WW1 Centenary

Great War Centenary 2014-2018 website by Paul Reed


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New WW1 Books from Pen & Sword

Miners Battalion: History of 12th KOYLI 1914-1918

by Malcolm K. Johnson (Pen & Sword 2017, ISBN 978 1 47386 808 3, 188pp, illustrated, hardback, £19.99)

This is a reprint of an original battalion history of 12/KOYLI, who were the pioneers to the 31st Division, a unit which was famously made up of Northern Pals battalions and fought at Serre during the Battle of the Somme. While being a reprint of the original work by Cast R. Ede England, it is so much more than a reprint. Malcolm Johnson has edited the book, added additional information, included some great photographs and useful appendices. I really hope this is the first of many of such edited-reprints. An excellent battalion history of a fascinating battalion: highly recommended. Available from Pen & Sword.

The Arras Campaign 1917

by Andrew Rawson (Pen & Sword 2017, ISBN 978 1 47389 291 0, 244pp, illustrated/maps, hardback, £25.00)

Andrew Rawson is a prolific author, but one I highly respect who does a lot of original, in-deoth research and has produced some really great books. This is no exception. It is a superb overview of the often forgotten Battle of Arras and with some good maps acts as an excellent introduction to the battle and vital companion when visiting the battlefields, for some great historical insight. Well written and very accessible. Highly recommended. Available from Pen & Sword.

Sniping in the Great War

by Martin Pegler (Pen & Sword 2017, ISBN 978 1 47389 901 8, 212pp, illustrated, paperback, £14.99)

Martin Pegler is an expert on weaponry who used to work at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. He is also a founder member of the Western Front Association and now lives and works on the Somme battlefields. This is a reprint of an earlier book from 2008, and nearly a decade on it acts as an excellent overview of the subject of military sniping in the Great War. There are lots of first hand accounts and excellent insight from Pegler, as well as some great photographs. Recommended. Available from Pen & Sword.

 

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Latest WW1 Books from Pen & Sword

Harrogate Terriers by John Sheehan
(Pen & Sword 2017, ISBN 978 1 47386 812 0, 351pp, hardback, illustrated, £25.00)

This is part of an on-going series of unit histories which Pen & Sword have been publishing since 2014. So far all of them have been great additions to our knowledge of the Great War, and this is no exception: it is an exceptionally well researched and written account of the 1/5th West Yorkshire Regiment, a local territorial battalion from Harrogate. The book follows their fortunes from serving in the front line in Flanders to fighting on the Somme, and then back to Flanders for Passchendaele, and then later in the battles of 1918. There are many personal stories, the book is illustrated throughout with some never before published images, and there is a roll of service and full roll of honour at the end. A superb and worthy account of these Harrogate lads.

Givenchy in the Great War by Phil Tomaselli
(Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 550 5, 240pp, hardback, illustrated, £19.99)

Pen & Sword have been publishing Battlefield Europe titles on specific places on the Western Front for 20 years now but this is a stand alone booking at looking at one of the pivotable villages in Northern France where there was open warfare in 1914, some of the first trenches, a war underground with the Tunnellers, years of static warfare and then a German attempt to break through in 1918. The book follows these facets of the war chronologically and is well written and easy to read. There are some good illustrations and maps, and it serves as an excellent ‘bible’ of the village of Givenchy.

Colchester in the Great War by Andrew Phillips
(Pen & Sword 2017, ISBN 978 1 47386 061 2, 190pp, paperback, £12.99)

There are a huge number of these ‘Towns and Cities in the Great War’ volumes and some of the ones I have looked at have been good, others less so. I was particularly interested in reading this one as Colchester was the home of my grandmother’s family and many of her relatives are commemorated on the Colchester War Memorial. It is also a town I know well from visiting it frequently as a child. This is a well written and well researched account of Colchester in the war, focussing mainly on the experience of the home front and packed with unique images. I really enjoyed this as many of the stories were familiar and I could almost hear my grandmother telling me them again! This is certainly one of the best of this series I have read in a while; recommended.

