By Sidney Rogerson
Pen & Sword, 2020
Rightly regarded as one of the classic memoirs of the war, Rogerson’s book set out to counter the ‘mud and blood’ views of the trenches that was prevalent at the time. Rogerson served with the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, and as the title implies his account focuses on just 12 days in the line on the Somme in late-1916.
Rogerson’s vignettes of trench life give a fascinating insight into the life of the soldier. Its power lies in its banality. There is no major action, no moment of dramatic tension, no climatic description of going ‘over the top’. Just an account of what it was like to live and sleep in the trenches at that time, and the monotony, perforated by moments of adrenaline, that this entailed.
At times you have to remember that he is just describing 12 days – to me it seems longer; perhaps it was that way for the soldiers too. Just 3 days of the 12 were spent in the front-line itself, Rogerson describing patrols, being shelled, the trenches, and searching for a missing fellow officer Pym amongst other experiences.
Whilst this latest reprint is welcome, I would like to see an edition that gave some extra context – cross-referenced against the war diary, with biographies of the men mentioned perhaps – and relevant pictures and maps. However, this remains a classic memoir that should be on everyone’s reading list.
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