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4.24  ·  Rating details ·  586 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Somme, July 1916. For almost seventy years the very name of the battle has epitomised all the horror and hardship of the First World War. There was hardly a family in the land who had not seen at least one son join up in the heady innocence and enthusiasm that swept the country in 1914. The Battle of the Somme was their baptism of fire. A hundred and fifty thousand of the ...more
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published June 20th 1983 by Michael Joseph Ltd
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4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  586 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book ranged from 2 to 5 Stars for me. Two stars because I expected a history of the Somme battle. This is not a history of the Somme campaign, it is a haphazard account of days, conditions, participants, events large and small over a period from July 1, 2016 to November 2016. While roughly chronological, you will get an idea of what happened but I wanted a true battle history.

The book gets five stars for what she brings to you, accounts mostly in the original words of the soldiers who fough
When I first read Lyn MacDonald a decade ago, I was less than impressed with her. The book seemed to be a disjointed series of first-hand accounts with very little added in her own hand.
That observation still prohibits a 5-star rating, alltough Peter Hart outdoes MacDonald in undercementing his tape transcripts, but provided you have a little knowledge about the campaign at hand, these pages breathe new life into the names set in the cold tombstones of the CWGC.

With the last Victorian generatio
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: military history fans
As an amatuer military historian I spent years ignoring World War One. In retrospect that was foolish on my part. But like many others I had the war pegged to a few cliches and sterotypes and didn't feel the need to investigate any further. In the fall of 1999 I had a few months left in the U.S. Army. I was preparing to go into the field to assist on a field problem. I knew that there would be long hours of radio watches and manning gates. I found a copy of The Somme in the post (base for thos ...more
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lengthy, chilling history of the Battle of the Somme, told mainly through the eyes of British officers, NCOs, and soldiers, many of them interviewed by MacDonald herself. As the author puts it. the book is more about “the experience of war” than any “political conclusions.” As such, the book is heavy on such topics as life in the trenches and the experience of battle, and MacDonald tells this story with compassion, and does a fine job bringing to life the era (“those days before instant commun ...more
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book covering the Battle of Somme in 1916. The one drawback, as with all of Macdonald's work, is that the book only deals with the role of the UK and Commonwealth countries in the Battle.

The book is very readable, with excellent maps, and a good description of the horrors of the battle(s). I liked the eyewitness accounts of various aspects of the battles, life in the trenches, training camps, visiting home an leave, life back in the UK, etc. I really also enjoyed he multipl
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2016, ww1
I've given this book three stars as a reflection of my personal difficulties in reading this. If I was trying to be objective, 4 stars would be fairer.

Although I am interested in histories of both the World Wars I am not interested in military history. You can immediately see the obvious contradiction. So, for example, Lyn Macdonald's The Roses of No Man's Land was ideal for me, containing rich descriptions of the impact of war. Clearly, any book about an actual battle is going to be structured
Alex Knipping
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wat de boeken van Lyn Macdonald over de Eerste Wereldoorlog zo prettig maakt, is dat ze precies de goed mix hebben tussen feitelijke weergave van de gebeurtenissen en ooggetuigenverslagen. De slag bij de Somme was een hel, een gevolg van verkeerde inschattingen, koppigheid van de generale staf van de Britten en onbegrijpelijke opofferingsgezindheid. Macdonald schrijft met distantie en neemt een objectief standpunt in. Ze geeft ons de waarnemingen door, zonder hinderlijk oordeel. Wij mogen als le ...more
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more I read about WW1 the more I am fascinated by it. History is stranger than fiction, nobody could make this up.

The british Somme offensive in 1916 was one of the most attritious battles of WW1. Lyn Macrdonald brings it vividly to life with very readable prose interlaced with hundreds of personal accounts of the combatants. The amount of research which has gone into this book is mind staggering.

The other books of Lyn Macdonald about WW1 are already ordered, cant wait.
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the earliest books I can remember borrowing from the local library. I read it more than once, or at least tried to.
I've always had an uneasy fascination with war and what soldiers endured in battle conditions.
Reading the personal encounters of soldiers who fought and died in this major military blunder is very poignant. Little would they know that their scribbled notes to wives and sweethearts would be preserved for all to read.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lyn Macdonald is a former BBC radio producer who left her job to devote herself to World War I studies. Somme is one of a number of books she has written that makes extensive use of veteran recollections to give a detailed, brutal account of the fighting from July to November 1916.
As she notes in the introduction, an appropriate sub-title to the book could be “Whatever happened to Kitchener’s Army? The Somme happened to it.” The Army formed in the wake of the great volunteer wave after the begi
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb. I don't normally read history books because I find them dry and boring. This one was different - the prose was relaxed and read more like a non-fiction book. The accounts from soldiers who actually fought were interspersed throughout the text. The book also focused on areas of a soldier's life other than fighting. The account wasn't sensational, but told the story of the battles in a sympathetic way. Highly recommended.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent book by Lyn. As good as any of her other WWI books, whatever she writes about, she is top notch at descriptive essential to understanding, while bringing such cataclysmic events down to an individual level required for empathy. Sublime writing, simply put.
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recalled reading this just now. I never finished, stopped by how depressing it was, just a hopelessly screwed up thing. How much of my assessment was from an oncoming episode of depressing is impossible to say.
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The accounts from the soldiers who were there are fascinating.
Dec 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Few battles are as seared into the British historical consciousness as the battle of the Somme, the months-long offensive against the German trenches during the First World War. There the newly-trained divisions of "Kitchener's Army" suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties, all for advances that were often measured in yards. It was a baptism of blood, one that often depopulated villages back home of an entire generation of young men and left an indelible impression on the minds of its survi ...more
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It seems wrong to say that I enjoyed this book given it's subject matter, but the enjoyment comes from the enlightenment - this is an educational read but the author manages to mix personal testimony, fine detail and overall perspective so well that this felt far removed from a dry historical read. (It also helped that this book was the present my son brought back for me from a school WWI Battlefields tour, what better present for a book lover?)

