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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New Arras Books From Pen & Sword

The Battle of Arras is among one of the more neglected Great War battles and campaigns; while the Somme and Flanders have been swamped with publications, the number of books about Arras can be counted on one hand, so it is good to see Pen & Sword release some new titles in the approach to the 2017 centenary.

11580Peter Hughes’ Visiting The Fallen: Arras South (Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 558 1, 335pp, hardback, £25.00) is the second volume in his study of the Great War cemeteries around Arras. This volume looks at the south-south-east area of the battlefield taking in the many small battlefield cemeteries in this area, many of which are well off the beaten track. For each cemetery there is normally some background to the burial ground then the author has selected a number of men buried there who are particularly interesting. Using their stories the book essentially retells the Battle of Arras through the men who fell there. It is a very useful book for visiting the ground and while it is more reference than a good read, it is well put together and superbly researched.

11845Peter Hughes’ latest work is to complete the two books on Arras North and South looking at the cemeteries, by devoting this one to the memorials to the missing that cover the area. Visiting The Fallen: Arras Memorials (Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 557 4, 262pp, hardback, £25.00) looks are four of the massive memorials to the missing: the Arras Memorial, the Arras Flying Services Memorial, the Vimy Memorial and the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. The background and history of each memorial is explained and then by regiment and corps particular soldiers of interest are listed with their stories. Again, an excellent piece of research with many fascinating stories told for the first time, but I was surprised that the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial was not included as this includes Australian dead from Bullecourt and the early advance to the Hindenburg Line; a curious omission but it does not spoil an otherwise excellent work.

12180It is not often that books on trains in the Great War are published, or indeed that I read them, but Martin J.B. & Joan S. Fairbrother’s Narrow Gauge In The Arras Sector (Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 47382 118 2, 274pp, large format hardback, £30.00) is an excellent addition to our knowledge of the war at Arras. The Great War not just about bullets and bayonets, it was a war where the winner was the one who master logistics and the British use of trains was all part of the Allied Victory in 1918. The book looks in detail at the railway structure pre-1914 and then how it was expanded and adapted during the war. It is profusely illustrated with many rare images. The numerous excellent network maps show how extensive the use was by 1918. A fascinating ‘Things To See and Do Now’ chapter is also included which helps the battlefield visitor find some most unusual sites, not normally considered. A most unusual and superbly researched book for both the railway and Great War buff.


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Book Review: Visiting The Fallen – Arras North

Arras-North-Book-CoverVisiting The Fallen: Arras North

by Peter Hughes (Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 47382 556 7, 319pp, photos, £25.00)

As the author points out in the introduction to this book, Arras is something of a neglected battlefield. It sits within easy reach of the Somme and Ypres, but gets far fewer visitors compared to these areas of the old Western Front. The author, a former police officer who has been visiting the battlefields for over thirty years, hopes to redress this with this as the first of a trilogy of books looking at those buried and commemorated around the city of Arras.

The book is formed of a number of chapters and in each one several cemeteries are examined. These range from small communal cemeteries with only a handful of graves to large burial grounds like Cabaret Rouge with several thousand. The author has broken up the Great War battlefields around Arras into several areas which will form the trilogy of books and this volume looks at locations north/north-east of Arras itself. As such it covers the Vimy Ridge area in some detail and along with it the Canadian contribution to the 1917 battle.

For each cemetery background detail is given, often in some greater depth that the online Commonwealth War Graves Commission entries, which is to be welcomed. The author has picked a number of soldiers per cemetery and then discusses their life and war history. For some cemeteries there are a few such ‘cameos’ but for the larger ones, it can run to dozens. There are some great stories looking at men like Harvey-Kelly, the first RFC pilot to land in France to better known people like war poet Isaac Rosenberg. It really does give a good cross-section of the sort of men who fought and died at Arras in 1917.

This is a very interesting book and one I am sure I will look at often when visiting the cemeteries here, and the entries are all well written and full of detail. But I have to wonder at exactly who it is aimed at? Will the general public really buy three of these volumes to cover Arras? It will interest WW1 specialists and no doubt battlefield guides, but it surprises me that a publisher would publish several of them, when in some respect it is a book of ‘lists’ and not history as such. There is little context here, and I found the arrangement of chapters hard to fathom. The lack of maps is a serious omission in my mind as most people will have no idea where these cemeteries are or how the ones in the different chapters relate to each other. I hope they may think again on that aspect in future volumes as well as index of the names mentions as it is difficult to go back and find entries in some of the larger cemetery descriptions.

Having said that, this sort of publication certainly has its place. It adds a voice to the many white headstones in the silent cities around Arras and will be of benefit to anyone visiting the battlefields in this area. I look forward to future volumes, and perhaps some covering areas beyond Arras too.

The book can be purchased from the Pen & Sword website and the author also has a Visiting The Fallen website.


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WW1 Books: The Stockbrokers’ Battalion

The Stockbrokers’ Battalion In The Great War: A History of the 10th (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers

By David Carter (Pen & Sword 2014, ISBN 978 1 78303 637 0, 272pp, illustrated, £25.00)

The Royal Fusiliers is one of the most fascinating of First World War regiments; it formed a huge number of battalions and many of them had links to specific locations such as the 22nd (Kensington) Battalion and others to trades or occupations: and that is where the Stockbrokers’ Battalion comes in. Formed in 1914 from those who worked at the Stock Exchange and in City Firms it contained a broad range of men from a variety of backgrounds.

This excellent battalion history follows the Stockbrokers from their formation and training in 1914/15 to the battlefields where they held a so-called quiet sector before taking part in the Battle of the Somme. It then takes the reader through some of the great battles of WW1 from Arras to Flanders, and the final battles of 1918.

The book is well illustrated with many images never before seen in print, and the accounts quoted throughout are relevant and in many cases very vivid and give good insight into the experience of the men who served with the 10th Royal Fusiliers. It is an excellent tribute to an unusual battalion and a fine contribution to the battalion histories being published as part of the Great War Centenary.

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