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Remembered Today:

Casualty Figures: How Five Men Survived the First World War


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  • 6 years later...
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Ouch, ouch, ouch, so many of the reviews are negative for what wasn't actually that badly researched a book. Occasionally it relied too much upon different witness statements or memoirs without adequately bracketing this material in appropriate caveats. Admittedly there should probably have been more factual data, e.g. footnotes on the actual dates, times, places of the units and the men deployed rather than just leaving some of the quotes unchallenged.

However, overall I felt it was quite a worthy read. I bought it second-hand so alas can't add a review but I found the material on the Tyrrell brothers to be largely accurate if a bit uneven in terms of how the three brothers' lives are covered.

I think the writer came to the "shell shock" debate without having seen the vast body of literature that has built over the decades, but the positive is that much of the men's lives is recounted without too much adverse comment or interjections. The reader from a military or military history background can immediately spot some of the evasions etc but the author may not be as well versed. Similarly, on the opening page the line "these five men were not among the dead in the casualty lists in the newspapers, but they were among the dead in a different way" is a bit dramatic: Billy/Willie Tyrrell, though unhappily married and something of a grumpy old man, was very much among the alive. (Curiously, the author managed to wade in to the voluminous Tyrrell archive at the IWM, but was also apparently in touch with his daughter Philippa Lloyd, so would've been well-aware of the many sides to the man).

I think the problem for some reviewers is that when they see the publisher's name, (Verso), they automatically expect to see ramblings about male soldiers on the Western Front to be too male, white, patriarchal, militaristic, Euro-centric etc. However, although the book does seem to have a few military blind-spots it otherwise worth reading.

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