Only Men in Mind

Susan Pedersen

  • BuyThe Life of R.H. Tawney by Lawrence Goldman
    Bloomsbury, 411 pp, £65.00, September 2013, ISBN 978 1 78093 704 5

On 1 July 1916, Sergeant R.H. Tawney led his platoon over the top on the first morning of the Battle of the Somme, holding a gun to one young man’s head to get him to stop crying and keep going. Almost immediately afterwards, Tawney himself was shot through the chest and abdomen and lay for 24 hours in no-man’s-land before being rescued. Although he lived with pain for the rest of his life, he was amazingly lucky to survive at all. By the end of the day, of the twenty officers in Tawney’s battalion, ten were dead and eight wounded; of 754 men, 120 were killed, 241 wounded and 111 missing. Twenty thousand British soldiers died that day on the Somme.

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