Birmingham Pals (Hardback)
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In the summer of 1914, our finest young men flocked to the colours in Northern towns and cities to answer Lord Kitchener’s ‘Call to Arms’ in a spontaneous burst of enthusiasm and patriotism. The Call appealed to their sense of adventure and offered an escape from the humdrum life of office, factory and mill.
The new recruits volunteered with brothers, cousins, friends and work mates. The newly-formed units became the focus of local civic pride and soon became known as the Pals. The City of Birmingham formed three such battalions with over 3,000 local volunteers. This book tells their story.
Birmingham Pals is a story that covers the full range of human experience in war - the highest courage and bravery, the misery and tedium of trench life, the exhilaration, terror and slaughter involved in ‘going over the top’. Above all, it is a story of interest to people of all backgrounds and ages, as a tale of comradeship, which, for many survivors, was to last a life time.
Terry Carter’s book focuses on the Birmingham Pals, some 3,000 of whom formed 3 battalions. Many were never to return, dying along with their pals from civilian life in some corner of a foreign field. A fascinating account of comradeship in the most dire of circumstances.Your Family History, Dec 2011
Carter’s book explored the experiences of groups of friends, workmates and family members who joined the close-knit First World War units that became known as the ‘Pals’. Birmingahm produced three such groups, and here some of the members share their memories in moving detail, from conscription and first battles to the devastating impact of conflict in the Somme.Who Do You Think You Are Magazine, Christmas 2011
But this isn’t just a narrative, ’1914 to 1918 what happened’. Terry Carter grounds his work with a chapter on the social and economic context of Birmingham’s history, and the events of August 1914 which saw mass volunteering amid a wave of euphoria. It is impeccably well researched, and generously illustrated. It contains a roll of honour of all members of the three Battalions who fell, and a list of gallantry medals – a real bonus for anyone wishing to look up their ancestors. Overall it is very well handled, and at no point does the text stray into the oft-heard stereotypes about the Pals, and instead wisely focuses on sources and events.Daly History Blog, 30 Nov
I found this a very interesting read indeed. Not only will it interest Brummies, but also those of us from further afield who are interested in this kind of research, with the 100th anniversary looming in 2014. Terry Carter has definitely put down a marker here, and I hope I can do half as good a job when it comes to paying tribute to Portsmouth’s own pals
…this one covers the 14th, 15th and 16th (service) Battalions of the Warwickshire Regiment. It tells of how cousins, brothers, friends and workmates answered Kitchener’s call together, and how their friendships helped them through the war. It covers all the experiences of war- courage, misery, terror and tedium. Most of all it tells the tale of comradeship, which for many lasted a lifetime.Your Family Tree Spring 2012
…is a profusely illustrated history of the 14th, 15th and 16th (Service) Battalions of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment raised in Birmingham in the First World War. The author, a Birmingham man spent five years researching the Birmingham Pals, five years well spent as attested by this fine account. The book is dedicated to the memory of these Battalions which lost in all some 2,400 officers in men.Military Historical Society, Feb 2012
This is one of a large number of histories of Pals battalions that appeared in the late 1990s, marking the eightieth anniversary of the war (and in particular of the Somme). All of the usual elements are present (battalions formed during the period of patriotic enthusiasm at the start of the war, training on the moors (Sutton Park and the Yorkshire Dales in this case), travel to France and early small-scale combat, disaster on the Somme, later battles and amalgamations of the battalions), but this book has some features that make it stand out.History of War
First of all Carter had realised that many aspects of trench warfare repeated themselves, so instead of providing a continuous narrative with comparatively little detail he had chosen to compress large periods into concise lists of each battalions movements and activities (up to four months in a single page) and instead provide more details of a smaller number of key actions. We thus get some of the best accounts of trench raids that I have read, following the actions of very small groups of men and even some individuals during the chaos of a night-time raid across the shattered landscape of no-mans-land.
Carter has also chosen not to gloss over the ghastly nature of trench warfare, so one gets a grim picture of life knee deep in mud in badly drained trenches, and the constant presence of death - both new death as snipers and German artillery took its toll and old death as the bodies of the dead of earlier battles were disturbed by new fighting.
Another nice touch is the short post-war biographies of a number of the more prominent men who featured in the main text. This matches nicely with the earlier section on the recruitment of the battalions, when young middle class men were expressly targeted.
The 'Pals' battalions were a phenomenon of the Great War, never repeated since. Under Lord Derby's scheme, and in response to Kitchener's famous call for a million volunteers, local communities raised (and initially often paid for) entire battalions for service on the Western Front. Their experience was all too frequently tragic, as men who had known each other all their lives, had worked, volunteered, and trained together, and had shipped to France together, encountered the first full fury of modern battle on the Somme in July 1916. Many of the Pals battalions would not long survive that first…By Jon Cooksey
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