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