Read Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918 by Richard Holmes Online


The first history of World War I to place centre-stage the British soldier who fought in the trenches, this superb and important book tells the story of an epic and terrible war through the letters, diaries and memories of those who fought it.Of the six million men who served in the British army, nearly one million lost their lives and over two million were wounded. This iThe first history of World War I to place centre-stage the British soldier who fought in the trenches, this superb and important book tells the story of an epic and terrible war through the letters, diaries and memories of those who fought it.Of the six million men who served in the British army, nearly one million lost their lives and over two million were wounded. This is the story of these men – epitomised by the character of Sgt Tommy Atkins – and the women they left behind.Using previously unseen letters, diaries, memoirs and poetry from the years 1914-1918, Richard Holmes paints a moving picture of the generation that fought and died in the mud of Flanders. He follows men whose mental health was forever destroyed by shell shock, women who lost husbands and brothers in the same afternoon and those who wrote at lunchtime and died before tea.Groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed, this book tells the real story of trench warfare, the strength and fallibility of the human spirit, the individuals behind an epic event, and their legacy. It is an emotional and unforgettable masterpiece from one of our most important historians....

Title : Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780007137527
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 752 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918 Reviews

  • Caroline
    2019-05-05 22:12

    This isn't a history of the First World War. It doesn't explore battles and origins, major combatants, motivations, rations, bombs. What it does do is explore the experience of the British soldiers in the trenches - who they were, why they fought, how they felt, what they did. It's broken down into thematic sections - about battalions, about weapons, about motivations for and against fighting, about relationships between ranks, about lives pre- and post-war.It's a very well-written book, with a natural feeling for the soldiers that really flows through the pages. Rather than using material that was often written well after the war and coloured by the bitterness of the peace that followed, Holmes used contemporary material, written by the men while they were there, and it really makes you realise that our view of the war as a useless, wasteful mess is a much later view, that the men in the trenches knew why they were there and what they were fighting for. At the time they would have been offended and insulted by the notion that they were 'lambs to the slaughter', mindlessly following orders into a war that had no meaning.

  • John
    2019-04-30 16:23

    In 1914, five major powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand, Russia, France, and Britain on the other, went to war over the small nations of Serbia and Belgium. The Austro-Hungarian army lost the capacity for independent action by the end of 1914. The Russian army collapsed into revolution and the French army succumbed to mutiny in 1917, thought it recovered somewhat by the following year. The German army was defeated in 1918. Alone among the original five powers, the army of Britain and it’s Empire went through the war intact. How did it manage this? The late Richard Holmes sets out to answer that question in this fine book.This is not an arrows on maps history of the war, but an examination of the British army on the Western Front. We learn what motivated its soldiers to fight, how they fought, what happened to them when they didn't, what they did between fights, how they felt about each other, how they felt about their enemy, how they felt about the war, and much else besides.These were men who might experience the following;"One day...a shell hit the officers' latrine, sending the screen flying. I was shocked to see a man still sitting there on the throne and I thought he must be dead. I ran as hard as I could and arrived to find Ellison up and adjusting his trousers. He said with a grin, 'It was lucky that the shell came when it did as I was feeling a bit constipated'""(One soldier remembered) the sight of a Saxon boy crushed under a shattered tank, moaning 'Mutter, Mutter, Mutter,' out of ghastly grey lips. A British soldier, wounded in the leg, and sitting near by, hears the words, and dragging himself to the dying boy, takes his cold hand and says 'All right, son, it's all right, Mother's here with you'"One great grandfather of mine went into the trenches in late 1914, made it through to the end, and lived until 1979. Another joined up in 1914 and was one of the Sheffield Pals, losing an arm and an eye in his first and only day of combat on the Somme on July 1st, 1916. His brother in law likewise joined up in 1914 and fought until September 1918 when he was killed, two months before the end of the war. I never met any of these men, but after reading this book I feel as though I know them a little better.

