24 Hrs at The Somme by Robert Kershaw – Review
By Joe Forshaw
I don’t think there can exist another ‘historical battles’ book that dissects any battle fought anywhere between anybody with the same attention to detail, or more detailed correlation of facts and minutia, than this most impressive publication.
The battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, was fought over an 18-mile front line and lasted about 24 hours. 57,000 British soldiers died, which is more than in the Crimean, Boer and Korean wars combined. The book takes the reader into the thick of the battle – and to such an extent that it is, at times, uncomfortable to read.
The letters and diaries of those involved are so poignant and heart rendering that the reader feels the pain and the fear of those involved. The battle made a lasting emotional impact on the psychology of the British people. It is a scar that is only now fading away after the passage of over 100-years.
Robert Kershaw’s book contains facts and figures covering all the protagonists; English, Irish, Canadians, French, German and others.
The introduction presents a Somme Time-Line, the Chains of Command of the British, French and German armies and a comparison of the command structures. There is also a section titled ‘Voices of the Somme’ which highlights the fact, through the thoughts and feelings of both British and German soldiers, that soldiers go to war for the same reasons.
All of the this makes the book an interesting and excruciating read. It gives the reader a genuine insight into just what it was like to be caught up in this horrendous battle, where thousands died for next to no result.
A valid question: Do we need another book on WW1? Before I read this book I would have answered no. On completing the book my answer is yes – this one.
’24 Hrs at the Somme’ by Robert Kershaw (WH Allen, £9.99)