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Laugh or Cry (Hardback)

The British Soldier on the Western Front, 1914–1918

Military WWI > By Year > 1914 WWI > By Year > 1915 WWI > By Year > 1916 WWI > By Year > 1917 WWI > By Year > 1918

By Gary Bain, Peter Hart
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 10 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399068772
Published: 17th October 2022

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'Awakened by great shouted oaths below. Peeped over the side of the manger and saw a Belgian lass milking and addressing a cow with a comprehensive luridness that left no doubt in my mind that British soldiers had been billeted here before.' Private Norman Ellison, 1/6th King’s Liverpool Regiment

Humour helped the British soldier survive the terrible experiences they faced in the trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. Human beings are complicated, and there is no set pattern as to how they react to the outrageous stresses of war. But humour, often dark and representative of the horrors around them could and often did help. They may have been up to their knees in mud and blood, soaking wet and shot at from all sides, but many were still determined to see the ‘funny side’, rather than surrender to utter misery. Peter Hart and Gary Bain have delved deep into the archives to find examples of the soldier’s wit. The results are at times hilarious but rooted in tragedy. You have to laugh or cry.

Article: Everything you wanted to know about life in the trenches

History Revealed

Review as featured in

Highlight: 'Superbly researched and written, Laugh or Cry is a must-read for anyone who has an ancestor who served in the war, as well as those who have a more general interest in the Western Front.'

Who Do You Think You Are

Overall, we can expect nothing less from both Hart and Bain who hold back no punches in making us appreciate what the experience of these men were, but also - in a round about way - how fortunate we are today that we do not have to go through such experience. Whilst never taking away from the quite horrendous experiences that these men went through, they continually recognise the importance of humour. There in is perhaps a further lesson for everyone.

I hope that we can expect future joint books from the authors which take a refreshing slant on the experience that humanity endured in the First World War. I look forward to dipping into the extracts from this book for many years to come.

Jon Sandison

4 out of 5

I’ll warrant that any British soldier who reads this book, whilst shaking his head at how much is still the same a century later, will smile and feel kinship with the Tommies, Canucks and ANZACs of 14-18.

Read the Full Review Here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Featured by

Western Front Association

The book goes along nicely going from one quote to another, it’s an easy read because the book is written very well indeed.

Written by a couple of excellent historians, I can’t really fault this book at all, and is surely a must of any Great War fans.

The History Fella

It is captivating and entertaining read and is unreservedly recommended for anyone who has an interest in the
Great War.

Read the Full Review Here

Phil Curme

About Gary Bain

Gary Bain joined the Junior Leaders and served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps working with the Intelligence Corps before leaving the army and rising in civilian life to be Head of Commercial at Transport for London.


About Peter Hart

Peter Hart was the oral Historian at the IWM Sound Archive for almost 40 years where he was responsible for interviewing veterans. He has written several books on both World Wars. He has appeared in numerous television documentaries and is an experienced tour guide.

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