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Forgotten Voices of the Great War

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,084 ratings  ·  88 reviews
This unique landmark oral history uses first-hand accounts from ordinary men and women who were there. Gripping, poignant, surprising and even humorous, the personal experiences of these soldiers, civilians, marines and medics from both sides tell us what it was really like to live through what was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Skilfully assembled by acclaimed au ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published August 2003 by Ebury Press (first published November 5th 2002)
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4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,084 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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So it seems that the Imperial War Museum cleverly started compiling a sound archive of the survivors of the Great War, resulting in a wealth of stories of people involved in the war in one way or another. This archive includes the voices of belligerents from all sides, nurses, farm workers, and others. Max Arthur mined this treasure trove to compile an account of the war as told by a representative cross-section of people affected by this vast and prolonged conflict.

The book is nicely structured
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ww1
(I listened to the audio version, which is "based on the book", although I'm not sure how different the two are.)

This was great, comprised almost entirely of interviews with former servicemen recorded by the Imperial War Museum: mostly British, but with some Germans, French, Americans and a lone Aussie. These are not the transcripts read by a professional narrator - they are the actual interviews, (with some very strong and rich regional accents!) which makes this especially powerful. It also gi
'Aussie Rick'
Max Arthur’s book; Forgotten Voices of the Great War, is quite unique in that it's content is nearly all first-hand accounts from people who experienced the horror of the Great War. The author has utilized a number of tape recorded interviews conducted by the Imperial War Museum in 1972. Many of the tapes from the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive had been forgotten and left unheard for years.

Now Max Arthur has put together many of these unheard voices from the Great War to produce this spellbi
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
The horrors of the First World War are described in the words of those who experienced it.It is a compelling book which depicts the terrible conditions experienced by soldiers in trench warfare,some major battles,the staggering number of casualties,the use of gas and even the shooting of soldiers for desertion by their own comrades.These are raw accounts of the brutality of war which don't attempt to glamourize it.The book reminded of a war classic,All Quiet on the Western Front.
Liz C.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book that really sticks with you, even if you don’t necessarily know the details of each of the battles mentioned. Easy to pick up and put down but still a great flow to the book.
Gregory Williams
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww-1
Mind-boggling first person stories of those who directly experienced the First World War. From those who were shamed into enlisting, despite only being 15-17 years old, by girls who roamed British streets with feathers they shoved into the faces of young men, to stories by soldiers handcuffed to wagon wheels for days because they missed roll call. Descriptions by those who experienced the waves of chlorine and mustard gas, with advice to urinate on their handkerchiefs or caps and hold them over ...more
Jan C
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: england, wwi, 2017
This was probably 3 1/2. I downgraded it because I kept finding myself wondering how much longer was this book. I did get a little sad when it got October 1918, since my uncle did not survive that month.

Voices included British, Australian, Canadian, German and even some Americans.

My favorite comment by far was when two officers were waiting for the Armistice to be effective at 11:00 am. And they wondered, after four years of war, what would they do now?
Don Alesi
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All high school history students
If you want to know exactly what it was like to be a front line soldier on both sides of the lines in WW1, then this is a must read. It is filled with first hand accounts from the troops who fought and survived (I wouldn't say lived) in the horrific conditions of a war that became a stalemate for almost four years. This book is extremely graphic. It is also very important in understanding why so many came home scarred for life..
It should be required reading for every high school history student.
It is hard to tell about such a book that I liked what I were reading but it is a jewel. I will treasure this book to the end of my life. All this people who were talking to me through all these pages will be with me forever.

These forgotten voices are so real. I was with them in trenches, in mud. I could feel their fear, courage, sadness, loneliness, hunger, cold.

Most of all I was and I am still mad at all those people who play the wars. I have written "play" because I prefer to think that they
Don Alesi
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life and death in the trenches

Actual first hand accounts from soldiers on both sides of the front. This book is extremely graphic. I think this book should be mandatory reading in highschool history.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Unless you are a hard core WWI military history buff or in need of primary sources to add to an academic paper, skip this. I liked the first chapter and the opening paragraphs of each chapter where Max Arthur gives the reader a path to the events in each chapter before turning the narrative to those that survived the war. There are four chapters, one for each year of the war - however that is where the organization of the book ends and chaos reigns. There aren't many headers, just for the ones t ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, history, ww1
If you know you are interested in this subject area, I would strongly recommend this book as being readable. I'm ot sure I would necessarily put it top of the list for people wanting an introduction to the subject.

