Peter is a historian who wears his heart on his sleeve and is not afraid to do so. As an oral historian, he is full of genuine compassion for the people he has interviewed over the years in his previous job at the Imperial War Museum and all his books are full of their words and thoughts. He is also a very skilled communicator. His Military History podcasts with his old chum Gary Bain are superb and have kept me going through the covid lockdown.
His book on the Somme Battle is full of personal accounts. We get to see the preparation and understand the real hope that this battle would be the start of the great breakthrough on the Western Front. It, of course, doesn't happen. Over 19,000 men are killed on July 1st 1916 in a tragic day for the British Army. Peter describes each section of the battle on that day in turn, telling us what happened and quietly revealing the casualties. It is beautifully done and honouring to the those who sacrificed so much. The later parts of the battle are, again, treated with real empathy on all levels - the generals trying to strive with technology and outdated communications; the officers in the trenches trying to work out how to lead their men; and the soldiers themselves, preparing to go over the top and do their bit alongside their mates.
Peter has produced a book that is readable, doesn't shirk away from the awful subject matter, yet is full of compassion for those involved. If you have an interest in the First World War, you need a copy of this book.
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