In the words of Monty Python…..
On Twitter I follow a number of people who post about military history and one of them I stumbled across is Scott Addington. Scott (@military_search on Twitter) is the author of a book called World War One: A Layman’ s Guide and he recently asked in a tweet if any Book reviewers & bloggers would consider reviewing his book. This seemed a great opportunity to do something different with a blog post for my blog so here goes.
Scott describes deciding to write his book in order to provide a historical guide of World War One that is written for people who want to know a little bit more about this pivotal moment in European & World History but don’t want to wade through pages and pages of detail and have to re-read the last five pages every time they pick up the book to remind themselves where they are. This book is intended to be “more like a chat down the pub than a heavy historical text” and in that aim Scott succeeds and the book is a great read because of it.
The book is broken down into 53 Chapters each on average just 2-3 pages long which provides a basis for further reading if you want or just to give you an understanding of key events. The book starts by describing the Schlieffen Plan, the German plan to deal with France before Russia could come to France’s aid in line with the various Treaties & agreements between European countries that existed in Europe prior to World War One. As Scott goes on to describe Germany’s plan was doomed to fail in the maelstrom following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.
I enjoy History and know a little bit about World War One but there was plenty in this book for me and Scott’s engaging writing style makes it a pleasure to read and learn more, particularly about the Eastern Front and the battles between Germany and the Russians which I knew nothing about and the Battle of Jutland. The chapter that I enjoyed the most referred to the fighting at Fromelles, purely because of my personal experience of cycling through this area during the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride in 2010 and seeing the newest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery being constructed at Fromelles and gaining a better insight into what happened and the senseless loss of life in this area with 5533 Australians & 1547 British soldiers killed, wounded or taken prisoner in a little over 24 hrs.
The way Scott cites the references in his book also fits the casual style of the book, pointing readers to certain specific texts in relation to particular battles & campaigns but also offering links to a range of websites from organisations such as the Imperial War Museum and those created & maintained by private individuals.
My 12 year old son has also read The Layman’s Guide and said he enjoyed the way it was written, commenting in particular on the “totting up” at the end of most chapters of the casualties sustained in the battle or campaign described in that chapter. This is a good little book for adults but also I think for schools and would be a great way to teach 10+ year olds about the period. I’m sure it would spark many of them to want to learn more and would give them an appreciation of why most towns & villages in this country have a cross or similar memorial with the names of the men from that place who died in the “Great” War.
The only slight disappointment for me was the lack of illustrations & maps, the copyright issues which caused this is something that hopefully Scott can address in a revised edition. There are loads of books & websites out there about the First World War and with the 100th anniversary coming up next year there will be loads more published I’m sure, but if you read nothing else, read this book, it will give you an insight into period and allow you to hold your own in any conversation about the War over the next few years. Who knows it might even inspire you to jump on a bike and cycle through the area where some of these battles were fought?
The book is published as an e-book and costs £1.53 on Kindle from Amazon (other e-readers are available!) but Scott has very kindly sent me one of an extremely limited print run (just 50 copies) which despite being very keen to hang on to I am with Scott’s approval going to offer as a prize for a little competition. To win one of the very exclusive paperback copies of the book all you have to do is post a comment on my blog telling me “I need World War One: A Layman’s guide because….”. The best entry(in my opinion) posted before midnight UK time on Monday 3rd June 2013, the day after I get back from the Help for Heroes Hero Ride will win the book. I’ll post the book to the winner, all I do ask is that the winner donates the cost of the postage to my Help for Heroes fundraising.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments & competition entries.