Sunday, 2 November 2008

Forgotten Voices of the Somme

Many years ago, the Imperial War Museum recorded on audio tape the memories of many veterans from the First World War. I remember in 1995 that one of my first jobs as a researcher for BBC Bristol was to listen to some of these for a development for a possible TV series based on a book by Richard Holmes (Riding the Retreat), and was both horrified and enthralled by what I heard. One account in particular stood out, concerning a German soldier talking about how he wished the Kaiser would be deposed, as the whole of Berlin was starving and on its knees. Powerful stuff.

For the last few years, a series of books placing transcriptions from these recordings together into a single narrative has been released, and I have just read the latest venture - Forgotten Voices of the Somme, compiled by Joshua Levine, with a foreword from Richard Holmes (Ebury Press 2008, ISBN978-0-09-192627-4). If you wish to hear about the absolute futility of war, then you can do so from those who were there at the greatest British tragedy of them all.

Also, just to flag up that the WW1 records of are now available for free, and will continue to be so for the whole of this month, and if you have not seen it, keep an eye out for the Timewatch programme on the last day of the war, with Michael Palin, which was on last night but which can still be viewed on the BBC iPlayer - see .

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