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The First and the Last of the Sheffield City Battalion (Hardback)

Regimental History WWI Yorkshire and Humberside Photographic Books 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 WWI Photographic Books Military

By John Cornwell
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 209
Illustrations: 60
ISBN: 9781526762245
Published: 4th November 2019

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This is the story of two Sheffield men from very different social backgrounds, who both volunteered in early September 1914 and joined the new Pals battalion (12th Bn York and Lancaster Regt).

One of these men was Vivian Simpson, a 31 year old solicitor who was well known in the city; partly because he was an outstanding footballer, playing for Sheffield Wednesday and an England trialist. Simpson was the very first man to enrol for the new battalion and was commissioned in January 1915.

The other man was Reg Glenn, a clerk in the Education Offices who served as a signaller in each battle the 12th Battalion fought in until the summer of 1917, when he was selected to become an officer.

To his annoyance, Vivian Simpson was kept back in England as a training officer until after the battalion’s disaster on the Somme on 1 July 1916. However, after that he became a most energetic and courageous officer. He was awarded an MC in 1917, but was killed in the German offensive on the Lys in April 1918.

Reg Glenn went back to France in 1918 as a subaltern in the North Staffordshires and was wounded on the Aisne in his first day of combat as an officer. He was never fit enough to go back to the trenches and became a training officer in Northumberland with his new regiment and later with the Cameronians at Invergordon. He survived the war and lived to be 101 years old, making him the last survivor of the 12th Battalion.

Editor's Choice

The Great War magazine, January 2020

The book then follows the post-war events of both protagonists and traces the parallels that cannot fail to affect the reader's sensitivity. How many young broken lives and how many others marked by an event that represents a crossroads in the history of the world, a before and an after.
John Cornwell composes a book that is a small gem among the books on the Great War, a book that cannot be missed on the shelves of fans of military history.

Read the full review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

Book extract as featured by

On: Yorkshire magazine

For me this is a special book as one of those it features is Reg Glenn who I knew. An engaging tale of two men from the Sheffield City Battalion with much about the Somme. A great book & highly readable. Recommended.

Read the full review via Twitter

Paul Reed via Twitter

Article: 'Brothers in arms who came from opposite sides of city' as featured by

Sheffield Telegraph, 28th November 2019 – words by Julia Armstrong

Click here to listen to author interview

NOTE: set cursor to 16:00

BBC Radio Sheffield with presenter Rony Robinson, 25th November 2019

Article: 'Sheffield writer's book looks at contrasting lives of two city World War One soldiers' as featured by

The Star, 15th November 2019 – words by Julia Armstrong

Article: 'The lads have been through hell' - Yorkshire soldier's words from front line shared in book capturing horrors of First World War trenches as featured by

The Yorkshire Post (print & online) – words by Stephen McClare

About John Cornwell

John Cornwell was born in Hull in 1939 and read International History at the LSE. He taught in Sheffield for 23 years and also in Jamaica and Canada. He was the Deputy Leader of South Yorkshire County Council, a member of the Arts Council of G.B., Chair of the Crucible and Lyceum Theatres, Chair of the Rugby League’s Youth Commission and Vice Chair of the Yorkshire and Humberside Sports Council. In retirement he became an author and has written 19 books, mainly about aspects of local history. He lives in Sheffield and his interests include military history, writing poetry and rugby league.

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