Voices from the Front
An Oral History of the Great War
By Peter Hart
Published by Profile Books; Dist. by Allen & Unwin
RRP AUD $49.99 in hardback
As I was beginning to write this blog piece, I was doing my usual search of the internet – I know Peter Hart is a name that will be familiar to many with an interest in military history. While his website could do with an update, he is active on Twitter – @PeterHart1915 – on which he describes himself as a ‘military historian of sorts’ – I’m sure many of you will be interested in following him.
Despite Hart’s modest description of his skills, he is, in fact, the oral historian at the Imperial War Museum and has written several books on the First World War. His latest books for the publisher Profile are Gallipoli, The Great War and Voices from the Front.
This latest book – Voices from the Front – is an oral history of the British military involvement in the Great War, based on 183 interviews with veterans that Hart carried out for the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive in the 1980s and early 1990s, a resource that could no longer be assembled.
The stories are from across the conflict, from soldiers, sailors and airmen, from officers and privates alike. In the course of his research, he talked to men who saw their friends die in front of them, who were seriously wounded themselves, men who refused to fight on principle and those whose indomitable spirit carried them through thick and thin. Sometimes they were there at crucial turning points in the war – going over the top in the slaughter of the Somme in 1916 or punching through the German lines to victory in 1918 – and sometimes they sweated, toiled and suffered on a forgotten front, thousands of miles from home.
Hart expertly weaves the oral histories into a compelling narrative that provides context and meaning to the personal reminiscences of the men who experienced this brutal war for themselves.