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Somme Mud


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Somme Mud is the title of the recently published war memoirs of Pte Edward Francis Lynch of the 45th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, edited by Will Davies and published by Random House; ISBN 1 74166 547 7. Lynch filled some 20 school notebooks with his memories in the 1920s, probably as a way of coming to terms with his experiences on the Western Front, where he was involved in the later stages of The Somme, Messines, Third Ypres and the German offensives of 1918.

The book is a lively read, and a fascinating insight into the sometimes violent world of the ordinary digger. There are a number of good photographs. Unfortunately, Lynch refers to many of his contemporaries by nicknames, and the dates of particular actions aren't always recorded, something that can be slightly annoying. However, the omissions are quite understandable, given the circumstances in which he wrote. Some of the comments made are slightly less than politically correct, when read from a 21st century perspective, but they reflect the attitudes of the times.

I found it interesting to look up Pte Lynch's records at the AWM and National Archives, and to then relate the information therein to the episodes in the book.

The recommended retail price in Australia is $34.95, but I bought my copy in K-Mart for $22.70, which made it excellent value!

I think that anyone who is interested in the Great War as experienced by an infantryman will find this well worth reading.

Gareth

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Thanks for this, and I'll take it as a recommendation. I'd seen it on the bookshelf and strongly considered it, but its title is a phrase which is, well, rather infamous and frequently mis/abused. (As an infantryman, though, Lynch has every excuse to use it.) I've got some travel to do soon, so it might go in my backpack (alongside Niall Cherry's opus).

As my ex always used to say, "Primary sources are the best."

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Thanks Gareth. Definately one to look out for. I've been told that Lynch tried to get it published in the post war period but no published was interested. Thankfully his grandson has had more luck.

Cheers

Andrew

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  • 2 weeks later...
Somme Mud is the title of the recently published war memoirs of Pte Edward Francis Lynch of the 45th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, edited by Will Davies and published by Random House; ISBN 1 74166 547 7. Lynch filled some 20 school notebooks with his memories in the 1920s, probably as a way of coming to terms with his experiences on the Western Front, where he was involved in the later stages of The Somme, Messines, Third Ypres and the German offensives of 1918.

Gareth

thanks for the recommendation, Gareth. I had a quick search of amazon uk but cannot find it. Nevermind.

Robbie

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Would have to agree with you Gareth. I found the book a very worthwhile read. It;s certainly of the 'no holds barred' style of writing which I find gives it a great deal of realism and credibility - just what I would expect from an Australian private.

Strangely, I also looked up Lynch's service record. It's obvious from this that Lynch has based the main character "Nulla' on himself and his own experiences.

Tim L.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Would have to agree with you Gareth. I found the book a very worthwhile read. It;s certainly of the 'no holds barred' style of writing which I find gives it a great deal of realism and credibility - just what I would expect from an Australian private.

Strangely, I also looked up Lynch's service record. It's obvious from this that Lynch has based the main character "Nulla' on himself and his own experiences.

Tim L.

This book is being previewed & the author interviewed on Channel 9's Sunday progamme, this Sunday 10th of September. Tune in if you can.

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Strangely, I also looked up Lynch's service record. It's obvious from this that Lynch has based the main character "Nulla' on himself and his own experiences.

I did exactly the same. I thought the book was a worthwhile read.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I found this book a really excellent and fast paced read. Short on academic and military references but really good on the human experience of the war. The part where the officer sends two inexperienced recruits under Nulla into certain death to draw a machine gun's fire rather than sacrifice experienced soldiers while the gun was outflanked was quite telling.

I did exactly the same. I thought the book was a worthwhile read.
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Is this book available in the UK - done a quick abebooks search and its available in Australia but the postage makes in quite pricey - What would be a good price for this book (GBP please)

Glyn

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Glyn

Do your local bookshops have an ordering service? It might be possible for one of them to order Somme Mud in for you, thereby they pay the freight charges, not you. I would think about ten or twelve pounds would be a reasonable price for the book, so it'll probably cost more.

