BLUF

John Keegan's 1976 book The Face of Battle examines what it must have been like to be an ordinary soldier at three famous battles, Agincourt, Waterloo and the WW1 Battle of the Somme.

Summary

This book review by Peter R. Mansoor of John Keegan's 'the Face of Battle' makes the following points:
  • Until the 1960s, military historians generally focussed on the actions of generals and politicians rather than those doing the actual fighting.
  • The Face of Battle takes the perspective of the common soldier.
  • At Agincourt, French knights soon lost their horses.
  • Many of them were unable to get up because of their heavy armour.
  • Those who did manage to get to their feet had to struggle up a muddy hill littered with their dead and wounded comrades to engage in hand-to-hand combat.
  • At Waterloo, soldiers were wet, cold, tired, and hungry even before going into battle.
  • Discipline and a sense of honour enabled the to withstand the onslaught of the French artillery.
  • At the WW1 Battle of the Somme, the lack of barbed wire and bunker-busting high explosive shells contributed to the 60,000 British casualties on the first day of battle.

References

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Source Information:  Hoover Institution