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At a time when tanks were unheard of (he describes his encounter with them as they are first deployed) and the real possibility of failure in the Somme faced the British, Geoffrey H Malins entered the war to film battles as they happened. A time of such naivety and yet one of the most brutal episodes in our history, this story provides a unique (and highly biased as is to be expected) point of view of WW1. The narrator does a wonderful job of bringing the character of our hero to life adding real warmth to the narrative. If you are at all interested in WW1, The Somme battles, early film making or just early 20thC history this is well worth a listen.
An awkward book to review. Malins certainly had a story to tell, though the there are structural problems with this one, only partly explained by it having been written in 1917 and thus subject to wartime censorship. We get sudden jumps in time with important linking material being omitted. It’s as if whole chapters had been omitted. One important jump occurs early on when we move from 1914 and Malins as a civvie to him as an officer elsewhere on the Western Front.
A quick check on the net will highlight other issues, such as Malins’ implying that he was the only one working with a camera (including contributing to the famous “Battle of the Somme” film). More on this latter film would have been useful, especially as extra faked scenes were filmed. To be fair, though, wartime censorship issues might explain this.
Malins’ style can be stilted at times, though he is not a natural writer. A decent introduction and conclusion would have been useful. Nonetheless, it offers an interesting first-hand view of the tragedy. Do not expect something with the style of a Robert Graves or the journalist Philip Gibbs, but Malin’s story is certainly worth prevserving.