Other recent Pen & Sword titles which I would recommend include:

 

 

 

 


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New WW1 Unit Histories from Pen & Sword

12866Cambridgeshire Kitcheners by Joana Costin
(Pen & Sword Books 2017, ISBN 978 1 47386 900 4, 320pp, illustrated, hardback, £25.00)

The 11th Battalion Suffolk Regiment was a Kitchener’s Army battalion formed in 1914 known as the Cambridgeshire Battalion. It went to France in 1916 as part of the 34th Division and was annihilated in the attack near La Boisselle on 1st July 1916. Rebuilt, it went on to fight at Arras and Ypres, and in the final battles of 1918.

This new book tells their story in an interesting and engaging way. It focusses heavily on the original battalion from their training to destruction, with a fascinating chapter on the men who became casualties on the first day of the Somme. It then takes up the later study and follows the battalion through to wars end. Throughout the book there are good illustrations with lots of portraits of men who served with the 11th Suffolks.

This is an excellent and worthwhile addition to our knowledge of a Pals battalion in the Great War and is highly recommended. It can be purchased from the Pen & Sword website.

13544The Manchester Bantams by Caroline Scott
(Pen & Sword Books 2017, ISBN 978 1 78346 389 3, 351pp, illustrated, hardback, £30.00)

One of the lesser known aspects of the British Army in the Great War are the raising of ‘Bantam’ Battalions comprised of men between 5ft and 5ft3 in height, well below the normal level acceptable for army enlistments. The 23rd Manchesters was one such unit in the 35th Division, comprised entirely of these Bantam Battalions.

The battalion fought in some of the toughest battles on the Western Front and the book uses source material well to weave a fascinating tale, well illustrated with contemporary images. It’s a very readable book, and a worthy memorial to these lads from Manchester. Again, highly recommended and another excellent volume in the unit histories currently being published by Pen & Sword.

The book is available from the Pen & Sword website.


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Book Review: Silent Landscape

9781911096030_1Silent Landscape: Battlefields of the Western Front 1914-1918 by James Kerr & Simon Doughty

(Helion Books 2016, ISBN 978 1 911096 03 0, 208 pp, profusely illustrated, hardback, £29.95)

The Great War was a century ago, and so surely everything has been written that could be written, every possible interpretation has been explored? That war was so vast the last word will never be written, and new generations will continue to view the war in so many different ways from books to art to photography: and all that is a good thing. Silent Landscape is a classic example of this; interpretation of the Great War by seeing what remains of it through the lens of a professional photographer.

Being a battlefield photographer myself I am always fascinated to see how other photographers view the world I take images in. This book is a real treat for that, with so many great photos, and not just from the Somme and Flanders, but the Vosges, Main de Massiges and some really stunning images of the Phantoms Memorial in the Marne. It is easy to get lost in a book like this, and the accompanying text is far from just dressing, it adds contexts to the photographs and makes this book one of the recent highlights of WW1 Centenary publishing. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys seeing images of the battlefields and those who wish to improve their own photographs.

The book is available from the Helion website.


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Iconic WW1 Fresco Added to New Thiepval Museum

Joe Sacco Fresco [77185]

Construction of a new 400 square metre museum as an extension of the Thiepval Memorial Visitor Centre has been completed which will now see the installation of unique imagery, museum exhibits and multimedia displays.

The opening of the new museum is scheduled for 1 June 2016 and will be a prelude to the Centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme, the iconic battle on the 1 July 1916 which was the bloodiest day for the British Army, becoming a symbol of the First World War in Great Britain.

Installed this week will be one of the most prominent and key pieces of the exhibition being a 60 metre long illustrated panorama drawing depicting the first day of the Battle of the Somme, as an open imaginary window onto the battlefield on 1 July 1916.

The drawing The Great War, the first day of the Battle of the Somme is the work of Joe Sacco, an artist who lives in the United States, was born on the island of Malta and spent much of his childhood in Australia. It was during his upbringing in Australia that inspired his interest in the First World War hearing stories of the country’s disastrous involvement in the Dardanelles campaign of 1915, which is commemorated each year on ANZAC Day.

