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Leading First World War historian Richard van Emden shows the War in shocking and moving close-up from August 1914 to November 1918, drawing on never-before-seen private photographs and soldiers' first-hand accounts
Richard van Emden has interviewed more than 270 veterans of the Great War and has written fifteen books on the subject including The Trench and The Last Fighting Tommy, both of which were top ten bestsellers. He has also worked on more than a dozen television programmes on the First World War, including Prisoners of the Kaiser, Veterans, Britain's Last Tommies, the award-winning Roses of No Man's Land, Britain's Boy Soldiers, A Poem for Harry, War Horse: The Real Story and most recently, Teenage Tommies with Fergal Keane. He lives in London.
There are extracts from journals and letters: `Remember little Belgium! It's impossible to forget it when you've got half of it clinging to your boots and the other half splashed all over your uniform,' one lieutenant notes, dryly. There are also some astonishing photos taken on Vest Pocket Kodaks, the smartphones of their day. One blurred snapshot shows the famous Christmas truce of 1914 * Daily Mail Books of the Year * Riveting ... Though sometimes ill-composed and out of focus, these amateur photos offer an extraordinarily fresh account of the conflict. Instead of stiff, set-up scenes, we see what daily life was really like for soldiers ... Pictures like these offer an intimate understanding of the means by which, even in the face of abject horror, these bright, sometimes bashful young faces found the will to survive * Daily Telegraph * Richard van Emden, who has become almost a posthumous advocate for the poor bloody infantry ... draws on the vast quantity of written and photographic material available on the Great War ... It was, after all, the first conflict to be photographed to any great extent by the participants, and Kodak avidly marketed battlefield-ready cameras the iPhones of the day. As ever, Emden makes the most of these original statements and images * Independent * Thanks to the VPK, the Great War was captured on film for families at home and illustrated in newspapers and magazines. From this photographic archive, and from the letters and diaries of men at the front, van Emden has compiled their own testimony, quite different from the official propaganda and historical material. The earthy humor and human horror of the casual images of men at war are still, 100 years later, intimate and immediate * Saga *