Images of War: Great Push, the Battle of the Somme 1916, William Langford

Images of War: Great Push, the Battle of the Somme 1916, William Langford

The Great Push was a pictorial magazine that was published in Britain from July to November 1916 and that covered events on the Somme. It began at a time when many people expected the attack on the Somme to end the war, or at least result in a major breakthrough, but ended as the offensive faded away in wintery weather having failed to live up to expectations. The magazine was illustrated with 700 official photographs and film stills and so is an invaluable visual record of the battle of the Somme. 

Even in these officially approved photographs there is no hiding the ghastly nature of the fighting. The Somme battlefield is portrayed as a blasted wilderness, a mix of mud, destroyed buildings, the battered remnants of trees, shell holes and more mud. The official photographers were a bit more squeamish when it came to the human cost of the fighting (hardly surprisingly). There are some pictures of German dead, but not Allied, while the wounded are normally walking wounded. There are pictures showing graves, but the biggest hint of the high level of British casualties are the pictures showing a collection of the large backpacks of dead soldiers ready to be sorted.

This is an excellent collection of photographs of the battle of the Somme, with short but useful captions. Some are familiar, but many are new to me and cover aspects of the battle that are often ignored - the huge amounts of horses and mules involved being one example.

1 - Preparation and Great Expectations
2 - Over The Top
3 - Some Success - Mostly Failure
4 - Some Small Pushes
5 - Somme Winter

Author: William Langford
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 240
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012

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