Forgotten Voices of the Somme : The Most Devastating Battle of the Great War in the Words of Those Who Survived, Paperback Book

Forgotten Voices of the Somme : The Most Devastating Battle of the Great War in the Words of Those Who Survived Paperback

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


1916. The Somme. With over a million casualties, it was the most brutal battle of World War I. It is a clash that even now, over 90 years later, remains seared into the national consciousness, conjuring up images of muddy trenches and young lives tragically wasted.

Its first day, July 1st 1916 - on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead - is the bloodiest day in the history of the British armed forces to date.

On the German side, an officer famously described it as 'the muddy grave of the German field army'.

By the end of the battle, the British had learned many lessons in modern warfare while the Germans had suffered irreplaceable losses, ultimately laying the foundations for the Allies' final victory on the Western Front. Drawing on a wealth of material from the vast Imperial War Museum Sound Archive, Forgotten Voices of the Somme presents an intimate, poignant, sometimes even bleakly funny insight into life on the front line: from the day-to-day struggle of extraordinary circumstances to the white heat of battle and the constant threat of injury or death.

Featuring contributions from soldiers of both sides and of differing backgrounds, ranks and roles, many of them previously unpublished, this is the definitive oral history of this unique and terrible conflict.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304 pages, bw pics throughout
  • Publisher: Ebury Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780091926281

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Review by

A personal history of the Somme offensive, told by many men and many ranks, with different jobs, different battles, and different end view-points.Levine divides the book into sections, and gives brief commentary at the beginning of each, especially about the different battles and more of an over-view of the situations, but he lets the soldier's words do the rest. It begins with passages about recruitment and general life in the trenches, before sharing some experiences of Verdun, as it led to the Somme offensive being pushed ahead and made more a battle of attrition in order to relieve pressure on the French. Then a short section about the lead up to July 1 and the first attacks before the first experiences of going over the top on July 1, then more of the specific battles and finally a very short section where the soldiers are looking back on their experiences.There are a few perspectives on the war, Haig's leadership, etc... but they boil down to "bloody butchers," "everything was necessary and correct," and "it was hell but I loved it" (the first camp certainly had the most voices). Very few had anything bad to say about the Germans.No complaints about this book. First hand testimony is so important for events like this, and I'm extremely glad we have it. I thought Levine laid out everything quite well, gave enough detail on battles but not too much, and never tried to talk over the men. Each bit of testimony includes the man's name, rank, and unit (if that's the word I want), and you hear from some (perhaps most, I didn't pay that much attention) men multiple times.Of course it's not a completely in-depth book, a book about tactical operations, a book about the big picture view of the battles, and it's not meant to be. You can't get that from first-person testimony. It gives one a deeper feeling about this part of the war though, and that's what I want. It's about a personal experiences, and the reality of the trenches, of army life, the diversity of command within battalions, the reality of going over the top, etc...

Review by

This is a fascinating and throughly captivating book about the Battle of the Somme from the men who witnessed and fought it. The stories some of these men had to tell were interesting to say the least - not all of them were doom and gloom. There was a lot of camaraderie and trust.I learnt a lot about the battle from this book and it was far more interesting than reading a text book style book full of facts and figures.I actually found myself laughing at some parts of the book through the wit these men had. These men might have been petrified but they never lost their spirit and they were patriotic right until the very end.You have to have a lot of respect for the men who were willing to share their stories with us, the ones who didn't and the ones who weren't able to. I feel honoured to have been able to have read about it from the view points of the people who were actually there.