On this, the 101st anniversary of the ending of the Somme Offensive, we return for one last look at the battleground.
Macdonald’s book is not a new one, and because many other authors quote from it, much that it contains will not seem unique.
The numerous direct quotations are credited in the margins of the book, rather than below block quotes, or in footnotes or end notes. The usual kinds of small maps are scattered throughout, and there are period and modern black-and-white photographs of landscapes, people and monuments, but many of them are quite dark, and thus of limited utility.There’s a bibliography, a lengthy list of acknowledgments, and a brief index.
Macdonald’s lyric, literary writing style makes the harsh facts go down smoothly. The inclusion of a variety of poems, marching songs, and hymns help to create a sense of intimate feeling that is not often found in histories of this period of the war.
A late addition to my Battle of the Somme collection (some 14 strong, now), but I enjoyed the change of tone, which made it worth the wait.
Granted, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to find appropriate period cover art that features the author, because pictures of Rommel during the Great War are almost non-existent, but the decision that was taken to plaster the cover of a First World War book with Second World War images was an error. It would have been better to have stuck with stock First World War photos, even if best ones are morphing from iconic to trite during these centennial years.
Using notes he took at the time, supplemented by later personal discussions he had with colleagues and visits to the old battlefields, Rommel wrote this book during the interwar period. The anecdotes go into so much detail that it’s unlikely that anyone could have remembered all of this information on his own. But throughout the book Rommel is unsparing of himself when it comes to mistakes he made back then, because he intended this to be a textbook for future warriors. The writing is very readable, communicating a good “you-are-there” feeling.
Available in both hardcover and paperback reprints, Rommel’s accounts of the warfare he experienced on both fronts helps round out the Great War memoir genre. Highly recommended.
Sniping in the Great War.
A helpful little book filled with technical details on the guns, scopes, practices and personalities behind the performance of sniping among various Commonwealth and Regular troops of the BEF. The German side of the story is given generous, if not as thorough, treatment as are the British. An overview of the history of wartime rifle use in other times and places is included.
It’s well enough written, with few grammatical errors, but it’s obviously been padded with a great deal of repetitive, almost literary, verbiage, without which it would have been a much shorter book. There are detailed photographs of the arms, and pictures of proponents of the skill.
My big gripe with the book is that although published in hardcover with a fine, glossy dust jacket, the pages started falling out – and it was purchased new.
Otherwise, not a bad investment for those who want some in-depth, albeit brief, background on this aspect of trench warfare.