on 10 November 2004
Whilst the common reader will not mind (or indeed know) Birdsong borrows wholesale from older accounts, this definitive tome accurately depicts a) how WW1 underground warfare was fought on the Western Front b) presents illustrated eye-witness accounts of previous unpublished work and c) how 30 years of research on the battlefield by the authors, mostly for the first time, has discovered significant parts of the tunnel system, with Flanders Fields geology preserving artifacts and systems to a unique degree.
There are plentiful contemporary diagrams and photographs of projected operations as well as modern colour photographs of the author's investigations. The three author's different specialties avoids the common author bias of single author books, with the eye for detail giving the military and amateur enthusiast alike a mass of information.
A must for the military and amateur enthusiast at a very reasonable hardback price, this book fills a gap of a little known but highly important theatre of operations, little known due to the secrecy involved in wartime mining.
on 1 February 2007
There is no doubt, that many excellent books have been written and published on the wide ranging and different aspects of the Great War, these include both general as well as specialist publications which are aimed at either the general reader or expert or often both. I have personally read many books on this tragic conflict, some I find fascinating, others are rather run of the mill and are possibly recycled from previous publications. This splendid title is however one that shines out and I am sure, it will be of tremendous interest to a wide audience of both amateur and professional military historians, researchers and general readers alike.
The war beneath the "killing fields" of the Western Front has in my opinion until now been overshadowed and often neglected by authors and publishers by what took place above the ground. This truly magnificent book will, without a doubt do much to draw attention to the skilful , yet unseen game of "cat and mouse" that was taking place in the damp and dirty tunnels underground.
I can honestly say that this volume made interesting reading and succeeded in stimulating my own interest in carrying out further research into this fascinating aspect of the Great War. The authors (all tunnelling experts), have in fact been inundated with enquiries on this subject since the publication of Sebastian Faulke's "Birdsong" and have as a result carried out over twenty five years painstaking research, excavations and investigation to be able to produce this brilliant title.
The book is packed with a tremendous amount of gripping information and is backed up with a host of colourful maps, in excess of 450 colour as well as black and white photographs and many highly detailed and professional diagrams. Many of the photographs are unique and will keep the reader engrossed like I was for many hours.
If there is one book to buy on this intriguing subject, this is it - I am sure you will not be disappointed!
on 14 August 2005
This is a beautiful book about an awful subject. It is put together with great care and skill and carries the reader through. I am not particularly a war buff but I found this unputdownable. It is clearly a labour of love and the years of work that have gone into it have created an absolutely marvelous book.
on 23 April 2011
Interesting well written book on a somewhat obscure and not that documented topic. The author manages to write a general portrait of the tunnellers war while at the same time doing a splendid job covering all the technical basis.
You'll find a bit of everything, the daily life of the sappers, the claustrophobia, the geology of Flanders and how technical problems were overcome, and the unfortunate and gruesome reality of war in the tunnels, or the frenetic digging from both sides as they both tried to gain an advantage and "lift" the other side with inordinate amounts of explosives planted below their trenches and strongholds. Specially interesting as well is the battlefield archaeology, the state of some galleries today that for some reason or other were drained, and that provide a glimpse into a surreal claustrophobic world complete with mattresses, bottles, spent cartridges, abandoned explosives where galleries had long collapsed.
If you're a mining engineer, a geologist, or have some interest in military engineer corps or in WW1 History in general, this book is absolutely mandatory. The way the authors manage to connect the many threads from many disciplines in a coherent narrative without burdening the reader with a dry speech while at the same time documenting solidly everything is superbly done. There's a good assortment of period photographs and the occasional diagrams illustrating shafts, galleries, geology, as well as contemporary photographs from recently found galleries, and their dangers. Many thanks to the authors for a splendid job.
on 15 January 2008
As other reviwers have said, this is superbly researched and put together. The mix of original photos and plans with modern photos of the tunnels and dugouts as they appear now, plus the combination of eyewitness comments and authors' commentary make this a superb production. Having visited mine craters and a few dugouts and the tunnel system at Vimy, this book made me appreciate more fully the scale and organisation of this activity on both sides. Highly recommended.
on 31 December 2011
I have read several books about the Great War but knew nothing about the war going on below ground on the Western Front.
This book is a real eye opener as to what was happening beneath the trenches.
There were 1000's of guys involved in tunnelling under German lines to plant tons and tons of explosives at many places along the front in order to blow up enemy trenches to try and possibly shorten and win the war.
There were 1000's of casualties on both sides due to the effects of this form of warfare, and huge craters left all along the Western Front.
This is a well written book with plenty of illustrations and photos, recommended reading for those with an interest in the Great War.
on 8 February 2008
Quite simply one of the best books on the Great War I have ever read. Beautifully written and with a wealth of photos and diagrams it transports you back to the dark days of the Salient.
on 1 June 2009
Even this cumudgeonly reviewer is forced into a four star rating ( five being reserved for Shakespeare, the Bible, All Quiet on the Western Front and similar world changers. . . )
Seriously a very nice volume, that is often expensive, because it deserves to be. Full colour on many pages, good hardback, quality research, quotations from original letters and documents, diagrams and maps. Doubtless benefits from Doyle's particular geological angle. 'Tunnellers' and 'War Underground' were both good books, but arguably this takes the whole subject to a new level (depth actually, but you know what I mean !)
Ignore me - I'm just jealous - congratualtions to all concerned. Now go and buy this book - I did and never regretted it.
on 2 November 2012
This is one of the best written and best illustrated books on a military theme I have ever read. It covers the background of the early war in Ypres, the geology and its significance on the tunnels, the early developments, the major tunnelling effort up to the battle of Messines ridge and the aftermath. It describes with many annecdotal stories from diaries and letters the experience of the british, australian, canadian and german miners. Everything is well described and illustrated. The recent discovery and investigation of old tunnels and dugouts is very good.
on 16 August 2013
I bought this book for my stepson who is into WW1 history after we went on an organized tour of the WW1 battle fields in Sept 2012 and where we met the author Peter Barton (Gentleman). He was part of a team doing the excavations on the tunnels and although quite busy he went out of his way to explain in detail about the dig. The company that organizes these tours sold out of this book (it was first come first served) but because there was so much interest in this book, the last book was put up for auction and it went for a lot of money, too rich for me. The money was donated to the dig. In return Peter Barton autographed and dated the book for the lucky buyer. I was able to buy this book from amazon on our return which I gave to my stepson, which dad's do even if the stepson is 45yr. I have read the book and would recommend it.