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helenliz

helenliz

They Called It Passchendaele

They Called It Passchendaele - Lyn Macdonald This comprises eyewitness accounts from the men who fought in the Flanders mud. It could have been incredibly mawkish, but it managed to avoid any such sentimentality. That isn't to say it isn't a dreadfully sad collection. It concentrates on the experiences of the common soldiers and those actually at the front line, rather than the upper ranks. It highlights the utter futility of the episode. At the start of the book, in 1915, a senior officer suggests falling back to a set of positions that were better sited. His idea was dismissed and he forced to resign for making the suggestion. The forces were pushed forward into attack to gain the higher ground ahead of them. After 2 years of horendous casualties, they had advanced about 5 miles. At the end of the book, in 1918, the line was pulled back to almost exactly the positions suggested in 1915. There were sucesses, the mines to capture the ridge at Messines were (until recently) to largest explosions ever, but the sucesses were outweighed by the immense difficulty in holding the ground captured. One wood seems to have changed hands multiple times, each time the men had to advance over the broken ground and dead bodies of the previous attacks. It is sad now to consider that (most probably) all of the contributors to this book have died, there is no one left who was there. This book is all that is left of their collective reccolections. It isn't necessarily an enjoyable read; but it was well composed, full of sparks of light in the all pervading gloom and engrossing.