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.