Joe Sacco says :

“The First World War had been in my mind for years. I began reading about the Somme, Verdun and became fascinated and horrified by the concept of trench warfare and the idea that so many men lost their lives fighting over such small area of ground. That fascination and horror manifested into the image I have created to depict the first day of the Battle of the Somme.”

The second key piece soon to be installed will be a large scale reproduction of the aeroplane used by Georges Guynemer, a French pilot during the Great War.

This will feature as part of the Heroic Figures aspect of the exhibition. From 1916, the role of aviation in the war increased and with this the emergence of great figures or “sky heroes”.

Further exhibits will include  : accounts and testimonies from missing soldiers of all nationalities giving perspectives of the battle ; display of items from the Historial’s collections, which are archaeological remains left by the war found during the construction process.

The Germans on the Somme  – a specific installation to explain the German experience of the Battles of the Somme ;

The Battles of the Somme ; Mourning and Missing – a comparison of two types of memories ; the massive loss of men in a total, destructive war symbolised by the fate of the Missing and the heroic figures.

The Mass of the Missing – a specific room “Chapel to the Missing” will be dedicated to those soldiers whose names adorn the Thiepval Monument of which there are 72,194 British and South African soldiers who fell and were declared missing on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918.

When opened joint tickets will be available for entrance to the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and the new museum at the Thiepval site.

For more information : www.historial.org ; email : info@historial.org or call : +33 (0) 3 22 83 14 18


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CWGC: Remember War Dead in the UK

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have launched a new appeal to the British public to remember the dead buried in more than 12,000 locations across the United Kingdom during the 141 days of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme. In doing so they have teamed up with British actor, Hugh Dennis, who has a personal interest in the Great War.

The CWGC state on their website:

The CWGC Living Memory Project aims to encourage UK community groups to discover, explore and remember the war grave heritage on their doorstep. The CWGC is looking for 141 UK groups, to hold 141 events, to mark the 141 days of the Somme offensive.

Hugh Dennis, Living Memory ambassador for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said: “I have a very personal connection with the First World War as both my grandfathers fought at the Western Front. My great uncles also fought and one, my great uncle Frank, died and is commemorated by the CWGC in Gallipoli, Turkey.

“I’d urge everyone to get involved in this initiative so we never forget those who died during the Great War and are buried and commemorated so close to us on the home front.”

The idea is to encourage groups to research and find Somme casualties buried in UK cemeteries and remember them as part of the centenary. CWGC are offering help, resources and some funding as part of the project. Any community group interested in participating in the project can register now by emailing livingmemory@cwgc.org or visiting www.cwgc.org/livingmemory.

This is a really excellent idea and superb project from CWGC and I look forward to reading about some of the results of it during the Somme100 period.


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International Blacksmithing Event Ypres 2016

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A fascinating WW1 Centenary event is scheduled to take place at Ypres in Belgium on 1st-6th September 2016 involving blacksmiths from around the world. The website of the event explains:

In September 2016, a new World War 1 Cenotaph will be created at the Grote Markt, in front of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium. The Cenotaph will be located adjacant to the German War Cemetery at Langemarck-Poelkapelle.

poppy-home

The Cenotaph will commemorate everyone involved in the conflict, both military and civilian on all sides – all those who died, all those wounded, all those displaced – and of equal importance, their families and their communities. In the War of 1914 -1918 blacksmiths and farriers were indispensable in sustaining the war effort on all sides. In September 2016, hundreds of blacksmiths from around the world will come together in Ypres to remember all those affected by the war and to create in one week, a Cenotaph based on the internationally recognised icon, the Flanders Field Poppy. This will make a unique contribution to the many commemorative sites and structures on the Western Front, serving to commemorate all involved in and affected by the conflict.

This is a great idea and diverse projects like this are exactly what the WW1 Centenary should be about. More on the project website: www.ypres2016.com