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Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western…

Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918 (edition 2005)

by Richard Holmes

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Title:Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918
Authors:Richard Holmes
Info:HarperCollins UK (2005), Paperback, 668 pages
Collections:Your library

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Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front by Richard Holmes


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In 1914, five major powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand, Russia, France, and Britain on the other, went to war over the small nations of Serbia and Belgium. The Austro-Hungarian army lost the capacity for independent action by the end of 1914. The Russian army collapsed into revolution and the French army succumbed to mutiny in 1917, thought it recovered somewhat by the following year. The German army was defeated in 1918. Alone among the original five powers, the army of Britain and it’s Empire went through the war intact. How did it manage this? The late [a:Richard Holmes|3002506|Richard Holmes|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1249593865p2/3002506.jpg] sets out to answer that question in this fine book.

This is not an arrows on maps history of the war, but an examination of the British army on the Western Front. We learn what motivated its soldiers to fight, how they fought, what happened to them when they didn't, what they did between fights, how they felt about each other, how they felt about their enemy, how they felt about the war, and much else besides.

These were men who might experience the following;

"One day...a shell hit the officers' latrine, sending the screen flying. I was shocked to see a man still sitting there on the throne and I thought he must be dead. I ran as hard as I could and arrived to find Ellison up and adjusting his trousers. He said with a grin, 'It was lucky that the shell came when it did as I was feeling a bit constipated'"

"(One soldier remembered) the sight of a Saxon boy crushed under a shattered tank, moaning 'Mutter, Mutter, Mutter,' out of ghastly grey lips. A British soldier, wounded in the leg, and sitting near by, hears the words, and dragging himself to the dying boy, takes his cold hand and says 'All right, son, it's all right, Mother's here with you'"

One great grandfather of mine went into the trenches in late 1914, made it through to the end, and lived until 1979. Another joined up in 1914 and was one of the Sheffield Pals, losing an arm and an eye in his first and only day of combat on the Somme on July 1st, 1916. His brother in law likewise joined up in 1914 and fought until September 1918 when he was killed, two months before the end of the war. I never met any of these men, but after reading this book I feel as though I know them a little better. ( )
  JohnPhelan | Nov 9, 2015 |
Richard Holmes at his best. Excellent description of life for a British soldier in the First World War. He writes with technical proficiency, good scholarship, and underlying it all, strong sentiment. ( )
  RobertP | Jan 29, 2011 |
A good read and a great resource for those interested in the intricacies and nuances of the British military, especially the average "Tommy" during the First World War. Chock full of quotes, photos and annotations; well worth the effort to locate this seemingly hard to find book. I will absolutely seek out his Wellington book. ( )
  BruderBane | Mar 27, 2007 |
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In 1815 a War Office publication showing how the Soldier's Pocket Book should be filled out gave as its example one Private Thomas Atkins, No. 6 Troop, 6th Dragoons.

(Prologue : Tommy Atkins)
Contemporaries instinctively called it Great: La Grande Guerre, Weltkrieg, and we can easily see why.

Even his white cotton long johns, the last resort of comfort and dignity, are soaked by the mud he has been lying in for the past half hour.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that
An "Tommy, 'ow's your soul?"
But it's "Thin red lines of 'eroes"
When the drums begin to roll.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007137524, Paperback)

The first history of World War I to place centre-stage the British soldier who fought in the trenches, this superb and important book tells the story of an epic and terrible war through the letters, diaries and memories of those who fought it.

Of the six million men who served in the British army, nearly one million lost their lives and over two million were wounded. This is the story of these men – epitomised by the character of Sgt Tommy Atkins – and the women they left behind.

Using previously unseen letters, diaries, memoirs and poetry from the years 1914-1918, Richard Holmes paints a moving picture of the generation that fought and died in the mud of Flanders. He follows men whose mental health was forever destroyed by shell shock, women who lost husbands and brothers in the same afternoon and those who wrote at lunchtime and died before tea.

Groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed, this book tells the real story of trench warfare, the strength and fallibility of the human spirit, the individuals behind an epic event, and their legacy. It is an emotional and unforgettable masterpiece from one of our most important historians.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:15 -0400)

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This history of World War I is told from the perspective of the British soldiers who fought, centre-stage, in the trenches. Their experiences are retold through the letters, diaries and poems they wrote, expressing their thoughts and fears about being part of the war.… (more)

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