The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers' own Words and Photographs

Richard Van Emden

Date Published :
May 2016
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
No associated books available.


The offensive on the Somme took place between July and November 1916 and is perhaps the most iconic battle of the Great War. It was there that Kitchener’s famous ‘Pals’ Battalions were first sent into action en masse and it was a battlefield where many of the dreams and aspirations of a nation, hopeful of victory, were agonizingly dashed.

Because of its legendary status, the Somme has been the subject of many books, and many more will come out next year. However, nothing has ever been published on the Battle in which the soldiers’ own photographs have been used to illustrate both the campaign’s extraordinary comradeship and its carnage.

About The Author

Richard van Emden interviewed 270 veterans of the Great War, has written extensively about the soldiers' lives, and has worked on many television documentaries, always concentrating on the human aspects of war, its challenge and its cost to the millions of men involved. Richard van Emden’s books have sold over 660,000 copies and have appeared in The Times’ bestseller chart on a number of occasions.

He has also worked on more than a dozen television programmes on the Great War, including the award-winning Roses of No Man’s Land, Britain’s Boy Soldiers, A Poem for Harry, War Horse: the Real Story, Teenage Tommies with Fergal Keane and most recently, Hidden Histories: WW1’s Forgotten Photographs. He lives in London.


"As featured in ''Conspiracy' to lure underage boys to war.'"

- The Sunday Times

"Soldiers in the British Army risked severe discipline for taking photographs on the battlefield. This illustrated book for researchers, history buffs, and students offers a detailed impression of the fight for the River Somme in WWI, which was one of the most brutal fronts of the war, through the lenses of ordinary British soldiers with their own contraband cameras. The sepia photos (170 total) are accompanied by excerpts from soldiers’ diaries, letters, and memoirs. The first-person recollections are separated by brief introductions and woven into an accessible chronological narrative. The book’s introduction contains historical background on the war, plus information on the men’s cameras and uses of the photos, which were often sold to journalists or sent to families of the dead and wounded. Through the photos and first-person accounts, the book chronicles events over a period of 20 months, from the year before the offensive began, through the four-month battle, and the four months after the battle. Author Richard van Emden has written 17 books on WWI history"

- ProtoView

“This is a wonderful book, filled with new or rarely-before-seen sepia-tinted photos, many from the soldiers’ own private collections.”

- World War One Illustrated, Summer 2018

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