All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During The First World War

All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During The First World WarAll Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War by Richard Van Emden, Steve Humphries
ISBN: 1473891949
Published by Pen & Sword Books on July 10, 2017
Genres: Cultural, Social

This reviewer has read a number of histories of the home fronts of Britain, the U.S., and France, and this oral history is by far the most fascinating. Authors van Emden and Humphries conducted about a hundred interviews from the late 1990s until the early 2000s with people who had grown up in Britain during the war. This rich trove of experience forms the core of the book, but the authors supplemented it with letters, diaries, and earlier recorded interviews. The chapters are a harmonious blend of distinct topics and a chronological approach. The oral histories bring alive such diverse topics as the shelling of East Coast cities by the German Navy, hunger and poverty, the poor treatment of people of German descent, the Zeppelin and airplane raids on Britain, the care of the wounded, the experiences of munitions workers, etc. The chapter “It is my painful duty…”, where the interviewees recount how they were notified of the deaths of their fathers or older brothers, is absolutely heart-wrenching to read.

This is a story about the home front from the perspective of children and teenagers, and a story primarily told by women. This reviewer did not find either of these demographic situations to be a weakness of this book. These oral histories are powerful enough to stand on their own, in addition to the fact that the interviewees often also recounted their parents’ perspectives on these events. If you’re going to buy only one book on the British home front, it should be this one.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA who In the 1990s interviewed about 40 people who had lived through the Zeppelin raids on Hull, England.

The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers’ own Words and Photographs

The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers’ own Words and PhotographsThe Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers' Own Words and Photographs by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 1473885175
Published by Pen & Sword Books on August 5, 2016
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 355

This is a wonderful book, filled with new or rarely-before-seen sepia-tinted photographs, many from the soldiers’ own private collections. These images are linked to appropriate text such as these observations on the first day by Rifleman Giles Eyre of the 2nd Kings Rifle Corps:

“We are now scrambling over what must have been the British front line trenches, a maze of humps and hillocks, half-filled-in ditches, mounds of faded and burst sandbags, barbed wire clumps sticking out here and there, shell holes, smashed trench boards and a litter of rusty tins, pieces of equipment, broken rifles and goodness knows what else.” Eyre continues: “We strike out into what was once no-man’s-land, … Here all the casualties have not been gathered in yet, and horrible-looking bundles of khaki, once men, still lie in shell holes.”

Van Emden is not trying to write a study of the Somme campaign, but he does form some opinions: “Before the Somme, there was still public optimism that the war could be won with one great masterstroke … idealism did perish on the Somme.”

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Boy Soldiers of the Great War

Boy Soldiers of the Great WarBoy Soldiers of the Great War by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 9781408824726
Published by A&C Black on February 12th 2013
Genres: Military, Great Britain
Pages: 416

Len's Summary: The experiences of a handful of the hundreds of thousands of underage men and women who served in British forces during WWI written by a veteran historian and author of previous memorializing BEF veterans.

The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, Last Veteran of the Trenches, 1898-2009

The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, Last Veteran of the Trenches, 1898-2009The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, Last Veteran of the Trenches, 1898-2009 by Harry Patch, Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 0747591156
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on June 5th 2010
Genres: History, General, Military, Biography & Autobiography, Historical

Len's Summary: The story of the last surviving (as of August 2007) British trench veteran of WWI. Van Emden is author of several books on WWI including The Trench, Boy Soldiers of the Great War, and Britain’s Last Tommies.

Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin

Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack MartinSapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 1408802678
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on November 2nd 2009
Genres: Military, Personal Accounts, World War I
Pages: 272

Len's Summary: The diary of a Royal Engineer on the Western. Available from Amazon.co.uk.

Prisoners of the Kaiser: The last POWs of The Great War

Prisoners of the Kaiser: The last POWs of The Great WarPrisoners of the Kaiser: The last POWs of The Great War by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 9781848840782
Published by Pen & Sword Books on August 2009
Genres: History, Military, World War I, World War II, Veterans
Pages: 196

Len's Summary: Draws on the memories of the last surviving British POWs.

Tommy’s Ark: Soldiers, Their Animals and the Natural World in the Great War. Richard Van Emden

Tommy’s Ark: Soldiers, Their Animals and the Natural World in the Great War. Richard Van EmdenTommy's Ark: Soldiers, Their Animals and the Natural World in the Great War. Richard Van Emden by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 9781408806111
Published by Bloomsbury on November 1st 2010
Genres: Great Britain, Military, World War I
Pages: 336

Len's Summary: Explains the British soldiers’ relationship with a surprisingly range wide range of animal life.

Famous, 1914-1918

Famous, 1914-1918Famous, 1914-1918 by Richard Van Emden, Vic Piuk
ISBN: 1848841973
Published by Pen & Sword Books on March 1st 2010
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Great Britain
Pages: 350

Len's Summary: The stories of 20 of Britain’s most respected, best known and notorious celebrities in action on WWI. // Tells the stories of British celebrities and literati such as Basil Rathbone, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Toiken who served in WWI.

The Quick and the Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in The Great War

The Quick and the Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in The Great WarThe Quick and the Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in The Great War by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 9780747597797
Published by A&C Black on October 3rd 2011
Genres: 19th Century, Military, Personal Memoirs, World War I
Pages: 344

Len's Summary: A compilation of more than 50 private diaries, interviews and letters written by British soldiers.

Tommy’s Ark: Soldiers and Their Animals in the Great War

Tommy’s Ark: Soldiers and Their Animals in the Great WarTommy's Ark: Soldiers and Their Animals in the Great War by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 9781408810071
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on June 6th 2011
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Modern, 19th Century
Pages: 352

Len's Summary: British soldiers and their pets at the front.

Last Man Standing: The Memoirs of a Seaforth Highlander During the Great War

Last Man Standing: The Memoirs of a Seaforth Highlander During the Great WarLast Man Standing: The Memoirs of a Seaforth Highlander During the Great War by Richard Van Emden, Norman Collins
ISBN: 184884865X
Published by Pen and Sword on July 19th 2012
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Military, History, World War I, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 208

Len's Summary: Memoirs of a British infantry subaltern illustrated with his own photographs.

Meeting the Enemy: The Human Face of the Great War

Meeting the Enemy: The Human Face of the Great WarMeeting the Enemy: The Human Face of the Great War by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 1408843358
Published by Bloomsbury USA on May 26th 2015
Genres: Military, World War I
Pages: 400

Len's Summary: Surprising stories of personal contact between enemies, a more human aspect of war by a well-known British historian.