Tommy Goes to War

Tommy Goes to War


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The image of the innocent British soldier (or “Tommy”) setting off with a spring in his step in 1914 to fight the “Great War” would not last long.

Indeed that initial euphoria would soon give way to a deep-seated bitterness as these young men endured the horror of the First World War.

In a new edition of this extraordinary book, the uncensored letters, diaries, documents and many photographs tell the story of the British soldier (nicknamed Tommy) in their own words.

While there are flashes of their wit and humor, the overwhelming feeling is that of a generation who felt let down by their superiors and left to perish.

There are visceral, terrifying insights into life in the trenches and agonizing descriptions of the squalor and privations of war.

This haunting account also looks at the aggressive drive to recruit more soldiers through the Pals Battalion or Chum’s Battalion. Friends from the same town or village; professional bodies, or work colleagues among others were encouraged to enlist en masse. They would fight together alongside their friends or colleagues. Many of them would sadly die together and leave communities wild with grief for a lost generation, robbed of a future having barely had a past.

With a concise analysis of the British Army in the First World War, we are reminded of the terror of war, the fury, the fear and the frustration of what has been described by some as a war typified by the devastating assessment: “lions led by donkeys”.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784383299
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 02/28/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Malcolm Brown studied at St John’s College, Oxford. He spent his national service in the Royal Navy. He joined the BBC in 1955 and has been a documentary producer since 1980, specializing mainly in historical and biographical programs. He has worked on many programs including the landmark BBC documentary The Battle of the Somme. He died in December 2017.

Born in 1961, Gary Sheffield studied history at the University of Leeds, before beginning to lecture on war studies at the Royal Military Sandhurst Academy. He then completed his PhD at King’s College, London.

After finishing his studies, Sheffield moved into full-time academia, as Professor of Modern History at King’s College, and then the first Professor of War Studies at the University of Birmingham. He later moved to the University of Wolverhampton.

Sheffield has been published widely on military history subjects, with his second book, The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army (2011) widely commended in both academic and popular circles alike.

Sheffield currently serves as Vice President of the Western Front Association and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal United Services Institute.

Table of Contents

Foreword Gary Sheffield 5

1 'A Call to Arms' 9

2 'The Tents are Astir in the Valley' 17

3 'Tickled to Death to Go' 27

4 'Up the Line' 35

5 'In the Trenches' 45

6 'Rats as Big as Rabbits' 53

7 'Keep the Hun on his Toes' 65

8 'Out on Rest' 93

9 'It's Unlucky to be Killed on a Friday' 105

10 'Just a Line to Say I Go "Over the Top" Tomorrow' 117

11 Into Battle: 'A Great Thing to Be In' 129

12 Into Battle: 'The Most Horrible Invention that was Ever Known' 141

13 'The Terrible Price' 153

14 'Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty' 169

15 'Cheer O! It's a Jolly Old War' 181

16 'Guerre Finie! Boche Napoo!' 215

Envoi 229

Acknowledgements 230

List of Illustrations 232

Index 237

List of Soldiers Quoted 239

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