Forgotten Voices of the Great War: A New History of WWI in the Words of the Men and Women Who Were There (Forgotten Voices/the Great War)

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9780091882099: Forgotten Voices of the Great War: A New History of WWI in the Words of the Men and Women Who Were There (Forgotten Voices/the Great War)

In 1960, the Imperial War Museum began a momentous and important task. A team of academics, archivists and volunteers set about tracing WW1 veterans and interviewing them at lenght in order to record the experiences of ordinary individuals in war. Now, forty years on, the resulting book is an important, unique and compelling story of WW1.

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Review:

Max Arthur's compilation of First World War memories, Forgotten Voices of the Great War, offers a reminder of the scale of human experience within the 1914-18 conflict. Arthur, a military historian best known for his history of the RAF and his account of the Falklands campaign in 1982, has assembled hundreds of excerpts from the sound archives of the Imperial War Museum. Officers, rank-and-file troops, Australians, Americans, war widows, women in the munitions factories, and German soldiers too, all left oral testimony of their experiences, and these interviews provide the basis of the book. Arthur has put them in chronological and campaign order, and provided a general commentary, but beyond that, has left the rich and moving record to speak for itself.

The sheer humdrum ordinariness of modern warfare--the mud and rain, the relentless loss of life and inevitability of death, the pointless routine of attrition--come over in the matter-of-fact recollections of so many. But so too does the humanity and morality of the ordinary soldier--a factor that rather belies the recent emphasis amongst some historians on how soldiers loved to kill. Arthur might have intruded more. No biographical information is given about the owners of these "voices", nor does he say when, where and how this oral testimony was gathered.

These quibbles aside this is a worthwhile read and should encourage people not only to observe a minute's silence on Remembrance Day, but also to spend a few hours in the Imperial War Museum itself. --Miles Taylor

Review:

"heartbreaking, inspirational and very emotive" -- Cambridge Evening News

'An extraordinary and immensely moving book' -- Stephen Fry

'Ordinary men and women, the blurb says. These stories are so harrowing, their witness so precise and devastating, surely - 'extraordinary' -- The Times

'an extraordinary and immensely moving book' -- Stephen Fry

'one reads this book with bleeding eyes. It contains, as no other book, the First World War in the raw. -- Sir Martin Gilbert

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Max Arthur
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