A born storyteller, Charlie May's vivid eye for detail and warm good humour brings his experience in the trenches (and the experience of millions of ordinary men like him) to life for a 21st-century audience.
Captain Charlie May was killed, aged 27, in the early morning of 1st July 1916, leading the men of ‘B Company', 22nd Manchester Service Battalion (the Manchester Pals) into action on the first day of the Somme.
This tolerant and immensely likeable man had been born in New Zealand and - against King's regulations - he kept a diary in seven small, wallet-sized pocket books. A journalist before the war and a born storyteller, May's diaries give a vivid picture of battalion life in and behind the trenches during the build-up to the greatest battle fought by a British army and are filled with the friendships and tensions, the home-sickness, frustrations, delays and endless postponements, the fog of ignorance, the combination of boredom and terror to which every man that has ever fought could testify.
His diaries reflect on the progress of the war, tell jokes - good and bad, give details of horse-rides along the Somme valley, afternoons with a fishing rod, lunch in Amiens, a gastronomic celebration of Christmas 1915 and concerts in ‘Whiz Bang Hall'. He describes battles not just with the enemy, but with rats, crows and on the makeshift football pitch - all recorded with a freshness that brings these stories home as if for the first time.
"Every so often one comes across a diary where it is the sense of personality behind it that lift it out of the ordinary: such a diary is that of Captain Charlie May" (David Crane)
"The diary of Captain Charlie May provides a fascinating insight into the mind of a young British officer. It is peppered with intriguing insights, acute observations and the hectic, heart-stopping flurries of nocturnal trench raids" (Robin Cross author of the bestselling VE-Day)
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- Hayley Kemp
A brilliant and moving account of WW1
- Bob Smith