might have proved somewhat easier on the eye.

In summary, this is an excellent book, which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone with more than a passing interest in the Somme, or indeed the Western Front generally. I can only hope that the author produces similar works on other campaigns of the Great War.
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on 12 May 2017
A bit heavy at times but a good read overall.
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VINE VOICEon 16 August 2006
It is very difficult indeed to find fault with this book.

It is a magnificent addition to anybody's Great War library and quite simply an invaluable resource.

We are given, from primary sources, the German view of the Somme battlefield as a counterpoint to the many books over the past thirty years giving the view from British sources.

Perhaps as a consequence of the German tendency towards sentimentality in comradeship, the accounts by German soldiers seem to have greater detail and poignancy compared with the rather more reserved approach of their British counterparts with which we are familiar. The emotions of the German soldier and his pain and frustration at often being unable to help comrades during the horrific artillery `drumfire' helps us establish an empathetic response and emotionally engages us in his fate.

The use of both personal accounts and army archive sources allows the narrative of the battle events to be skilfully interwoven with the primary sources but without becoming an overpowering litany of horror stories. The German Sommekampfer of July 1916 is seen as a skilful motivated and very effective soldier who is eroded by the constant battering of five months of battle. We see from the accounts that he is still at the end of the battle a formidable opponent, but one that is missing that spark of brilliance. His words show the sadness of the loss of so many comrades, and the Sommekampfer above all knows that these were the best of the German army, now gone forever.

Some of the source material is known, but much is new. It adds greatly to our knowledge and sources and because so much is new it is definitely not a regurgitation of established work previously available to the mainstream reader.

The only, and I mean only, criticism is the failure to produce maps that place the accounts in their detailed context. It would have been magnificent if for example we had a detailed map showing the position of Unteroffizier Otto Lais and his other machine gun teams near the Serre - Mailly Road. If that were done in each case it would provide the missing link between the men and the ground. Those of us who know the Otto Lais account can see the significance of his story in context but such a map would help the reader new to the ground. Do not however let this minor criticism deter. It is still a 5 star book and is a key resource for the understanding of the human dimension on the Western Front.

Michael McCarthy

Editor, "The Battle Guide"

Guild of Battlefield Guides.
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on 18 March 2012
Jack Sheldon proves himself once again to be a master educator on the subject of the first world war . There are hundreds of well researched accounts from the British and Commonwealth side of the conflict , but writing as he does from German archive sources we gain a much fuller picture .

I read the German Army on The Somme in tandem with Peter Burtons The Somme the unseen panoramas , and was often able to co-ordinate dates and times of various actions from both sides .Sheldons regimental archive material is brought to life by the regular introduction of eye witness statements and letters written by the combatants themselves to paint an apocalyptic picture of , misery and human suffering on both sides .

In one chapter he relates how a German trench was reduced back to little more than ground level .The surviving German garrison having to lie motionless in shallow scrapes often not even deep enough to offer full body cover , and unable through the sheer weight of incoming fire to move into and link shell holes together into a defensive line , a common practice at the time . At the end of reading the passage turn to page 252 of Bartons book to look at the 3 pictures of the gradual obliteration of the German Monquet Farm defences and Sheldons account becomes even more graphic .

And thats the thing with his work , as well as standing in its own right as a superb work of academic history , it further enhances accounts of those previously published from the British side .Mr Sheldon has made a huge contribution to the further understanding of this horrendous conflict .
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on 18 January 2008
Let me start with my only small criticism of this book.

When I first started reading this book I thought I had made a mistake in buying it. I put it down and instead read another book I had purchased at the same time on the Somme Battles. I realised that the book failed, for me, in putting each account into its overall context within the main battle. So my recommendation is if you know very little about the Somme then spend a couple of hours on the internet bringing yourself upto speed on its pure scale and slaughter and why it was fought to maximise the reading of this book.

It was only after having a clearer perspective on the overall battle did the brillance of this book come to life. Here was an eye level personal view of the battle as reported by German men in their reports and letters. Suddenly point 152 on some battle map comes to life as you start to understand what it was like to be there.

