Blood in the Trenches: A Memoir of the Battle of the Somme

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Books, World War I


Written by Captain A. Radclyffe Dugmore of the King’s Own Light Infantry, this personal memoir provides an account of the Great War up to the Battle of the Somme. In 1914, Radclyffe Dugmore travelled to Belgium as a civilian observer where he was wounded before spending a brief time in German captivity. These experiences gained Radclyffe Dugmore a highly unusual viewpoint for the opening battles of the war, that of a civilian, and later as a participant on the
front lines of the Somme.

Originally published under the title When The Somme Ran Red in 1918, Radclyffe Dugmore’s memoir has sadly been long out of print. Yet what the author modestly described as ‘Being a very egotistical account of my own personal experiences and observations from the early days of the war in Belgium to the Great Battle of the Somme in July, 1916’ proves to be anything but that.

Radclyffe Dugmore is, unfortunately, very much a product of his time, and reading this narrative as a casual reader, rather than an academic one, his stiff-upper-lip can get very, very grating by the end of the second chapter.  His jingoistic bullshitting and his digs at Johnny Foreigner are a realistic insight to the mind of the common man in the trenches at the time, but that doesn’t stop it from being very, very annoying.

Fortunately, by the time he reaches the front lines, he doesn’t seem to be quite such an officious prick anymore.  His descriptions of life in the trenches are vivid, and – unsurprisingly – very unpleasant.  Naturally, the whole book is intended as a propaganda exercise to rally support for the brave boys in the front lines facing off against the Hun.

Like many contemporary works, on the First World War, what the books is saying is somehow not as telling as the way in which is says it.  In reading between the lines, one is left with an actually quite staggering impression of the bravado and bluster that must have been going on all the time in the trenches; interspersed with very real fear, and very real danger.

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  1. guestpeaker says:

    Fear, danger and a lot of pain is too often not understood , seen or forgotten by those who never were in the middle of a war.

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