Regards

Gareth

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Thanks Gareth - will check it out

Glyn

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Just finished it, a fabulous read for a long weekend much to the wife’s disgust. I also looked up his service record, must be a normal response these days, which helped fill out the details a bit. I would recommend it as worth buying.

Tim

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  • 2 weeks later...

An excellent read. Realistic descriptions from trying to find somewhere to sleep in the support trench to taking part in a raid. His descriptions of the reorganisation phase after an attack show that his employment as a runner,when needed, gave him an insight into the slightly bigger picture. I particular like his explanation to the CO as to why he was not wearing his runners armband, and then letting the reader know that he had used it to patch the seat of his underwear.

Certainly one of the best books I have read describing experience as a soldier in the Great War.

Chris Henschke

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  • 6 months later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I read half of this book in about a day and a half; I had watched that old mini-series ANZACS not too long ago (and this book together with that show, really compliment each other well.)

I know the editor mentioned that the size of the notebooks that he was given were something along the line of 4 or 5 inches thick, and I can believe it - I am really wishing he had chosen to add more to this book, it is such an effortless read.

I also was left wanting to read more about what it was like in recuperation ( the author had been wounded at Passchendaele ) - he gets put on a hospital ship bound for "Blighty" -that chapter ends -then the next ... bang, back in France for "th Big Push" .... I guess it is a little personal, as I had occasion to come across a similar diary for another Digger and some of the situations were pretty similar; and I guess I wanted to know a little more about what the hospitals in britain were like. (In thinking about it - it is partly also out of the desire to compare them with some of the stuff I read about them in the Second World War as well) - at any rate, there isn't anything in there -and it seems like the editor did his editing right there from Passchendaele to about early April 1918.

Another thing, that I don't know if it is the editing or the way that Lynch wrote, but rarely are dates mentioned. I guess on the one hand this does add to the flow of a front line combat trooper's narrative when the date is fairly unimportant, however on the other hand, you can sometimes get most of the way through a chapter before you can get a clue about what the weather was like. Anyway, it is pretty minor, and it just made me wonder if this was the author that did this or the editor.

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I found it a good read, an insight into the way the men coped, and thought at the time. Agreed, dates would have been good from our perspective, looking back, but some how it did not matter while reading the book. Not including hospital stays seems to say that the author was more concerned with being in the action, rather than laying up in bed away from his battalion.

For Bill Gammage to say it was on a par with AQOTWF, then that is saying something about it. A simple honest account of a man's journey through WW1.

Cheers

Kim

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Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the book, just noting that the editor said it was abridged from what Lynch wrote, and wondering aloud what might have been left out ( I presume probably a lot of personal info -which is understandable). Wondering how much was edited -and if that was an editorial decision made by the editor and not the author.)

It is a fine addition to anyone's library.

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Somme Mud is the title of the recently published war memoirs of Pte Edward Francis Lynch of the 45th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, edited by Will Davies and published by Random House; ISBN 1 74166 547 7. Lynch filled some 20 school notebooks with his memories in the 1920s, probably as a way of coming to terms with his experiences on the Western Front, where he was involved in the later stages of The Somme, Messines, Third Ypres and the German offensives of 1918.

The book is a lively read, and a fascinating insight into the sometimes violent world of the ordinary digger. There are a number of good photographs. Unfortunately, Lynch refers to many of his contemporaries by nicknames, and the dates of particular actions aren't always recorded, something that can be slightly annoying. However, the omissions are quite understandable, given the circumstances in which he wrote. Some of the comments made are slightly less than politically correct, when read from a 21st century perspective, but they reflect the attitudes of the times.

I found it interesting to look up Pte Lynch's records at the AWM and National Archives, and to then relate the information therein to the episodes in the book.

The recommended retail price in Australia is $34.95, but I bought my copy in K-Mart for $22.70, which made it excellent value!

I think that anyone who is interested in the Great War as experienced by an infantryman will find this well worth reading.

