WW1 Centenary

Great War Centenary 2014-2018 website by Paul Reed


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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: 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.

 


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Book Review: New WW1 Titles From Pen & Sword

10930Dorking In The Great War by Kathryn Atherton

(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 9781473825529, 192pp, illustrated, paperback, £12.99)

This is in the Pen & Sword series ‘Your Towns & Cities in the Great War’ which is shaping up to be a useful and interesting series for the WW1 Centenary. This volume covers Dorking in Surrey and takes a chronological approach looking at the war through the different years and then themes within those years. Of particular interest to the casual reader will be the story of Valentine Joe Strudwick whose grave at Ypres is so frequently visited. Elsewhere in the book there is some great material, backed up with excellent illustrations.

 

105240Isle of Wight In The Great War by M.J.Trow

(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 9781783463015, 96pp, illustrated, paperback, £9.99)

Another new volume in the ‘Your Towns & Cities in the Great War’ series this rather slim volume skips through 1914-1918 from the perspective of the Isle of Wight. Stories mainly concentrate on local men who served and died, with some detail of how the war affected the Island but I was surprised not to read about the German internment camp that existed. A good general account but which lacks detail, disappointingly.

105027We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the Great War by Vivien Newman

(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 78346 225 4, 191pp, illustrated, hardback, £19.99)

This is a really excellent book covering women in the Great War with some good material from chapters about the women who died in service to those who wore khaki and how the losses in the conflict affected mothers, wives and sisters. It is clear a lot of research went into the book and it is not just a trawl of the usual sources as has been the case with some recent books on Women in WW1. The book puts women back on the WW1 map, just as they should be, and ends with the quote from one of the last surviving women veterans, Florence Green, who said ‘I was very proud of my service’. Highly recommended.

10350Liverpool Pals by Graham Maddocks

(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 47384 512 1, 288pp, illustrated, paperback, £16.99)

One of the earliest articles I remember reading about the Great War was a piece in Battle magazine in the early seventies when Graham Maddocks, the author of this book, wrote about the man who features on the front cover. That was one of the things that first got me on the road to the Somme, and I had the pleasure of meeting Graham many times before he died to thank him for that. This book on the Pals, packed full of stories and photos, was originally published in 1991 and this is an updated version in a new format, which is greatly welcomed as it was one of the best written of the Pals series covering a fascinating unit. Highly recommended.

10986Battle Beneath The Trenches: Cornish Miners of 251 Tunnelling Company RE by Robert J. Johns

(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 47382 700 4, 249pp, illustrated, hardback, £25.00)

The war beneath the Western Front was one of the most fascinating of the Great War when both sides tunnelled under the battlefield. This new book explains the war underground as well as specifically looking at the many Cornishmen who served in 251st Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers which was known as the ‘Cornish Miners Battalion’. The book also contains much information on other tunnelling units and biographies of the Cornish miners who died. A fascinating and well written book.


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New Gallipoli Books from Pen & Sword

This weekend marks the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli. On 25th April 1915 Australian, British, French and New Zealand forces landed on the Gallipoli coastline in Turkey in a daring plan to reach Constantinople. Gallipoli quickly turned into a mirror of the Western Front with trenches, barbed wire and stalemate, and cost the Allies more than 250,000 casualties and the Turks at least as many. Pen & Sword have special offers on many Gallipoli titles and these are some of the latest titles reviewed below.

Tracing Your Great War Ancestors: Gallipoli by Simon Fowler
(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 47382 368 6, 139pp, illustrations, maps, paperback, £12.99)

This book is part of a series by well known genealogy expert Simon Fowler. Their aim is to help the family historian trace a relative who served in a particular battle or campaign, and give them some wider context to make sense of what they did in that action. This excellent Gallipoli volume starts with an overview of the Gallipoli Campaign, takes some examples of what soldiers did at Gallipoli and then chapters follow which give a lead in how to research those who took part in the fighting here in 1915. The Royal Navy is covered as well as the army, and there is also a chapter on Commonwealth troops. The book ends with some leads on visiting the Gallipoli battlefields. An excellent one-stop volume giving useful context and excellent information on researching your Gallipoli ancestors. Highly recommended.

Available on the Pen & Sword website.

Gallipoli by Christopher Pugsley
(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 877514 64 7, 400pp, illustrations, maps, paperback, £16.99)

I bought this book when it first came out in 1984 and this new volume is a very welcome reprint of the original. This superb book, written by New Zealand’s leading military historian, tells the story of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) at Gallipoli. The NZEF were part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and all too often people forget ANZAC contained New Zealand troops as well as Australians. The book looks at the raising and training of the NZEF and then follows their experiences in Gallipoli from the landings at ANZAC through to the final battles. The NZEF also fought on the Helles front, where the British and French were, and this is not neglected. This is a finely written account of the Gallipoli campaign and arguably a classic volume on the subject. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in what the NZEF did in 1915.

Available on the Pen & Sword website.

