From Paul Ham, winner of the NSW Premier's Prize for Australian History, comes the story of ordinary men in the grip of a political and military power struggle that determined their fate and has foreshadowed the destiny of the world for a century.
Passchendaele epitomises everything that was most terrible about the Western Front. The photographs never sleep of this four-month battle, fought from July to November 1917, the worst year of the war: blackened tree stumps rising out of a field of mud, corpses of men and horses drowned in shell holes, terrified soldiers huddled in trenches awaiting the whistle.
The intervening century, the most violent in human history, has not disarmed these pictures of their power to shock. At the very least they ask us, on the 100th anniversary of the battle, to see and to try to understand what happened here. Yes, we commemorate the event. Yes, we adorn our breasts with poppies. But have we seen? Have we understood? Have we dared to reason why? What happened at Passchendaele was the expression of the 'wearing-down war', the war of pure attrition at its most spectacular and ferocious.
Paul Ham's Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth shows how ordinary men on both sides endured this constant state of siege, with a very real awareness that they were being gradually, deliberately, wiped out. Yet the men never broke: they went over the top, when ordered, again and again and again. And if they fell dead or wounded, they were casualties in the 'normal wastage', as the commanders described them, of attritional war. Only the soldier's friends at the front knew him as a man, with thoughts and feelings. His family back home knew him as a son, husband or brother, before he had enlisted. By the end of 1917 he was a different creature: his experiences on the Western Front were simply beyond their powers of comprehension.
The audiobook tells the story of ordinary men in the grip of a political and military power struggle that determined their fate and has foreshadowed the destiny of the world for a century. Passchendaele lays down a powerful challenge to the idea of war as an inevitable expression of the human will, and examines the culpability of governments and military commanders in a catastrophe that destroyed the best part of a generation.
©2016 Paul Ham, Produced by arrangement with Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd (P)2016 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Provocative and challenging.... A voice that is both vigorous and passionate." (The Times)
retired litigation lawyer; I read history; historical fiction; literary fiction. Narrator ++ important. Story equally so
Like many I am sure, I have read + listened to a lot of World War ! and World War 2 books. Not sure why I chose this book ( somewhat on impulse) as, of late, I have "moved" out of these two eras in search of other histories - Napoleon, Rome, American Civil War etc. But I ended up being enthralled ( engaged) with "Passchendaele". Mr Ham is an excellent story teller, both about the leaders ( Lloyd -George, Haig) and the war as experienced by "ordinary soldiers". His writing is clear, precise, opinionated ( in a good way) and ( at times) moving.
As a Canadian, I am embarrassed to say I knew little about Passchendaele ( this, along with Vimy Ridge, is considered a battle in which the Canadians stood out ( and stood apart from the British for a change) and Mr Ham does a good job in outlining their role. Although notionally told from an "Aussie" viewpoint, "Passchendaele" is really about this one senseless battle in the context of the whole war ( the latter which he explains in background as we proceed)
Mr Meldrums narration added to my enjoyment.
An excellent book
WHOM TO BLAME?
PAUL HAM FFORTLESSLY MOVES AMONG THE FRONT LINE SOLDIERS, (BOTH SIDES) GENERAL HAIG, PRIME MINISTER DAVID LLOYD GEORGE AND THE OMNIPRESENT ENEMY, THE GERMANS.
SAME GREAT QUALITY AND TONE, IT'S LIKE WATCHING A VERY SAD AND TRAGIC MOVIE.
GRIEF AT THE TERRIBLE SWAMP OF PAIN AND DEATH AND MUD AND GAS AND GORE OVER SUCH A TENDER, EMOTIONAL NAME, PASSCHENDALELE.
BLAME. WHOM TO BLAME? CONFRONTED BY TWO ENORMOUS EVENTS, PASSCHENDAELE AND THE ENGLISH BLOCKAGE OF GERMANY, PAUL HAM EVEN HANDEDLY IS ABLE TO EXPLORE THE MORAL UNIVERSE OF BATTLE. IT'S GENERAL HAIG VS DAVID LLOYD GEORGE. PRIME MINISTER DAVID LLOYD GEORGE IS RIGHT .THE SOMME AND PASSCHENDAELE ARE AN UNMITIGAGED DISASTER BY AN INCOMPETENT MORALLY BLIND DONKEY: GENERAL HAIG. GENERAL HAIG .IS RIGHT.:ATTRITION,THE SENSELESS LOSS OF THOUSANDS OF YOUNG ENGLISH, AUSTRALIAN, CANADIAN, AND NEW ZEALAND SOLDIERS WILL WIN THE WORLD WAR 1. HAIG WINS WORLD WAR 1. THESE LIVES ARE MORALLY VINDICATED BY GENERAL HAIG'S ENGLISH VICTORY. THEY DID NOT DIE FOR
NOTHING. THEIR BEAUTIFUL GREEN LOVELY ISLAND, THIS HOME, ENGLAND WITH THEIR SISTERS, BROTHERS, AND MOMS AND DADS WAS SAVED.
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