  • Colleen
    2019-05-11 17:19

    This book took me a while to read--almost 800 pages and the font is like half the size of normal font, so be ready for spending a lot of time reading about the British Tommy. It is so comprehensive, down to the minutest detail, I think it's a must have for anyone's WW1 library. There is a laser like focus on the British army soldier though on Western Front as promised on the cover--other arenas, or allies, or branches of service get only brief mentions--but after reading this book you get a very well rounded view of British soldier and made me consider a few new avenues of thoughts. How terrible the demobilization went. How flimsy the lions being led by lambs scenario is. This is very similar to his first book Redcoat, about the British soldiers 1760-1860, and now I'll have to finish off his trilogy with Sahib. Holmes in both books goes into great detail about pay, how such and such award would increase your pensions, and even though paid commissions are no longer a thing in the age of Tommy, what that buying power broke down to, the ins and outs of the weaponry and schedules--but it can also get a little bit too dry at times, and I found it a touch slow going in a part or two. And in a way, since this war was so closely fought with other allies, I would have liked to read more foreign impressions on the typical British soldier, but there's not much of that at all. Still very glad I read this and I am sure to reference it in the future often.

  • Les
    2019-05-09 22:28

    If you ever wanted to read about the Britsh soldiers experience on the Western Front in the First World War, this is the book for you. The sections on the army's structure are less intersting but the accounts of the men who were there are rivetting. I shall never cease to be amazed at how they dealt with the sheer bloody awfulness of it all.

  • Denise
    2019-04-29 22:05

    Love this book and took it with me to battlefield tour of WWI in 2009. Whilst at Auchonvillers in France had the great pleasure to meet Richard Holmes and he signed my copy of Tommy.

  • Dale Pearl
    2019-05-02 16:15

    Timing of this reading is on the heels of the Paris attack at the hands of ISIS November 14, 2015.This novel is not so much a history accounting as it is a depiction of WW I from the eyes of the they typical British soldier a 'Tommy Atkins'Here are a few quotes from this book I will let it be my summary.I may be knocked out in the next few days. If so, this is just a line to you, dear. I don’t contemplate death, but it is all a bloody chance out here. If there is any sort of survival of consciousness, death can hardly fail to be interesting, and if there is anything doing on the other side, I will stir something up. Nirvana be damned!Who made the Law that men should die in meadows?Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes?Who gave it forth that gardens should be boneyards?Who spread the hills with flesh, and blood, and brains?----- Richard Henry Tawney‘There comes a day in the life of all young officers,’ he used to say, ‘when a superior will ask them for their opinion. If the youngster gives an answer which he thinks will please, he is done; he is useless. If he says straightly what he thinks, he is the man to get on.’Around 70 percent of soldiers killed on the Western Front were the victims of indirect fire, that is, of the fragments or blast effect of shells or trench mortar bombs. But in the case of generals killed in action, where the cause of death is known, thirty-four were killed by shellfire and twenty-two by small-arms fire.let us never forget that generation whose courage and endurance lift my spirits and break my heart. And let us do better for their great-grandchildren than we did for them.

  • Jerry Smith
    2019-04-23 16:12

    I did enjoy this book very much and came away from it with a much greater knowledge of how the British Army was organized and fought in the Great War. It is a long book, and much of the information provided sets out the administration of the army and the structure, rather than solely concentrating on the experiences of those in the front line, although there is a lot written about that too.This is interesting in it's own right and the detail is substantial and adds to the readers knowledge of the army and those that fought it rather than the progress of the various battles etc. This is therefore a useful addition to the literature on the war and challenges a lot of the perceived truisms about the war itself (that the troops were lions led by donkeys, that every battlefield was a sea of mud etc.) Holmes does this very effectively by going back to primary sources written at the time as his main source of information. He explains his reasoning and it is sound indeed. This is the best way to avoid retrospectives even from well meaning veterans whose memories may well have been shaped by subsequent accounts and their own failing memories.Much of the writing is very good and very readable, but I found some of the accounts a little repetitive in places and there was a heavy reliance on a few soldiers whose accounts naturally account for much of the narrative. However that is a minor quibble really in what is a very good account and sets the sacrifices of those that fought and died in this dreadful conflict into context.

  • Edward
    2019-05-23 22:29

    We judge the soldiers on the Western Front by "poems they never read, or cast them in dramas they would never have bothered to watch." It makes their deeds seem alien, and their motives impenetrable. This humbling book at last takes us deep into the lives of those men: how they lived, thought and fought. It is a 600-page warning against cliche and literary sentimentality. Richard Holmes' sympathetic exploration of contemporary diaries and letters refuses to just lament the tragedy and horror of the trenches (though there are moving chapters devoted to it). Instead, he pushes onwards to conduct a rounded tour that questions the popular assumption of unrelieved gloom and futility. If we can't form a more nuanced view of their daily reality, then we will never honour these fine men with more than a naive compassion.

