The Somme: The Darkest Hour on the Western Front

Pegasus Books
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One of the bloodiest battles in world history—a military tragedy that would come to define a generation. On July 1, 1916, the British Army launched the “Big Push” that was supposed to bring an end to the horrific stalemate on the Western Front between British, French, and German forces. What resulted was one of the greatest single human catastrophes in twentieth century warfare. Scrambling out of trenches in the face of German machine guns and artillery fire, the Allied Powers lost over twenty thousand soldiers that first day. This “battle” would drag on for another four bloody months, resulting in over one million causalities among the three powers.

As the oral historian at the Imperial War Museum in London, Peter Hart has brought to light new material never before seen or heard. The Somme is an unparalleled evocation of World War I’s iconic contest—the definitive account of one of the major tragedies of the twentieth century.
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About the author

Peter Hart studied at Liverpool University before becoming a director at the Imperial War Museum in London. As the museum's Oral Historian, he works frequently with war veterans recording their wartime experiences.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Pegasus Books
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Published on
Mar 15, 2010
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Pages
624
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ISBN
9781605987651
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / World War I
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Drawing on exhaustive research, this remarkable, intimate account tells the story of how World War I reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.

On a summer day in 1914, a nineteen-year-old Serbian nationalist gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. While the world slumbered, monumental forces were shaken. In less than a month, a combination of ambition, deceit, fear, jealousy, missed opportunities, and miscalculation sent Austro-Hungarian troops marching into Serbia, German troops streaming toward Paris, and a vast Russian army into war, with England as its ally. As crowds cheered their armies on, no one could guess what lay ahead in the First World War: four long years of slaughter, physical and moral exhaustion, and the near collapse of a civilization that until 1914 had dominated the globe.

Praise for A World Undone

“Thundering, magnificent . . . [A World Undone] is a book of true greatness that prompts moments of sheer joy and pleasure. . . . It will earn generations of admirers.”—The Washington Times

“Meyer’s sketches of the British Cabinet, the Russian Empire, the aging Austro-Hungarian Empire . . . are lifelike and plausible. His account of the tragic folly of Gallipoli is masterful. . . . [A World Undone] has an instructive value that can scarcely be measured”—Los Angeles Times

“An original and very readable account of one of the most significant and often misunderstood events of the last century.”—Steve Gillon, resident historian, The History Channel
For decades, the Battle of the Somme has exemplified the horrors and futility of trench warfare. Yet in Three Armies on the Somme, William Philpott makes a convincing argument that the battle ultimately gave the British and French forces on the Western Front the knowledge and experience to bring World War I to a victorious end.

It was the most brutal fight in a war that scarred generations. Infantrymen lined up opposite massed artillery and machine guns. Chlorine gas filled the air. The dead and dying littered the shattered earth of no man’s land. Survivors were rattled with shell-shock. We remember the shedding of so much young blood and condemn the generals who sent their men to their deaths. Ever since, the Somme has been seen as a waste: even as the war continued, respected leaders—Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George among them—judged the battle a pointless one.

While previous histories have documented the missteps of British command, no account has fully recognized the fact that allied generals were witnessing the spontaneous evolution of warfare even as they sent their troops “over the top.” With his keen insight and vast knowledge of military strategy, Philpott shows that twentieth-century war as we know it simply didn’t exist before the Battle of the Somme: new technologies like the armored tank made their battlefield debut, while developments in communications lagged behind commanders’ needs. Attrition emerged as the only means of defeating industrialized belligerents that were mobilizing all their resources for war. At the Somme, the allied armies acquired the necessary lessons of modern warfare, without which they could never have prevailed.

An exciting, indispensable work of military history that challenges our received ideas about the Battle of the Somme, and about the very nature of war.