After days of constant artillery fire you can feel the sudden release in their accounts when they finally get to crawl out of their mud shelters and man their Machine Guns.

Two things struck me as I read this book. One was the fact that by the time the Artillery had finished its work there were basically no trenches left, men fought over and died in a sea of mud holes. Two that these men who lived ordinary lives before the war, became extraordinary in the suffering they endured and the friends they lost.

This book is a worthy addition to any collection of books. Put it this way, I immediately purchased his book on Passchendaele.
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on 29 August 2010
Jack Sheldon has provided the absolute prerequiste for the objective historian by giving an in-depth view of the Somme from the German perspective of the battle. Until now, translations from German sources were difficult to encounter and my knowledge was based firmly on the British and French side of No Man's Land. My battlefield tours to the Somme will certainly benefit from the invaluable information Jack Sheldon imparts. An excellent book.
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on 18 March 2013
This excellent 2005 story of months of trench warfare on the Somme offers the reader an alternative perspective. It was instructive and fascinating to read this collection of the personal accounts of 'the enemy', the men who served in a German Army of quite remarkable skill and undoubted courage. I learned a great deal, and gained additional respect for a determined opponent who came close to 'victory', however that could be defined in this theatre. A recurring thought was simply how did the men engaged in this nightmare cope? Consider for a moment being there as a young Tommie on the second day of the Somme, surrounded by dead & dying colleagues. Could you continue, climb on to the firestep, and resume fighting? Jack Sheldon has given us an important book which can be recommended to anyone interested in the Great War. Read it in conjunction with Geoff Dyer's slim, poignant 1994 volume, 'The Missing of the Somme'.
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on 10 June 2008
Author Jack Sheldon has performed a real service to readers in providing a rare glimpse into the first-hand accounts, thoughts and actions of German soldiers of the Great War. For the first time the authentic voice of German veterans can be read by non-German speakers.

Expertly combining first-hand accounts, archival material, as well as large numbers of narratives from German regimental histories, the author weaves together the story of soldiers in combat using their own words.

The value of his writing transcends those interested in the German Army, to those, who reading about their own countries troops, would like to learn more about the men who fought, and often died, "on the other side of the hill."

One of the primary sources left to those researching the German Army of the Great War is the extensive series of regimental histories. With the destruction of the Heeresarchives in 1945, along with almost all official operations and unit files, these histories take on an importance which cannot be overstated. Author Jack Sheldon displays his expert knowledge of the sources with a comprehensive explanation of the use and limitations of the regimental histories. By careful cross checking of facts contained in archival files with those detailed in the regimental histories he demonstrates the fidelity of the regimental accounts.

The primary purpose of the German regimental histories was for the veterans of the units themselves, and to maintain the traditions of units disbanded after the war. The actual writing of the regimental histories was undertaken by single authors or in some cases by regimental associations. With this in mind the author reminds us of the natural (and understandable) human tendency to put endeavors in their best light. It is worth noting that though the regimental histories were not written by the Reicharchivs, influence was exerted in the form of editorial agreements which potential authors had to sign to gain access to the all important unit files in the archives. This being said, it was also written guidance that failures of the unit could be written about honestly.

By explaining the value and limitations of the sources left to researchers of the German army in the war, the author clearly shows that his readers are in good hands.

In summary Jack Sheldon's books offer a valuable look into the up till now closed experience of the German soldier in the Great War. By his able writing and expert use of material he has provided a valuable resource to both students and experts of the Great War.
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on 20 February 2010
I got this book for Xmas and, having asked for it, felt obliged to "soldier on" - excuse the pun.
On the whole, it was interesting enough but after a while I felt that it lacked a decent editor as most of the accounts were very similar. The trouble with military history is that some books get bogged down in details that are repeated again and again and this is one of them.
No good if you don't have a working knowledge of what happened, but a useful addition to an existing library.
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on 21 October 2016
An interesting book giving the perspective from the other side of the wire. The German army suffered as much as the allies, but held the better ground and were more prepared for battle than the British Army. The French Army were formidable opponents causing havoc with their shelling. The German Army were much better in providing cover for their troops by building deep bunkers, but also suffered from lack of supplies on thefrintline.
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