  • Andrew
    2019-05-21 21:32

    Interesting and involved effort to get into the heads and experiences of any and all Tommy's in any and all stages of the Western Front. In that way it fails, but only for not being twice as long.Holmes also tries, with some success, to broaden "the lions led by donkeys", and once again has some success, if only in making the reader realize that to simplify Tommys and their leaders as being any one thing is to do a disservice to what was a very complex and evolving situation.

  • Steph
    2019-05-04 21:17

    If you can get through the first 200 pages of abstruse militaria, you'll be rewarded with a fascinating and impeccably-researched account of life on the Western Front. The final chapter, on life after the war, is particularly moving

  • Mark Whaite
    2019-05-01 22:14

    That the western front in 1916 was not a good place to be and that the British Army may make mistakes but, they do seem to learn from them.

  • Spencer Warner
    2019-05-17 19:13

    Didn't actually finish it, the content was really good but the way that its written is very dull which zero chronological structure and most of it just being diary entries...

  • Andrew
    2019-05-15 23:24

    I've always thought of Richard Holmes as a heavyweight of the historians arena. Watching him on Battlefield and War Walks was a joy. This book upheld the belief that these TV programmes left me with. Holmes, in this book, debunks popular misconceptions of the way in which WWI was fought. While doing so, he provides a rich tapestry of the way soldiers lived, slept and ate, as well as everything in between. He relies on both first hand accounts and detailed historical knowledge. At times the book labours slightly under the weight of information being conveyed but perseverance with this did pay off. The chapters on the weapons and tactics of the battlefield were particularly fascinating. A cracking read. It would be difficult to find anything on this topic which brings it to life so impressively.

  • Simon Akam
    2019-05-22 19:25

    I am working my way through Richard Holmes' work as research for my own book, and came to this after reading 'Soldiers,' his final book. Here the focus is the First World War and the British experience on the Western Front. Much of this social history of the army is extraordinary impressive. A sample nugget - the term 'chatting,' meaning to talk, comes from 'chat,' soldier slang for the lice that infested men in the trenches. To sit chatting was therefore to talk as they worked the lice from the seams of their clothing with hot candles...

  • Matt
    2019-04-30 20:32

    What a fantastic book! It doesn't chart the history of the Great War in the normal sense but charts the personal histories of "Tommy" his motivations on the front why he fought why he objected the moral dilemmas faced and even in some parts an insight into "fritz".One of the better books I've read and broken done into well thought out chapters that flow really well! Don't be put off by the size of the book it is easy to read and well worth it!

  • Bill Bailey
    2019-05-23 17:04

    It's good to read something that doesn't just trot out the same old myths and clichés you hear from anybody who thinks that because they can type they're an expert. This is a great read and, indeed, should be required reading for all the armchair generals who think they know everything they need to know about the British soldier on the Western Front in WW1.

  • Matthew Dambro
    2019-05-19 19:32

    Truly one of the best books on the First World War that I have ever read. The research is prodigious and the writing is easy and fluid. It ranks with Fussell's work on WW I. It is poignant and horrifying and humorous in the space of a few pages. He has captured the essence of the experience of the Poor Bloody Infantry on the Western Front.

  • Chris Passingham
    2019-05-10 21:23

    I have given this book 5 stars because it is a wonderfully well written and keenly observed account of real life in the trenches and it also debunks many myths and popular misconceptions about the Great War from the standpoint of a well known and respected historian

  • AtikaPatel
    2019-04-29 16:13

    The author's style of writing is too dull and factual for me.

  • Vince
    2019-05-07 18:29


  • AskHistorians
    2019-05-22 22:20

    It is thick, ferociously well-sourced, entertaining and comprehensive. Holmes was one of the best we had until his untimely death in 2011, and Tommy finds him firing on all cylinders.

  • Shane Higgins
    2019-05-08 16:14

    4 Stars

  • russell barnes
    2019-05-05 21:21

    Dull - gave it to my father-in-law