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The Battle of the Somme, fought between July and November 1916, was among the bloodiest conflicts of all time. The aim was to end the stalemate on the Western Front – the result was carnage. In a total of just over a hundred days of fighting, the death toll reached 310,459. Half the bodies were never recovered. At the close of the battle, the British and French forces had not even reached the line they set themselves for the first day. Yet, despite its horrific destruction, the fighting at the Somme was characterised by incredible individual bravery.

In commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the battle, Martin Gilbert, one of Britain’s most distinguished historians, graphically recreates the tragedy. He interweaves individual stories, wartime documents, letters and poetry in a deeply moving, succinct narrative.

From gripping descriptions of struggles on the battlefield to poignant evocations of the memorials and cemeteries that stand there today, this is a definitive guide to the Somme. It is a story of unparalleled folly and heroism, from which, as it unfolds, there emerge deep implications that are shared by all wars.


'A brilliant evocation of the battle'
The Times
'[A] characteristically workmanlike book.'
Daily Telegraph
BBC History magazine
'Tireless ... a day-by-day account of the fight, triumph and tragedy hand in hand'
'A superb book that works not only as history but as a guide for visitors to the battlefield today. Amongst the slew of new titles we can expect commemorating the battle, this stands unrivalled'
Good Book Guide
'Admirably comprehensive'
Literary Review
Praise for Martin Gilbert:
'In his transmission of the horror of the war, Martin Gilbert has achieved something probably no historian but he could'
John Keegan, The Sunday Times
'A masterly panorama ... Gilbert never forgets - and never allows his readers to forget - that the "embattled armies" were composed of millions of individuals, that it is the human experience and the human cost that matters'
Lyn MacDonald, Sunday Times
'An immensely readable epitome of one of the most complex events in history'
Paul Johnson, Evening Standard
'Lucid, comprehensive and authoritative'
Philip Zeigler, Daily Telegraph
'Martin Gilbert is an exceptionally gifted historian with the zest to ferret out all kinds of source materials and the skill to analyse and to interpret them cogently and convincingly'
Asa Briggs, Guardian