To the Last Man: Spring 1918 by Lyn Macdonald - review by Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks

How They Saw It

To the Last Man: Spring 1918


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TEN YEARS AGO I was detailed to go for the Independent on a visit to Flanders organised by the historian Lyn Macdonald to coincide with the seventieth anniversary of the Armistice. I spent three days with Macdonald and a dozen veterans of the Great War, based in the drab little town of Béthune (much favoured in 1915 for the friendliness of the local women) and making excursions into the battlefields of Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge, where, in 1915, the British Expeditionary Force proved to its French allies that it meant business by mounting its first major offensives. These had results that became familiar: initial gains, subsequent reverses, high casualties, stalemate.

Standing with the yellowish mud of Aubers Ridge curling over my shoes, I talked to a veteran who described how he had stood there - just there, where I was standing - when his best friend had been blown to pieces beside him, 'each bit the size of a leg

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