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The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War
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The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  262 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
From one of our most distinguished historians, an authoritative and vivid account of the devastating World War I battle that claimed more than 300,000 lives

At 7:30 am on July 1, 1916, the first Allied soldiers climbed out of their trenches along the Somme River in France and charged out into no-man's-land toward the barbed wire and machine guns at the German front lines.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Henry Holt and Co.
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(showing 1-30)
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Jill Hutchinson
Sep 02, 2015 Jill Hutchinson rated it liked it
Shelves: wwi-wwii
I am probably going to be in the minority concerning my rating of this book. Sir Martin Gilbert was a great historian and wrote so many excellent books (many of which I have read) that I feel almost guilty giving this less than five stars. But I must for the following reasons:

* the narrative did not have the easy flow of his other works and sometimes became pedantic and dry.
* although it certainly was important to hear about the lives, feelings and thoughts of those who fought there, their death
James Klagge
Jul 08, 2016 James Klagge rated it liked it
Shelves: history-military
I read this in memory for the 100 years since this battle occurred. It lasted from July 1, 1916, until late November. The story was told mainly from the British point of view. All personal stories were combined with an account of when/where the person died (almost always) or (occasionally) lived on. For those who died we are told where they were buried, or (much more commonly) where their name is memorialized b/c no body was ever found. The shelling and conditions of war were such that most bodi ...more
Oct 02, 2014 Venky rated it really liked it
Shelves: bibliocase
A vivid account of one of the bloodiest battles ever to have fought in the history of mankind. Tales of heroism and horrendous despondency rack the nerves of the reader. One cannot complete the book with dry eyes.
Katie Hilton
Jul 17, 2017 Katie Hilton rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Horrifying. Very, very sad. This is the history of the ill-conceived battle of World War I in an area near the Somme River. The front lines changed very little over the period. Millions of shells were fired, hundreds of millions of machine gun bullets were fired. Some 300,000 combatants died in less than six months. Half of those dead were never identified. For what? The battle achieved nothing but incredible death and destruction.
And we know it certainly wasn't The War to End All War
Jan 16, 2016 Trenchologist rated it really liked it
I definitely understand the Battle and its semantics and politics so much better, but am still far from comprehending it. The read is relentless and hard. The Somme was an offensive that was a costly tactic, a last-ditch effort to save Verdun, France, and slow the continuing forward-push of the German Army. When 'Trench Warfare' is coined, The Somme is the very model, of misery in death and endless shelling and mud. This was one of the most succinct, clear accounts of the Battle I've ever read, ...more
Apr 07, 2012 Craig rated it really liked it
This book was very good in providing first hand accounts of the conditions the soldiers fought in and the horrors they saw and had to endure. The book gives a good overview of the Battle of the Somme and does not way you down with to many fine details. It in forms you about the movements of each battalion and division and what battles they fought in. It is packed with facts about the number of artillery pieces each side had and how many were wounded or died in each assault or defense. Gilbert al ...more
Scott Martin
Jun 21, 2015 Scott Martin rated it really liked it
A good and relatively quick read. The work had a great deal more significance as I was reading this en route to a tour of the hallowed battleground. Gilbert is a thorough and detailed historian and for this work, takes pains to describe the actions of the primary combatants, from the lowest private killed on the first day to the actions of General (later Field Marshal) Haig. His primary emphasis is on the main battle (July-Nov 1916), offering the initial buildup to the offensive. From there, is ...more
Aug 13, 2014 Kristen rated it really liked it
I never knew that there were so many poets serving in WW I. The book personalizes a number of the million deaths that took place in this senseless battle. Throughout the book, Gilbert quotes poetry that was written by some hapless soldier who is inevitably killed hours, days, or weeks after writing it. Gilbert also captures the horror of trench warfare in his descriptions of the battlefield and follows the various troop encounters in the five month battle of the Somme.

The book is largely a trib
Jul 21, 2011 columbialion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From July to Nov of 1916 this ill advised battle claimed over a million young lives. The book is literally a collection of first person accounts of the total savagery of "The Great War" The Somme distinctly becomes a testimonial monument to the brutalization of soldiers under the command of delusional old men, who after multiple attempts (Ypres, Gallipoli) continue to harbor visions of massive "breakthroughs" on the trench warfare battleground, and sacrifice massive human life in their pursuit ...more
Apr 18, 2016 Peggy rated it it was amazing
A superb book. The right blend of historical fact with personal letters and reflections of the men who fought and died along the Somme in 1916. This battle was horrific in the loss of life and in the manner those lives were lost. What is truly sobering and leaves you wide-eyed in disbelief is that this battle was just a microcosm of the many universes of battle that made up World War I. People tend to forget about WWI in light of the more cosmetically appealing "Good War" of WWII. But WWII canno ...more
Jose Luis
May 13, 2015 Jose Luis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro muy detallado de la batalla del Somme, del 1 de julio al 18 de noviembre de 1916. Dividido en 18 capítulos muy bien relatados y mostrando cada detalle del combate, contiene buen número de mapas para identificar los combates y no deja de recordarnos que cada ejército esta compuesto por individuos, nos indica su nombre, edad, regimiento y si sobrevivió o no a la guerra y si no en donde se encuentra enterrado.
Extensa biografía consultada, no deja de sorprenderme los relatos de los partici
Oct 26, 2007 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Michael K. gave it to me as a cast gift
The story of the Allies' offensive from July to November, 1916 in the region of the River Somme, told largely from Britain's point of view.

