My interest in World War 1 is mainly the actions fought on the Western Front, I think it is perhaps the same with most WW1 enthusiasts. I had little interest in the Middle East, however this book is an eye opener and does much to raise the profile of all that happened there, mostly after the failed Gallipoli campaign ended and saw 43 Divisions of Turks and their German advisers together with Bavarian Gun Batteries and German Machine Gun companies to seek their fortune around Egypt, the Suez canal and the surrounding Deserts. The enemy force was commanded by the German General Eric Von Falkenheyn, fresh in command after arriving in the Desert from the Battle of Verdun.
- Steven John
However the book is mainly concerned with the exploits of the 24 Battalion of the Welsh Regiment (Formally the Pembroke and Glamorgan Yeomanry) but re-tasked as infantry for the Middle East Campaign. Military books similar to this one are of great interest in the people in the area from where such Territorial units were enlisted, but perhaps of limited interest to others round and about the UK. The author does great justice to his research of members of the battalion, detailed even to produce the full particulars with addresses and the man’s place of employment and parents details, this is a delight to family researchers from the areas of West Wales. The images of the graves of those killed are shown in most cases and good stuff again for the relatives who would appreciate such detail. The officers of Yeomanry units were mostly from the ‘Landed Gentry’ The Pembroke and Glamorgan Yeomanry is no exception, it has all from Barons to Lords of the Manor and a good smattering of stock brokers. The officers and the Troopers supplied their own horses, I found that interesting, it must have been sad to take ‘old Ned’ to the Desert and to hand him over when the Regiment’s conversion to infantry was made. The Gentry liked yeomanry units because they could get on horseback, whereby most Regular Cavalry units were fully subscribed.
In the military in wartime, for Record purposes, pensions etc there are only five ways to die:
Killed in Action
Died of wounds
Killed this can be due to accidents, murder etc, but usually a note on the deceased documents to say ‘Drowned,’ ‘ammunition accident’ motor accident etc.
Died this can due to sickness, heart attacks fever etc, often suicides are concealed in this category, otherwise ‘Death from own hand’ is sometimes shown.
Missing believed killed in action or captured. It may be years before a decision is made in the missing category. (Some WW1 Missing went on for many years and into the 1930s before decisions were finally made, tragic for the family where large property ownership was concerned.
I mentioned all this because throughout the book I see examples such as ‘died at the head of his company’ or died in France, and such expressions;… was it a heart attack? The proper category should be used, the author has it mostly right, but there are some ambiguities.
The Middle East fighting was intense at times and some good battles were finally won by Gen Allenby and his army of British, Australians and New Zealanders , David Lloyd George sent Allenby a message ‘Get me Jerusalem for Christmas’ He did, and got a bucket of medals for thanks. The administrative headaches for supply of food and water for the troops and fodder for horses was a vast and major problem. As the British Divisions advanced they laid a 6 inch water pipeline behind them, They also followed on with a railway line, It was saddening to the Welsh soldiers to see ‘Dowlais’ in the casting of each rail. That famous foundry that once made the cannonballs for Waterloo is 3 miles from Merthyr Tydfil and not far from where the soldiers lived. One soldier remarked: “That blast furnace lit up my bedroom ceiling every night ever since I can remember”
Mention must be made of Gen Allenby’s considerate speech to the Mayor and people of Jerusalem after its capture in Dec 1917 and to compare it with the Coalition’s attack on Iraq, whereby the US attitude of ‘Grab them by the B—ll--ks and their minds will follow’ Well they certainly didn’t follow! I show Allenby’s speech in full to show the contrast.
To the people of Jerusalem
The defeat of the Turks by troops under my command has resulted in the occupation of your ancient city by my forces, I therefore declare Martial Law but only for as long as circumstances make it really necessary. However don’t be alarmed because of your experience with the enemy, who has now retired. It is my desire that every person pursue his lawful business without any interruption, furthermore since your ancient city is regarded with affection by three of the great and respected religions of mankind, I therefore pledge and make it known that your ancient buildings and places of worship, Holy Spots and your shrines, all made sacred by centuries of worship by these three religions shall be respected, and maintained and protected according to the existing customs, and of the existing beliefs and customs of those to whose faith they are held so sacred.
General E.H.H. Allenby 17th December 1917
After the Middle East the Battalion Traveled to the Western Front via Marseilles, and just in time to take part in the battles of Celle and the Sambre, and up to the wars end,
The large appendix to the book has much very interesting detail, showing officers and soldiers gallantry awards with citations, also the officers and men that survived and lived on, some to the late 1980s. The book in this respect is a researcher’s delight, also interesting is the ‘soldiers letters home’ there are good detail in many of these and shows the hardships the troops were undergoing, both the heat of the Desert and the winter months of driving Rain. Interesting and well researched, I award it 4.5 stars, but stress that the main interest in such a book will come from its homeland in West Wales.