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Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918
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Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  26 reviews
The first history of World War I to place centre-stage the British soldier who fought in the trenches, this superb and important book tells the story of an epic and terrible war through the letters, diaries and memories of those who fought it.


Of the six million men who served in the British army, nearly one million lost their lives and over two million were wounded. This i
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Paperback, 752 pages
Published March 7th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  451 ratings  ·  26 reviews


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Caroline
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a history of the First World War. It doesn't explore battles and origins, major combatants, motivations, rations, bombs. What it does do is explore the experience of the British soldiers in the trenches - who they were, why they fought, how they felt, what they did. It's broken down into thematic sections - about battalions, about weapons, about motivations for and against fighting, about relationships between ranks, about lives pre- and post-war.

It's a very well-written book, with a
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John
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
In 1914, five major powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand, Russia, France, and Britain on the other, went to war over the small nations of Serbia and Belgium. The Austro-Hungarian army lost the capacity for independent action by the end of 1914. The Russian army collapsed into revolution and the French army succumbed to mutiny in 1917, thought it recovered somewhat by the following year. The German army was defeated in 1918. Alone among the original five powers, the army of Britain ...more
Les
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it
If you ever wanted to read about the Britsh soldiers experience on the Western Front in the First World War, this is the book for you. The sections on the army's structure are less intersting but the accounts of the men who were there are rivetting. I shall never cease to be amazed at how they dealt with the sheer bloody awfulness of it all.
Colleen
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, ww1
This book took me a while to read--almost 800 pages and the font is like half the size of normal font, so be ready for spending a lot of time reading about the British Tommy. It is so comprehensive, down to the minutest detail, I think it's a must have for anyone's WW1 library. There is a laser like focus on the British army soldier though on Western Front as promised on the cover--other arenas, or allies, or branches of service get only brief mentions--but after reading this book you get a very ...more
Steph
Oct 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
If you can get through the first 200 pages of abstruse militaria, you'll be rewarded with a fascinating and impeccably-researched account of life on the Western Front. The final chapter, on life after the war, is particularly moving
Denise
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Love this book and took it with me to battlefield tour of WWI in 2009. Whilst at Auchonvillers in France had the great pleasure to meet Richard Holmes and he signed my copy of Tommy.
Jdblair
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. The author compiled interviews with WWI British soldiers. Richard Holmes has broken these interviews and comments into chapters that refer to a particular aspect of the British Tommy's experience on the Western Front. These chapters deal with areas including organization, weapons, chain of command, the clergy, medical care, changes in the British military, the homefront, employment after the war, etc. The book is heavily footnoted. I would prefer to have this book in a hardb ...more
Dale Pearl
Timing of this reading is on the heels of the Paris attack at the hands of ISIS November 14, 2015.

This novel is not so much a history accounting as it is a depiction of WW I from the eyes of the they typical British soldier a 'Tommy Atkins'

Here are a few quotes from this book I will let it be my summary.

I may be knocked out in the next few days. If so, this is just a line to you, dear. I don’t contemplate death, but it is all a bloody chance out here. If there is any sort of survival of consciou
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Jerry Smith
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, 2013-read
I did enjoy this book very much and came away from it with a much greater knowledge of how the British Army was organized and fought in the Great War. It is a long book, and much of the information provided sets out the administration of the army and the structure, rather than solely concentrating on the experiences of those in the front line, although there is a lot written about that too.

This is interesting in it's own right and the detail is substantial and adds to the readers knowledge of th
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Edward Cain
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
We judge the soldiers on the Western Front by "poems they never read, or cast them in dramas they would never have bothered to watch." It makes their deeds seem alien, and their motives impenetrable. This humbling book at last takes us deep into the lives of those men: how they lived, thought and fought. It is a 600-page warning against cliche and literary sentimentality. Richard Holmes' sympathetic exploration of contemporary diaries and letters refuses to just lament the tragedy and horror of ...more
Andrew
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting and involved effort to get into the heads and experiences of any and all Tommy's in any and all stages of the Western Front. In that way it fails, but only for not being twice as long.

Holmes also tries, with some success, to broaden "the lions led by donkeys", and once again has some success, if only in making the reader realize that to simplify Tommys and their leaders as being any one thing is to do a disservice to what was a very complex and evolving situation.
Mark Whaite
May 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
That the western front in 1916 was not a good place to be and that the British Army may make mistakes but, they do seem to learn from them.
Everett Sharp
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the best balanced views of the British Army during the Great War.
Andrew
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013, history, ww1
I've always thought of Richard Holmes as a heavyweight of the historians arena. Watching him on Battlefield and War Walks was a joy. This book upheld the belief that these TV programmes left me with. Holmes, in this book, debunks popular misconceptions of the way in which WWI was fought. While doing so, he provides a rich tapestry of the way soldiers lived, slept and ate, as well as everything in between. He relies on both first hand accounts and detailed historical knowledge. At times the book ...more
Simon Akam
I am working my way through Richard Holmes' work as research for my own book, and came to this after reading 'Soldiers,' his final book. Here the focus is the First World War and the British experience on the Western Front. Much of this social history of the army is extraordinary impressive. A sample nugget - the term 'chatting,' meaning to talk, comes from 'chat,' soldier slang for the lice that infested men in the trenches. To sit chatting was therefore to talk as they worked the lice from the ...more
Matt
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic book! It doesn't chart the history of the Great War in the normal sense but charts the personal histories of "Tommy" his motivations on the front why he fought why he objected the moral dilemmas faced and even in some parts an insight into "fritz".
One of the better books I've read and broken done into well thought out chapters that flow really well! Don't be put off by the size of the book it is easy to read and well worth it!
Bill Bailey
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's good to read something that doesn't just trot out the same old myths and clichés you hear from anybody who thinks that because they can type they're an expert. This is a great read and, indeed, should be required reading for all the armchair generals who think they know everything they need to know about the British soldier on the Western Front in WW1.
Matthew Dambro
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Truly one of the best books on the First World War that I have ever read. The research is prodigious and the writing is easy and fluid. It ranks with Fussell's work on WW I. It is poignant and horrifying and humorous in the space of a few pages. He has captured the essence of the experience of the Poor Bloody Infantry on the Western Front.
Chris Passingham
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have given this book 5 stars because it is a wonderfully well written and keenly observed account of real life in the trenches and it also debunks many myths and popular misconceptions about the Great War from the standpoint of a well known and respected historian
Atika  Patel
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
The author's style of writing is too dull and factual for me.
Vince
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Superb
Spencer Warner
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Didn't actually finish it, the content was really good but the way that its written is very dull which zero chronological structure and most of it just being diary entries...
AskHistorians
It is thick, ferociously well-sourced, entertaining and comprehensive. Holmes was one of the best we had until his untimely death in 2011, and Tommy finds him firing on all cylinders.
Shane Higgins
May 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
4 Stars
russell barnes
May 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
Dull - gave it to my father-in-law
Graeme Williams
rated it it was amazing
Feb 22, 2017
Mark Suffern
rated it it was ok
Jul 06, 2014
Hans
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Mar 31, 2018
Steven
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Dec 06, 2014
Keith Fazzani
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Apr 07, 2015
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Richard Holmes was Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. He was educated at Cambridge, Northern Illinois, and Reading Universities, and carried out his doctoral research on the French army of the Second
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