Tommy : The British Soldier On The Western Front 1914-1918

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9780007137510: Tommy : The British Soldier On The Western Front 1914-1918

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.

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Review:

Tommy is Richard Holmes's tribute to the ghosts of the millions of ordinary soldiers who fought in the First World War. The book also reflects the dissatisfaction he feels at the way we still remember it. Too often we approach World War I through the literature it inspired. The poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and others have their own truths to offer, but Holmes would dispute the assumption that they represent the experiences of the majority of those who endured the trench warfare of the Western Front.

To discover new voices and new perspectives on the war he has trawled through the rich archives of letters, diaries and memoirs that still exist, most of them written while the fighting still continued. From these he has constructed an extraordinarily vivid and moving picture of what it felt like to be one of the millions of men who served in the British army during the four years between August 1914 and the armistice on November 11, 1918. From Private Albert Bullock rejoicing in the discovery of 200 Woodbines in the pack of a fellow soldier who had fled the front line, to Private Eric Hiscock describing the horrors of finding himself entangled in barbed wire. The Tommies, whom Richard Holmes rescues from obscurity, prove powerful witnesses to the diverse realities of the war. Beneath the stereotyped images of the First World War that we all carry in our heads, the real lives of the men who fought it are still there to be discovered and Holmes’s book brings them forcefully to our attention. ––Nick Rennison

Review:

Praise for Redcoat:

“Redcoat is not just a work of history but of enthusiasm and unparalleled knowledge. This is a wonderful book, doing justice to men who have long deserved a chronicler of Richard Holmes’ skill.” Bernard Cornwell

‘It would be hard to exaggerate the excellence of this book. Vivid, comprehensive, well-written, pacy, colourful.’ Simon Heffer

‘A wonderful book, full of anecdote and good sense. Anyone who has enjoyed a Sharpe story will love it.’ Bernard Cornwell, Daily Mail

‘Beautifully written, Redcoat is a vivid account of squalor and suffering almost beyond belief, for the men, their wives and followers, and their horses. One of the best chapters is a description of barrack-room life that will turn a few stomachs in this more fastitidious age.’ John Canon, TLS

‘Redcoat is the story of the British soldier from the Seven Year War through to the Mutiny and Crimea. It is consistently entertaining, full of brilliantly chosen anecdotes and rattles along at a good light infantry pace.’ David Crane, Spectator

‘All the best-known soldier writers are discussed here, and their anecdotes are told with enthusiasm and aplomb… This is an army from another world, and Redcoat is a splendidly entertaining, moving and informative description of its strengths and foibles.’ Hew Strachan, Daily Telegraph

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