Princess Louise's Kensington
regiment is a unit I had not heard of until now, and there is probably no reason why I should have, except they were an integral part of 51st Highland Division, and part of the British Expeditionary Force.
A fairly small unit, initially and a volunteer infantry battalion, they became a T.A unit after the reforms of Richard Haldane, the Secretary of State for War in 1908, when Yeomanry and volunteers became part of the Teritorial Force (TF) as it was first known, until 1921 when they became the Territorial Army.
This paperback covers the history of the regiment, albeit in fairly concise detail, and then concentrates on the start of World War 2 and the role that the regiment played. It is sub-titled 'France and England; summer 1940' and that, as they say, covers it.
The regiment was mobilised almost literally days before the declaration of war, and the mobilisation and logistics will be more than familiar to anyone who has served. Chaos, both controlled and random best describes the initial formation. Odd jobs given to all ranks, and disparate tasks allocated to the regiment as a whole, before their original role is changed from pure infantry to a machine gun battalion.
It's a fairly slim volume, and the narrative draws heavily on both regimental and personal diaries, and this gives an intimacy and attention to small details that often are absent from more formal accounts. Details of training and routine are fleshed out with accounts of visits to cinemas and meals taken, and this is rather a nice touch. It gives a good insight into the people as opposed to being just a memoir.
There are some good illustrations and photographs, again not the usual po faced Colonels and Staff officers, but snaps of very ordinary soldiers.
The regiment fought continuously from the Saar to the Somme, then were an integral part of the fighting withdrawal to Le Havre, where a large part of the regiment were forced to surrender. Three companies managed to escape, and to fight on.
I liked this book. I liked the format, if it is a bit dry at times. I liked the story and admire the courage and fortitude of the members. It's a useful and interesting book, giving a different insight into what became a valiant and foolish expedition, but one that helped set the British character and forged the determination and spirit of the fighting troops.
3 and a half mushrooms