company nursesEdinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2014
ISBN: 9780748679119
£22.00

Yvonne McEwen ((Official Historian of the British Army Nursing Service and Director of 'Scotland's War 1914-1919' the University of Edinburgh Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict)

This is a seminal text for anyone studying or interested in nursing and medical practices during the First World War. It seeks to break the myths and romantic nonsense that has seeped into so much of the writing on the topic in recent years. In particular it discusses at length the work of the professional, trained nurses of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAs), the Reserve and the Territorials, who undertook the vast majority of nursing and care giving overseas.

It has an excellent index and bibliography to assist further research, while the list of abbreviations means the non specialist can follow and understand the complex "Learning Curve" that the nursing service underwent during the course of the war, making excellent use of quotes. The working professional relationships between the nurses, the Royal Army Medical Corp, stretcher-bearers and orderlies has been missing from other texts. For the first time we have a sense of how all elements worked together to help the sick and wounded in the "Chain of Evacuation", in particular on the Western Front.

The early working conditions for nurses on trains and hospital ships reflect their professionalism and duty towards the men in their care. The narrative is clear and very well written, the different roles of the QA's, the Reserves, the Territorials and the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) who nursed primarily at home is placed in context, with detailed examples and footnotes. The structure allows the reader to analyse the social, political and cultural changes as the war progresses, together with rapid nursing and medical developments.

Both Home and Overseas service is discussed but of particular note is the chapter on Gallipoli and the wider Dardanelles Campaign. Appendix 1 lists the nurses awarded the Military Medal, together with citations. These simple accounts show the danger that so many worked in and accepted as part of their usual working conditions, in particular the QAs.

Appendix 2 Disabilities and Pensionable Years details the cost many of these nurses paid for their dedication and responsibility. The whole text reflect the highest level of academic research but it is both accessible and readable, being exceptional value for money and written by a renowned expert in the area of military nursing. Yvonne McEwen has given the women who served as QAs or VADs, whether at home or overseas, their identity back as individuals and placed their work within the political framework of nursing and the wider context of the First World War.

I very much look forward to a Second Volume, which will continue to tell the story of the British Army Nursing Service.

Dr Phylomena Badsey MA

Project Manager / Visiting Lecturer
First World War Research Group
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Wolverhampton

 

fighting bucksThe History of the Royal Bucks Hussars 1914-18

Written by E J Hounslow; Forward by Professor Ian Beckett

ISBN 978 0 7424 9899 7

Date of Publication: 2013

Publisher Spellmount (an imprint of The History Press) 192 pp, includes photographs and maps

Initially, when my copy of this book arrived I read the cover and thought the subject matter extremely specific and pre-judged the content as being yet another 'this is what my relative did in the Great War'. How wrong I was!

Although the book is centred on the whereabouts of the Royal Bucks Hussars during the Great War and the involvement of the author's grandfather, he has cleverly expanded the remit and offers a fascinating insight into life in a Yeomanry cavalry regiment. Opening with a brief history of how and why Yeomanry regiments were formed, including the Peterloo riots, the training and even explaining the type of horses selected for cavalry regiments, the overview quickly moves on to his grandfather and the preparations for war.

The necessity to keep the attention of the reader throughout the book has been shrewdly adhered to and the book provides an excellent overview of campaigns, as well as the training and events in which the Bucks Hussars were involved. Although initially perceived as weekend warriors as part of the Territorial Force, the Bucks Hussars establish their credentials in the best way possible - by their actions.

Gallipoli, via a rough sea voyage to Egypt, why Turkey entered the war on the side of Germany is explained and the campaign coverage is easy to follow. The actions in which the Bucks Hussars fought are covered in an even handed way including their first action: the attack (on foot) across the Salt Lake on Chocolate Hill, though dry brush set on fire by artillery fire. The action isn't restricted to war diary entries; newspaper reports of the action and even letters home from medical and other officers add depth to the account.

The day to day existence during the Gallipoli campaign offers a personal insight into the lives of those involved – the heat, smell and millions of flies that contributed to a high sickness and fatality rate, which included the author's grandfather.

After an evacuation to Egypt, the Bucks Hussars settled into an aggressive defence of the Suez Canal. A very different experience from Gallipoli and a new set of problems, not least of which was the sheer logistics and restrictions on cavalry actions that resulted from the scarcity of water for both men and horses. Cavalry action against the Senussi tribesmen on the Western side of the Suez included charges in the 'old style' and a precursor of how cavalry would be used in 1918, as fast moving mobile infantry on the Western Front.

