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I am currently studying history at A level and am very interested in the two world wars and have bought so many different information and text books with information on these wars. These have all been useful to not only my studies, but also in my own personal research and interest in the subject, one that is very emotional and important to me and the history of not only this country, but the whole world. However this book is very different and recounts the war as it was - it is basically a collection of diary extracts from hundreds of different people who were alive and involved in the war - either fighting on the front line or helping on the home front. This book is therefore far more truthful and revealing about the truth and is extremely emotional and shocking. Forgotten voices of the great war: A history of ww1 in the words of men and women who were there.
I was given this book as a Christmas present last year and at first it did not look as appealing as a traditional textbook, but after beginning to read it i was instantly attached to it and found myself enthralled in the true stories and facts about what was meant to be"the war to end all wars". When reading this book you feel these people come back to life and feel as if you are actually here and experiencing this dreadful time.
The book is split into several different sections and follows in chronological order through the years of 1914 to 1918. It includes extracts and "voices" from hundreds of different people involved in the war, be it men or women of all ages. There is also some context around the accounts which indicates what particular part of the war they are to do with and makes them much more understandable and easy to comprehend. There are also pictures of the war in the book which divide up the text a bit and add that bit more evidence and make it all that more realistic and come to life.
After reading this book I have understood so much more about this horrendous war and its effects. It has also clarified certain myths and rumours I had heard about but was not so sure about. For example the first section talks about signing up to the war and how many people were confident the war would end before Christmas 1914:
"We were quite clear that Germany would be defeated by the 7th of October when we would go back to Cambridge"
This account indicates how the war was only expected to last a month or two, by which time they could get back to university - yet it ended up lasting a staggering 4 years. One also notices a change in the tone of the quotes as you go through the years as hope and excitement begins to vanish and the soldiers seem to lose all hope and vitality.
One of my favourite sections is the bit which talks about the Christmas of 1914 and what happened:
One soldier talked about meeting the German soldiers in no man's land: "we laughed at each other and i gave them some tobacco and they gave me some German - i forget what it was...we shook hands and wished each other luck"
It is amazing how at the beginning of the war the soldiers were very much related and understood each other - and both knew a lot about each other's country. It seemed that it was merely a battle of two nations and a load of men who were stuck in the middle just following orders.
I found this book very good to read and really enlightening - yet very emotional and the truth can hit you very hard in the face. It is a well written book with many different accounts of the war placed together. Definitely worth reading for anyone studying History or who is interested in the First World War.
Price: £5.99 from Amazon.co.uk
Note: there are also several other books called 'forgotten voices' by Max Arthur with recounts from particular parts of the first and second world wars including the holocaust. I have not bought any of these yet but after reading this one I will certainly consider buying these as they are so much more enlightening than a textbook and show the real truth from real sources at the time.
Great review, one typo typo though, I think 1924 should read 1914! A friend of mine is a battlefield tour guide & lives in Ypres, I go out with him , we take diaries, trench maps etc, and we actually trace the routes people took, one instance was the first Canadian action near a farm called Mousetrap farm, I even found the point where a hedgeline was, and where they were all cut down by German M/G fire! Larry
greenierexyboy 22.07.2008 12:58
And to think we live in an age where war would probably play out with 'And the important question: is conscription justified? That's coming up next, here, on the Jeremy Kyle Show...'