By Gardiner S. Mitchell, Published by YES Publications £16.90
First published 1991 2nd. Publication 2008
This book does “exactly as it says on the tin”. It contains the war experiences of a small number of combatants from Ulster, mainly the soldiers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
These were a small tightly knit group of young men from Co. Derry who grew up, went to school and played on the street together. Throughout the war these survivors watched their companions and comrades being slaughtered by machine gun bullets or blown apart by high explosives on the wasted landscape of northern France.
These survivors are quoted profusely by the author in this account and they speak openly and frankly of their unforgettable experiences in and out of the trenches.
Originally they were constituted as the Co. Derry UVF but on the outbreak of war they became the “Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers”.
The story is related by quoting these old soldiers of the Derrys who survived into old age, in particular Jim Donaghy, Leslie Bell and James Montieth. In their own words these old soldiers convey the unspeakable horrors of trench warfare and the traumatising effects of being under constant bombardment. Occasionally there were lighter moments with hours back in rest areas or even the relief of a visit to a causality station.
Whereby the book gives a graphic insight into the harsh realities of WW1 it is not of great benefit to family historians with the exception of the endpapers index list.
There is – under the headings of Army Number, Surname, Forename,Rank, Awards, Info and Additional. (“Info” meaning, date of demise and “additional” meaning killed in action or died of wounds.) – approx. 900 names including officers and other ranks.
As the soldiers are in the main from Co. Derry and Ulster men it follows that researchers from that area will find the book useful. The book contains many excellent photos of events both during the training period and also during the course of the war when soldiers of both sides are featured. There are photos of each of the constituent companies gathered in for the official pictures which are sharp and clear and will make it possible for descendants to identify soldiers. In the case of officers their group pictures have full captions as is the case of the NCO’s.
An easy read for those students of WW1 but not for those principally interested in family history.
Reviewed by Eddie Brennan,
Vice Chairman and Hon. Librarian IFHS