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Last Post

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Last Post
The Final Word from Our First World War Soldiers. By Max Arthur. (Cassell: 2007. Pg. 272.) ISBN: 030436732X

Reviewed by Herbert White - June 4, 2007

Last Post is a unique, and historical significant book. This book comprises twenty-one interviews, conducted by Max Arthur, with the remaining British veterans of the First World War. What makes this book so significant is that it provides an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of these veterans, encompassing their experiences before, during, and after the war. This book also creates a lasting record of their thoughts and recollections about this momentous period of history, a period that for them was not history, just everyday life!

The Great War, a.k.a. the War to End all Wars, sadly failed to live up to its nickname and is now more appropriately referred to as World War I. When the Great War started, all sides involved were positive that they would achieve a quick and decisive victory, and thousands of men and boys queued up to sign on the dotted to serve King and Country. All too many never returned. Today, some 88 years have passed since the signing of Treaty of Versailles (1919) was singed, ending the war. Very few of those men who served so bravely, and who managed to survive their war time experiences, are still around to tell their tales to the newest generation. By the time the next generation rolls around, it is unlikely that any of these men will still be around.

To ensure that their stories do not go untold, Max Arthur set out to interview every British veteran of the First World War and to enshrine their words in print for all to read - now and in the future. When Arthur embarked upon this task to record the oral testimonies of these survivors, he discovered that there were only twenty-one British WWI veterans still alive. The youngest was 104, and the oldest 109! Last Post is the culmination of these interviews.

There is one chapter, devoted to each of the twenty-one survivors, and in most cases the chapters are written solely in the words of the interviewees, save for the addtion of a small amount of material garnered from family members of the interviewees. When conducting the interviews, Arthur encouraged the interviewees to speak not only about their war experiences, but also about what life was like for them before, and after the war. Consequently, you not only learn about their war time experiences, but also about events such as the sinking of the Titanic, sports heroes of their day, their impressions on the Second World War, and much more. What emerges is a unique view into a bygone world that for some will seem as strange and distant as Ancient Rome or Feudal Japan.

Last Post serves as a moving tribute to these twenty-one heroes. It is also a gratifying and captivating book to read. If you had a family member that served or lived through World War I, you'll want to read this book, if for nothing else than to better understand your relative and the times he lived. This book will also enthrall anyone with an interest in the Great War, military history, or simply in reading a group of thrilling autobiographies.

Related Reviews:

When This Bloody War is Over, by Max Arthur.
Soldiers' Songs of the First World War - Historically annotated lyrics to nearly 100 songs from The Great War.

Boy Soldiers of the Great War, by Richard Van Emden.
The compelling story of the tens of thousands of underage British youths who joined up and served on active military duty during World War I, many of whom saw action in the trenches of Europe.

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