Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

1/4th Loyal North Lancashire Battalion


yperman
 Share

Recommended Posts

I have just read the openlibrary.org ebook version of the 'War History of the 1st/4th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment' (author: Battalion History Commitee, pub by Geo. Toulmin & Sons, Preston, 1921). It is not an official war diary but rather an account - written by one or more members of the battalion- telling the story of their Territorial battalion from mobilisation in August 1914 through to their return in 1919. It is clearly written with the bereaved families in mind - there is no mention of wounds or the horrors of war, and reverses such as at Festubert in 1915 are described so as to suggest they were in fact successes. Drink and women get no mention at all.

For me, there are two especially fascinating aspects of the book. One is the view of the war as seen through a battalion's eyes - for example, I for one am guilty of seeing the Battle of the Somme as a continious battle, the view as it were from Army HQ - yet as this book makes clear - despite the battalion's heavy involvement in the Somme Battles, there were also long periods out of line - horse shows, boxing matches, sports days and so on are enthusiastically described as taking place during the battle.Some operational orders are given in great detail and in the account of of the 1918 Givenchy/Festubert battle there is a classic description of what it was like to actually take part in individual small units in a successful defence in depth.

The other aspect that appeals to me are the views of individual soldiers. The men who survived three years as Western Front Trench soldiers still remembered (in 1921!) the "horrors" of the two weeks they spent billeted in Preston Town Hall after mobilising in August 1914. There are fascinating glimpses of the Tommies' views, including a 1st person account of one officer's feelings on the first occasion "he went over the top", marching on the "wrong" side of the road, the excitement at getting "long bayonets" , their truly British pride in making the best latrines on the Front, Lewis gunners' opinions on 15 mile "decoy" marches and so on.

I strongly recommend this account to anyone interested in battalion or smaller units on the Western Front.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I cherish my original copy.

Andy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I envy you - the ebook version is not easy to read on a Pc screen - did you inherit yours or buy it? and if so -million dollar question- where did you find it? Yperman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I bought it on Amazon some years ago. Whatever you do beware of buying one of the modern digitised versions, they are an absolute shambles. There are no maps or pictures, and the lists of killed or wounded at the back of the book don't show anything other than names.

Antique book sellers may be your best bet.

Andy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the advice! Yperman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a great history - there's a Bewdley man I'm researching who is a member of the 1/4th and who died of wounds on the 16th June 18: this account really illuminates his fate. Thanks for the tip.

Simon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

there is a copy in Bolton Central Library (Local History shelf) for those who can get there and prefer research using hard copy. NB it is not a Reference Book so can be loaned out if you intend to go to Bolton to peruse it it may be prudent to phone library beforehand their number is on BOLTON MBC website.

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree. The War History of the 1/4 LNLR is an excellent piece of work and the feel of the text is very fresh which might be expected as its drafting must have started (by paticipants rather than professional writers) whilst the signatures on the Versailles Treaty were still drying. The Lancashire Infantry Museum at Fulwood (previously the Museum of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and very nice people in a magnificent building - personal research strictly by appointment though) holds a bound volume of manuscript sheets that appears to be a fair copy of the official War Diary for the period 2 May 1915 to 30 April 1917. (I must admit to not having called up the official diary from the NA as yet). The language is more narrative and descriptive than many official diaries but the map sheet references to the side point to this volume being a transcript of the 'proper' diary.

I think that for much of its coverage, the War History follows the order of (what I think is) the official War Diary closely and many phrases are taken verbatim with slight amendment from the manuscript. It would be a work of scholarship to identify the substantial amounts of additional material and to trace the sources. There are a few marginal notes in the museum's bound manuscript and my sense is that this was prepared so the authoring team in Preston could get on with the job with a reliable source in front of them (as admitted by in the preface). One can only admire the dedication of a group so recently demobbed, some after five years service, in getting on to produce over 100 pages of close text in such good order with some excellent and carefully chosen illustrations. I don't think it would have been done in a few nights sitting round a table in the 55th Division Club in Preston.

I was interested in Yperman's point

  • 'It is clearly written with the bereaved families in mind'

I have always wondered what the target audience was for these quickly produced 'histories'. I suspect that it was for both the survivors (wounded and unwounded) as well as the familes of those killed but I think that Yperman is right in saying that the sensibilities of the 'families' would have been borne in mind although the book follows the fairly phlegmatic and understated tone of the official (bound manuscript) diary. However, it does mention the wounded where the diary does and also, for instance, the fact that of 33 bombers sent up to reinforce at Festubert, only 5 were unscathed. The 55th Division history (which John Bourne told me was the very first divisional history to be published - 1919 whilst its author was still in France) clearly aimed at being affordable and the Liverpool Scottish history (also 55th Division, AM McGilchrist - 1930) appeared in a luxury hardback and a much cheaper edition between boards and bound with a fragile blue cloth had affordability in mind. The War History of the 1/4 LNLR seems to cut no corners in the quality of paper, the standard of binding, the beautiful coloured frontispiece of the battalion's Colours (published so quickly that they are without battle honours) and the quality of the illustrations and the maps. It would be interesting to know how much it sold for and perhaps whether it was subsidised by mill or factory owners or a magnate such as Lord Derby. It may have been inexpensive; it is certainly not cheap.

I am still waiting for an original copy to come my way.

Ian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian's right about the wounded - I didn't make it clear I meant the lack of graphic descriptions of disease, privation, death and wounds.

On Ian's other point - the target audience - there may be a clue in Admiral Bacon's history of the Dover Patrol where he specifically states it was intended for the men and families of the Patrol for them to keep as a record of their service. Looking at the quality of the book's binding and given that many ordinary Lancashire folk would not have been able to afford to visit ttheir relatives' graves, I have a hunch that this was, at least in part, privately written and published - for them as a keepsake.

I don't have the book before me but - and I admit it is only a suspicion- but I think the authors may have been some of the battalion's officers. They certainly had access to detailed battle plans and to some officers' personal papers - such as those of Lt. Lindsay ( I think that was his name) which record his feelings on going into combat in 1915 - I think the History records he was killed a few weeks later. Again going on memory the dedication clearly suggests a strong emotional bond between the authors and the members of the battalion - they make the point they did not want a professional historian to record their story but preferred it to be told by the Battalion's members. If I am right then the book is a tribute to the battalion by some of its officers.

Yperman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...