First Day of the Somme

By Martin Middlebrooke

Published by Penguin (2006)

On 1 July, 1916, a continuous line of British soldiers climbed out from the trenches of the Somme into No Man's Land and began to walk slowly towards dug-in German troops armed with machine-guns and defended by thick barbed wire. By the end of that day, as old tactics were met by the reality of modern warfare, there had been more than 60,000 British casualties - a third of them fatalities.

As well as drawing on official sources, local newspapers, autobiographies, novels and poems from the time, most importantly The First Day on the Somme also takes in the accounts of hundreds of survivors: normal men, many of them volunteers, who found themselves thrown into a scene of unparalleled tragedy and horror.

The First Day on the Somme describes the true events behind one of the largest battles of the First World War, and the sacrifice of a generation of young men - killed as much by the folly of their commanders as by the bullets of their enemies.

'The soldiers receive the best service a historian can provide: their story is told in their own words'
Guardian

'A particularly vivid and personal narrative'
The Times Literary Supplement

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