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Star Shell Reflections 1914-1916 (Hardback)

The Illustrated Great War Diaries of Jim Maultsaid

Military WWI > By Year > 1916

By Jim Maultsaid, Edited by Barbara McClune
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 198
ISBN: 9781783463695
Published: 29th June 2015



As featured in article for...

Military History Monthly


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As the centenary of the Great War approaches, this book offers a unique perspective told in the words and illustrations of someone who was there , on the front line.

Although an American citizen, Jim Maultsaid's parents were Irish and he lived in Donegal. He joined the Young Citizen Volunteers, a group drawn from the ranks of clerical and professional society, at the outbreak of war.

Although he left school at age 13, the author was naturally gifted in both writing and drawing, with a great eye for detail, and has often been described as the unofficial war artist.

Jim's personal style of writing is engaging, and along with his sketches and illustrations, which are witty at times, takes the reader on a journey through not only the dark days and misery but also reveals the gritty humour that helped him and his 'chums' cope with the horrors of life in the trenches.

The diaries offer in words and illustrations, a true insight into the thoughts of the ordinary soldiers, and are filled with untold stories from the Great War, covering aspects that have never been addressed in other books. In particular there is new light shone on the Chinese Labour Corps, where Jim served as Captain, after he was certified unfit for active service due to his wounds.

The book has great historical and educational value, and will give those of all ages a real understanding of how this brave generation faced war, and how they struggled to survive.

As featured in

Stand To! Western Front Association, October 2019

Thus, with reader-friendly prose and sketches that sometimes reflect the "Old Bill" cartoons, we get a surprisingly full picture of an Irish soldier's thoughts, impressions and actions in the trenches and in battle from 1914 to 1916. This is an easy read that nevertheless leaves us feeling we know more about personal experience in the war than we did before. I'm eager now to get the second volume of this diary and to learn how Jim Maultsaid fared with the Chinese Labour Corps!

Read the complete review here.

Roads To The Great War Blog

As featured in.

Military History Monthly June 2016

As featured in.

Military History Monthly March 2016

The first volume, which dates between 1914-1916, is now published and will no doubt be of very considerable interest. It is a useful reminder amidst all the war events, strategies and statistics that ordinary soldiers and officers were at the heart of this terrible conflict and that, like many others, Maultsaid found humour amidst the horror and bottled and preserved it.
This book has great historical and educational value, and will give those of all ages a real understanding of how this brave generation faced war, and how they struggled to survive.

The Orange Standard, Nov 15

The illustrated diary of Great War soldier Jim Maultsaid of the 14th Royal Irish Rifles. Born in the USA of Irish parents who had chosen to return to Ireland before the war began, he resolved to join up on 4 August 1914 and was soon in training. Encouraged by his platoon officer, Lieutenant Monard, he kept and illustrated a diary from 1914 and throughout his war service which ceased with the 14th RIR when he was wounded on 1 July 1916...

... It is a delightfully illustrated book, Maultsaid had a rare talent that enabled him to record events in sketches and in words. The sketches are of excellent quality and some are in colour, some were done in the moment and others were created later from sketches made at the time.

The text is divided into short sections with bold headlines that I found off putting to begin with. However, these short paragraphs are well written and knit together to tell the story and I was soon reading it as a whole narrative. Every word has earned its place in the text and the overall effect is one of an illustrated magazine.

He and his mates went to the front in October 1915 and it is all there, the French towns, villages, civilians, bands, “vin blang…”, route marches, and for the intelligent and capable Maultsaid, promotion to full corporal. His diary, like so many others, covers all of the salient points about a soldier’s life in the trenches and in billets but in Maultsaid’s case he could draw them as well as write about them. Food, lice, rats, NCOs, officers and of course the shells and the Germans are all dealt with as few aspects of army life on the Western Front escaped Maultsaid’s eye...

... This book is a valuable, visual record of Army life on the Western Front. He created more front line sketches than a photographer could produce. He went where the photographers of the day could not go, recording what he saw and he did it ‘on the spur of the moment’ and with a spontaneity that the war time photographers could not match, in much the same way that we use our digital phone cameras now.

It is evident in the way he says things and assumes a shared knowledge that he wrote this diary for former soldiers. I think that Maultsaid’s comrades from the trenches were his real target audience, not us a hundred years into the future. Nonetheless, it is good to see this illustrated diary published and among the current heavy bombardment of Great War books, Barbara McClune has put together a work that stands out as something different. A delightful (and I’ve never said that about a war book before) and very useful book to have on the shelf. Let’s have the next volume, I’m looking forward to (literally) seeing what he made of life in a Chinese Labour Corps unit…

War History Online - Dr Wayne Osborne

The first of a planned three volumes featuring the diary of Jim Maultsaid, born in Pennsylvania in 1893 of Irish parents, who returned to Donegal and then to Belfast where he joined the British Army in 1914. Wounded on the 1st July 1916 and declared unfit for active duty, Maultsaid was commissioned in 1917 and worked with the Chinese Labour Corps until 1920. The book contains his original diary notations and his sketches and drawings, which he expanded upon after the war to form a unique and original diary, published now for the first time in full colour.


The Great War Magazine

As featured in

Harborough Mail

In the closest thing we have to a first-hand account of WW1 almost 100 years since its end, Jim Maultsaid's detailed diary provides an insightful perspective on the conflict.

History of War Magazine Nov 15

An insightful and extremely rare perspective on an era that has almost faded completely from living memory.

All About History

As featured in

Belfast News Letter
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About Jim Maultsaid

Jim Maultsaid was born in Pennsylvania in 1893 to Irish parents who returned to Donegal. Although he left school at 13 he was naturally gifted at both writing and drawing. Despite being an American citizen he joined the British Army in 1914. He was badly wounded on the First Day of the Somme (1 July 1916). Unfit for further active duty, he was commissioned in 1917 and worked with the Chinese Labour Corps until early 1920.

In the post-years he expanded the notes and sketches made in France into these unique Diaries.

 Barbara McClune
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