A Tommy At Ypres: Walter’s War by Doreen Priddey (Amberley Publishing 2011, ISBN 978-1-4456-0213-4), 351pp, illustrated, paperback £16.99.
As we approach the centenary of the Great War a large amount of publications are beginning to appear, which is no doubt some indication of the huge volume of books that are likely to be put out by publishers from 2014.
A Tommy At Ypres: Walter’s War was actually published in 2011 but it has only just come to my attention thanks to Doreen Priddey who compiled the book based on the wartime diary and letters of Walter Williamson. Walter was her grandfather, one of nine children born in 1888 in Oldham, Lancashire. He enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment and was posted to France in December 1916, when his diary begins. Overseas he joined the 1/6th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, an infantry battalion in the 39th Division, and he would remain in Flanders around Ypres with them well into early 1918 taking part in the Messines and Third Ypres offensives in 1917.
The diary is well written and aside from covering his experiences in several important battles of the Great War, it also covers long periods of static trench duty; and so is much more typical of the common experience most soldiers had during the war. Walter Williamson writes well and there are some superb extracts in the diaries. In particular his description of the opening phase of the Third Battle of Ypres on 31st July 1917 is exceptionally good at recording, as he put it, “things that were not read of under the big newspaper headlines”. And that is the essence of the book – a very personal and detailed account from an ordinary soldier in the ranks, during one of the toughest years on the Western Front in Flanders. A Tommy At Ypres is essential reading from anyone interested in the Great War and those wishing to have an insight into how our ancestors lived during those fateful years of 1914-18.
The book can be purchased from the publisher’s website: A Tommy At Ypres.