On 1 July 1916, after a five-day bombardment, 11 British and 5 French divisions launched their long-awaited 'Big Push' on German positions on high ground above the Rivers Ancre and Somme on the Western Front. Some ground was gained, but at a terrible cost. In killing-grounds whose names are indelibly imprinted on 20th-century memory, German machine-guns - manned by troops who had sat out the storm of shellfire in deep dugouts - inflicted terrible losses on the British infantry. The British Fourth Army lost 57,470 casualties, the French Sixth Army suffered 1,590 casualties and the German 2nd Army 10,000. And this was but the prelude to 141 days of slaughter that would witness the deaths of between 750,000 and 1 million troops.
'Always highly readable, gives a succinct and cohesive overview of the day, and is hearteningly even-handed'
'Let's be honest about Somme historiography; it either comes drenched in pitying tears or in posturing outrage, but both occlude. Roberts has played it straight with a clean and lucid overview so that one can actually see and understand what happened on that day'
'The book's opening chapters on the strategy and tactics of the battle provide an excellent, succinct summary of the constraints within which it was planned. Roberts rightly stresses the subordination of British planning to that of the French, and sensibly eschews the British desire to say it was undertaken to save their allies at Verdun'
'The shattering story of the blackest day in the history of the British Army, the first day of the Somme Offensive, through the words of casualties, survivors, and the bereaved'
Military History Monthly
'A well-written, clear, moving introduction to the slaughter on the Somme and its place in wider conflict'
'Blending deep scholarly skill with a real literary talent'
Dan Jones, Evening Standard
'By dealing with just the first day of the battle, its strategic background, tactical thinking and significance, he has produced a most digestible narrative commentary'
'Roberts's vividly written, crisply authoritative account of the first day of the battle is full of details that stick stubbornly in the mind'
'The best thing about this excellent book is the depth of its detail. Once the battle proper starts, Roberts describes the fighting almost regiment by regiment'
'A short, elegantly written and above all accessible book, solidly based on recent scholarship augmented by primary research ... this is a welcome, and often very moving, contribution to the debate on a battle that, a hundred years on, remains deeply controversial'
Times Literary Supplement
Publication date: 02/06/2016
Publisher: Head of Zeus
|Publication date:||2nd June 2016|
|Publisher:||Head of Zeus|
|Categories:||First World War, European history, 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000,|
Andrew Roberts, who was born in 1963, took a first class honours degree in Modern History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, where he is an honorary senior scholar. His biography of Neville Chamberlain's and Winston Churchill's foreign secretary, the Earl of Halifax, entitled The Holy Fox was published in 1991, to be followed by the controversial, but no less well-received Eminent Churchillians in 1994. In 2004, he edited 'What Might Have Been', a collection of twelve 'What If?' essays written by distinguished historians, including Antonia Fraser, Norman Stone, Amanda Foreman, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Conrad Black and Anne Somerset. In 2005 Roberts published 'Waterloo: ...More About Andrew Roberts