WW1 Centenary

Great War Centenary 2014-2018 website by Paul Reed


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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: 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: Forgotten Battlefields

The word ‘forgotten’ is probably the most over-used of the entire First World War Centenary but there are clearly forgotten aspects of that mighty conflict, and many forgotten battlefields – especially beyond the Somme. Military publishers Pen & Sword are to be congratulated for ensuring that new guidebooks to these areas are being published as well as Somme100 books and there are two new releases out.

10919David Blanchard’s Battleground Europe: Aisne 1918 (Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 78337 605 6, 280pp, paperback, £14.99) is a unique guidebook to the largely ignored British actions on the Chemin des Dames near Reims in May 1918 when British divisions sent their for a rest after actions on the Somme and Lys in March-April 1918 found themselves under attack for a third time. The author has been researching this for many years and this shows in the depth of knowledge in the book and the many never before seen images and accounts. The tour section is first class with some good leads on what to see and visit, excellent maps and information. Exactly what the centenary should be about: introducing us to areas that many have genuinely never before explored either in print or on the ground. Highly recommended.

11095Andrew Uffindell has written a number of books on the Great War and Napoleonic history, including a really good guidebook to the Marne 1914 battlefields which I used on the ground a while back. This new title The Nivelle Offensive & The Battle of the Aisne 1917 (Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 78303 034 7, 197pp, £14.99) is an in-depth battlefield guide to the battlefields where the Neville Offensive took place on the Chemin des Dames in 1917, and where the French Army mutinied. The book breaks the battlefield up into sectors from Laffaux in the west to Malmaison and Craonne. The maps and illustrations are excellent, and there is a good mix of history and battlefield information. The section on the first use of tanks by the French is especially interesting. Another great battlefield guide to a neglected aspect of the First World War.

 


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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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New Verdun Books from Pen & Sword

A century ago the Battle of Verdun was in its second month: a terrible battle, arguably one of the most terrible of the war which saw more than 770,000 and bombardments with unbelievable statistics: a thousand shells per square meter and barrages where nearly 5,000 shells fell every minute. Military publisher Pen & Sword have just published some new titles to co-incide with the centenary.

Ian Sumner’s Images: The French Army At Verdun (Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 97801047385 615 8, 121pp, paperback, £14.99) is an excellent overview of the battle from an author with a good track record of books on the French side of the Great War. There are brief chapter introductions but some good photo captions. The photographs themselves are well chosen and show both the French and German side of the battle. The air photos clearly show the destruction the bombardments caused and give an insight into the hell of Verdun: highly recommended.

12487Bob Caruthers is better known as a WW2 author but his new Images of War: The German Army on Campaign 1914-1918 (Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 9781473837829, 128pp, paperback, £14.99) offers his expertise on the German Army in the Great War. The book is not just about Verdun, covering the whole war, but it is certainly a theme. The images are drawn from private collections as well as official sources, so many of them are published for the first time. An excellent visual overview of the German Army in WW1.

12097Historian Christina Holstein is one of the foremost experts on Verdun so among this latest offering it is good to see a new guidebook from her: Verdun – The Left Bank (Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 703 5, 190pp, paperback, £12.99). This is a really excellent guidebook covering Mort Homme and the Cote 304 area in some detail: the vital left bank is often neglected by historians, let along battlefield visitors. As one would expect with Holstein the work is very well researched, there are good illustrations and excellent maps. A real must for anyone going to Verdun this year.