Book review: Sepoys in the Trenches

Sepoys in the Trenches looks at the role played by the Indian Corps on the Western Front in 1914 and 1915 before their withdrawal from that theatre. The battles they were involved in (and the role they played in these battles) is explained. It also shows the difficulties faced, especially in replacing losses of men and officers.

The role of the Indian Corps on the Western Front is often overlooked; in fact, I’m struggling to think of another account that makes much, if any, mention of them. This book certainly taught me new things and is a fresh perspective on the Western Front battles at the start of the war.

Rating (out of 5): ****

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Book review: World War One: History in an Hour

As the title suggests, World War One: History in an Hour is a whistle-stop tour through World War One. The book offers a brief overview of important events and contains a section introducing key figures. This could certainly act an an excellent introduction to the whole conflict, but if you already know anything about World War I, it will not teach you anything new.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Three Before Breakfast

Three Before Breakfast looks at the the sinking of three British cruisers by U9 at the start of World War I. Events before, during and after are looked at, with all three cruisers and the submarine involved being introduced along with personnel on each of the vessels. The actual sinking of each cruiser is looked at from that cruiser’s perspective. The aftermath focuses on political reaction in Britain and the subsequent inquiry, whilst the welcome received by the German submariners is also written about. A detailed account about an action early in the war.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Soldier True

Soldier True is the autobiography of Sir William Robertson, who rose to become C.I.G.S (Chief of the Imperial General Staff) during World War I. The book briefly looks at his early life and rising through the ranks, but the majority of the book is focused on World War I and Robertson’s role during it.

Books about World War I tend to focus on specific battles or the conflict as a whole, so this book was very different, with the war being a background to the struggles that Robertson faced liaising between the army and the politicians and how he had to manage both, taking political pressure off of Haig, whilst giving military advice to politicians. Much is written about Lloyd George and his distrust of the army and opposition to their Western Front plans, which eventually resulted in Robertson’s dismissal nine months before the end of the war.

The differences and distrust between the army and politicians was something I knew little about, so this was certainly an interesting read; I would certainly like to read something from the other perspective with regards to the differences between the two.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Ring of Steel

Ring of Steel looks at Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War One. The book primarily focuses on the home fronts and domestic politics as opposed to the Eastern and Western Fronts, although these are looked at along with the U-Boat campaign. The book is very detailed, especially with the decision to go to war. It looks at how badly affected the populations of the Central Powers were, especially the reduction in calories. As well as the populations, it examines how Austria-Hungary fragmented along ethnic group lines and its increasing dependence on Germany and how it was very much the junior partner. An excellent book that is even better due to the fact that it examines the war from a perspective that is very rarely looked at.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Book review: The First World War Remembered

The First World War Remembered looks over the key events and battles of World War I, starting with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and concluding with the aftermath and the impact it had on the world post-conflict. Key battles and campaigns are looked at, along with other aspects of the war such as the Home Front. With the whole conflict being looked at, it is very much a whistlestop tour, but there is plenty of information contained within each section; there are also sideboxes profiling key men involved. An excellent overview of the war and one I would strongly recommend.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Book Review: The Dust That Falls From Dreams

The Dust That Falls From Dreams is the latest novel by Louis de Bernieres and is set in the early 20th Century. Much of the book is based around World War I and focuses on the McCosh family.

As with many books by de Bernieres, more than one character has their story being told. The character who probably has their story told the most is Rosie McCosh, the eldest daughter. Her fiance is killed during the war and she struggles to come to terms with this, but finds some solace in nursing because it keeps her busy and she eventually ends up marrying Daniel, who she knew when they were children and was a friend of Ash (her fiance). The rest of the family, their servants and Ash and Daniel have aspects of their life story told; Ash and Daniel in detail at times. There are cameos from other characters in their lives.

Another typical feature of books by de Bernieres is also evident with the rich, descriptive language used in telling the story. It is easy to visualise what de Bernieres is writing about with such powerful and evocative language; every word seems to have been purposefully chosen for maximum effect and ensure an excellent book.

Rating (out of 5): *****