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Eyewitness on the Somme 1916 (Hardback)

Military WWI > Battles & Campaigns > Somme WWI > By Year > 1916

By Matthew Richardson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 237
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781781592991
Published: 6th April 2016



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What was the soldier’s experience of the Battle of the Somme? How did the men who were there record their part in the fighting or remember it afterwards? How can we, 100 years later, gain an insight into one of the most famous – and contentious - episodes of the Great War?
Matthew Richardson’s graphic account, which is based on the vivid personal testimony of those who took part, offers us a direct impression of the reality of the battle from the perspective of the ordinary soldiers and junior officers on the front line.
He draws heavily on previously unpublished personal accounts – letters, diaries, and memoirs, some never before translated into English – to build up a multifaceted picture of the Somme offensive from the first disastrous day of the attack, through the subsequent operations between July and November 1916. In their own words, the soldiers who were caught up in the conflict recall in unflinching detail the fighting across the entire Somme battlefield.
The narrative features the recollections of British, Commonwealth, French and American soldiers, and interweaves their testimony with descriptions left by their German adversaries. For the first time in a single volume, the reader has the opportunity to explore all facets of this momentous five-month-long struggle.
Over 100 black-and-white contemporary photographs, many previously unpublished, accompany the text, whilst a selection of artifacts recovered from the battlefield is illustrated in colour. These striking objects bear silent witness to the ferocity of the battle, and often reflect some moment of personal tragedy.

Readers with ancestors who fought on the Somme or with an interest in military history will find this book a rewarding read. You will gain an insight in to how hardships were endured and all facets of combat in this five month struggle.

Essex Family Historian No.161

Featured in IOM Today

IOM Today

Another superb volume from Pen and Sword on the battles of the Somme, with author Matthew Richardson drawing on first-hand testimony of the men who were there, lived there and fought there. An amazing collection of personal recollections and thoughts, along with Matthew's own analysis of the events of that fateful few months.

Books Monthly, May 2016 - Paul Norman

'… Matthew Richardson provides a graphic account of the Battle of the Somme based on vivid personal testimony of ordinary soldiers and junior officers on the front line in his latest book.'

Manx Independent

Matthew Richardson has researched and written Eyewitness on the Somme 1916 a book that is a fitting tribute to those that were there. This is a soldiers account of the Battle that started in July 1916 and lasted until the November, people often remember the 1st July and forget that it went on longer than most people remember.

Matthew Richardson has not just written from the point of view of the English, but of the Germans, members of the Commonwealth (Empire) forces and the French Colonial forces such as the Senegalese forces. What Richardson does do is remind the reader that The Somme Offensive was a compromise, that was born out of the realities of a coalition war and the need to relieve the pressure on the French forces at Verdun.

Taking the reader from the planning stage, through to when the Battle began and beyond, using the words of the men, as well as pictures and maps. We see through the letters of those to family back home such as a French Lieutenant who described the Somme as “…… a horrible flat country,” which clearly did not bode well for the forthcoming battle.

We also learn that in the barrage that began in advance of the British attack a German machine gunner describes who they were dazed from the week long onslaught. There are also pictures of German Soldiers who are sat below in their dugouts waiting for the bombardment to stop. What does come across is how well prepared the Germans were compared to the Allied forces.

Many men died during the course of the Battle from British football players but also American poet Alan Seeger, who served with the French Foreign Legion. Seeger’s friend Rif Baer goes on to describe the battle and how the poet gave his life and stating that Seeger was “perfectly happy” to be part of the battle.

Over the pages of this wonderful book, a short book that packs so much in over the pages it is a delight and an honour to read and share. Reading the haunting words of those that were there bring the Battle back to life from the bad weather, the bombardments, failed attacks and at times the lack of resources.

Matthew Richardson has written a haunting but brilliant book that remembers that the battle lasted more than one day and covers it in detail. An excellent book that brings long lost voices back to life and reminds us that these were ordinary men on both sides committed to what they were doing. It is easy to look at The Somme with some detachment today, but they gave their lives and were proud to do so, something that has been forgotten today.

Freelance - Paul Diggett
 Matthew Richardson

About Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson is Curator of Social History at Manx National Heritage. He has a long-term interest in military history and has published several outstanding books on the subject including 1914: Voices from the Battlefields, The Hunger War: Food, Rations and Rationing 1914-1918 and Eyewitness on the Somme 1916. He also has a keen interest in the history of the Isle of Man TT and, in addition to producing several acclaimed exhibitions on this subject, worked with Dave Molyneux on The Racer’s Edge: Memoirs of an Isle of Man TT Legend.

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