The arrival of General Allenby and the political goal of capturing Jerusalem by Christmas 1917, as well as the Battles for Gaza, are approached from a cavalry point of view: horses and men trained to survive on less water, for example, is explained as a crucial factor in final success at Gaza, despite the determined defence by Turkish troops, who made the mistake of running from cavalry charges, thereby providing excellent targets for the slashing troopers; had they stood firm in their trenches they would not have been overrun. As well as the success at Jerusalem, the book covers in an understated way what is officially regarded as the last major cavalry charge by the British Army at El Maghar by the 6th Mounted Brigade. The Bucks Hussars' involvement in this action is covered, as are the other cavalry regiments. What is also included are several references to the impact of such a charge across open country on both British and Turkish soldiers.

Although the desert successes are compared to the stagnant warfare of the Western Front, the overall picture portrayed is one of mobility and the conclusion that, when given the opportunity to fulfil the role for which they had trained, all the cavalry in the desert campaigns acquitted themselves well. This goes some way to correcting the 'illusion' that cavalry was only effective when the last machine gun had been silenced. The fascinating book "Horsemen in No Man's Land" by David Kenyon puts forward a strong argument that, although mistakes were made in the use of cavalry on the Western Front, they came into their own during the German Spring Offensive – horses can move faster than men and cavalry moved to block breakthroughs and halt German attacks time and again. This fact comes across in Fighting For The Bucks: cavalry were not an anachronism.

The trials of the Bucks Hussars did not end in Egypt. On the voyage home their troopship was sunk. Once again, the author includes a depth of research that adds to the story, explaining how the captain insisted that drills were practised for abandoning ship prior to departure. Torpedoed off Gibraltar, the crew and troops were rescued by a Japanese destroyer and HMS Lily. Captain Holl went down with his ship.

Eventually arriving at Etaples training camp in June 1918, the Bucks Hussars' final actions are centred on their involvement during the German Spring Offensive; their role changed to machine guns and an infantry role in preparation for the 'all arms' push against the Germans, once their manpower and materiel had been exhausted.

This book nominally follows the exploits of a relative, yet provides a smoothly written, overall approach to the subject, topics and campaigns. The appraisals of events such as the start of the war, and the fighting in Gallipoli and Egypt, provide a comprehensive background without getting bogged down in the minutiae. These events are cleverly brought back to the involvement of the author's grandfather and how they affected the Royal Bucks Hussars. It is extremely well written and edited and comes across as not just a labour of love, but also a valuable contribution to the oft derided involvement of cavalry in the Great War.

Reviewed by Richard Pursehouse

 

forgotten-battalionPrivate Publication.
ISBN 0 9544903 0 4 SB 182 pages £19.50 + p & p

The Household Battalion was formed in the summer of 1916 following a meeting between Lt Col Sir G L Holford, His Majesty King George V and General Sir William Robertson. It was an Infantry Battalion made up of Officers, NCO’s and men drawn exclusively from 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards. It only existed for 17 months before it was disbanded in early 1918 some months before the end of the Great War. It was soon forgotten after its demise, and no official history of this unit had ever written.

This book tells the day by day story of the Battalion, it has been written using the Battalion's War Diary, the War Diaries of other regiments who fought alongside them, and the 10th Brigade War Diary. The author has made great use of memoirs, diaries and letters from his father and those of three other Troopers who served in the Household Battalion. He has also used information held at the Royal Archives to assist him in writing about the formation of the Battalion. Throughout the book there are good quality maps, and 32 pages of black & white and colour photographs.

This is an excellent book for which the author should rightly be praised. It is effectively the Official History of the ‘Forgotten Battalion’. It is a first class publication and a great resource to those who have an interest in the Great War.

Sadly, Gerald Harvey died in 2012. However, the book is available by post from Mrs J Harvey for £19.50 plus postage & packing: UK - £4. Europe - £4.50 Surface & £5 Airmail. Rest of the World - £4.50 Surface & £9.00 Airmail. (Cheques payable to Mrs J Harvey).

Burn Brae, Orchard Hills Cottages, Carleton in Craven, Skipton, Yorkshire, BD23 3HF.

Tel No. 01756 228236

Reviewer: Martin Hornby

 

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