Friday, February 17, 2017

Book: Somme 1916 -- February 17, 2017

I read Paul Kendall's book Somme 1916, which takes a detailed look at the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.  Kendall writes from the British point of view, panning from the left end of the line where there was a diversion, to the left and center where there was hopeless slaughter, to the right where there was some success.

The book begins with an introduction to the British Army in the early war, explaining the distinctions among the Regular Army, the Territorials, and Kitchener's New Army.  It shows the conflicts that took place during the planning for the battle.  The first part concludes with the week-long preliminary bombardment.

Parts 2 through 7 cover the sector assigned to each corps.  The stories of young men, officers, NCOs and enlisted, getting mown down by German machine guns and artillery gets depressing.  Stories of individual bravery make it a bit easier to read.  One chapter is dedicated to the horrible Livens Flame Projectors, which were giant flamethrowers that had to be buried in the ground in No Man's Land.

Part 8 evaluates the battle.  Kendall feels that the effort, which helped lead to the later German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, was worth it. 

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