Smorgasbord Book Review – #WWI – #Historical – Sheep On The Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book by Frank Prem

I have read and reviewed the poetry collections of Frank Prem and I was honoured to be asked to review his latest release, a profoundly moving photographic and poetic tribute to the Australian soldiers who fought so bravely in World War One.

My own grandfather served in the army for three years and was in the reserves when war broke out.  He was called up in 1914 serving in the Royal Engineers. He was killed on November 2nd 1918, after being wounded three times.

Sheep On The Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book  – in hardback and paperback this is a memorial to those who endured the horrors of the Battle of the Somme.

About the Collection.

In this Picture Poetry collection, journey with the AIF, the ANZACS and the German and French armies at war on the Western Front during the Great War of 1914 – 1918.

Have your photo taken in a studio in Cairo, and your heart broken on a small street in Ballarat.

The bombs are falling in an endless fusillade of artillery fire from both sides of the conflict, turning the Somme into a clagging stew of slurried mud and maddened men.

Frank Prem has taken images of men at war and created verse stories to accompany them and to tell you that this war is hell.

Welcome. Welcome to the Somme.

Here is Frank Prem talking about the book and one of the images that brought home the reality of life on the front line, not just the men but the animals.

My review for Sheep On The Somme – Behind the Images July 10th 2021

Those of us who are in our 60s and 70s are likely to have had grandparents who were affected one way or another by the First World War, on all sides of the conflict. Most we may never have met and we can only rely on second hand accounts of their lives.

This makes Frank Prem’s selected images, and his poetry, even more profound and compelling, as they give a voice to the silent men in the trenches and on the battlefield, the living and the dead. The civilians whose homes, places of worship and villages were pounded to rubble, and the animals, horses and mules who stood in tethered lines far from peaceful grassy meadows. And to the families who waited at home desperate for news and grateful for every short note on a postcard passed by the censors. To the non-combatants, medics who risked their lives to retrieve the wounded, the doctors, nurses and those who attempted to feed and provide water for man and beast.

This is not a celebration of war, it is tribute to the strength of the  human spirit and a pictorial reminder of the devastation of conflict on human beings, the land, wildlife and the future of millions. Perhaps if this collection had been published and distributed after World War I… there might not have been a second conflict twenty years later.

There are certain images that will remain with me. A solitary cross amidst the bomb craters and mud, men in the trenches crowded in a bunker drinking tea and playing cards, the blitzed remains of a village, and the endless march of refugees with scant belongings and little hope, trying to escape the bombardment and savagery.

So why would I recommend a book that highlights the darkness of one of the most tragic events in recent history? Although this collection features Australian forces, they are representative of all the other nationalities who participated in the conflict on both sides. It is our history, and for millions around the world, somewhere in a grave in one of the many cemeteries across Europe, a long lost relative may be buried.

And as always, Frank Prem’s poetry is superb, breathing life, emotion and touches of humour into this collection of unforgettable images from the past. A book that should be on library bookshelves and in our homes and shared with the next generation.

Head over to buy the book in hardback and paperback : Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Direct from the Author: Frank Prem Shop

Also by Frank Prem

Read the reviews and buy the books:Amazon US –And:Amazon UK – Website:Frank Prem – Goodreads:Goodreads – Twitter:@frank_prem – YouTube: Frank Prem’s Channel

About Frank Prem

Frank Prem has been a storytelling poet since his teenage years. He has been a psychiatric nurse through all of his professional career, which now exceeds forty years.

He has been published in magazines, online zines and anthologies in Australia, and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as spoken word.

He lives with his wife in the beautiful township of Beechworth in North East Victoria, Australia.


I hope that you will head to buy this incredible piece of imagery and poetry. Thanks Sally.

71 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Book Review – #WWI – #Historical – Sheep On The Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book by Frank Prem

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 4th – 10th July 2021 – 1970s Music, Green Kitchen, Poetry, Short Stories, Book Reviews, Children’s Books, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

    • Such poignant reminders that linger within families.

      I was particularly moved by one of the pictures I used that was a simple photo of two young children. They could have been any two kids of that time, but the caption that went with the picture informed that they were the children of a german soldier, and the picture was rescued for safe keeping by one of the Australian soldiers.

      I don’t doubrt that the deceased soldier would have looked at the picture as the last thing he did before going into battle.

      Extraordinary moments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So sad your grandfather died so near the end. My maternal grandfather and his brothers were unusual in that all three of them came home, but there is a family story that his mother cried out ‘Billy’ in the middle of the night when he was nearly dying of dysentery in France. He looked after the horses, but he died when I was toddler at 56, perhaps the war had shortened his life. affecting his heart. I don’t think we know much about his time in the war. My paternal grandfather did tell me about being given a white feather – he didn’t sign up at first as he had younger siblings to care for. He did tell me he had shell shock and emphasised that was a real thing, still barely acknowledged in his lifetime. He lived till his seventies. It’s only in recent years I think, thanks to Michael Morpurgo and now Frank Prem, that we now realise the terrible suffering of the horses.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Janet, thank you so much for sharing your family story.

      My goodness such a range of experiences encompassed in just a few words – all the brothers, white feathers, shell-shock and a kind of survival, shortened lives in the aftermath.

      All elements of what I saw and read in the photographs as I was putting the collection together. Such very great, lingering, trauma.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You dove right into this one, Sally. I wasn’t surprised by your review at all. Frank’s work is sublime, and these types of collections of poetry and images feel important. A beautiful, heartfelt review. Congrats to Frank.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A fabulous review, Sally. My grandfather was a surgeon in WW I and was at the front taking care of the wounded. He did return home but did finally succumb later in life to injuries he received in France. He is now buried in Arlington Cemetary and like you said we never met. Congratulations, Frank.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Reblogged this on Frank Prem Poetry and commented:
    A very special (first) review for Sheep On The SOmme, posted by Sally Cronin at the Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.

    Sally’s is a powerful review as she discusses some of her own family’s war experience, as do many of the correspondents to the review.

    I feel quite humbled, as I realise that this work – more than any other I have been involved with – has the ability to touch people’s lives today, even though the events are over a hundred years ago.

    Thank you, Sally.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sally, what a great review. Frank’s images and words are so moving and shocking. We don’t often think of the animals caught up in man’s follies, along with civilians, and of course the young men and women who fight and die. Thanks for featuring this writer here today.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A superb review, Sally. I’ve watched the YouTube clip and the combination of image and poetry is so moving and effective. I have photos of my paternal grandfather on the horse that he took with him to the battlefield. Both of them survived. My maternal grandfather was in the Royal Flying Corps and I have some of his things including the maps that he was given to navigate with when flying over France – most of those in the Flying Corps died in training. Those who survived returned as changed men and were soon forgotten as heroes. This remakable book needs to be noticed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Alex. They were such heroic people. As a child my favorite books were the Biggles series about aviators over, I suppose, the Western Front of the war.

      I’d read them again, with a keen eye, if I could.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing your family connection Alex.. so pleased your grandfather and his horse survived that was an incredible feat. I got a military researcher to find details on my grandfather and it was an amazing treasure trove.. including for his time on the Somme.. This is definitely a book that needs to be noticed.. ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Sheep On The Somme – Sally Cronin’s review (out loud!) | Frank Prem Poetry

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