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Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme and the Making of the Twentieth Century

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  47 ratings  ·  12 reviews
1 July 1916: the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the hot, hellish day in the fields of northern France that has dominated our perception of the First World War for just shy of a century. The shameful waste; the pointlessness of young lives lost for the sake of a few yards; the barbaric attitudes of the British leaders; the horror and ignominy of failure. All have ...more
Hardcover, 721 pages
Published August 1st 2009 by Little Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am drawn to the Battle of Somme because of the scale of the conflict and the horrendous casualties, especially in the British Army, where in the first battle itself it lost a mind boggling more than a quarter of a million men without any appreciable results. The pathos and tragedy of this great loss is set in the backdrop of some of the best war poetry from any era. We have been brought up on the literature of 'lions led by donkeys,' where the heroism of the soldier is contrasted with the ...more
Marc Haegeman
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly sourced, duly considered and well written reappraisal of war on the Western Front in the light of industrial warfare and its most cynical exponent, the war of attrition - or simply put, the country that can produce most materiel and men will eventually win the war. And since by 1915 it was clear that none of the opponents could win a swift victory with a war of movement, they aimed to bleed each other to death. By the time the Somme offensive was launched the Allies knew Germany could ...more
James Webster
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and balanced account and analysis of the Somme battles of WWI. Broadly revisionist, it has a particularly good penultimate chapter on current remembrances of the Somme.
Jacob Lehman
Philpott lays out the events of the Battle of the Somme with clarity, and attempts to explain the logic of attritional warfare. His maps could be clearer/better-aligned with the text- I often had to flip back many pages in order to try to find a layout of the events described.

I read this book as a part of my project to read one book from every aisle in Olin Library. You can read more about the project, find reactions to other books, and (eventually) a fuller reaction to this one here:
Joel McMahon
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book for anyone looking to study the Battle(s) of the Somme. Immense detail and thoroughly researched. The book tends to have a heavy pro-France focus during the War.
Stuart Cole
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Frustrating. A well-researched and detained book, but Philpott constantly defends Haig without providing any supporting empirical evidence. He clearly believes the French were far more efficient and effective on the Somme (particularly Foch and La Fayolle), and had a better grasp of the strategy of attrition than the British and Commonwealth forces. He maintains that this was a 'learning experience' for the British Army, but as Paschendaele was to show a year later, the C-in-C was still wasting ...more
Ray Hartley
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Philpott's monumental (700 odd pages) account of the Battle of the Somme describes one of the greatest of military dramas in great detail, yet it never loses your interest. The epitome of the new 'industrial war', the Somme saw bloodletting on an unprecedented scale as millions of men were thrown at each other in a maelstrom of artillery and machine gun fire. A battle of 'attrition', the objective was not so much to capture enemy territory as to deplete their men and materiel. On the first day ...more
Kim Clarke
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I reserved this book from my librarys online portal and was a little surprised to be handed this giant tome (although the last 100 or so pages are academic references.)

Perhaps it was my fault for not researching the book in advance as I found it very heavy to read, subject matter aside. The book focuses almost exclusively on the top rank, the politicians and the generals whereas I think I might have prefered something more relatable from the rank and file in the trenches. Because of this I did
iain meek
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Philpot does an excellent job of explaining the dreadful attritional strategy of the Allies, pointing out how much ahead the French were in making best use of the new industrial techniques of warfare. The British killed a lot of people as they learnt how to follow best practice- sadly including my paternal grandfather on day 1.

Also an interesting chapter on current commemoration of the battle.
Roger Myles
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have read a number of the books describing this particular battle and as time moves on so the retrospective view of the battle changes. And this book follows on from the recent publications in identiying and further discussing the successes as well as athe disastrous aspects of the battle over the period July to Nov 1916.
It commendably combines absurd expansiveness with a novel thesis. A highly necessary (and welcome) antidote to the otherwise all-prevailing "absolute tragedy thesis" that seems to mark the rest of the major writings on this campaign.
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So comprehensive, so massive, and so exhaustively cited that Philpott may very well have done what so many historians strive to do: make their topic an academic no-man's land for the conceivable future.
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William Philpott is Professor of the History of Warfare in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London.