A unique collection of historic recordings covering events from the last days of peace to the Christmas truce, 1914.
At midnight on 4 August, Britain had declared war on Germany. The pacifist Bertrand Russell was shocked by the pro-war euphoria on the streets, yet young men enlisted willingly because "it would all be over by Christmas". It was not. Instead the opposing armies had become entrenched. It was the beginning of a long and bitter stalemate.
In this new audio compilation, troops of the British Expeditionary Force vividly recall the exhausting retreat from Mons, the success at the Marne, and the first battle of Ypres, where the Territorials arrived in bright red London buses. For reconnaissance pilots, the battlefield was defined by blazing villages, and fields alive with German troops. Among the items which powerfully capture the mood of the time are an eyewitness account of the Kaiser’s reaction to the news from Sarajevo on 28 June; Margot Asquith, wife of the Prime Minister, remembering their despair at the inevitability of war; and the poignant reminiscences of civilians and soldiers.
This is the first of the BBC's archive of WW1 interviews: Audible offers the next one (1915) as well, but at the time of this writing offers no other years. 1914's first third is a little slow due to exposition but after a while gains momentum. Many speakers were recorded during the 50th anniversary of the war in the 1960s. You can hear a crowd of chatterers in the background in some of them, as if at a reunion. Interviewees are not shaky-voiced, senile centenarians but 60 or 70 years old. Speakers include "Old Contemptibles" from the Mons retreat, British and Germans who participated in the Christmas fraternization, and veterans from the First Battle of Ypres (there were three battles). Although the next audiobook of 1915 is better, this one is nonetheless worth the money and time to hear voices of persons who were actual participants to history. Just give it a little time to get started.
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