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V F Eberle
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
The Royal Engineers have left relatively few Great War memoirs for some reason. This republished work by V F Eberle is a rare gem. Originally titled My Sapper Venture copies of the original are few and far between. Pen and Sword deserve the thanks of readers for reviving this work. A further bonus is the latter part of the book involves the Italian campaign which is another under reported campaign by British writers.

The book covers the author’s war time career firstly as an officer in a RE Field Company and later as Adjutant of 48th (South Midlands) Divisional Engineers. This section starts with the author volunteering and then a brief mention of commissioning, a bit thin on details but once in France the details begin to flow. The account gives a meticulous record of the life of a young RE officer and the sort of tasks his unit undertook. The book is really readable, no doubt helped by the author taking years after the Great War to assemble, revise and prepare his memoirs. Much of the content is still very readable to a modern Sapper although manual tree felling is something of a lost art.

The book does remind non- Sappers of the key roles they have always performed in the army, frequently in arduous circumstances. For the Sappers see the section on development of the Bangalore Torpedo.

Books written by officers at sub-unit level often miss out on the bigger picture. Here the second section of the book will appeal as Eberle was posted as Adjutant to Divisional Engineers where a far broader expanse was allowed. This was after 48th Div moved to Italy. Here the South Midlands Brigade was sent to reinforce the Italian armies in late 1917 after Passchendaele. The Piave Front, Assiago and Val d’ Assa are all covered. The difficulties of mountain warfare are commented on.

There are also some delightful references to Italian life and the final push forward to the surrender line as the Austro-Hungarian army imploded. Other books on the Italian campaign are The Forgotten Front (Cassar) and The Bristol Gunners (Anderson)

Finally the writer takes one through the run down of demobilisation and the final moment in 474 Fd Company RE where the last serving member dismissed himself! Not to be totally out of things in 1940 Eberle joined the Home Guard and acted as Company Commander.

The book runs to 208 pages and is well illustrated with good quality glossy photographs. A Map of the Western Front is also supplied showing the relevant areas. Readers might benefit from a map of Northern Italy if not familiar with the area. Annoyingly for the researcher there is no index

Cover price is £19.00 and there are copies from £9.47 in the current crisis

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