Gareth

I hope its more interesting and absorbing than "To The Last Ridge"..Sorry,but that Book just left me totally unmoved.I will now don my Steel Helmet and retire my Dug Out and await the Incoming that my comment may well attract. :P

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Hi all - please don't me wrong either I'd give the book 9 out of 10 (editor?). Just wished there was more about what went on outta the line (as much as they dare add). As already partially commented upoin by sothern cross. Hope another version is released which adds some more detail about what happened outta the line - then it would be 10 out of 10

cheers - Dave

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the book, just noting that the editor said it was abridged from what Lynch wrote, and wondering aloud what might have been left out ( I presume probably a lot of personal info -which is understandable). Wondering how much was edited -and if that was an editorial decision made by the editor and not the author.)

It is a fine addition to anyone's library.

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  • 2 weeks later...

PBI: I'll have to find 'To the Last Ridge' and read it first :)

I finished this one about 10 days ago. One thing that I wondered during reading was, the author (or maybe the editor -I think it was mentioned in the book that this was an abridged very of 20 notebooks worth -which I assume was entirely handwritten -and not typed - meaning maybe the editor missed it or misread something) ...

anyway, there were many references to "9.2mm shells" - which reading in the context that this term was used meant to me that these were some form of artillery shells - however the thing is - is that 9.2mm strikes me as a bit small for an artillery shell caliber- and is it possible that it was either 92mm or 9.2cm? I am not all that familiary with German artillery types- but considering that one of these things supposedly caused a wall in (iirc) Villers Bret to collapse- and that 9mm is the caliber commonly used in pistols... then something didn't make sense to me. I guess, I am wondering what these were.

Also, it was interesting to note the difference in tone from the transport out to France from Austlia when compared with the transport back -and I am meaning the 'antics' that these guys did on the way out, compared to -well, without giving anything away, it was a pretty interesting and effective technique if the point was how the war had caused these basically young men/boys to grow up.

I very much enjoyed reading this book; plus if anyone has access to any of their own relatives' documents from the war, it does do a fantastic job of filling in the blanks and adding that much more to what little you may already have. People, espeically veterans that have been on the frontlines have different ways they need to (or need not to as the case may be) communicate their experiences. I guess the published first person accounts can be a good way to get an insight into the general situation/emotions -it is can be sort of an "Everyman" experience.

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  • 5 months later...

Been after this book for a while, but up to now its only been available from Oz. BUT from Feb 2008 it will be available over here....according to amazon.co.uk

I'm looking forward to it.

Glyn

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I have only just noticed this thread, but it is clear that whoever edited the diaries was not terribly familiar with Great War artillery. As soon as 9.2 appears, it is obvious that it is a reference to the British 9.2" (inch) siege howitzer, which fired a 290lb shell.

Jack

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Since I have the book in storage I can't refer to the editor's notes, but it makes me wonder if maybe this set of diaries was not maybe handwritten and maybe something handwritten like 9.2" -the -"- part was taken to look like a very small "mm" - but anyway, -it is a good read (I'd come across a field written diary during the time I was reading this book and it enhanced the reading of the field diary (field in this case just meaning someing about the size of a very thin telephone notepad - and was written mostly at the front, and in a very brief laconic style; I'll eventually write more on that probably after I read Carlyon's 'Great War' (Carlyon seemed to be using similar diaries for his source material).

But back to the howitzer, I am wondering if they didn't have one of those guns at the Australian War Memorial, I think I saw one when I was last there- but will double check. The reason I even mention this, is that I think that the editor had access to the AWM -and it makes me wonder how you could get something basic like that gun - wrong.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm lucky, an Aussie mate recently sent me this book. An excellent book that sharing a Digger's life and perceptions with the reader. Articulate and well-paced - it's an easy, absorbing read. There are graphic, moving descriptions. The humour is good and typically soldierly. Fascinating description of staying awake whilst on watch. And the description of the stretcher bearers' lot is outstanding.

Thanks, Geoff, for sending it to me. Get logged onto Amazon in Feb 08, you Poms :P

Chris

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