Passchendaele Book Cover Passchendaele
Robin Prior, Trevor Wilson,

The carnage on the Western Front at Passchendaele, where 275,000 Allied and 200,000 German soldiers fell, was neither inevitable nor inescapable, the authors of this gripping book insist. Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson here offer the most complete account of the campaign ever published, establishing what actually occurred, what options were available, and who was responsible for the devastation."The clearest and most balanced picture yet of a battle whose very name evokes the horror and supposed futility of World War I". -- John Grigg, The Spectator, "Book of the Year""The authors should be commended for writing a balanced, convincing work that reveals the devastation of the First World War and the failure of military and political leaders to recognize this horror". -- Virginia Quarterly Review"This book will appeal to both the scholar and the general public and belongs in every World War I collection". -- Agnes F. Peterson, History"Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson have written an excellent, carefully researched, and dispassionate history of the Passchendaele campaign.... It must now become the standard scholarly work on the grim battle of Passchendaele, integrating as it does, both politics and war". -- Tim Travers, Journal of Military History"The authors excel in their thorough use of original sources to provide a masterly account ... clearly related and supported by admirable maps". -- Brian Bond, Times Literary Supplement"Well-represented, lu

This book gave me an insight to the warfare around Ypres and especially for Polygon Wood, where a Great Uncle fought. Much was said and unsaid about this uncle and of the suffering of returned soldiers. While the book presents facts and historical information, it was written 80 years after the events and that perspective provided me with a sense of the meaning (or really not) of the warfare, the political systems of the time. It made me wonder how these people could possibly risk their lives to achieve – nothing.

Read it if you dare.

The chapter on Polygon Wood (Page 125) gives an idea of what my Great Uncle went through.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Seven Pillars of Wisdom Book Cover Seven Pillars of Wisdom
T.E. Lawrence
Biography & Autobiography
Penguin UK

Although 'continually and bitterly ashamed' that the Arabs had risen in revolt against the Turks as a result of fraudulent British promises of self-rule, Lawrence led them in a triumphant campaign which revolutionized the art of war. Seven Pillars of Wisdom recreates epic events with extraordinary vividness. In the words of E. M. Forster, 'Round this tent-pole of a military chronicle, T. E. has hung an unexampled fabric of portraits, descriptions, philosophies, emotions, adventures, dreams'. However flawed, Lawrence is one of the twentieth century's most fascinating figures. This is the greatest monument to his character and achievements.

I decided to read this book after viewing the “extras” on the remastered 70th anniversary edition of Lawrence of Arabia. It is a film I saw in the mid 60s and I remember clearly the quicksand scenes and blowing up of trains from my youth. The background to the film suggested a story richer than the film and so I ordered it from Paperchain in Manuka. Over the past two months I have read the book slowly, a chapter or so at a time. It is that kind of book. It makes you think. It leads you to do some research to fill the gaps in your knowledge that you suddenly realise should not be there.

I have really enjoyed the book. It is of the time and its casual racism and British Dominion language serves as a reminder of how thinking changes over time. The book goes a long way to explaining why we have the problems that we now see in the Middle East. 100 years and two World Wars (plus a half dozen localised ones at least) later the world has still not managed to overcome the consequences of colonial power broking and oppression dating from the Crusades and Ottoman Empire in the Levant.

The writing is heroic. It is also very British. If you did not know it was near as reasonable to fact then you would think it was a great adventure story. I have been appalled and amazed by the events described. I have felt resonance in the analysis of the region put forward in the book.

So many what-ifs are presented in the book (albeit often from the perspective of hindsight) that make you think of what might have been and how much suffering the world might have been able to avoid. Then, on reflection, I am reminded that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.