Friday, 23 June 2017

Free British & Irish records - BE QUICK!

Midsummer Madness! Findmypast is offering all of its British and Irish records free of charge until the 26th June. The promotion launched yesterday and you'll have until Monday to make hay while the sun shines. You will need to register in order to access the records but that's it - no credit card details required, no tricks, no gimmicks, just millions and millions and MILLIONS of completely FREE records. Just as well the heatwave has ended because now there is every excuse to be indoors and glued to a computer. CLICK THE LINK to register.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Birmingham Pals lapel badge

I saw this offered on eBay this week, a nice original lapel badge issued to the Birmingham Pals. This one is up for £100. That might be a tad optimistic, I have no idea really. I probably would pay £100 for an original badge like this, but the condition would need to be better still, with no enamel missing and no alterations to the reverse. I'm fussy like that.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Book review: Harrogate Terriers

From the colourised photograph of a Harrogate Terrier on the dustwrapper, to Zillebeke (Ypres); the final entry of an extensive index, this is a superb study of a Territorial Force battalion (the 1/5th West Yorkshire Regiment). 

The battalion's genesis was the 1st Volunteer Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment and the author dedicates early pages to this Volunteer Force unit and its subsequent metamorphosis into the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in 1908. The later re-designation as 1/5th W Yorks, and the reserve 2/5th and 3/5th Battalions can often be confusing to many, and John Sheehan explains when these reserve battalions were formed and when the battalion titles changed to reflect the re-organisation.

But of course, it is the stories of the men - the boys in many cases - and the battalion's war service which is the strength of this work. This is a heacy and densely packed volume; 350 pages long and packed full of photographs - many of these unseen before - and touching strories. Over a hundred years on, these stories still never fail, with this reviewer at least, to bring a lump to the throat and moisture to the eye. How would this country react to such enormous losses today? I've often wondered what the response today would be. Let's pary we will never know the answer.

For those who went before, this is a fitting memorial. The author has even attempted to pull together a nominal roll of officers and men who served with the battalion and I suspect that even though this book has now been in print for a few months, there will be further names that the author has uncovered which did not make the cut.

Essential reading for anyone with a specific interest in this battalion, Harrogate Terriers will also be a boon to researchers; a quick and easy reference to be read alongside the official battalion war diary, service records and newspaper reports. Well done, John Sheehan and well done Pen & Sword on another cracking battalion history.

Book review: The Journey's End Battalion

Michael Lucas has written a cracking book here which must have taken months if not years of painstaking research. For me, to use a hackneyed phrase, this book ticks all of the boxes:
  • it is well researched
  • it is well-written and hence, readable
  • there are extensive notes
  • there is a good bibliography
  • there are appendices
  • there are maps and photographs

All of the above may be blindingly obvious essential requirements for a military historical work of fact and yet it is surprising how many books fall down on one or more of these check-box points. A good researcher may not necessarily make a good author; a good author might be a sloppy researcher, and so on.

The 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was a New Army battalion and also home to R C Sherriff who would later write Journey's End. The play's title, and a nervous-looking R C Sherriff, appear on the dust-wrapper of this volume.

Unless you're a die-hard 9th East Surrey's historian, you may not want to read the book from cover to cover; apart from anything else, the relentless casualties soon make for depressing reading. Nevertheless, this is a terrific tool for the First World War researcher and it earns a place on my bookshelf because of this. The book is published to the usual high standard we've come to expect from Pen & Sword.