Frontline Medic

Frontline Medic

The diary of Captain George Pirie, RAMC, 1914 - 1917, is a fascinating document edited by Michael Lucas, presenting an interesting insight to the life of a Medical officer on the front line during some of the most ferocious fighting of the war. Unlike many such accounts, written decades after the events, Pirie's diary is fresh and immediate and tells how things were and, rightly or wrongly, how they were perceived at the time. It is an attractively produced book, richly illustrated with photographs, maps, and contemporary caricatures along with useful Appendices and a full index. If you're interested in medical care during the war this is essential reading.

LUCAS (Michael), Frontline Medic. Gallipoli, Somme, Ypres. The diary of Captain George Pirie, R.A.M.C., 1914-17, Solihull, Helion & Company, 2014, 221 pages.

Review opublished in Britain_at_War_february_2015.

Dressed for war

Dressed for war. Uniform, civilian clothing and trappings 1914 to 1918.

The centenary of the First World War has certainly spawned a variety of books on subjects never previously tackled, and this is one. It was a war that changed not only attitudes but also the social fabric of society as well as fashion and dress sense. This book takes a fascinating look at clothing and dress through the war, both military and civilian. It also comes up with some terrific facts. For example, that the war saw the wrist watch introduced for men after pocket watches became impractical in the trenches. Previously, only women had worn them. Additionally, we learn that women first began to shave their legs when skirts became shorter in order to conserve fabric. Certainly a very different aspect of First World War history! Enjoy these and many other gems in an entertaining and useful work.

EDWARDS (Nina), Dressed for war. Uniform, civilian clothing and trappings, 1914 to 1918, London, I B Tauris, 2014, 218 pages

Review published in Britain_at_War_february_2015.

Imperial Germany's Iron Regiment

Imperial Germany's "Iron Regiment". Infantry Regiment 169, 1914-1918

Generally speaking, war histories of German regiments during either the First or Second World War are comparatively rare. Thus, the author's book is a welcome addition to the limited published resources of this genre.

Inspired by a wartime journal written by the author's grandfather, a veteran of the regiment,  much of the book is drawn from this rare testimony. Published for the first time in English it immerses the reader in an aspect of trench warfare that one quite rarely sees. This is an information-packed and well edited book, illustrated with maps relevant to particular sections. It is fully referenced and contains a section of period images. Certainly a worthwhile publication giving a German perspective on the war.

Author: John K. Rieth is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and a Military Historian. He is the author of "Patton's Forward Observers; The History of the 7th Field Artillery Observation Battalion". He is also a member of the Army Historical Foundation.

REITH (John K.), Imperial Germany's "Iron Regiment". Infantery Regiment 169, 1914-1918, Badgley Publishing Company, 2014, 323 pages

Review published in Britain_at_War_february_2015.


The Retreat from Mons 1914: South

The Retreat from Mons 1914: south. Etreux to the Marne.

 This useful pocket-guide in the Battle Lines series fills a gap for those looking to follow the opening campaign of the First World War and in the expert if 'virtual' hands of accomplished tour guides Cooksey and Murland.

The book takes readers over routes that can be walked, biked or driven and carefully explains the fighting that took place at each point along that journey in vivid detail. They describe what happened and why and who was involved, pointing out the various sights of interest along the way. Accompanied by maps, period images and current photographs of the main locations this is certainly a handy guide for those wanting to plan their own battlefield tour. A useful and accurate publication, as well as being an interesting read.

COOKSEY (Jon) and MURLAND (Jerry), The Retreat from Mons 1914: south, Barnsley, Pen and Sword Books, 2014, 152 pages

Review published in Britain_at_War_february_1915.


Shell Shocked Britain

Shell Shocked Britain. The First World War's legacy for Britain's mental health.

Today, conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are well known and part of our 21st century vocabulary. Indeed, such conditions are known and recognised but in the war of 1914-18 these disorders were a new phenomenon brought on by the sheer horrors of industrialised warfare. Not only were men traumatised by what they had seen and experienced, by fear, by the conditions in which they lived and fought but also by the relentless and literally shocking noise of gun fire. All of these factors caused hitherto unseen responses to war, which had devastating effects on the sufferers and their families. The overarching name given to the condition at the time was "Shell-Shock". Shell Shocked Britain is certainly an appropriate title, for that is exactly what the nation became. A century on, the shock of that war has not entirely faded away and this is a long overdue book.

Author: Suzie Grogan is a London-born professional writer and researcher in the fields of social and family history and mental health. Suzie's first book Dandelions and Bad Hair Days: Untangling Lives Affected by Depression and Anxiety was published in 2012 and she also writes for a wide variety of national magazines. Suzie also runs a popular blog, 'No wriggling out of writing', and presents a local radio show on literature, called ‘Talking Books’.

GROGAN (Suzie), Shell shocked Britain. The First World War's legacy for Britain's mental health, Barnsley, Pen and Sword Books, 2014, 168 pages

Review published in Britain_at_War_february_2015.


Night of the Zeppelin

Night of the Zeppelin

This intriguing little book, 112 pages, details a Zeppelin raid on the town of Loughborough in 1916, an attack that took the lives of ten local people and caused widespread damage and destruction. Against the scale of death and carnage wrought during air raids in the following war this was, by comparaison, only a small affair. And yet, for its time and for this, otherwise unremarkable country town, the raid had a dramatic and profound effect on its inhabitants. Privately published, this is all the same a worthwhile publication for those interested in the history of Zeppelin raids against Britain and contains illustrations, an appendix and bibliography.

LONG (David), Night of the Zeppelin, Loughborough, Reprint books, 2014, 112 pages

 Review published in Britain at War. A history of Conflict, january 2015, p. 103.



Great War Railwaymen

Great War Railwaymen

This really is a quality book on what is an oft-neglected subject and is undoubtedly the most comprehensive work ever conducted in its field. Quite simply, the contributrion of the railway to the war effort between 1914 and 1918 both at home and overseas was crucial; without the railwaymen and the permanent way infrastructure, engines and rolling stock then the war would have ground to a halt and it was the only way that vast quantities of materiel, supplies and men could be moved around.

 Jeremy Higgins has meticulously researched just about every aspect of the railway at war, including the personal stories of over 12,500 of the astonishing 20,000 railwaymen who died in military service. Of those, the author details over 1,000 and thus brings alive the story of the railwaymen who served, as well as those who continued to serve in railway-related occupations, and the price that was often paid. His work also gives a good idea of range, scope and scale of the effort that was required to keep the service running and the war effort sustained. It is an effort that in part is portrayed on the jacket illustration showing British and French troops struggling to recover a derailed locomotive at Maricourt in Septermber 1916.

The detail of railway operations, including in far-flung places like Egypt and Palestine, is covered in superb detail together with accounts from the Home Front and Western Front alike including some harrowing detail of the Quintishill Railway disaster in Scotland on 22 May 1915 which took the lives of 272 men, soldiers who were simply passengers caught up in this devastating railway accident.

As a railwaymen himself, the author clearly has both a passion for and an affinity with life and work on the railway, although it was often death on the railway that stalked his predecessors of 100 years ago.

This is a book that will appeal greatly to those interested in looking at overlooked aspects of the First World War and to railway enthusiasts alike. It is also a book that can be most thoroughly recommended.

(extract of review by James McCarthy-Edwardes)

HIGGINS (Jeremy), Great War Railwaymen. Britain's railway company workers at war 1914 - 1918, London, Uniform Press, 2014, 348 pages

Uniform Press