This was an battle of staggering magnitude: there is a memorial at Thiepval to honor only British and South Africans killed there who have no known grave, and they number 73,335. That is to say, more than all American dead from the entire Vietnam War.

Such a strange war, which saw the first widespread use of aircraft and tanks, the last general use of horse ca
Sep 02, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
This is not a regular military history of a battle,more of a human story of men in battle. Every soldier mentioned in the narrative has his grave or name on which memorial mentioned. This book gives you the facts of the battle but mixed with poetry and diary extracts makes it all the more human.

The staggering day one british forces death toll of 19,240 is still the most shocking thing of it all.
I was at the O2 in london recently watching Iron Maiden.If all the people in the O2 had been on the So
James Webster
Apr 05, 2015 James Webster rated it liked it
I've read quite a lot of the recent literature about the Somme so much was already familiar to me. There were some new things for me in this (it's especially good for first-hand accounts) but overall it was a bit disappointing. There was some sense of the overall rhythm of battle but no strong sense of the punctuations of the four months of battle. A bit more willingness to express the authorial voice would pull things together: Haig is quoted extensively but Gilbert doesn't gloss these quotatio ...more
Glyn Longden
Jul 25, 2011 Glyn Longden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 6/10. I think I might have rated this book too high. It's a pretty conventional account of the preparation and execution of the Somme campaign in WWI told from the British side. I've probably read a dozen books on this battle. One of the formations he keys in on is the Newfoundland regiment and its decimation on July 1st and that was quite interesting. My impression is that this book was a 'knock-off' to make a few bucks between the author's well-known Churchill volumes.
Alfred Keep
Jun 25, 2016 Alfred Keep rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was impressed with the detail in the book. It was very interesting. I had forgotten most of the details I had learned in school a long time ago. I really think we would have gotten our butts kicked, when Russia and Germany signed their Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Thankfully this was when the USA entered the war. I really think they saved our skins.
Jan 13, 2016 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww1
Poignant account of individual soldiers within the context of the description of the battle. Brief vignettes includes whether they died and if so where they are buried or memorialized. Extensive good maps of the battle and maps of cemeteries throughout the region.
May 08, 2012 Khalekan rated it really liked it
Although depressing in many ways, the tales of ordinary people being killed in an absolutely futile enterprise are relentless, I thought this was an excellent book which genuinely eviles images of what life as a WW1 soldier must have been like.

Such aprajic waste.
This book was sad,interesting, and a great memorial for the soldiers who fought and died at the Somme. See my full review on my blog:
Edward Burton
Feb 20, 2016 Edward Burton rated it liked it
All wars are wasteful, but this book has taught me World War One was the most wasteful war ever waged. The book reads like one long compendium of obituaries. This is perhaps the saddest book I've ever read.
Chris Cousins
Jan 18, 2015 Chris Cousins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent account of the horror of the Battle of the Somme. Numerous individual soldiers are detailed giving the book a very personal nature. A lesson on the futility of war.
Jerry Teipen
Aug 15, 2012 Jerry Teipen rated it liked it
Shelves: ww1
Gilbert was a little too focused on providing statistical information rather than fleshing out the experience...very informative nonetheless.
Oct 02, 2014 Joshua rated it liked it
a lot of information but all the minute details killed the flow of the book.
Adam DeVille, Ph.D.
Apr 02, 2013 Adam DeVille, Ph.D. rated it really liked it
The depressing and gratuitous slaughter of the Somme is recounted here by a premiere historian. Sad and infuriating to read.
Jul 29, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Excellent. Very heart wrenching in the juxtapostion of the individual experience of the battle carnage with larger battle experience
Cannonhistory Potter
Jan 20, 2008 Cannonhistory Potter rated it really liked it
Puts into perspective the Lions led by Donkeys perception of the bloodiest battle in Britain's long military history.
Dec 08, 2009 Madge rated it really liked it
A moving history of the battle by a super historian told through the writings of soldiers and generals.
Andreu Gimenez Sitjà
Complet, didícil. Fixació cementiris. Bons mapes.
Jun 12, 2011 Tom added it
Horror is mild. It's hard to believe that men would endure the hell that was trench warfare.
Glenn rated it liked it
Feb 23, 2014
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The official biographer of Winston Churchill and a leading historian on the Twentieth Century, Sir Martin Gilbert was a scholar and an historian who, though his 88 books, has shown there is such a thing as “true history”

Born in London in 1936, Martin Gilbert was educated at Highgate School, and Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with First Class Honours. He was a Research Scholar at St Anthony's
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