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Sheldon, Jack, Pen and Sword Books,Barnsley England, 2005 (English)

Everyone always says good books are the best or must have. This book covers a subset of the war. However, it covers it better than any other book has ever covered that subset or any other subset. The author has taken a huge array of German sources translated them with nuance, organized them and presented them. This is a series of first-person accounts of the Imperial German Army, on the Somme between September 1914, until the end of 1916. I learned a huge amount about the army. I have been studying this for a long time, and I learned huge amounts. Things I never would have learned because of language non-interoperability. These are the words of the German participants. You hear what was important to them.

I had no concept how important a grenade was. I always thought that the dugout provided some sort of protection. I always thought there were trenches. I have never experienced anything that even remotely approaches what these guys did. I am amazed. I would never have known these things, had I not read this book.

I find it fascinating that most of the participants concentrated on issues of normal life. The focus of conversation was not on the moments of intense excitement but rather the continuing struggle for survival. Logistics, resupply, weather and the absolute randomness of combat were really evident. There was not the bravado or glory of Ernst Jünger's book, rather there was a clear feeling of duty and horror. There was none of the naïve, inexperienced banter complaining about the difference in rank structure. Rather, there was a teamwork borne out of horror and hardship. It seems unfathomable that these individuals had to go through two more years of war. Years. Two more years.

One of the things I found very useful was my understanding of the regiments. Being able to see in print, what a specific regiment was doing and knowing for instance, where infantry Regiment, 73 came from was helpful. Lots of Wurttemberg regiments Saxon regiments, and Baden regiments. Even the 89th from Mecklenburg!

Should Jack Sheldon write another book, I will be one of the first to buy it. As an American I did not care for the map work, because I do not believe that this battlefield is as etched in my mind, as it is in the minds of a British citizen. I found additional maps to be most useful.

 

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