From the Hardcover edition.
One of the most famous battles in history, the WWI Gallipoli campaign began as a bold move by the British to capture Constantinople, but this definitive new history explains that from the initial landings--which ended with so much blood in the sea it could be seen from airplanes overhead--to the desperate attacks of early summer and the battle of attrition that followed, it was a tragic folly destined to fail from the start. Gallipoli forced the young Winston Churchill from office, established Turkey's iconic founder Mustafa Kemal (better known as "Ataturk"), and marked Australia's emergence as a nation in its own right. Drawing on unpublished eyewitness accounts by individuals from all ranks--not only from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, but from Turkey and France as well--Peter Hart weaves first-hand stories into a vivid narrative of the battle and its aftermath. Hart, a historian with the Imperial War Museum and a battlefield tour guide at Gallipoli, provides a vivid, boots-on-the-ground account that brilliantly evokes the confusion of war, the horrors of combat, and the grim courage of the soldiers. He provides an astute, unflinching assessment of the leaders as well. He shows that the British invasion was doomed from the start, but he places particular blame on General Sir Ian Hamilton, whose misplaced optimism, over-complicated plans, and unwillingness to recognize the gravity of the situation essentially turned likely failure into complete disaster. Capturing the sheer drama and bravery of the ferocious fighting, the chivalry demonstrated by individuals on both sides amid merciless wholesale slaughter, and the futility of the cause for which ordinary men fought with extraordinary courage and endurance--Gallipoli is a riveting account of a battle that continues to fascinate us close to a hundred years after the event.
One of the most famous battles in history, the WWI Gallipoli campaign began as a bold move by the British to capture Constantinople, but this definitive new history explains that from the initial landings--which ended with so much blood in the sea it could be seen from airplanes overhead--to the desperate attacks of early summer and the battle of attrition that followed, it was a tragic folly destined to fail from the start. Gallipoli forced the young Winston Churchill from office, established Turkey's iconic founder Mustafa Kemal (better known as "Ataturk"), and marked Australia's emergence as a nation in its own right. Drawing on unpublished eyewitness accounts by individuals from all ranks--not only from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, but from Turkey and France as well--Peter Hart weaves first-hand stories into a vivid narrative of the battle and its aftermath. Hart, a historian with the Imperial War Museum and a battlefield tour guide at Gallipoli, provides a vivid, boots-on-the-ground account that brilliantly evokes the confusion of war, the horrors of combat, and the grim courage of the soldiers. He provides an astute, unflinching assessment of the leaders as well. He shows that the British invasion was doomed from the start, but he places particular blame on General Sir Ian Hamilton, whose misplaced optimism, over-complicated plans, and unwillingness to recognize the gravity of the situation essentially turned likely failure into complete disaster. Capturing the sheer drama and bravery of the ferocious fighting, the chivalry demonstrated by individuals on both sides amid merciless wholesale slaughter, and the futility of the cause for which ordinary men fought with extraordinary courage and endurance--Gallipoli is a riveting account of a battle that continues to fascinate us close to a hundred years after the event.
Author of The Great War, as well as celebrated accounts of the battles of the Somme, Passchendaele, Jutland, and Gallipoli, historian Peter Hart now turns to World War One's final months. Much has been made of-and written about-August 1914. There has been comparatively little focus on August 1918 and the lead-up to November. Because of the fixation on the Great War's opening moves, and the great battles that followed over the course of the next four years, the endgame seems to come as a stunning anticlimax. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the guns simply fell silent. The Last Battle definitively corrects this misperception. As Hart shows, a number of factors precipitated the Armistice. After four years of bloodshed, Germany was nearly bankrupt and there was a growing rift between the military High Command and political leadership. But it also remained a determined combatant, and France and Great Britain had equally been stretched to their limits; Russia had abandoned the conflict in the late winter of 1918. However complex the causes of Germany's ultimate defeat, Allied success on the Western Front, as Hart reveals, tipped the scales-the triumphs at the Fifth Battle of Ypres, the Sambre, the Selle, and the Meuse-Argonne, where American forces made arguably their greatest contribution. The offensives cracked the Hindenburg Line and wore down the German resistance, precipitating collapse. Final victory came at great human cost and involved the combined efforts of millions of men. Using the testimony of a range of participants, from the Doughboys, Tommies, German infantrymen, and French poilus who did the fighting, to those in command during those last days and weeks, Hart brings intimacy and sweep to the events that led to November 11, 1918.
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