The Somme by Gary Sheffield

It’s nice to actually read a book about the Somme that actually makes me feel like I have learnt something. Too many books on the battle indulge in what has become rather cliched poetry. Most of us are well aware that the first day of the Somme was the bloodiest day in the British Army’s history. Most of us are equally as aware that the Somme was ultimately futile.

What Sheffield does so well here is threefold. Firstly, he does not allow the narrative to become embroiled in cliche or hyperbole. The events of 1916 are examined and explained in a clinical, methodical manner. Secondly, he looks beyond the first day of the Battle. So many histories of the Somme look only at 1 July 1916. Yet the battle raged on for almost five months after that before the offensive ceased. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is eminently readable.

Each phase of the offensive is examined in a manner which makes it clear to the reader. 1 July obviously comes in for special attention, and Sheffield looks at the Divisions all along the front, from Gommecourt in the north to the anglo-french boundary in the south, and relates their objectives and their experiences. As the late great Richard Holmes so rightly stresses in his foreword, Martin Middlebrook gave so much to our understanding of the first say of the Somme, but perhaps out attention in the past has been too focussed on this one day, out of a much longer battle.

Sheffield does not allow himself to get too bogged down in considering whether the battle was a waste of lives or not. The general assumption amongst most people is that the Somme was a horrific waste of lives, a by-word for futility. Or was it? As Sheffield reminds us, the French Army had its back to the wall at Verdun, and the Somme was vital in diverting German resources from that battle. Politically, to do nothing was not an option. In addition, the British Army learnt an awful lot on the Somme, that it put into practice in 1917 and 1918. Could Haig, Rawlinson and Gough have done much different on the Somme. Like Sheffield, I suspect not. The strategic thinking and even most of the tactics were sound, but the Army had not developed its technology and expertise – particularly around communications – enough to really take the offensive to the Germans.

I cannot stress enough how much this book has helped – and will help me – in my research into Portsmouth men killed on the Somme. In particular, the 1st Hampshires on the 1st day near Beaumont Hamel, and then the 15th Hampshires (2nd Portsmouth) at Flers in September – incidentally, one of the most succesful days on the Somme.



Filed under Book of the Week, Uncategorized, western front, World War One

9 responses to “The Somme by Gary Sheffield

  1. Pingback: Forgotten Victory by Gary Sheffield « Daly History Blog

  2. It is possible to download iphone shows and there’s no restriction for the level of download.
    It was about keeping connections on the phone storage of
    the iPhone. After installing Dance distant Set the foundation system.

  3. But as a result of some honest people on the net I got
    my Whatsapp Messenger on my Pc very quickly. What sort
    of bloom, song, or superstar personality they are.
    Tidy up the Registry mistakes within your system.

  4. For more farming fun: go here to subscribe to my articles.

    You can follow the link above to load the sport, along with the FV icon will
    be incorporated. Does one break the sweets and licorice first?

  5. The you are able to either evaluate the outcome yourself or email them down for
    your beloved service person. Without having first reduced myself engrossed through FaceBook
    I could not have accomplished that.

  6. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most
    certainly donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for
    bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.

    I look forward to brand new updates and will share this site with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!

  7. A shutdown issue might result, if the BIOS and CMOS
    settings of your pc have now been tampered with. You should be aware of
    that not all of the solutions are necessary to you.

  8. There’sn’t much to mention concerning this video that hasn’t
    been stated. So the only thing to do would be to purchase the program online for
    50 bucks. I didn’t experience wonderful about all the steps.

  9. Do not let your girlfriend make a idiot out of you.
    These are apps I’m guessing most of you haven’t listened to of and ideally won’t already have set
    up. Today’s world of technologies has come with a
    boon and a bane.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s