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Remembered Today:

Tea, Rum & Fags - sustaining Tommy 1914-18


John_Hartley

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I was looking forward to this one popping through the letter box as it seemed to combine two of my biggest interests - food and the war.

And, when I opened the package and flicked through the pages, it seemed to cover loads of information in fairly short sections. A couple of paragraphs on bacon, for example. A couple more on primus stoves. A whole page on the 1914 Christmas truce. Another on cafes. And so on.

So I started to read. However, within a few pages I started to feel disappointed that the information all seemed a bit thin on the ground. Two eggs short of a full breakfast if you will. And by about page 20, I had it sussed what was wrong. Weeks has done little, if any original research himself. He's read quite a lot of books - many publsihed within recent years. Standard works like Corrigan's "Mud, Blood and Poppycock", Van Emden's "Last Tommies", several of Malcolm Brown's IWM books. Some older ones like George Coppards "Machine Gun to cambrai" or Dunn's "War the infantry knew". And he's extracted food references from them. But, no doubt to make life easy for himself and to avoid any copyright issues, he doesnt use the men's quotes that the original authors did, but paraphrases the words. It makes for quite dull reading. A few days spent at IWM or the Liddle Collection would have surely found new first hand information and the inclusion of the men's own words would have made this so much better.

Oh, and in spite of the title, don't expect too much information about tea, rum or fags. This mainly about food.

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But, no doubt to make life easy for himself and to avoid any copyright issues, he doesnt use the men's quotes that the original authors did, but paraphrases the words.

Bit of a strong statement there. Copyright does not come into it - if the source is acknowledged in a foot/endnote. If not then that that is worst of all sins known as plagiarism. Does the author acknowledge any of his sources - if they are indeed from the works you report these paraphrases are based upon?

Trajan

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Haven't read the book but it's worth saying that sometimes ploughing through lots of other peoples' works to extract material relevant to a different line of investigation can be valuable. Again one needs to distinguish between works of (sometimes purported) scholarship and books intended to amuse and possibly inform. The former one would expect to to quote precisely and provide references (if only for the benefit of anoraks like ourselves) the other one would not (although it's a bonus if it's there). The title would suggest the book was intended to be one of the latter but if it brings more people to take an interest in WW1 well and good. Having to finance the top up fees on my wife's nursing home I'm now very careful when I shell out money on a book to make sure I know what I'm getting first [i'm fortunate in having Hay on Wye in easy driving distance]

BTW nothing much to do with WW1 but years ago I read a book called "Clean and Decent - the history of the bath and bog" which fell into the amuse and possibly inform category - does anyone know where I could find a copy?

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Does the author acknowledge any of his sources - if they are indeed from the works you report these paraphrases are based upon?

There's a lengthy bibliography which makes it easy to identify a goodly number of the sources - for example, the mentions of the recollections of Coppard, Billy Neville, Dunn(2/RWF) & Harry Patch. I'm sure that, for example, if I ploughed through Corrigan's book I would find more. On the other hand, there are no references whatsoever to any of the usual sources where one might find original accounts.

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