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Remembered Today:

Fromelles 1916


Chris_Baker

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Fromelles 1916 :

No finer courage - the loss of an English village

by Michael Senior

published by Pen & Sword Military, 2011

ISBN 978 1 84884 537 4

cover price - £19.99

hardback, 215pp plus appendices, notes, bibliography and index. Illustrated

This is a welcome republishing of a work that first appeared in 2004 under the title "No finer courage: a village in the Great War". No doubt that its republication has been inspired by the fact that Fromelles has been much in the news in the last year or two. Had anyone new to the subject of the Great War read or watched much of the coverage of the finding, exhumation, identification and reburial of men now in the new Pheasant Wood military cemetery, they could be forgiven for thinking that Fromelles was an exclusively Australian affair. This is perhaps unsurprising, as the battle of 19-20 July 1916 ranks among the worst days losses in Australian history, and those identified in the exhumations have all come from the AIF. Often forgotten (and indeed in some quarters often disparaged) is the involvement of the British Territorials of the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. "No finer courage" is concerned with men from the village of The Lee, who served (amongst others) with the 2/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Nine men of the village died at Fromelles, within a matter of minutes.

The book takes us through the background of The Lee (which, rather unusually, was owned by Arthur Liberty, founder of the store in London that still goes by his name); enlistment and training; the village itself during war time, and it rounds up with discussion of the legacy of Fromelles and the war in general. The 2004 edition has also been brought up to date with coverage of the Pheasant Wood findings. But of course the core of the book concerns the battle of Fromelles, from the decisions and build up to the attack on the Sugar Loaf salient made by the 61st Division. This will be of interest not only to British readers but Australians, as the 2/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion was on the immediate right of 59th Battalion AIF at the junction of the two Divisions. The telling of the battle includes no surprises but is given specific flavour, benefitting from the fact that the Buckinghamshire unit and the village have more remaining records that most.

The Lee war memorial lists 30 names - a not untypical roster from a village whose pre-war population was about 750 - and of those fewer than a third died at Fromelles, but it is clear that many more were present and that the battle had a serious and lasting effect. I found the discussion of the legacy of the battle and the social history of the village during the war to add greatly to what could otherwise have been in many ways straightforward battle narrative. Well researched and written, "No finer courage" is certainly worth considering.

One point of technical note is that in this edition the text is in quite a large and well spaced typeface, which with plentiful photographs and maps spins it out to 215 pages plus appendices etc.

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Chris ... is this avalable in Australia?

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I think it unfortunate that the volume was reprinted with Fromelles 1916 as the headline title. The book says more about the community that the battle and yet it is easy to be led into thinking it is wholly about the battle of Fromelles. It is a good read, but it's core is "The Lee" and not Fromelles.

Of course there are other titles one could point at as similar "misnomers". The esteemed bibliographer, A G Ensor in his WW1 bibliog carefully included "The Donkeys" as pertaining to animals at war. It was nothing of the sort.

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I've already expressed irritaion with the title on Same book - different titles thread.

A title should attempt to convey content, and distinguish it from similar books of that particular genre. If this book required a new title, why not From The Lee to Fromelles or From the Chilterns to the Somme? Both would imply a study of men from a particular area, and their destiny in WW1, thus summarising actual content.

If anyone concerned with this book is reading this thread, I for one would be interested to hear the reasoning for the need and choice of a new title.

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It's simple economics, Kate. I can well understand Pen & Sword's approach, even if I don't like it very much.

Title it Fromelles 1916 and you will sell several hundred copies, in UK and Australia.

Title it From the Chilterns to the Somme and you'll sell far fewer. Book publishing is a numbers game. No volume of sales, then it's not worth doing.

A great deal of this is driven by key word searches on the internet and especially on Amazon's catalogue.

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Oh, I understand that part very well Chris. But what of those purchasers who come across Fromelles 1916 online or shop shelf, and purchase in the mistaken belief that it concerns itself almost exclusively with analysis of the battle?

At best it is misleading, at worst, a con.

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In this particular case, 88 pages of the 215 pages of the book are solely about Fromelles and in addition there is an appended tour of Fromelles. Of the rest at least half is related to Fromelles. That's why in my review above I described Fromelles as being the core of the book. I can't see that it is particularly misleading or a con.

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You might not be so charitable if you already owned the book under its original title, and for a variety of reasons (forgetfulness, gifts etc) accidentally acquired another. I fall into the former category.

In other words, I have lost money thanks to the misleading actions of the author and/ or publisher.

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I've been caught out a couple of times during my time in the US. I purchased a copy of "Three Armies on the Somme: The First Battle of the Twentieth Century" by William Philpott on line, thinking it was a new work to complement his "Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme". When it arrived it didn't take long to realise it was one and the same book; simply the edition published in the US. Off topic, but this happens often over here. Simon Winchester's "Surgeon of Crowthorne" retitled "The Professor and the Madman" and his "Bomb Book and Compass", published in the US as "The Man Who Loved China". Clearly a pragmatic decision by the publishers but annoying neverthelesss.

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