Monday, 21 March 2011

Weekend Reading

A major part of my family history research has been the WW1 military records of both my grandfathers and their brothers.  I try to read as many "light" works on the Great War as I can - too much military terminology turns me off and I get lost in the Orders of Battle and can't follow the various tactics and phases of offensives.  I don't mean to disparage anybody's books as "light" - I suppose I should say accessible or easy to read.  Anyway, this weekend's book has proved to be just that. 

Shots from the Front, The British Soldier 1914-1918 is a collection of photographs from all fronts in WW1, selected and written about by Richard Holmes.  Holmes is not only a leading military historian, but also a broadcaster (War Walks, Wellington) and here he uses his experience as a presenter to provide an informative and insightful narrative to a wide range of images, from the commonplace to the gruesome.  I found this to be an evocative and moving, as well as educational, window into the lives of the men and women who served at the Front. 

Key piece of information for me (I am keen to learn how to identify soldiers' units from their uniforms):  I can now identify a "gor blimey" cap, know what "collar dogs" are, about long service stripes, overseas stripes and wound stripes.  (It's a start!)
Key piece of trivia:  If a kite balloon wasn't inflated properly and things went badly wrong, the hydrogen rushed to one end and the balloon "went pear-shaped" - and here I was thinking it was a reference to what happened if you ate too much cake!


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