A good 25 years ago I found myself working in a rented room in an old people's home (we ran a Talking Newspaper for the Blind) and inevitably we came into contact with the residents. One old guy, a big tall 6 foot 4 man, used to move about on a zimmer - not due to bad legs: he was partially blind, but he knew exactly where in the gardens he could stop and pull out the massive cigars he stored for a smoke without Matron seeing him.
One day we sat and had a chat (he was a potential Talking Newspaper listner), and the only line of conversation I could start with (I was only about 20) was I was born the year England won the World Cup, when he was already in his 60s. A couple of hours breezed by as I discovered he had fought at the Somme - something I had never been taught about at school. He lied about his age and signed up at 16. He told me of the mud in the trenches. I thought he was kidding when he told me they used to listen to the Germans 'digging' tunnels. Only many years later did I start to learn some of the history of the time.
A quarter of a century on and old Fred is probably dead and gone, bless him. And all those memories are gone because I never thought to ask more and write it down.
Then you come across a book like this from some else that was actually there.
12 Days on the Somme is literally that - a simple and graphic retelling of some of Sidney Rogerson's time at the front 12 days in fact. Clearly he has been there longer than the couple of weeks he retells from 1916. And clearly from the fact he describes the fate of some of those around him as late as 1918 shows he fought beyond that.
This is the 'real' history of WW1. Yes there is an element of Black Adder in there (the idiotic orders and the boredom and the fear), a little of All Quiet but at the end of the day it's a simple factual tale of 12 days in the middle of a war that has been going on for two years and will last two more.
I wrote a review of the Harry Patch book Last Fighting Tommy, which I thought was a dreadful meandering life history of someone who had fought for about three months in WW1 and had little else to its credit excepting the chap was then over 100. A lady commented that I was wrong to review the book the way I did, but at the end of the day I stand by it. That was a book that told you nothing about WW1.
12 Days, if it has any faults, is the fact that you want more. Like that chat I had 25 years ago, the time reading this will fly by.
A few older style grammar and phrases might throw you, but this is a true life history, if only of just 12 days.
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