Posted 26 June 2012 - 02:58 AM
I am reading a book that I almost didn't read because of it's title. It is called "Unknown Soldiers" "The story of the missing of the Somme", by Neil Hanson. I am so glad that I decided to read it anyway. It follows the war careers of a British infantryman, a German infantryman and an American aviator, all of whom were killed in the area of the Somme at different times. It is written based on their letters and diaries but encompasses a lot of extraneous information about the war which I have not seen elsewhere. I think it is the best account I have read anywhere about the conditions and feelings of participants and I haven't realy liked the "anecdotal" books I have read.
I had just finished Terraine's book on 1918, "To Win a War" and the difference in opinion about the commanders is striking. Terraine seems to support most of what Haig did whereas Hanson is quite condemnatory. In one instance, on page 166, Hanson stated that in March 1918, a Lt. Col. Hutchinson, in order to "stiffen" his men, had 38 of 40 men who were surrendering to the enemy shot as an example. Some of the stats. in Hanson's book seem a bit different also. He states that during the French mutiny, thousands of courts martial were held, resulting in the execution of 432 men. He further states that 250 men were deliberately blown up by their own artillery and mutiny leaders were sent to the front and penal colonies. He also mentions that the average monthly casualty rate for the British was 75000 in 1918. That is the highest of any year of the war. I had expected that 1916 or 1917 would have been higher.
Anyway,I could waffle on for ever but it is a very good read, and I am three quarters of the way through it.