Thousands of Allied casualties per day from 1914 until 1918 -- that was reality in the stretch of muddy trenches that bulged into German territory around the Medieval city of Ypres, Belgium, during World War One. Unfamiliar with the proper pronunciation of "Ypres" (EE-pruh), the troops dubbed the killing grounds "Wipers."
The Germans held the high ground, and the Allies suffered their wrath below; because of the bulge, they were surrounded on three sides, making it possibly the most treacherous sectors in the lines. It was also the site of the first major use of weapons of mass destruction.
The Allies launched a daring plan to break the deadlock by digging five miles of tunnels beneath the German lines, planting massive charges, and uprooting the enemy from below. When the mines went off, the explosions were heard in London, more than 100 miles away.
"Wipers: A Soldier's Tale From the Great War," follows the story of a small-town English coal miner-turned-soldier and his unlikely companion, a wry, mischievous magician who joined the army under shady circumstances. Their struggle to survive is sometimes tragic but often humorous. It culminates with the mine attack and its shocking aftermath. It shows how war can be as devastating for survivors as it is for those who die.
- Jeff Simmons, April 2011
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