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THE FACE OF BATTLE by John Keegan Kirkus Star


A Study Of Agincourt, Waterloo, And The Somme

by John Keegan

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
ISBN: 0140048979
Publisher: Viking

Sixty years ago, Pound argued for a scholarship of the telling fact; he would have to commend this splendid history, in which John Keegan gives us the spectacle of battle with such luminous and precise detail that not only battle's gruesome distress for the common soldier, but also the circumjacent conditions of battles fought and won, become vividly clear. The specific British victories Keegan examines are three, and take place over a period of 500 years and a geographical range of 100 miles: the battle of Agincourt, where Henry V fought by the side of his 6,000 archers and cavalrymen, each in sixty pounds of armor, man-to-man; Waterloo, where Wellington rode all day behind the cannons to stay near the heaviest fighting; and the Somme in 1916, where the British lost thousands of men in the first minutes of battle, and where only the junior officers saw action. Keegan suggests that operations on the Somme set some limit to what men could stand on the battlefield; his thesis—and he draws imaginatively from official histories, military records, soldiers' reminiscences, and the British literature of war to demonstrate it—is that when the gulf between social life and battlefield existence has become too gaping, the fighting soldier may refuse to fight, and battles may become impossible to win. This is a book unusual in its research and intelligence, to be read by everyone—and not least our military leadership.