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Six Weeks: The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War Hardcover – October 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Best research resource ever. Beautiful book' -- Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) 'a harrowing but engrossing meditation on a national tragedy... This book could not demonstrate more vividly how those ideals [of chivalry, patriotism and self-sacrifice] which inspired such bravery were shattered.' DAILY MAIL 'a superb study... Lewis-Stempel's marvelously evocative book is full of throat-catching moments... The result is the most moving single book on the Great War that I have ever read - and I have read many... his book pays the subalterns the respect they deserve by entering into their distant mindsets.' -- Nigel Jones LITERARY REVIEW 'This well researched book tells the harrowing story of the men - or adolescents, many of them -who unhesitatingly answered the call by War Minister Lord Kitchener for volunteers, and continued to answer it even after it became clear that the life expectancy of a subaltern in the trenches averaged only six weeks... Lewis-Stempel is excellent on life in the trenches... for all the horror and pity of their struggle, their legacy is our freedom.' -- Andrew Roberts MAIL ON SUNDAY 'woven with great narrative skill...presents an incomparable portrait of a generation' MILITARY TIMES 'It is only rarely that a book deserves to be recommended unreservedly but John Lewis-Stempel's Six Weeks falls firmly into that category...This is a book that should be read by every young man who aspires to serve as an officer in the Army; it will educate him about how to behave in command of soldiers and about how to face the perils of war.' THE GUARDS MAGAZINE 'a valuable addition to the vast literature of the First World war' DAILY EXPRESS

About the Author

John Lewis-Stempel is the author of the highly acclaimed THE WILD LIFE and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE BRITISH SOLDIER. Since 1996 he has lived on a farm in Herefordshire with his wife and two children.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297860062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297860068
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,741,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kiwi on November 3, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a very interesting look at one aspect of WW1 - the junior Officers in the British Army. You get passing mention of them in many books on WW1, but this is the first actual look at these junior officers that I've come across and it's quite fascinating, if sad at times, read.

In general, British junior officers in the First World War had a life expectancy of six weeks, hence the title of the book. Most of them were fresh out of High School - usually the products of the British "Public School" system (that's private schools to the rest of them) where the upper class and upper middle class children went. And they went from High School to Officers Training Units and from there, more often than not, straight to the Western Front. And on the Western Front they died by the thousands, many of them leading their men from the front in a charge out of the trenches and across no-mans-land, knowing that the German machine guns were waiting and would be trained on the man at the front and knowing that many of their predecessors had fallen before them in identical attacks that more often than not had failed.

The author really does focus on these often overlooked men (boys really) who were so crucial to Britain's war effort. He bases his book on a huge range of first person accounts that are available - many of these being letters and diaries sent home or back to their school. We can see from these what motivated these men, the kind of life they lived on the front and in the trenches, how they led and motivated their men, and how they tried to behave in the short time many of them had left before they died.

WW1 was the death of the Edwardian era, and the junior officers that were slaughtered were the potential leaders of an entire generation. It's a well-written and poignant look at these boys, for that was what most of them were, and a tribute to them as well. Well worth the read for anyone interested in the history of WW1.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vee on November 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Six Weeks" is the best book I have read recently. It shows the First World War from a more personal perspective.
It tells the stories of the actual heroes of the WW1-the junior officers- their miseries, fears, hopes and beliefs.

The book shows the way these boys (most of them were high school students at the time) coped with all of the obstacles the war was causing them every day. More importantly, the book shows the way these young men were overcoming the bad times in the name of the freedom of their country.

"Six Weeks" shows the sacrifices these junior officers made- they went to fight for the freedom of Great Britain, leaving their families and their peaceful lives to ensure a more secure future of their families when the war is over. They risked their lives in the name of a brighter future, but still they remained faithful to their ideals and beloved people and even at circumstances like these they managed to build friendships with the other officers around them. They took care of each other, trying to make their days better with light humour and a lot of mental strength.

I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to find out what the real WW1 was- the war of the people.
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By James Farley on January 21, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful work of history. It provides a clear view of a unique set of people in a unique circumstance in the world. Never before or since has an army recruited a junior officer corps that so perfectly fit the time and, as a group performed so well and so heroically . This book explains the time and the people wonderfully well and then illustrates with examples every aspect of the young officer's life (and death) in the Great War. It departs from the general tone of many histories of the war which are little more than endless lamentations of what should not have been and gives a view from the young men themselves, good and bad, boring and terrible of the war in which they participated. A necessary read for anyone who wishes to understand the performance of the British Army in the First World War.
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