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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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.

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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

 


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Book Review: The Tangier Archive

tangierA new book edited by Carlos Traspaderne The Tangier Archive (Uniform Press 2014, ISBN 978 1 910500 156, 217pp, large format paperback, £25.00) began with the discovery of a box of 500 glass negatives in a Tangier market. The images were taken and annotated by a French officer during the Great War: these are not snaps, they are well composed and structured photographs taken on a good camera. While produced by a French officer they cover much more than the French front and many familiar places where the British Army fought are seen through the lens of this officer. The collection gives us an insight into everything from uniforms and technology, to the way the landscape was destroyed and an insight into battlefield conditions. The photos are simply stunning and they reproduced very well in this handsome edition. If you never tire of looking at Great War images then this is the book for you and if you want a one volume glimpse into out ancestors wartime past then The Tangier Archive is ideal.


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Book Review: Black Tommies

The story of Black Afro-Caribbean soldiers in the Great War is an often neglected aspect of the conflict: many people know about Walter Tull the professional footballer who became an officer in 1917, but Tull was one of thousands of Black men who served in Khaki.

40914_originalA new book by Ray Costillo helps bridge this gap in our knowledge: Black Tommies: British Soldiers of African Descent in the First World War (Liverpool University Press 2015, ISBN 978 1 78138 019 2, 216pp, paperback, £14.99). The book examines the general subject of Black soldiers in the British Army and the Black presence in Britain in 1914. It then moves on to look at the volunteers who joined in 1914, how conscription affected the Black community, and the wider aspect of the use of Black men in Commonwealth armies during the conflict. The book rightly states that Black soldiers in the British Army was nothing new: Black men had fought at the Battle of Waterloo for example, but it had been forgotten by 1914 and the soldiers who entered the army during WW1 faced a wide range of prejudice and misconception. Walter Tull features in the book but it rightly points out that despite popular belief he was far from the only Black officer, and not even the first. This is a well researched and written title on a forgotten part of the Great War and is highly recommended.


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Book Review: The Leeds Pals

11548Leeds Pals by Laurie Milner

(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 9781473841819, 410pp, profusely illustrated, hardback, £30,00)

The Leeds Pals were the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. Raised in Leeds in September 1914 their long war first took then to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal and from there to the Western Front. On 1st July 1916, the first day of the Somme, they were annihilated in the attack on Serre. But despite these heavy losses, they later served at Arras in 1917 and in the German offensives of early 1918, ending their war in Flanders. By the end of the war the battalion had suffered over 3,300 casualties.

This superb book was first published in 1991 in the then large format ‘Pals’ series by the Barnsley Chronicle. This new edition is a substantial hardback but still retains the profusion of excellent illustrations as well as a sound, and easily readable text. There are also useful appendices with a nominal roll, casualty lists, names of those taken prisoner and information on gallantry awards. As such it will be of great interest to family historians as well as those fascinated by the story of the Pals in the Great War.

Laurie Milner’s book is a classic account of the men from Yorkshire whose war was two years in the making and ten minutes in the destruction at Serre on that terrible day in 1916, and it also gives us a wider understanding of how a battalion formed like this managed to sustain the whole war. Highly recommended.

The book can be purchased from the Pen & Sword website.


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Book Review: New Gallipoli Titles

10928A Marine At Gallipoli and on The Western Front by Harry Askin

(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 47382 784 4, 248pp, illustrated, hardback, £25.00)

Harry Askin was a 22 year old Sheffield lad when he joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1914 and he then served with them at Gallipoli and on the Western Front with the Royal Naval Division. Later in the war he was commissioned in the RMLI having fought on the Somme, at Arras and then Ypres. This is a very well written account and the chapters on Gallipoli are superb; they describe in some detail conditions on the battlefield and the terrible fighting around Krithia in June/July 1915. One of the best of the ‘new’ memoirs that have been published during the WW1 Centenary.

10981Fatal Charge at Gallipoli (Front Line 2015, ISBN 978 1 84832 902 7, 280pp, illustrated, hardback, £25)

This is the first of three new excellent Gallipoli books by Australian author John Hamilton. This title tells one of the most iconic Australian stories of the 1915 – the charge of the Light Horse at the Nek, as depicted in the famous film Gallipoli. It is a highly detailed and obviously minutely researched account, which adds much to our knowledge of this part of the Gallipoli campaign.

10984Gallipoli Victoria Cross Hero (Front Line 2015, ISBN 978 1 84832 903 4, 304pp, illustrated, hardback, £25)

This next title by John Hamilton looks at the story of Lieutenant Hugo Throssell who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at the Nek and Hill 60 while serving with the 10th Light Horse. Throttles survived the war but had been wounded on several occasions. After the conflict he became vehemently anti-war, and quite outspoken on the subject. The book charts his gradual decline as because of his views he was unable to get work, and was forced to pawn his Victoria Cross for the pathetic sum of 10 shillings. Hugo Throssell committed suicide in 1933; as much a casualty of the war as those who had died beside him in the trenches. This is a really fascinating book and illustrates the price of heroism which men like Throssell had to pay. Highly recommended.

10982Gallipoli Sniper (Front Line 2015, ISBN 978 1 84832 904 1, 255pp, illustrated, hardback, £25)

This final book from Ian Hamilton tells the story of Billy Sing who was one of the most famous of the Australian Gallipoli snipers. The static nature of trench warfare at ANZAC brought sniping to the fore and Sing, an Australian of Chinese descent, quickly became known as the ‘ANZAC Angel of Death’ because of his skill with the rile. He was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and also fought on the Western Front as a sniper. Having survived the war he died in poverty in 1943, a forgotten man and his grave went unmarked for many years. Again, like the Throssell book, this is a fantastic story and a sad one, showing how men like these struggled to cope when the war was over. Once more, highly recommended and I hope the author will be writing some more books in the near future.