Sunday, March 30, 2014

Harry's War

By Harry Drinkwater

This is the real deal; a day to day diary of a British soldier who fought in World War One, and who took part in some of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the war, including the Somme and Passchendaele and who survived, more or less intact. Books like this are said to be rare, and I've certainly never come across one before, as it was against regulations for the soldiers to keep diaries lest their writings fall into enemy hands. Other soldiers wrote memoirs (and I'm reading one such now) but this is different in that it documents things as they happened. Drinkwater's account doesn't gloss over the boring bits, but records them, in all their seemingly dull detail. To get a clear idea of what the war must have been like, this is invaluable. There is no drama or glorification, either of the violence or of the horror. Drinkwater simply records events, and some of his own thoughts accordingly.

In many ways, this book reminded me of another; Trafalgar: an eye witness history, though there are some major differences, the most obvious being the difference in time. This book is also a single man's perspective, so you can only really see the war thorugh Harry Drinkwater's eyes. There isn't a lot of historical context offered as Drinkwater himself barely knew what was going on in the world beyond the battlefield.

This is an excellent book for any one interested in the First World War.

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