Darkening December - Peter Branchastre
Darkening December - Peter Branchastre
Darkening December - Peter Branchastre
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Darkening December - Peter Branchastre

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In December 1938, with a new war looming solicitor Charles Henderson lunches with his cousin and relates a seemingly commonplace story of promising young men lost in the Great War.  Henderson’s anecdote describes the experience of half a dozen clerks who volunteer for a Northern “Pals” battalion in 1914 and who are progressively hardened to confront new and greater challenges, eventually leading infantry platoons as “temporary gentlemen.”
Presented as a sometimes troubling anecdote, this simple story goes beyond recruitment, training in England and trench life in France to the brutal mayhem of the first day on the Somme. The grimly efficient battles that follow show how unassuming young men adapted themselves to leadership in a harshly effective army.  
Darkening December is not the conventional tale of futile misery. It is a clear-eyed, unsentimental view both of the valuable men whose loss bereaved our society so profoundly and most especially of their friends whose resilience helped them fight doggedly to victory.


Darkening December  - Review for the Soldier Magazine 

THIS “short anecdote from the Great War” follows six friends as they join Pals Battalion at the start of the conflict, deploying in time for the Somme offensive of 1916.

The author writes in an unsentimental and occasionally unpolished manner to present a crystal-clear eyed view of life as a young soldier as momentum gathers towards battle – and then the complete confusing awfulness of the combat itself.  The chapters describing how these men fought through the first day of the Somme are the crux of the novel and impossible to put down.

Horrible, terrifying and yet encouraging all at the same time, this is a though provoking read which should be the first in a series.

 

Darkening December – Review for The Guards Magazine

This first novel, “a short anecdote from the Great War,” follows the fortunes of 6 young friends as they join a Pals Battalion at the start of WW1 and then train and deploy to the Western Front in time for the Somme offensive of 1916. Branchastre describes himself as “neither a writer nor a historian”, but one who was bought up and educated by veterans of one type or another who imbued him with a deep respect for our military history and those who created it. He writes in an unsentimental and occasionally unpolished manner to present a crystal-clear eyed view of life as a young soldier as momentum gathers towards commitment to battle and then the complete confusing awfulness of the combat itself. The chapters describing how these men fought through the 1 st day of the Somme are the crux of the novel and impossible to put down. Horrible, terrifying and yet encouraging all at the same time. He deals particularly well with placing his subjects into the context of such a vast undertaking while ensuring we understand just how little each individual could see at a time and absolutely captures their developing understanding and leadership abilities as they adapt to the completely alien situation in which they all find themselves. An eye opening and thought provoking read which is hopefully just the first of a series following the main protagonists as they negotiate the major historical events of the last century.

Simon Soskin