Recommended First World War Books
Where would we be without books? The Great War was a catalyst for literature whilst it was being fought, and the number of books published since 1919 on the subject of the war shows no sign of diminishing.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you some of the books that I have read and enjoyed over the years, all of which have provided me with a further insight into what it might have been like to be involved in this conflict.

I have divided this into two sections. The first contains contemporary books, some of which have been written by some of our most distinguished modern historians. However, the authors have successfully ensured that the complex elements of what is the subject matter is explained in a structured and logical manner, making for good reading. The other is a selection of more personal accounts, some of which were written in the post war period
The History

All of these modern histories provide a vast amount of anecdotal and supporting evidence in the form of personal testimony, previously unpublished photographs and maps.

The Somme – Peter Hart
Passchendaele – Peter Hart and Nigel Steel
The Somme, the Unseen Panoramas – Peter Barton and Jeremy Banning
Arras – Peter Barton and Jeremy Banning
Tommy – Richard Holmes
The Soldiers War – Richard van Emden
Cambrai – Bryn Hammond
They Called it Passchendaele – Lyn Macdonald
The First Day on the Somme – Martin Middlebrook
Vimy – Pierre Berton
Forgotten Victory – Gary Sheffield
Battleground Europe series, particularly
Walking the Salient/ Arras/ Somme series - Paul Reed

This is far from inclusive, but any of these will reward you with a greater understanding of specific parts of the war on the Western Front. All of the authors have a wide repertoire – it will be up to you to discover more if you find you like a certain style or format.


And there are some books which act as a form a cross over – a modern day personal memoir, but created from a wide range of sources including poetry and prose. There aren’t many in this genre, but for an insightful shared account do read

Poets and Pals of Picardy – Mary Ellen Freeman

The Personal

Personal memoirs can be a super source of direct and first hand information, and sometimes they can leave you wanting more. In many personal accounts, the names of individuals have been altered, often for understandable reasons. It must also be remembered and noted when and why these memoirs were written – some were published in the immediate post war period for hoped for financial gain; others after the passing of many years, allowing the author the time for greater reflection towards the end of his life. As before, all I am doing is listing some of my favourites, many of which I have read on more than one occasion.

The Weary Road – Charles Douie
Goodbye to All That – Robert Graves
There’s a Devil in the Drum – John Lucy
Ebb and Flow of Battle – P J Campbell
Into Battle – John Glubb
Sergeant Major’s War: from Hill 60 to the Somme – Ernest Shephard
Undertones of War – Edmund Blunden
A Passionate Prodigality – Guy Chapman
Ghosts Have Warm Hands – Will R Bird
The Great War as I Saw It – Canon F Scott
Somme Mud – E P F Lynch
Nothing of Importance – Bernard Adams
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer – Siegfried Sassoon

 

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