The Gallipoli Experience Reconsidered by Peter Liddle
(Pen & Sword 2015, ISBN 978 1 78340 039 3, 269pp, illustrations, maps, hardback, £25.00)

Author Peter Liddle is one of the leading experts on the Gallipoli campaign and it is refreshing in this centenary year to see a new volume on the subject by him. It is in fact an updated and revised version of his ‘Men of Gallipoli’ which came out in the 1970s and has been out of print for some time. Liddle specialises in individual soldiers stores, having collected together a huge amount of material for an archive that is now held at the University of Leeds. The book is full of these accounts covering every aspect of the campaign, and all the nations involved. Throughout it is illustrated with rare and unseen images. Still a classic forty years after it was first in print, Liddle’s book gives the soldier’s eye view of Gallipoli and stands among the classic accounts of the fighting in 1915. Recommended.

Available on the Pen & Sword website.

 


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New WW1 Books From Amberley

Amberley Books are proving to be a prolific publisher during the WW1 Centenary and their latest batch of titles include the following.

477209808397Fighting Fit 1914 Edited by Adam Culling (Amberley 2014, ISBN 978 1 4456 3759 4, 318pp, paperback, £9.99)

This is an unusual book in that it is a reprint of extracts from several contemporary physical training manuals, collated by the Royal Army Physical Training Corps museum curator. It includes the manual for bayonet fighting which is fascinating and brings to mind Siegfried Sassoon’s account of bayonet training in 1915. The section on unarmed combat was also an eye-opener as it is not something generally associated with the Great War soldier. A fascinating insight into a lesser known side of the war.

The book is available from the Amberley website.

603743595489First World War Curiosities by Terry Breveraton (Amberley 2014, ISBN 978 1 4456 3341 1,319pp, paperback, £9.99)

Another unusual book from Amberley that is a sort of compendium of Great War facts, some of them well known, some obscure and some very odd! The book is packed with over 300 pages of all sort of information and while it is not a title you could read from cover to cover; it is great to dip into. Because it covers such a wide brief it is really hard to say what the book is but certainly a very different title and I suspect a good Christmas gift for the WW1 enthusiast.

The book is available from the Amberley website.

105987485092The First World War In Photographs: 1915 by John Christopher & Campbell McCutcheon (Amberley 2014,ISBN 978 1 4456 2205 7, 160pp, fully illustrated, paperback, £15.99)

For a series of photographic histories of the war following it year by year these books have to offer a good range of images, some perhaps rarely seen, and they have to stay focussed on the year in question. I reviewed a 1914 title in this series and enjoyed it but was dismayed from the start with this one which features a cover illustration showing three men of the American Expeditionary Force wearing gas masks: the AEF did not exist until 1917 and the image is from much later in the way. The next image on the contents page also shows AEF officers wearing gas masks introduced in 1916 and wearing steel helmets. Not a great start. The book then follows a month by month theme and there are many great inclusions and interesting information but I have to confess it was spoilt by the initial images and many others included which do not date from 1915. I also did not understand why photos of Gallipoli were included under March 1915 when the landings there began in April. Disappointing.

The book is available from the Amberley website.

260899850615Blighty’s Railways: Britain’s Railways in the First World War by Alexander J. Mullay (Amberley 2014, ISBN 978 1 4456 3857 1, 160pp. illustrated, £17.99)

Having watched Michael Portillo’s recent BBC series on railways in the Great War my interest in the role of railways in the conflict was rekindled so I was pleased to receive this title which has proven to be an interesting and fascinating book accompanied with some superb illustrations. The book looks at the expansion of military railways, the types of engines and equipment used, and focusses on the Somme campaign to illustrate how they were used. Well written, this is a decent study of railways in the war and highly recommended. Essential to understand that 1914-1918 was not all about trenches and much went on beyond the battlefield.

The book is available from the Amberley website.


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Book Review: First World War For Dummies

513JTiulw1LFirst World War For Dummies by Dr Sean Lang (John Wiley & Sons 2014, ISBN 978 1 118 67999 9, 396pp, illustrated, index, £15.99)

Part of me thinks that any book which has ‘For Dummies’ in the title is something to be avoided but there is no doubting that this series of publications, covering everything from language to computers is highly popular and a brand that many people turn to for an introduction to a subject. So why not the same for the First World War?

And indeed, why not? This particular publication has been produced in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum and is written by Dr Sean Lang a university lecturer and author of other titles in the series. From the start you have to recognise this is broad-brush history but with moments of clarity and detail, and looking at the structure of the book its twenty-two chapters cover everything from the origins of the war to the big battles on land but does not neglect subjects like the war at sea, women at war and also life on the Home Front. The final section looks at ‘tens’ – ten key generals to ten enlightening places to visit. The generals section is interesting as it does not contain Haig, but Rawlinson and Plumer. The enlightening places section was pleasing to see but sadly full of mistakes; there is no mine crater at the Newfoundland Park as stated and the museum at Verdun is the Memorial not the Historial, that’s at Peronne. But these are just niggles which caught my eye, and were rare in the rest of the book.

The text throughout is ‘chatty’ – remember this is designed to be a gentle introduction for people who are ‘dummies’. But not dumb – and that is the key; there are some good pieces throughout the book and it is well written and thoughtfully structured. For sure ‘old hands’ to the subject of the Great War would find little of interest here but if you wanted a good single volume overview written in an accessible way this is it, and if you are researching WW1 ancestors and want to see the wider picture without going too deeply – again this fits the bill more than adequately. In addition it is well illustrated, with some good schematics and useful maps, and easy to dip in and out of. Much more of a welcome to the WW1 Centenary than I thought it would be.

The book is available from the publishers website.