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Book Review: Denis Winter's Death's Men

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Kris Agnew 0262044 Hist 3RR3 Dr. David Leeson Book Review: Denis Winter's Death's Men Denis Winter's Death's Men: Soldiers of the Great War is a historical book in which first hand accounts by British soldiers during World War One provide the backbone for our journey through the conflict. This type of approach helps us get away from the "big picture" and gives us a glimpse of real living history seen through the eyes of the men that fought the war. The structuring that Winter employs is well thought out and adds to the effect of personal connection and participation in the war. Graphic detail and thorough depiction of the lives of the average British soldier, not only make it educational but interesting and enjoyable to read as well. Winter structures Death's Men both chronologically and thematically. This approach allows him to show how Kitchener's Men1 progressed from being new recruits to frontline soldiers and, if they were fortunate, to returning home as veterans after 1918. This progression of the soldiers can be seen in three different sections of the book, the Pre-Conflict, Conflict, and Post-Conflict periods. The Pre-Conflict section is about the formation, training, and preparation of the new Kitchener Armies. ...read more.


Rest and home leave were the only reprieves from the grind of front line battle, and even then they were only temporary breaks in the fighting. Leave wasn't something granted very often to the 'other ranks' for they were busy in the trenches and trying to advance forward in one of the many battles of the war. It was shown that casualties of these attacks were very high, and after the battle, the survivors would be mourning for their friends lost, and longing to go home. The last section of the book deals with the Post-Conflict in which the soldiers find it very difficult to get back to normal civilian life. Also included are how the soldiers feel about the Germans and the war as a whole. It was interesting to see that even though they would be killing each other the day before, on days like Christmas men from both sides could go out and play a game of football in no-mans-land.8 The trouble of getting home once the fighting was over was one of the many rough spots in the process of demobilization. 9 months after the end of the war there were still over one million men still in service.9 Once home, many soldiers had a hard time fitting in again and finding work, all the while coping with the ordeals that they had endured. ...read more.


The success that Winter has in presenting the de-glorification of war is very well done by making the reader feel a sense of empathy and loss. Through all of these hardships, Winter invokes a sense of connection and emotion to the various soldiers that share their experiences in the book. When a soldier is almost freezing to death on sentry duty, Winter tries to convey that feeling to the reader through use of vivid description and detail. Even with the cover, it communicates to us of the face of warfare, one that is tired, and aged beyond his years. Death's Men is a welcome change from the usual "big picture" accounts of conflicts. In the way Winter has written his book, it brings more humanity to the Great War, in a way that no text book can. The human side of many wars is marginalized compared to the grander scheme of the conflict. The war's causes, ideals, and results of the conflict are brought to the forefront, while the stories of the soldiers are forgotten along with the soldiers themselves. Thankfully, Winter tells of the personal stories of the Kitchener men to be preserved for the future as an example of the human side of war. ...read more.

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