Once More Into The Breach: A Personal Account: Reliving the History of the Civil War

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The advance across the open was splendidly carried out, all ranks behaving magnificently, as was the case throughout the entire action. Leipzig Trench was taken and the leading lines advanced against the Hindenburg Trench. These were mown down and by 8. It now became obvious to Colonel Morton that Leipzig Trench must be held, as without reinforcements, no further advance could be made, both flanks being exposed, as the 8th Division on their right had been driven back. The left was particularly exposed and parties under Sergt.

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Macgregor and Sergt. Watt were organised and sent to strengthen the left where " B " and " D " Companies had been almost annihilated. It was now 9 o'clock and the Battalion casualties now amounted to 22 officers and other ranks. The bombers, who had been sent up to replace casualties, were holding the flanks successfully. By Morrison and 2nd Lieut. Marr working and organising the protective flank bombers without the least regard for personal safety.

Fighting Back – Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting

At 4 o'clock the 2nd Manchesters reinforced them with two Companies. Just at this time the line wavered a little in face of the overwhelming bombardment and the appalling casualties, but control was immediately gained.


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At 5 the shattered unit was ordered to consolidate the ground taken. This was done and two strong enemy counter attacks repulsed. The I7th concentrated on Campbell Post and held the line in that Sector. In the evening of the next day the Battalion was relieved and returned to dug-outs at Crucifix Corner.

Aug 21, Diane marked it as to-read. From the Christian Science Monitor: "Sebag-Montefiore's book studies the whole breadth of the Somme debacle, from that blistering first day to the exhausted and mud-caked final weeks in late November. He sifts through volumes and volumes of original documents, attempting always to put a human face on every single moment and aspect of the campaign.

The narrative moves easily from the larger logistical tangles back at headquarters to the experiences of the men fighting in the front lines, and From the Christian Science Monitor: "Sebag-Montefiore's book studies the whole breadth of the Somme debacle, from that blistering first day to the exhausted and mud-caked final weeks in late November.

Part I - Major Battles and Campaigns

The narrative moves easily from the larger logistical tangles back at headquarters to the experiences of the men fighting in the front lines, and Sebag-Montefiore is every bit as authoritative writing about the birth of air and tank warfare as he is picking apart the psychologies of the men involved There will never be a last word on the Battle of the Somme, Sebag-Montefiore concludes.

By the time it was all over, each side had lost half a million people — and yet virtually nothing had been gained, and the German lines had mostly held firm. Our author echoes the verdict of some historians that the bloodbath of the Somme prompted the German command to pause its offensive at Verdun, and likewise he brings up the frequently-made contention that the vicious pounding the German forces underwent at the Somme effectively broke their spirits, guaranteeing an eventual Allied victory. Such things may be true, although they would have been cold comfort to the thousands of men cut down on either side of the river a century ago.

At least those men get to speak again, in this enormously satisfying book. Oct 22, Edward rated it liked it. I was inspired to read this book after visiting the British Imperial War Museum in London and seeing the extensive exhibits and depictions of the battle, including a full scale replica of a World War I trench. The book is meticulous in detail as it tells the story of the battle at every level, strategic, operational, tactical, and personal.

At the strategic and operational level it was an attempt to impose a major defeat on the German Army across a wide front.

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On the tactical level it was an I was inspired to read this book after visiting the British Imperial War Museum in London and seeing the extensive exhibits and depictions of the battle, including a full scale replica of a World War I trench. On the tactical level it was an attempt by the allies to use artillery to cut the wires and defenses of the German lines to allow the Allied forces to "go over the top" and assault the entrenched enemy.

In the execution, the artillery was inadequate and the attacking allied forces met incredibly deadly machine gun fire. The battle waged on across a wide front from 1 July to 18 November and resulted in over one million men killed or wounded. On the personal level the author tells the stories of individual soldiers of the Somme as recorded in letters and other documents, particularly regarding families and lost sons.


