Epitaphs of the Great War

The Somme

Sarah Wearne

Epitaphs of the Great War

Sarah Wearne

Distributed for Uniform Press

128 pages | illustrated in halftone throughout | 5 x 7 | © 2016
Cloth $14.95 ISBN: 9781910500521 Published October 2016 For Sale in USA and Canada Only
On July 1, 1916, some eighteen British and French divisions on both sides of the River Somme moved against German General Fritz Von Below’s Second Army. By the time the fighting in the region finally ended on November 18, 141 days later, the British and French had pushed the German lines back six miles—at a cost for all sides of more than 1 million soldiers killed or wounded. The Battle of the Somme was thus one of the bloodiest in human history, and it has occupied a central place in the tragic story of World War I for a century.
       
This book brings together one hundred epitaphs from headstones marking the graves of British soldiers who died in the battle. The Imperial War Graves Commission limited epitaphs to sixty-six letters, including spaces, a constraint that left little room for flowery sentiment and rendered these commemorations stark and unforgettable. Lieutenant Dillwyn Parrish Starr’s epitaph reads merely “Of Philadelphia, U.S.A.,” while Lieutenant Richard Roy Lewer’s reads “For England.” The headstone of South African Private John Paul however, asks “Did He Die in Vain?”

Sarah Wearne has selected epitaphs that cover a range of approaches and emotions, from soldiers famous and forgotten, each one simultaneously a personal tribute to an individual and a marker of the era, the culture, and the sacrifices it expected. As the centennial commemorations of World War I continue, this book brilliantly reminds us that its staggering costs, while marked in the millions, ultimately reduce down to the individual.
 
Review Quotes
Daily Telegraph
"Wearne’s project is a reminder not just of how personal these headstones were, but how controversial. Like the piles of shoes on display at Auschwitz, the cemeteries in France and Belgium build the mass out of the individual. They commemorate both the scale of the slaughter and the humanity of those who were killed. The same is true of Wearne’s inscription project. From the inspiring to the harrowing to the humdrum, the epitaphs chosen remind us of the millions of individual lives that were cut short."
WWI Geek
"A wide range of soldiers have been selected, from different backgrounds and of different ranks, and through their stories Wearne conveys an impressive amount of detail about various aspects of the war. This book shows you the breadth of feeling and emotion that this actually permits, and serves as a poignant reminder of the anguish and grief of the relatives trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones."
War History Online

"All battlefields are personal.  For proof of this look no further than this gentle book by Wearne. I like it because it lacks any judgement. Quite clearly she has deep feelings about the war, but they do not intrude. But the author sticks to the personal inscriptions of the bereaved made a century ago. Their grief, their tributes do not need further enhancement. Explanation: yes. Interpretation: no. The device is simple as it is brilliant. Take an inscription from a soldier’s grave and make him real for a new generation. Wearne achieves this here."

For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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