The best books about World War 1 in the trenches

The Books I Picked & Why

The Great War

By Les Carlyon

Book cover of The Great War

Why this book?

I read this book cover to cover. It was incredible, full of well-researched detail and analysis. Les really got into the nuts and bolts of the Western Front and why things happened the way they did. It must have been exhausting to research, but well worth it. I found it invaluable in researching my own story. This book chronicles the reality of war in the trenches and goes much deeper than anything I’ve read before. Truly brilliant.


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Gallipoli

By L.A. Carlyon

Book cover of Gallipoli

Why this book?

As a researcher and Historian, L.A. Carlyon was a genius. Gallipoli was a WW1 campaign that failed for the Allies; the brainchild of Winston Churchill and a complete disaster. And yet, it was the first big battle fought by Australians under a National identity and has been written into folklore. Many saw this as the blooding of our nation. What I really loved about this book is that it went into the deep truth about Gallipoli, things I never imagined could have happened, and a land offensive that was never supposed to happen. What we were taught at school was a long way from the truth and it really opened my mind.


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Hell's Bells and Mademoiselles: A True Story of Life, Love and Larrikinism on the Western Front

By Joe Maxwell

Book cover of Hell's Bells and Mademoiselles: A True Story of Life, Love and Larrikinism on the Western Front

Why this book?

Joe Maxwell was an Australian Soldier in WW1 who wrote this story of his time in the 18th Battalion (same battalion as my Grandfather, Stan Dunkley). Chances are they knew each other. Joe wrote the story from his own perspective and told of his mates and the fun they had behind the lines. Interestingly, when it came to the actual fighting, he tended to write little; perhaps because it was too horrible to write about but his bravery is well documented. He was the only soldier of the 18th BN to win the Victoria Cross after single-handedly taking a German machine gun nest. He also had the rare distinction of fighting the entire war without gaining so much as a scratch. I highly recommend this for its personal account of one man’s experience.


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Somme Mud: The War Experiences of an Infantryman in France 1916-1919

By E.P.F. Lynch

Book cover of Somme Mud: The War Experiences of an Infantryman in France 1916-1919

Why this book?

This is a first-person account of life in the trenches in France and Belgium in WW1. It’s actually a difficult read in places because his writing style is quite unusual and by no means eloquent, but once you get used to it, it’s truly intriguing. He wrote the book with a pencil on exercise books after the war, probably to try and exorcise his demons. It wasn’t until his family found it and took it to a publisher that his story came to light, a very frank and occasionally morbid description of war at its very worst but an essential read.


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Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War

By Roland Perry

Book cover of Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War

Why this book?

John Monash was a master tactician and instrumental in some of the great Allied victories in 1918 on the Western Front. He was of German/Jewish heritage which didn’t sit well with some very powerful people. Famous journalist, Keith Murdoch along with Australian WW1 historian, CEW Bean were great critics and tried to convince the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes to relieve Monash of command. Even so, Monash held sway and developed tactics that British Commanders thought unworkable, and yet, they were very successful. His approach to fighting certainly shortened the war and gained him the respect of a nation. More importantly, he developed tactics to preserve the lives of his men, something that British commanders never considered. I certainly support efforts to have him posthumously promoted to the rank of Field Marshall, so great was his contribution to Australia in WW1.


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