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The Battle of the Somme: The Heroism and Horror of War [Hardcover]

Martin Gilbert
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Book Description

June 27 2006
Every July 1, while Canadians celebrate what they have, Newfoundlanders remember what they have lost: on 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 733 of 801 men in the 1st Newfoundland Regiment were killed.

From their starting position in a British support trench, the Newfoundlanders had to cross some 230 metres of fire-swept ground before they reached their own front line. In less than a half-hour, it was all over. The Divisional Commander wrote of the Newfoundland effort: “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault failed of success because dead men can advance no further.”

Well might the Germans refer to the Battle of the Somme as das Blutbad – the bloodbath. From 1 July to 15 November 1916, a period of just 138 days, more than 310,000 soldiers from four great armies – the British, Canadian, French, and German – were killed. The German death toll on the Somme was larger than that of all the Allied forces combined. A total of 164,055 Germans died on the narrow battlefield while the total number of Allied dead was 146,404. The Somme cost Canada 24,029 casualties.

The heroism of the Dominion troops moved British prime minister David Lloyd George to write: “The Canadians played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked as storm troops. . . .

Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line, they prepared for the worst.” This book is an illustration of what Winston Churchill called the “vile and utter folly and barbarism” of war. It also shows war’s incredible patriotism and heroism.

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The Battle of the Somme adds a human touch to this devastating campaign — a fine book by one whom many consider the greatest living war author.”
Ottawa Sun

“Gilbert has unearthed fascinating details of the campaign. . . . An unforgettable read.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“A steadily astonishing piece of work that acts as a worthy remembrance.”
New York Post

“Superbly written . . . a fitting commemoration of the tragedy.”
Publishers Weekly

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Martin Gilbert, the author of more than seventy books, is Winston Churchill’s official biographer and a leading historian of the modern world. In 1995 he was knighted “for services to British history and international relations,” and in 1999 he was awarded a Doctorate of Literature by the University of Oxford for the totality of his published work. As a British schoolboy he was sent to Canada to live out the years of World War II in safety. He now divides his time between London, Ontario, and London, England.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Tribute... Oct. 1 2006
My reason for purchasing this book was based not only on my passion to learn more about WW1, but to discover what my great-grandfather endured at the Somme.

Sir Martin Gilbert beautifully describes the events leading up to the battle, providing the reader with details, but not smothering them with countless facts.

I personally liked how he included many names of the men killed, as well as the cemetery or monument that marks their name. It is a touching tribute to what these individuals sacrificed. Furthermore, as he states, if you are to visit any of these monuments/cemeteries, it would allow the reader the opportunity to pay tribute to these soldiers.

The Battle of the Somme brought to light the horrors of what my great-grandfather experienced. I had always known that the Somme was a horrific battle, but to read it in further detail provides me with the reasons why he did not survive and return home.

I thank Sir Martin for writing this beautiful book and for giving my great-grandfather, as well as millions of others the honour they deserve.
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