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Remembered Today:

Review of ‘Long Un: A Damn Bad Soldier’ by Bernard Livermore


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This is not a new book, it was published in the 1970's and is now I believe out of print.

As a biography I don’t think this book would win any literary awards, however, having said that for the Great War enthusiast it is a well written interesting book that I enjoyed reading.

Bernard Livermore was an educated man who found himself in the Infantry and for reasons explained in the book remained as a private.

He served in the 2/20th London Regiment, 180th Brigade in the 60th Division, serving on the Western front, Salonika and Palestine.

The book starts with Bernard’s enlistment and how he ended up in the 2/20th before describing a fairly typical Edwardian middle class upbringing in that golden time before the war. It goes on to describe 2/20th time in the ‘P’ line at Vimy ridge in the autumn of 1916 and the move to Salonika in December of the same year.

Bernard’s book is full of detail about life on the Doiran front including constructing trenches and dug outs, manning the line, going on patrol in the Reselli area and the raid on ‘The Nose’ a diversionary action at the time of the first battle of Doiran in April 1917. (unfortunately Bernard missed this due to Malaria).

In June of 1917 the 2/20th were on the move again, this time to Egypt. Here Bernard devotes a chapter to describing the characters and personalities of the battalion’s officers, some of the men and particularly his mates.

Bernard is taken ill and once again misses the action when the battalion moves with Alenby’s advance on Jerusalem (Actions at Sharia and Nebi Samwil are mentioned briefly).

Bernard describes a harrowing journey back to his unit now in defence around Jerusalem but he is too ill to continue in the front line and is evacuated back to Cairo and an Isolation hospital. He recovers but is classified ‘B’ by the Medical Board and becomes a ‘base wallah’ working as a pay clerk.

Due to Bernard’s poor health the book doesn’t cover any of the battles/actions involving the 2/20th in any detail, however for anyone with an interest in the 2/20th it’s well worth hunting out a copy to get a good personal account of the life of a private soldier in this unit. For those interested in the different theatres the book covers you probably won’t get any new insights, however it does add to the overall picture.

P.S. My copy of the book is signed by E.C. Barker of the 2/21st, he has added some notes on the map at the front of the book and I have found his medal card on the National Archives website.

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Hi Gardenerbill,

I will keep an eye out for a copy in all the usual places as it seems if it is a good book for the sort of information and detail that gives a real insight into the men and how they survived the day to day conditions.

Thanks for the heads up



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