The Darkness and the Thunder

Written by Stewart Binns
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

As the year 1915 begins, a stalemate occurs with the allies, led by France and Great Britain on the western front, while Russia in the east is being beaten by the German army. The British Expeditionary Force is led by Sir John French. Hwyl Thomas, a Welsh Color Sergeant, is known as the “Black Handed Assassin” and is a sniper. Color Sergeants Harry Woodruff, and Maurice Tait, with the Royal Fusiliers, are veterans from East London. Mad Mick Kenny, along with Vinny Sagar and Twaites Haythorntwaite, form a new “tunneling company” that will tunnel under no-man’s-land to the German trenches. Two nurses, Margaret and Bronwyn, are stationed at “Pop-Hop” and treat the wounded. Mary Broxup and Cath Kenny (married to Mad Mick) are two women who join VAD, drivers who transport victims to “Pop-Hop” from the battlefield.

In England, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, participates with the politicians in the British War Council. Churchill suggests that ships and troops be sent to the Dardanelles and fight the Turks, who are allies with the Germans, and then eventually attack Germany from the South.

I definitely recommend reading the first book, The Shadow of War, first. There are many more characters in this novel of the Great War than I mentioned above. 1915 is a year of tedious static warfare; men begin to contemplate the awfulness of their predicament. I’ve read the first novel as well and enjoyed both. The author balances the large number of characters carefully, adding life to each one. The battle sequences are vividly described, exciting and horrifying. An exceptional piece of work.