This Carnival of Hell
German Combat Experience on the Somme 1916
Edited by Richard A. Baumgartner
THE SOMME, 1916 --- one of the biggest, longest and most terrifying battles ever fought in world history. For a million or more German soldiers the toll was immense -- physically, mentally, morally, spiritually. At least 200,000 of them perished in this small region of France between July and November 1916, their lives snuffed out amid horrific scenes wholly unimaginable before the First World War began. Survivors' psyches were indelibly seared by appalling, often surreal images conjured in battered bits of trenches, fetid fields of craters and pulverized ruins of shell-blasted villages. Many likened their numbing experiences at such places as Thiepval, Ginchy, Barleaux and Combles to a veritable descent into hell.
One such survivor, a Bavarian non-commissioned officer, offered this epithetical summation of his comrades' ordeals: "As long as those of us who fought on the Somme live, our days there cannot be forgotten. Smeared with mud and armed with rifle, gas mask, steel helmet and hand grenades, the frontline soldier faced difficult, super-human tasks. It mattered little what duty he performed: ammunition, supply or food carrier, telephonist, runner, guide, medic, stretcher bearer, doctor, fighter, commander, utilizing all sorts of weapons -- none was spared the battle's horrors. Relentless bad weather, hunger and thirst, viscous mud, water contaminated by gas and corpses, iron hail, the nerve-deadening noise of combat. Death grinned at him with a thousand faces."
Only a few previously published works have focused attention on the German side of the Somme battle. This Carnival of Hell, featuring first-person narratives from more than 85 participants and dozens of rare photographs, provides a compelling picture of what it was like for the German soldier at the apex of combat on the Western Front.
Hardcover with dust jacket, 432 pages, 95 photos, illustrations and maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 978-1885033369
Price: $25 postpaid (in the continental U.S.)
$46 postpaid to Canada