• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Book Review: First Day on the Somme

Extracts from this document...


Book Review: The First Day on the Somme November 20, 2007 On July 1 1916, in one of the largest military operations to ever be executed, the British army entered into the bloodiest battle it has ever known. This was the battle of the Somme, a conflict that is etched into the collective memory of Britain as a tragedy. The first day on the Somme, the focus of this book, saw the loss of nearly 60,000 British troops, the largest loss in a single day in all of British History. Martin Middlebrook investigates, in depth, the events and circumstances that led to such a battle, and such an outcome, with regards to the British involvement. Through close examination of diaries and official records, as well as a wealth of interviews and correspondence with actual soldiers who experienced the battle first hand, Middlebrook takes us from the the evening before the attack to several days after the attack in excruciating detail with the personal narratives of those who were there. He analyzes the actions of all parties connected to the battle, from the infantryman to the general to the politician in London. Before Middlebrook describes the day of July 1, he provides the reader with a mass of background information to help understand why the battle went the way it did. ...read more.


The destruction of the barbed wire required a very accurate and precise artillery attack, especially when using shrapnel shells, and this was not achieved. On top of that, a large number of shells did not explode. Men reported seeing hundreds of unexploded shells strewn across the battlefield. The second great mistake, from Middlebrook's point of view, was the exclusion of troops to secure German trenches immediately after the shelling stopped. This could stem from Rawlinson's overconfidence in the artillery. If key positions were attacked before the Germans had time to prepare their defenses, British troops could have quickly gained an advantage over the Germans. Middlebrook argues that Rawlinson had little faith in new army soldiers, and that he thought a rushing attack would be to complicated and confusing for them to execute. Instead, it was ordered that the men should adhere to the rigid wave system. Men, loaded with a large amount of equipment, walked in lines across open ground with German machine gunners directly in front of them. Middlebrook says "It was the senselessness of sending up to eight waves of heavily laden men across open ground, without any sort of advance guard, that caused a high portion of the casualties" (280) ...read more.


A feature of the book that I found especially insightful and compelling was the inclusion of the perspective of German military personnel. Throughout the narrative of the text, Middlebrook quotes German soldiers with the same manner he quotes British soldiers. Understandably, the British offering far outweighs the German, but the inclusion at all is refreshing. The reader is shown the fundamental similarities between sides and is given a broader understanding of humanity in war. In the end, the goal of this book is to explore if the first day was a success and if the battle as a whole was worthwhile. Middlebrook looks at Haim's original objectives to determine what might mean. "The French were relieved from defeat at Verdun; the positions held by the Allies at the end of battle were better than on 30 June; Losses were inflicted on the Germans." (289) But, as Middlebrook states "the British assault had been on such a scale that success, in this limited sense, had been inevitable. The terrible losses made it a success hardly worth having" (290) This book provides the reader with a clear view not only of a single battle, but of the elements of the British army in 1916. Most importantly, it gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of the soldiers who fought in that battle and that army. It is a powerful piece of literature that is both enlightening and engaging. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE War Poetry section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE War Poetry essays

  1. The battle of the Somme - This analysis is to debate whether or not ...

    the village of Martinpuich that was once " quiet and peacful was now a region of horror and despair." This meant the Germans weren't doing well so the British obviously were,so this source does agree with source I . It is very reliable as it has come from a German telling us that the British were doing well.

  2. The popular myth of the Battle of Britain quickly emerged during the early part ...

    an article, written by Sir Arthur Bryant in the 'Daily Graphics' in 1944, in the final years of the war, when it was clear that the British were going to be victorious. He still mentions parts of the myth that is 'the few' and that the Allied troops saved the

  1. Why is the battle of the Somme regarded as a great military ...

    fact that the preparations were so awful and not a lot of effort was put into these important plans. British trenches were extremely poorly built, compared to the German's high class and very successful trenches. The Germans had gained land, which they wanted to hold onto; therefore they created high quality trenches, which would survive shell attacks and bombs.

  2. Saving Private Ryan Examine Steven Spielberg's use of images and Presentation of war. ...

    and shows the audience how scared the soldiers where likely to be and the poor conditions they lived in. I believe that the use of non-diegetic sounds signifies the start and end of the battle scene. Diegetic sounds are used during the battle scene's to show how people had to

  1. Why did Britain win the Battle of Britain?

    gained valuable experience in the bombing of Spanish cities in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 in which Hitler assisted the leader of the right-wing rebels General Franco in order to test out his new acquired weaponry. The Spanish city of Guernica inparticular was totally destroyed as a result.

  2. Comparing and contrasting "The charge of the Light Brigade" and "The Defence of Lucknow" ...

    "Into the jaws of death" (The charge of The Light Brigade, S: 3) "Death from their rifle bullets, and death from their cannon balls" (The Defence of Lucknow, S: 2) "Death in our innermost chamber" (The Defence of Lucknow, S: 2)

  1. Why is the battle of the Somme regarded as such a great military tragedy?

    This was all due to the fact that no one had experienced war like trench warfare like trench warfare before and the lack of experience was shown. Lack of experience could be another factor to regard the Somme as such a great military catastrophe, as throughout 1916 the British army was urgently lacking in experience.

  2. The Battle of Britain.

    So was yet another attempt at drawing America onto their side into the war. It shows pilots looking to the sky, which is visually effective, and they are all smiling. It makes a young man feel like it's his duty to help their fellow men and be one of the few.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work