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Cheshire Bantams


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If you have a particular interest in the Cheshires, you will want this book on your shelf. Similarly, if you have an interest in the Bantams, you will want it.

But, I’m afraid, if you are thinking of buying this book as another Great War “worthwhile read”, you might think about saving your money. Or, at least, spending it on something else.

Mr McGreal tells the story of the first two bantam battalions – later designated as the 15 and 16th Cheshires – and therein lies my major criticism. Although the early months of recruitment and training are well covered, the attempt to tell a coherent story of two battalions simply didn’t work for me. Once they go overseas, their story is told chronologically and it means that you will get a couple of paragraphs on one battalion, then a paragraph on the other, before returning to the first. I found it very difficult to follow and, in truth, I quickly lost the will to care which was which.

The author obviously draws heavily on the war diaries. But I felt, too often, that he had simply lifted chunks and dropped them into his narrative as though they were his own words. I may be doing Mr McGreal an injustice here – it is possible that he just uses language in an old fashioned manner. In particular he slips the use of “our” in a way very reminiscent of action reports attached to a war diary or another account of the time. Take the following example (page 178) as an example of the book’s general language:-

“The Cheshires opened fire, simultaneously half an enemy company attempted to pass the Cheshires’ left flank; the Hun counter attack melted away beneath rapid small arms fire. The enemy continued probing the defences, this time with a full company; S.O.S. rockets were sent up from our lines and in response our barrage roared down on the attackers. They found themselves in the hopeless position of being boxed in by our guns to their rear while to their front they faced a hail of bullets.”

The anorak part of me also got regularly irritated. I will give only two examples – simply because they are near to the example above.

On page 179, there is an account of the “company commander” being half-buried in mud. There are failed attempts to get him out and, only two sentences later, he is described as an “NCO”.

Just prior, on page 176, we have this “Amongst those lying dead on the battlefield were Private Ernest Bradley, an 18 year old who appears to have enlisted under an alias, as his mother was a Mrs Hazeldene.”

Now you know, as I know, that the most likely reason for the different surname is that the mother had remarried. And so it was.

It took me all of three minutes to establish what part of the country Bradley came from, establish that there was a registered birth of Ernest Bradley in the right year, and that Annie Bradley had remarried to a Joseph Hazeldine in 1912. It’s the sort of basic research that prevents daft assertions being made.

It is only really in the final chapter where he finally manages to breathe a bit of life back into the book by including the odd extract of letters sent to relatives after their sons had died. There is world of difference between this book and Pen & Sword’s other recent Battalion history – “Swansea Pals” – which was an absolute flyer of a good read.


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Thanks for the alert.I'm not a Cheshire Person,apart from living in the County,so I would have probably waited until a copy appeared in the Library anyway. :D

It does beg the question though.Due to the passage of time are Books such as you describe worthwhile?

I'm not suggesting that anyone be prevented from trying to publish and as you point out in your post "Swansea Pals" is an excellent read.

I found Bill Mitchinsons Book on the Pioneers informative, as my Relatives served in the 1/8th Royal Scots.Equally, although I found Jack Alexander's Book on the 16th Royal Scots interesting, I felt he was, probably inadvertantly, doing the 8th and the other Royal Scots Battalions a disservice.Jack has given the impression that the 16th Royal Scots was an elite Battalion within the Regiment by extensively writing on one Battalion.(I'm not trying to undermine the Hearts connections before anyone has a go.My Family came from outside Edinburgh and their Team was the Hearts :lol: )

I appreciate I could redress the balance by trying to write a Book on the 8th but would I find anything new to say.I doubt it.

I know of at least one other Book on the Cheshires that is in the pipeline.I do hope it has something new to say and does not fall into the repetitive trap you describe or the elitist one I see.


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I think there are two Cheshire books underway. I assume you refer to the one about the 7th which is being written by a well known (and respected) researcher from the Macclesfield area.

The other is a history of the 1/4th which McGreal mentions as a "coming soon" on the flyleaf of "Bantams".

"Stockport Lads Together" tells something of the story of the 6th Battalion. Whilst it's not a battalion history in the sense that we would know it, it contains sufficient information as to negate the need for anything more. As such, you ain't likely to see me in print in the near future. :D


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