The Road to Passchendaele
A century has passed since the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, a battle which along with the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Verdun and Gallipoli, has come to symbolise the horrors of war. In the present age, to some, the suffering and courage of those who endured may seem to have lost some significance, due to the passing of time and the First World War moving out of living memory, and to some extent being overshadowed by the Second World War. But what must be remembered is that the men who fought at Passchendaele were real people, with hopes, dreams and fears. Richard Van Emden’s excellent book brilliantly illustrates this for it is the stories of the battle told by those who were there, the ordinary soldiers, the officers, the British and the Germans. The book illustrates the enormous social divide between officers and men, a divide that does not seem quite as wide these days. The book also contains a great deal of rare, and in many cases previously unpublished photographs, taken with illegally held cameras often annotated by the photographers own hand. This is certainly not a pleasant book to read - it is all too real for that – but it is worthwhile and, among the true horror and the death, there are tales of self-sacrifice and heroism.