The British on the Somme 1916
WWI British History Somme
By Bob Carruthers
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Published: 30th January 2017
This book continues the series from Pen and Sword, with 79 'Images of War' books on their website with about 10 dealing with WW1. The Great Push, the Battle of the Somme, 1916 is available in the same format. This revolves around a publication of a similar name from the time. These books are all very concise and explanations of the images limited.
A three page introduction is given, describing the battle, those informed may be concerned that massively discussed concepts such a General-ship are given one paragraph and mentioned occasionally in the photographic texts. Hard fought versus poor leadership is there but perhaps the thoughts are more towards poor leadership. There is however very limited space and I am sure the author felt this to be a problem. Credit is given to two photographers Ernest Brookes, the first official photographer and John Warrick Brooke who followed him. There are about 150 images, some quite well known. There are two to three sentences of explanation below each. All aspects are dealt with in as brief a way as space allows, some might say the explanations do not give justice to the images. It is interesting to note other reviews of books dealing mainly with collections of images referred to them as 'lazy history'.
A still from Malin's film of the Somme is included, the famous image of a casualty being carried along a trench. It is notable that the debate still goes on about the identities and the production of the photograph, whether staged or not. There is a lot of information on the IWM website, it is again a shame that the author did not have more space to deal with this controversy especially as he provides Ernest Brooke's photograph of a similar scene with a different bearer but possibly the same casualty.
I suspect that the descriptions given were written separately for separate photographs as there is some repetition. The authors view that the proceeding barrage used under powered guns (nil about wrong shells or duds or too much spread to second trench lines). Other repetition is seen about animal casualties and transport difficulties involving terrain and weather.
I would wonder if one images showing soldiers making their way across a shelled landscape isn't actually showing two casualties.
I am not too sure who this book is aimed at, I suspect even those with a little knowledge may be a little disappointed about the volume of information but it seems this format is a firm favourite with Pen and Sword and may be of interest to some readers.