Saturday 2 March 2024

First Day on the Somme

The first day of the Battle of the Somme is a day that has gone down into UK military history.  On that day the attacking force lost around 57,000 casualties, that is dead, wounded and missing.  The largest failure of the UK army in history.  Of these close to 19,000 were dead.  
This book, which was first published in 1971 is rightly considered a classic of its type.  In fact, almost all Great War historians, tour guides and interested parties, can look back at this book as the one that led either to their interest in the war, or enabled a better understanding to arise.  Funnily enough, this may include me.  I first took an interest in the Great War around the ate 70s/early 80's and found this book in the library, soon after Penguin published it.  A classic indeed, full of relevant information regarding the situation that led to the war, the disposition of the UK force, the men in charge, and also with a host of eye witness accounts from those who served.  The best way to get into the reality of the war.
No doubt since first published much new information has arisen.  Many historians, knowledgeable and ranting, such as myself, have had their say, as time passes opinion differ, yet this book remains a classic in the eyes of almost all.  
I re-read it recently, once again watching the men march up full of expectation.  The fear of going over the top, the shock and confusion of men falling all around.  Hard fighting in an enemy trench, the loss of officers and NCOs to lead, wounds and death all around, and the realisation soon after staring that all had failed.
The attack was well planned, but with communication difficult, rigid plans not amendable, failure of at least one third of shell exploding or having a suitable effect, and failure on the one place where cavalry were required and not sent, all led to what was to be a one day success becoming a five month slog.  
I enjoyed again this book.  The thoughtful opinions are soberly put, well researched and a classic this book remains.  This is the place to begin when researching the Great War.  
Sad to say Martin Middlebrook, who also wrote many other similar books, passed away around a month ago.  A great loss to Great War history.


the fly in the web said...

I have that book too, and agree with your view of its value.

Adullamite said...

Fly, Aye, it's a grand book.