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Sniper on the Ypres Salient (Hardback)

An Infantryman’s War In The Royal Welsh Fusiliers

WWI Snipers Ypres Memoirs Great War Snipers Great War Memoirs Military

By Sue Boase, Foreword by Col Nick J Lock OBE
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 35 mono
ISBN: 9781399095570
Published: 30th September 2022
This Week's Best Sellers Rank: #16


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Just after midnight on 22 April 1916 on the Western Front, a sergeant from the 15th (1st London) Royal Welsh Fusiliers came sliding and stumbling along the dark, mud-filled trench towards the four men, huddled together and soaked-through, in the shallow dugout. He was clutching his postbag in which there were four parcels for one of them, William McCrae, whose twentieth birthday fell on this day.

A hand-written account by William, my grandfather, was found in my mother’s papers, long after his death. This book describes a year of his time fighting in the First World War, from December 1915 to December 1916.

Two months after his birthday, he was marching towards the Somme, where he was to act as a runner during the key Welsh engagement in the Battle of Mametz Wood. Later, he went on to volunteer and train as a sniper. He continued in this role for over a year, becoming a lance corporal in the 38th Divisional Sniping Company while fighting on the Ypres Salient. His words emphasise the key role snipers played in the collecting of intelligence about the enemy, through close observation and careful reporting.

His account stops abruptly in mid-sentence, just at the point where he indicates he is about to reveal more to us about ‘a new, interesting part of the line to be manned by us Snipers’.

Piecing together clues from his sketches, maps and photos, and this book paints a picture of Williams’ time during the rest of the war. In 1917 he returned to England to train as a temporary officer in the 18th Officer Cadet Battalion at Prior Park, Bath. He came back to the Western Front as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment, where he was seconded to the 1/5 Lancashire Fusiliers until the end of the war. During this time, it is likely that his interest and experience as a sniper continued, with evidence that he may have taught at one of the Sniping Schools set up across France.

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About Sue Boase

During her career Sue has worked in primary health care, both clinically as a practice nurse, and as a researcher at the Primary Care Research Unit, at the University of Cambridge.

She then co-authored Nursing Through the Years: Care and compassion at The Royal London Hospital, which was published in 2018. This book was the outcome of an oral history project set up by The Royal London Hospital League of Nurses, which focused on capturing the experiences of nurses who had trained at the hospital since the 1940s.

Sue had previously discovered the unpublished First World War diaries of her grandfather William McCrae, amongst her mother’s papers. Having completed a course in creative non-fiction writing at Madingley Hall, University of Cambridge, Sue then began to explore his story in more detail. This fascinating and absorbing journey has culminated in the publication of this, her next book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient.

Perfect Partner

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The wartime memoir of Lyudmila Pavlichenko is a remarkable document: the publication of an English language edition is a significant coup. Pavlichenko was World War II's best scoring sniper and had a varied wartime career that included trips to England and America. In June 1941, when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, she left her university studies, ignored the offer of a position as a nurse, to become one of Soviet Russia's 2000 female snipers. Less than a year later she had 309 recorded kills, including 29 enemy sniper kills. She was withdrawn from active duty after being injured. She was…

By Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Martin Pegler

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