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Rediscovered after 80 years gathering dust on a family bookshelf and first brought to public attention on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, A VERY UNIMPORTANT OFFICER is a detailed and intimate account of the experience of Captain Stewart, an ordinary officer in the front line in France and Flanders throughout 1916 and 1917. Recruited to The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in 1Rediscovered after 80 years gathering dust on a family bookshelf and first brought to public attention on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, A VERY UNIMPORTANT OFFICER is a detailed and intimate account of the experience of Captain Stewart, an ordinary officer in the front line in France and Flanders throughout 1916 and 1917. Recruited to The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in 1915 at the age of 33, Captain Stewart went 'over the top' many times, outliving 'so many better men', as he says with typical humility. Through his vivid testimony we learn of the mud ('more like thick slime'), the flies and the difficulties of suffering dysentry while on horseback. In one memorable passage he describes engaging the enemy while smoking a pipe - an episode for which he was awarded the Military Cross. Yet through the chaos and horror of the trenches, Captain Stewart reflects with compassion on the fears and immense courage of the men under his command. Newly edited by his grandson, Cameron Stewart, A VERY UNIMPORTANT OFFICER gives us a fascinating insight into the horrors and absurdities of trench life....

Title : A Very Unimportant Officer: Life And Death On The Somme And At Passchendaele
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780340977125
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 594 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Very Unimportant Officer: Life And Death On The Somme And At Passchendaele Reviews

  • Leo Passaportis
    2018-11-19 15:09

    I probably would not have read this book had it not been handed to me by a relative to mine to whom the author (effectively, commentator) was a cousin of some sort. That said I am not in any way a blood relation of the Stewart family and my opinion is objective.The commentary provided by the grandson, Cameron, as a preface to the transcribed WWI diary of his grandfather (the unimportant officer referred to), is enough to give an overview and decent lead-in to the entries that make up the bulk of the book. It is the entries by the officer himself that make the book. So what came through for me? Firstly, that life and death in the trenches in WWI was mostly a matter of luck. Shelling was remorseless and unpredictable. Furthermore, many of the entries suggested that high command was not always aware of the reality of the situation on the ground and some of the offensives did not sit well with Corporal (?) Stewart. Secondly, the importance of the rum ration! Despite, or more probably because of, the horrors Cpl Stewart describes (rats, mud, corpses, bombs), the rum ration was more than a routine allowance, it was a mainstay of the troops. The provision of it soothed nerves and provided one of the few comforts the soldiers could enjoy in alternately dull and hellish conditions. So when there was talk of it being rescinded by some general or other sitting comfortably far from the front, Cpl Stewart's anger bubbles over in his accounts of what is otherwise a surprisingly prosaic account of daily life in her majesty's army. At the risk of sounding callous I even found it slightly amusing how wrought-up the man would become in this regard. On deeper reflection it speaks much of what life boiled down to when confronted with the realities of life in such dire circumstances.It's not the sort of book you 'love' hence my middle-of-the-road rating. All the same it makes for fascinating reading. Cameron Stewart's commentary at the end of the book is insightful and well-researched and goes some way to explaining the context in which his grandfather would have written his diary accounts i.e. society, expectations and generational worldview.I couldn't write this review without giving my appraisal of Cpl Stewart, being that he was a very brave man without doubt. He came very close to death on more than one occasion but did not dwell on the incidents at any length. The things he saw in those dark times must have remained with him to the end of his days.

  • Mark
    2018-10-21 17:28

    This book presents interesting look into the world of British officer serving in the infantry during World War I. The editor, the officers grandson, begins each major section with a description of the events in the war from a broad perspective in order to give the reader the bigger picture of the events the author is describing from the small unit level. The author builds upon his story from short diary notations he made during the war. He expands upon these short notes to provide his thoughts on life in the trenches, friendships, and battles. His descriptions of battling flies, lice, rats, mud, artillery bombardment and the stench of the battle field makes one appreciate the resilience and resolve of those who serviced in this war. At times the narrative is striking, detailing on how he took a four day leave prior to an operation instead of a promised two week leave after the operation because he knew the operation was doomed to fail and he might not survive to take the promised two weeks. Of returning from leave convinced that he would not survive to take another such leave. He complains of officers ordering attacks without knowing the terrain, obstacles and enemy the soldiers would face. Of regular Army officers who would not report the truth to their superiors for fear of ruining their careers. There are also amusing complaints about senior commanders eliminating the rum ration for the troops and of head quarters staff officers burdening him with inane queries at all hours of the day and night (some things never change do they?). Overall an interesting read.

  • 'Aussie Rick'
    2018-10-23 14:31

    This book offers the reader a chance to view the world of a British Infantry officer during the Great War. We follow him through his rotation with his unit from the trenches on the Western Front into rest areas and onto leave back home and back into the Trenches. We can read about his experiences whilst serving on the Somme and Passchendaele and enjoy his candor and humour whilst being involved in some of the bloodiest fighting during World War One. I particularly liked his rantings against senior commanders in stopping the rum ration to the troops shivering in the water logged trenches. Although short and sharp with some diary entries only being a single line its well worth the read.

  • Jane
    2018-11-06 19:12

    I very much enjoyed reading this WW1 diary of an officer, which was very well enhanced by the factual passages regarding the history and progress of the war added by the editor. Gave a very good insight into how an officer would feel when faced with war; both the frenzy of the front line and the lassitude that often occurred behind it, changing positions etc.

  • Paul Batt
    2018-10-20 17:18

    Here's a fantastic WWI memoir by a British Lieutenant. War is hell.