Understanding the Somme 1916

An Illuminating Battlefield Guide

Steven Heys, Thomas Scotland

Date Published :
October 2014
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
160 color and b/w photos, maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781909384422
Pages : 240
Dimensions : 8.5 X 5.75 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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This is a guidebook with a difference. It is not a list of memorials and cemeteries. Its aim is to provide the reader with an understanding of the Battle of the Somme. There were some partial successes; there were many disastrous failures. In 17 concise chapters dealing with different areas of the battlefield and various aspects of strategy, this book explains what happened in each location and why.

Each chapter is accompanied by color photographs, taken by the authors in the course of many visits to the Somme, which will illustrate, illuminate and allow the reader to understand important points made in the text. It doesn`t matter whether you are in your armchair, on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car, this book will effortlessly transport you to the battlefield and will sweep you round the front line of 1 July 1916.

From Montauban in the south, to Serre in the north, it will lead you to the night attack of 14 July and to the first use of tanks on 15 September. It will take you to the Pozières Ridge and to Mouquet Farm, and to the heights above the Ancre. You will visit the famous Sunken Lane near Beaumont Hamel, where the text will transport you in time to stand with men from the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers waiting to go over the top on 1 July 1916. You will look towards Hawthorn Mine Crater and almost feel the earth tremble beneath your feet as though you were there at 07.20 hrs. on 1 July 1916. You will go into Beaumont Hamel with the 51st (Highland) Division and climb up Wagon Road. You will look across to where Frankfurt Trench once was, and where men from the 16th Highland Light Infantry from Glasgow fought a last ditch battle, having become marooned in the trench, in what was the last action to take place before the Somme finally petered out in the mud in late November 1916.

With its focus on informing and illuminating the events of 1916 on the Somme, and illustrated throughout by carefully annotated color photographs showing the sites today, this book will prove equally essential to the battlefield visitor or the 'virtual visitor' in their armchair.

About The Author

Steven D Heys was born in Accrington in Lancashire and educated in England, Australia and Scotland. He graduated in Medicine from the University of Aberdeen in 1981 and undertook surgical training in the North-East of Scotland. He is a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in England, Edinburgh and Glasgow and underwent research training at the Rowet Research Institute in Aberdeen, obtaining a PhD in 1992. He specialised in general and breast cancer surgery for many years before latterly concentrating on breast cancer surgery together with his research interests in the role of nutrition in the causation of cancer, and has responsibilities for medical education both locally and nationally. He has published more than 200 scientific papers and written many book chapters on different aspects of surgery and played many national and international roles in surgery and the provision of surgical services. His interest in the Great War was sparked by the stories of the Accrington Pals and the Lancashire Fusiliers; by his time as a member of the RAMC (V), serving for six years in the 51st Highland Brigade; and by Tom Scotland’s famous cycling tours around the Western Front where he has the dual role of bicycle mechanic, and because he is a keen bagpipe player, has been appointed as Piper to the tours! He is also co-author of the two books War Surgery 1914-1918, and Understanding the Somme 1916.

Tom Scotland was born in St. Andrews and brought up in the East Neuk of Fife, and was educated at Waid Academy in Anstruther. He graduated in Medicine from the University of Edinburgh 1971, becoming a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1975. He developed his interest in the Great War whilst a student, when there were still many veterans alive. He trained in orthopaedic surgery in Aberdeen, and after spending a year as a fellow in the University of Toronto, returned to take up the position of Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon with Grampian Health Board and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen. His particular interests were knee surgery, paediatric orthopaedics and tumour surgery, and for three years was lead clinician for the Scottish Sarcoma Managed Clinical network. Over the years he has been a frequent visitor to the Western Front, and has found cycling the best way to visit different places. He has explored many areas of the Western Front with family and friends and since retiring from the National Health Service in 2007 has kept in touch with former colleagues by leading cycling expeditions to the Western Front. He has pursued his interest in the Great War by making a particular study of Aberdeen surgeon, Sir Henry Gray, who played a pivotal role in the development of surgery on the Western Front, and has given various lectures on the development of surgical services during the Great War. In retirement he has completely re-invented himself as a cycling orthopaedic historian. He is also co-author of the two books War Surgery 1914-1918, and Understanding the Somme 1916.


"Well worth reading in itself, but a real boon if you are planning to visit the battlefield yourself."

- Military Modelling

“ … a useful addition to our understanding of the Somme battlefields …”

- Paul Reed, ww1centenary.net

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