A further strength of the book, for me, was that th
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can you say about a book that looks at hell? The author does a superb job looking not only at the first day but the whole campaign.
Lyn Macdonald's books on the British army in the First World War seek not to offer a military history, not a complete one anyway, but to portray one facet of it, that of the experiences of the ordinary men in the front line.

In that, Somme is quite successful. And, to the extent that it does offer comment on the direction of the battle by senior officers, the book is refreshingly free of the 'Lions led by donkeys' rhetoric.

But this is only a facet of the military campaign fought by the British
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, historical
The last of four Macdonald books I picked up in a charity shop. Like the others, They Called It Passchendaele, The Roses of No Man's Land and 1915 The Death Of Innocence, 'Somme' combines the big picture with the personal experiences of those involved, skilfully weaving sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious first person accounts into the narrative. The work is from the '80s, but is dated only by a throwaway remark in the introduction about writers seldom being able to afford a personal comput ...more
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vimy100
Of all the military history books I've read, this is probably my least favourite. I was not a fan of the writing. While the information included was good, thorough, and interesting, I had hoped for more information on Beaumont Hamel and the Newfoundlanders. This book, however, is about Kitchener's Army. The last few paragraphs of the book were my favourite and definitely sum up the book in a few words. "They were, in short, fifteen soldiers of Kitchener's Army."
2016 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge: A book that intimidates you. I read this on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Finally got around to reading this after, oh, 25 years. I had previously read several of Macdonald's books and found them difficult because of the waste of human life that was discussed. Came back to this now that I'm older and wiser. Incredible carnage, what a waste.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Somme was a long, bloody, affair. Perhaps for that reason, Lyn MacDonald's account of this epic battle lacks, for this reader, some of the coherence of her other works. However, as ever, her skill is in pulling together the accounts of the men who fought, bled and, sometimes, died. Their words bring to life this hell on earth that lasted over four costly months. If not her best book, still entirely readable.
Lucio Diamanti
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
to hear the voices of the men, who fought during the wr remember me of the tale of my mother's side greathmother born in Triest and of her memories. The only fault in her books are that English men died everywhere. I remember the burial cemetery of Magnaboschi on Asiago's plateu, where the brother of Vera Brittain feel. Apart Gallipoli the war remin concerned on the landres.
Apr 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tragic account of a Great War battle in which the first tanks were introduced. The story uses the perspective of a front line soldier effectively and includes many first hand accounts for that purpose. However, it would be wise to be familiar with the strategy and tactics to better understand the story line.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book so far is very good . She explains well , using her words to paint a picture , making it come alive for the reader . She has used the soldiers own experiences throughout the book , some of them very moving and graphic . All in all if you are interested in The First World War and the soldiers experiences you cant go far wrong in buying this book or any of the others by Lyn MacDonald !
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
an excellent read, featuring a lot of eyewitness accounts, all of them no longer with us... one of the most striking things about this book with its reliance on personal accounts is the apparent void in the narrative when it comes to the first morning of the Battle of the Somme, but then most of those tommies with the more compelling stories never left the field of battle that day
For an very dense and accurate account of one of the worlds most horrific offenses, it is a surprisingly easy read. Staggering in its account of mans meat grinder mentality to the words "casualty" and "collateral damage". This book disturbed me... Pointless massacring on this scale should never be forgotten....
Nov 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good account. There seemed to be some unexplored aspects of the story. For example the reaction at home could have been expanded upon. Many personal narratives. I'm not sure how the soldiers did it, going over the top time and again into machine gun fire and artillery. Madness!
Ian Rees
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Detailed account of British army attacks on the Somme in 1916, given depth by eye-witness testimonies of survivors. Very moving as a result. I would have preferred more maps to make it easier to understand the smaller scale events.
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Over the past twenty years Lyn Macdonald has established a popular reputation as an author and historian of the First World War. Her books are They Called It Passchendaele, an account of the Passchendaele campaign in 1917; The Roses of No Man's Land,, a chronicle of the war from the neglected viewpoint of the casualties and the medical teams who struggled to save them; ,Somme, a history of the leg ...more
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