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Head of Zeus
Elegy: The First Day on the Somme by Andrew Roberts

On 1 July 1916, after a five-day bombardment, 11 British and 5 French divisions launched their long-awaited 'Big Push' on German positions on high ground above the Rivers Ancre and Somme on the Western Front. Some ground was gained, but at a terrible cost. In killing-grounds whose names are indelibly imprinted on 20th-century memory, German machine-guns – manned by troops who had sat out the storm of shellfire in deep dugouts – inflicted terrible losses on the British infantry.

The British Fourth Army lost 57,470 casualties, the French Sixth Army suffered 1,590 casualties and the German 2nd Army 10,000. And this was but the prelude to 141 days of slaughter that would witness the deaths of between 750,000 and 1 million troops.

Andrew Roberts evokes the pity and the horror of the blackest day in the history of the British army – a summer's day-turned-hell-on-earth by modern military technology – in the words of casualties, survivors, and the bereaved.

Head of Zeus * Military History
10 Sep 2015 * 320pp * £6.99 * 9781784080006
'Always highly readable, gives a succinct and cohesive overview of the day, and is hearteningly even-handed'
'Let's be honest about Somme historiography; it either comes drenched in pitying tears or in posturing outrage, but both occlude. Roberts has played it straight with a clean and lucid overview so that one can actually see and understand what happened on that day'
The Times
'The book's opening chapters on the strategy and tactics of the battle provide an excellent, succinct summary of the constraints within which it was planned. Roberts rightly stresses the subordination of British planning to that of the French, and sensibly eschews the British desire to say it was undertaken to save their allies at Verdun'
Evening Standard
'The shattering story of the blackest day in the history of the British Army, the first day of the Somme Offensive, through the words of casualties, survivors, and the bereaved'
Military History Monthly
'A well-written, clear, moving introduction to the slaughter on the Somme and its place in wider conflict'
Sunday Times
'Blending deep scholarly skill with a real literary talent'
Dan Jones, Evening Standard
'By dealing with just the first day of the battle, its strategic background, tactical thinking and significance, he has produced a most digestible narrative commentary'
Country Life
'Roberts's vividly written, crisply authoritative account of the first day of the battle is full of details that stick stubbornly in the mind'
Daily Mail
'The best thing about this excellent book is the depth of its detail. Once the battle proper starts, Roberts describes the fighting almost regiment by regiment'
Literary Review
'A short, elegantly written and above all accessible book, solidly based on recent scholarship augmented by primary research ... this is a welcome, and often very moving, contribution to the debate on a battle that, a hundred years on, remains deeply controversial'
'Roberts explains, with great judgement, why it happened and how it happened ... He helps us to remember'
i newspaper
'Roberts's succinct treatment is confined to the battle's first day ... Tragedy, not melodrama, is Roberts' commemorative homage to the bravery of hundreds of thousands who did their duty, fought, died, or were maimed'
The New Criterion
'A very objective book and Roberts does not get bogged down in blame as many books about the Somme do ... [He] evokes the horror of 1st July 1916 by deftly balancing the facts with personal accounts and experiences'
Eleanor Baggley, Centenary News
'[A] limpid, sober account both of the battle and of the personalities involved in its conduct'
The Tablet
'Highly emotive reading'
History of War
Andrew Roberts
Andrew Roberts
Andrew Roberts is one of Britain's most admired historians.
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