This book is a transcript of interviews done for the Imperial War Museum some 50 years after the end of the First World War. They are the personal, generally anecdotal memories of by then, old men (and a very few women). All of them survived the War, obviously, and into old age, and ap
Siddharth S
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I’ll start with the positives. I only cried 6 times while reading this book. It’s tough to believe that ordinary men readily put their lives on the line for their country. The propaganda and social shaming if they didn’t join the army probably helped but it’s incredible nonetheless. All these accounts are in chronological order and it’s quite fascinating to see the shift in the general attitude of soldiers and their families through the four years. This book should be made mandatory reading for ...more
Mark Wardlaw
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
What was it like to live through the First World War? Max Arthur presents the key developments of the war and ties together numerous engaging personal encounters from a time of exceptional challenge. He brings their experience to life as heightened memories are presented each one a witness to a tragedy that would be repeated 21 years later. A very readable book.
Jamie Ramsay
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tremendously moving in parts, and horrifying in others. The closest I think we will get to know what it was really like in those years at home and abroad fighting.
Gavin Dobson
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As we move inexorably towards the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, it is all the more important to keep the flame of remembrance alight. This book came out in 2002, compiled in association with the Imperial War Museum, and consists of numerous anecdotes gathered in the 1990s from survivors--principally British, but also German, French, Australian and American.
The value of the book is that it records the tail end of the WW1 generation before they'd all finally died off by the ear
Wow. This blew me away. I have never read another book so intense with details from any war (not that I've read many!). It was a horrific book to read and I had to put it down for a day or so to get a break. Through the voices of many World War 1 veterans, you travel through the four years of the Great War. There was nothing glamorous about it.

I wished there had been more of a Christian aspect to the book. That is my main complaint. Also, I gave this a slightly lower rating because of a few thi
Rick Brindle
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, military
An excellent history of the first world war, as told exclusively by the people who were there, from all walks of life. Moving, horrific, spellbinding. The biggest surprise for me was how the conscientious objectors were actually viewed by the veterans, with respect and admiration. I guess a more enlightened age than I originally thought.
Sep 24, 2014 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Wanda by: FrankenStan
24 SEP 2014 -- recommended by FrankenStan from the WWII Group. Many thanks.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A few years ago the BBC uploaded an amazing collection of video interviews of First World War Survivors, from the women left behind to an international collection of armed forces veterans. The sound and images weren’t always perfect but the stories gathered were astounding. A few pages into this book, I realised that was the source for this book!

It was such a clever idea to tell the shocking story of the so-called Great War by compiling those interviews into a narrative, summarising the War Yea
John Scothern
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another book that I've found addictive and difficult to put down...hence the speed of transition through the 313 pages in 4 days!

It's layout is easy to read and contribution of each 'voice' varies between a few lines and couple of pages, so it is the sort of book to be picked up for a few minutes..or a few hours if you wish.

The 'voices' speak for themselves, all ranks, officers, nurses, doctors, girlfriends, nationalities, etc. inviting you to read and ingest their first-hand recollections of th
Jo Barton
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
n all the history books that describe the events that happened during the momentous years of the Great War, it's sometimes easy to forget the voices of those ordinary soldiers who answered the call of duty and who embarked on the greatest adventure of their lives. For some it would be their only adventure as they met their fate in the mud and blood of a foreign field. For those who returned home life would never be the same again. Lost and bewildered in a fog of shell shock, with lungs irretriev ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Armistice came, the day we had dreamed of. The guns stopped, the fighting stopped. Four years of noise and bangs ended in silence. The killings had stopped.
We were stunned. I had been out since 1914. I should have been happy. I was sad. I thought of the slaughter, the hardships, the waste and the friends I had lost.

Sergeant-Major Richard Tobin
Hood Battalion, Royal Naval Division
(view spoiler) ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Brings home the horror of the first world war, this is a first hand account of what it was like to be a soldier in the Great war. Many of those that signed up were no more than children and had got carried away on a patriotic wave. This details the conditions the soldiers had to survive in, the mud, rats, death all around, lack of food and water, lack of leadership. A really moving but also heart breaking book
Katia M. Davis
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love the Forgotten Voices series and own several of them. I found this one particularly poignant because of the vast numbers of young men who met their end due to old generals trying to fight a new war with old tactics. It has a haunting feel to it. A wonderful collection of grit and feeling.
Stephen Bigger
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Layla Ashby
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very good book. 5 stars.
Caroline Button
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: charity
It was very appropriate that I started reading this as we commemorated 100 years since the start of WW1. It is the voices of those who were there. Max Arthur has done a superb job in editing. As Stephen Fry is quoted on the front cover "An extraordinary and immensely moving book". He reality of this war is told in all is painful images. Nothing is left to the imagination. Both sides are quoted.

For me I want to end with these quotes that have stood out:

Heinrich Beautow
German Schoolboy

"After th
Daniel Etherington
Fascinating - an account of the entire First World War, but constructed entirely through transcriptions of interviews with people who were involved, in one way or another. This involves everyone from front line troops, to women working in munitions factories back in Britain.

As well as, inevitably, being horrifying, it's also deeply moving in places, and sometimes even infuriating (the pompous tone of some of the officers occasionally got my goat).

Things that stood out for me:

How soldiers on lea
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Max Arthur is an author who specialises in first-hand recollections of historical events. He has worked closely with the Imperial War Museum to bring together two books in the Forgotten Voices series, Forgotten Voices of the Great War and Forgotten Voices of the Second World War. Prior to becoming a writer, he served with the Royal Air Force and for some years was an actor.