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The book is an epic tale of a horrific disaster in history. As such, it is difficult, but worthwhile, reading in the extreme. Feb 09, Dirk rated it liked it. As an analysis of an already much discussed battle, Sebag-Montefiore's account is a thoroughly researched and well-detailed beginning-to-end narrative setting forth dates and times and locations of brigades and battalions and divisions, objectives won and lost, and men injured and killed.

Structured in that fashion, from one date to the next, and from one area along the front lines to the one alongside it and then forward, the reading of it begins to mirror the incremental slog of the battle As an analysis of an already much discussed battle, Sebag-Montefiore's account is a thoroughly researched and well-detailed beginning-to-end narrative setting forth dates and times and locations of brigades and battalions and divisions, objectives won and lost, and men injured and killed.

Structured in that fashion, from one date to the next, and from one area along the front lines to the one alongside it and then forward, the reading of it begins to mirror the incremental slog of the battle itself. My three-star rating represents an average of two scores: two stars for the author's rigorous plodding through minutiae and four stars for the vivid and oftentimes heartbreaking accounts of the diarists and letter writers who recorded their in-the-trenches impressions of the battle as it occurred, which are all the more poignant for the many instances in which their remembrances survived while they did not.

Dec 06, Kevin McMahon rated it really liked it. At about pages including footnotes, photographs and maps this was a thoroughly researched and detailed book about the battle of the Somme. This is not an easy read and at times can be a bit repetitive with lots of personal accounts of the human cost of this battle with a lot of detail about the injuries sustained as well as the human carnage left in situ in the walls of trenches and in no mans land.

It also focuses on the decisions of Generals Haig and Rawlinson in particular but also on the At about pages including footnotes, photographs and maps this was a thoroughly researched and detailed book about the battle of the Somme. It also focuses on the decisions of Generals Haig and Rawlinson in particular but also on the mistakes made by their subordinate commanders.

These mistakes cost hundreds of young men their lives and to me there seemed a blatant disregard for the soldiers in the field and they really were treated as cannon fodder. If you enjoy military history then this book will really appeal to you and the author provides the details of other books that he relied upon in researching the subject. View 2 comments. Apr 01, Aristidis Marousas rated it really liked it.

I want to give this book 5 stars for the amount of effort in researching and writing the author accomplished. The biggest takeaway is the absolute tragedy of so many lives lost and destroyed due in such large part to the failures in leadership exhibited by the commanding officers. It was frustrating and heartbreaking to read about the plight of the infantrymen engaged in combat. If you want a very in depth look of the battle of the Somme, this is the book for you. Jan 30, Mac rated it it was ok. Not my first military history book by a long ways but I found this nearly unreadable.

The research is impressive and I have no doubt this is one of the best accounts of the Somme, but the author presents his book in a similar way to how a historian first prepares to write his book. Details and facts are listed one after another in exhausting detail. You feel as if the author presents the experience of every individual soldier at the Somme, which is amazing, but a horrible read. It feels as if you Not my first military history book by a long ways but I found this nearly unreadable. It feels as if you are reading the same paragraph over and over for pages and cant remember one single person.

Jan 20, Michael Sobkow rated it liked it. Outstandingly researched.


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  6. Emotionally powerful especially in regards to first hand accounts. His descriptions of units however was very confusing i. Maps were not detailed enough. He over edited the first hand accounts to the point that I felt I was reading an English professor's proofread. It was still am outstanding book. Oct 05, Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it. Comprehensive study of the Somme, with an emphasis on an immersive synthesis of personal narratives--Sebag-Montefiore offers enough structure to understand what is going on and why, but prefers to let the participants, usually frontline soldiers, speak for themselves.

    Since what they have to speak about is almost always terror, pain and existential questions, the book is exhausting. Jun 08, Ryan rated it really liked it. Very detailed account of the Battle of The Somme.