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Ancestor’s Footsteps (Paperback)

The Somme 1916

WWI Family History Somme

By Andrew Rawson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781473864207
Published: 6th June 2016

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This book answers one of biggest unanswered questions asked by visitors to the Somme; where did my ancestor fight? The combination of First World War battle accounts and annotated trench maps throughout this book, explains exactly what happened and where, and indexed orders of battle give the reader a quick reference to locate individual units.

But the book goes further than this as carefully chosen viewpoints, which are practical for anyone exploring in a car, have been suggested. They give the visitor different perspectives of the ground where their ancestors fought and died; and in many cases are buried in an unmarked grave.

There is useful information on the structure of the British Army and the weapons, equipment and uniforms the men used. Information on the different methods of attacks used, the development of tactics and life in the trenches is also included. As well as this, there is a guide to the key cemeteries, memorials and museums the visitor should consider seeing to complete a visit.

This book will help the casual visitor walk in their ancestor’s footsteps across the Somme battlefield. It will also guide the regular visitor across different areas of the battlefield, away from the popular points, and help all visitors accomplish the rewarding experience of connecting the battles of the past with the terrain of today.

This is a book I would take with me when going over there to see The Somme. In terms of finding where a relative fought while in the British Army either as a Canadian, Australian, or any of the other units the Brits brought to the fight this book is invaluable. Just reading through the units in the index is fascinating and reads like a Who’s Who of British Army history. I enjoyed reading this book and it’s whetted my appetite to further investigate this period of history!! I recommend it because it is well written and interesting.

IPMS USA

This more recently published work is not dissimilar to “The Somme campaign” in that it sets out to describe the whole battle, but this time with a view to helping someone find where their ancestor soldier fought. The narrative is cut down somewhat and the maps this time include more detail on where particular divisions and brigades were positioned. The description of each part of the fighting also includes details of the units that made up each brigade and division. And, like “The Somme campaign”, it is a good read and a useful quick reference source. It also provides details on the key sites of interest for battlefield tourists in each of the battle areas described.

For anyone really wishing to pinpoint their ancestor, it only takes you so far. If you know that a grandfather was in a battalion that belonged to a particular brigade and division, and you are sure he was with that unit on particular dates, then you will be able to find their location in broad terms. For example, if he was in the 15th (Scottish) Division you can find that the division was south west of Martinpuich in the period 18-31 August 1916 – and see it on a map. In that sense “”Ancestor’s footsteps” begins to home-in on his location, but to get any further you will need to refer to regimental histories or, for full detail, the war diary of his unit. Nonetheless an interesting concept and, for the price, good value.

The Long, long trail

If you felt inspired to trace your Somme ancestor's story by our July issue, along with all the moving events that month to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, this new title is well worth a look. Via a combination of battle accounts and trench maps explaining what happened and where on the Somme, researchers can locate individual units to try find out where their Somme ancestor fought, died and, in many cases, where they might be buried in an unmarked grave. Andrew Rawson's guide is a perfect companion for family historians undertaking a tour of the Somme battlefield, filling in the gaps in knowledge about the structure of the British Army, the weapons, equipment and uniform used by our ancestors, enabling readers to reconnect with the past in person as well as on paper.

Family Tree, September 2016

This book answers one of biggest unanswered questions asked by visitors to the Somme; where did my ancestor fight? The combination of First World War battle accounts and annotated trench maps throughout this book, explains exactly what happened and where, and indexed orders of battle give the reader a quick reference to locate individual units. But the book goes further than this as carefully chosen viewpoints, which are practical for anyone exploring in a car, have been suggested. They give the visitor different perspectives of the ground where their ancestors fought and died; and in many cases are buried in an unmarked grave. There is useful information on the structure of the British Army and the weapons, equipment and uniforms the men used. Information on the different methods of attacks used, the development of tactics and life in the trenches is also included. As well as this, there is a guide to the key cemeteries, memorials and museums the visitor should consider seeing to complete a visit. This book will help the casual visitor walk in their ancestor's footsteps across the Somme battlefield.It will also guide the regular visitor across different areas of the battlefield, away from the popular points, and help all visitors accomplish the rewarding experience of connecting the battles of the past with the terrain of today.


This new book by Andrew Rawson answers the most basic question that everyone asks: where did my ancestor fight during this conflict? Unbelievable poignant, sad, moving and inspirational..

Books Monthly

At first sight most people would wonder what this book is as it appears to be a list of divisions with maps. But actually it is one of the most useful Great War books I have come across in some time. Using the book you can look up the details of a unit, perhaps your grandfather’s battalion, and it then takes you to the relevant pages where you can see with text and via maps where they fought. This means you can quickly and simply put together a framework of where a man was on the Somme, which normally would take some time. Superb companion for those visiting the battlefields for Somme100 and those wanting to research where their ancestor fought. Highly recommended!

Somme 1916, Paul Reed
 Andrew Rawson

About Andrew Rawson

Andrew Rawson is a freelance writer who has written over twenty-five military history books. He has written eight books for Pen & Sword’s ‘Battleground Europe’ series and three reference books for The History Press ‘Handbook’ series. He has edited Eyes Only: The Top Secret Correspondence between Marshall and Eisenhower and Organizing Victory: The War Conferences 1941–1945. He has also written a campaign volume of the British Army’s battles in 1914, 1915 and 1916. He has a master’s degree with Birmingham University’s history department. Andrew lives in Mallorca, Spain.

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