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In A Flanders Field (Hardback)

A Territorial Battalion at Ypres, October 1917

P&S History > Social History

By John Waite
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 80 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399037235
Published: 4th April 2024

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Written neither as a conventional biography or battalion history, this work centres on the remarkable life of Joe Waite, a boy soldier of the Great War. Though, in telling his story, the names and lives of 64 of his fallen comrades are also revealed. All were lost in just one month of fighting, during the hell that was the Third Battle of Ypres – also known as Passchendaele.

Born in a tough, working-class neighbourhood in Coventry, in the heart of the industrial Midlands, Joe’s childhood was blighted by the loss of his mother and tempered by his father’s decision to separate him from his siblings and re-marry. The need to earn his keep forced him into factory work from an early age, soon resulting in a humbling brush with the law. Eventually, the outbreak of war, and later, a family row over a pair of boots, lead to his enlistment in the army, at just 16 years old.

Hiding the secret of his true age from his comrades in the 1/7th (TF) battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Joe left Coventry and its troubles far behind as he fought his way across Northern France, including at the infamous Battle of the Somme. His time on the Western Front would eventually draw to a close outside the town of Ypres in Belgium, in October 1917. In that month, and still officially too young to fight, Joe was awarded a Military Medal for his bravery at the Battle of Broodseinde.

Using sources such as war diaries, personal, public, and military records, the account of not only the battle, but also the story of each man of Joe’s unit who fell there, is told. With further reference to a unique eyewitness account, voice is also given to what thoughts and feelings the men may have experienced as they fought in the mud of Ypres. Then, as the culmination of an exhaustive and painstaking research project, the stories of the fallen are told, together, for the first time. From civilian life to military service, each mini-biography is a sensitive and respectful telling of the unique and varied accounts of so many men, from so many different backgrounds, allowing for a renewed appreciation of a generation now lost to history.

These stories tell of men from all over Britain and even beyond. Men who eventually became soldiers in an infantry battalion originally raised in Coventry, but whose makeup changed so much, as war exerted its toll. Where records allow, it also tells of how their families and communities remembered the fallen, so many of whom have no known resting place. Standing chiefly as a fitting tribute to those lost soldiers, this work concludes with the story of Joe’s life after the Great War. With one final tragedy to come, its telling will eventually lead to a stark truth; that it isn’t only through the eyes of a soldier that the cruelty of war can be seen so harshly.

As the grandson of Private John Andrew Robertshaw who served in 12th Manchester Regiment and then 10th East Yorkshire Regiment it is a pleasure to read an account of another 'Other Rank' in the Great War. The war service of Joe Waite in the 1/7th Warwickshire Regiment, as researched and written by his great nephew John Waite, is a model of how a variety of sources can be used to reconstruct the military career of not just a single soldier, but also those of his comrades. Joe was no 'plaster saint' in civilian life. However, his contribution to the victory achieved by the British Expeditionary force in 1918 is a testimony to the millions of men who served on the Western Front and received little thanks other than medals. For a reader well versed in the period or someone starting out on their own journey of exploration for 'their' soldier this book comes highly recommend.

Andrew Robertshaw, Historian,Faversham, Kent, February 2024.
Perfect Partner

Flanders 1915 Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives (Paperback)

By Christmas 1914 Britain's Regular Army had virtually ceased to exist. Four months of hard fighting had drained its manpower and the Territorial Army were called on to plug the gaps. The part-timers leapt at the chance to serve their country overseas and were soon on their way to the trenches and the harsh realities of war on the Western Front. Flanders 1915 tells the story, through rare and previously unpublished photographs and extended captions, of one of those eager Territorial battalions posted to Flanders during the first twelve months of WW1. It forms a unique and intimate record of the…

By Jon Cooksey

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