Commitment and Sacrifice: Personal Diaries from the Great War

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Drawing upon recently discovered diaries, almost all of which were previously unpublished, this book provides an intimate look at how ordinary soldiers and civilians experienced and reflected upon the physical and psychological strains of the First World War. It reprints the personal wartime diaries of six individuals with differing experiences: a British sapper who dug precarious tunnels beneath the trenches of the Western Front, a French infantry officer embroiled in years of bloody combat, an idealistic American volunteer ambulance driver who sought to save lives rather than take them, a German businessman caught in England upon the war's outbreak and interned there for the duration, a New Zealand artilleryman fighting thousand of miles from home, and a German machine gunner, captured and held as a prisoner of war. Taken together, their experiences illuminate many of the iconic episodes of the war, from the upheaval of mobilization through the great battles of Gallipoli, Verdun, and the Somme, as well as the less familiar 'other ordeal' of internment and captivity. These six diaries enable us to eavesdrop, a century later, on their authors' intimate reactions as they came of age-literally as young men in their early twenties, figuratively as veterans-in an environment of total war that none could have imagined. Commitment and Sacrifice introduces new and distinctive voices to be added to the chorus of testimony regarding the impact of the Great War.