Cover image for To the last man : spring 1918
To the last man : spring 1918
Macdonald, Lyn.
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxxiv, 382 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Viking, 1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D530 .M32 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



As poignant as Niall Fregusson's The Pity of War, as powerful as John Keegan's The First World War, this is an engrossing eye-witness history of World War I. From the trenches to the battle lines, in bold advances and fighting retreats and courageous stands, this oral chronicle of World War I by award-winning historian Lyn Macdonald brings to life the massive German offensive of Spring 1918 that became the Second Battle of Somme. As moving as it is monumental, the volume recounts the devastating assault in the words of the men who survived it -- from the commanders to the war-weary British Tommies, the eager German foot soldiers, and the as-yet-untested doughboys fresh from the U.S. Unforgettably, To the Last Man puts a human face on the armies in the field as it gives voice to the soldiers who together held their position against the foe-resisting, as the Allied command had ordered, "to the last round and the last man."

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Two new books revisit the horror of the Great War, with Palmer's scope broader than Macdonald's but both books enlightening in their own way. World War I ended in 1918, and distinguished historian Palmer looks at the four horrendous years of fighting that preceded the ultimate Allied victory; and in doing so, he extends his purview to include the "sideshows," the areas of battle removed from the more scrutinized western front. Lest we forget, Palmer reminds us that World War I was exactly that: a world war, "fought on three continents and the waters of three oceans and nine seas." One of the most eye-opening situations to emerge from Palmer's rigorously professional narrative is that for more than two years the front line that stretched down through western Europe did not move any more than ten miles in either direction, even though both sides spilled an enormous amount of blood trying to push the enemy much further back. The reader who has a good background in history will profit most from this thorough account, which pays as much attention to what went on in Mesopotamia and Egypt as in Flanders fields. With Palmer setting the stage, it is easy to appreciate Macdonald's project, which makes excellent ancillary reading to Palmer's more general book. She has written previously on World War I (e.g., 1915: The Death of Innocence, 1995), and her work has been widely applauded. This time she focuses on spring 1918, and her approach is to personalize frontline activities, which she does by quoting long but dramatic passages from oral testimonies from soldiers in the field. Spring 1918 saw the renewed German offensive on the western front, and now that the deadlock had been broken, "the last lap would soon be in sight." From any number of sources, one can read about how awful war is, but from Macdonald's book one can actually hear the terribleness. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

This has been a good year for books on the First World War. Macdonald's oral history of the last German offensive of the war is a great complement to John Keegan's comprehensive The First World War and Niall Ferguson's revisionist The Pity of War. Macdonald (They Called It Passchendaele, etc.) has spent many years interviewing British and Canadian veterans of WWI. Her large archive alone is an important achievement, but from this raw material she has gone on to cobble a number of remarkable books. This, the latest, focuses on one of the most deadly and strategically important confrontations of the war: the Second Battle of the Somme, in which the Allied command ordered the field commanders to resist the German attack "to the last round and the last man." Macdonald is particularly skilled at presenting war from the standpoint of those directly involved in its bloody business. At the same time, she never fails to set events in their proper historical, political and military context. Unlike her previous books, this volume includes a significant amount of first-person testimony from German soldiers culled from an impressive private collection of accounts gathered by American publisher Richard Baumgartner in 1981. As Macdonald points out, "the stories of some of those German boys are mirror images of those of their British counterpartsÄsome of whom, indeed, must have been literally within yards of them." Macdonald's uncompromising narrative brings the bloody dawn of the century into vivid, humane relief. 60 b&w photos; 17 maps. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Like Macdonald's They Called It Passchendaele and The Roses of No Man's Land, this book draws on the accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors of World War I and is told in their own words. Each story is complemented by Macdonald's historical narrative. As the book opens, the Germans launch a massive offensive that became known as the Second Battle of the Somme, which left thousands deadÄand still the war dragged on. Through these accounts, we see war not as history but as personal experience; Macdonald successfully shows us the suffering of soldiers and civilians on all sides. This creditable study of personal survival explains how individuals endured terrible hardships and soldiered on. Recommended for academic and public libraries as well as special collections.ÄDavid M. Alperstein, Queens Borough P.L., Jamaica, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.