Accrington Pal Remembered at Library Author Event – 1 September, 2016

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THE author of a new book on an Accrington Pal – who survived the Battle of the Somme – will give a free-to-attend talk at Accrington Library on Thursday, 1 September.

Accrington-born Private Jack Smallshaw was one of the first young volunteers to enlist with the ‘Pals’ battalions that sprang up in Northern England during the autumn of 1914. As an Accrington Pal, he was a member of the battalion of men who are perhaps remembered more than most, due to the appalling tragedy which would befall them on the killing fields of the Somme.

Jack’s personal account of his Great War service was published in July by Helion & Company Ltd – coinciding with the Somme centenary. Lancashire-born Steve Corbett has supplemented Private Smallshaw’s writings with his own extensive research – going through the war diaries and narrative accounts of the brigades and battalions which served with the 31st Division throughout the Great War to compile An Accrington Pal. The Diaries of Jack Smallshaw, September 1914 – July 1919.

I warmly welcome all those with an interest in the Great War in general, and in the Accrington Pals specifically, to join me at Accrington Library for what I hope will be an illuminating insight into one Pal’s experience of the Western Front,” says former gunner Steve, who completed two operational tours of duty in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s.

“I grew to know Jack quite well during the course of writing the book. Throughout the course of the war, I could trace the deterioration of his health, which was caused by long days and nights spent in appalling conditions while manning the frontline trenches. I also went into considerable depth when covering some of the later engagements which the Accrington Pals were involved in, but the book is first and foremost about Jack. It is the story of how he survived four long years of fighting for his country.”

The author event will begin at 11am on the First Floor at Accrington Library, with Steve reading an extract from the book and introducing artefacts of the Great War. There will be the opportunity to ask questions, and light refreshments will also be served.

Accrington Library is the home of the William Turner collection of photographs and artefacts which relate to the Accrington Pals – a subject that was of great interest to him and which he spent many years researching in order to tell their story,” says Branch Manager Katherine Walsh.

“In addition to this collection, there is also an extensive World War One collection – which is reputed to be one of the largest in the North West – and is often consulted by historians and academics, and can be accessed during normal library opening hours. We look forward to welcoming Steve to our library, for what I am sure will be a most informative author event.”

Copies of An Accrington Pal. The Diaries of Jack Smallshaw, September 1914 – July 1919 can be purchased at the author event, or online at


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University Centre Hosts Major English Civil War Conference

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A MAJOR English Civil War Conference is set to return to the town’s iconic Rowley’s House building and University Centre Shrewsbury base on Saturday, 10 September.

Supported by official event partners the Pike and Shot Society, and organised by one of the world’s leading publishers of military history – Helion & Company – the conference will conclude with a free guided tour of Civil War Shrewsbury, led by experienced town guide Robert Elliott.

“After last year’s resounding success, we’re delighted to be returning to Shrewsbury and we feel very proud of the rich programme of talks we have been able to put together – led by many of the leading historians and academics currently working within the field of English Civil War Studies’,” says Charles Singleton, Commissioning Editor at Helion & Company.

“Our aim is to offer a stimulating and informative environment, facilitating research and promoting interest in this most important and fascinating war of Britain’s past.”

A range of papers will be shared throughout the day – all on the theme of ‘Professionalism’ in the conduct and operations of the armies of the Civil Wars. These include a lecture on the Battle of Montgomery by Dr Jonathon Worton – a local author who published his account of the Civil War in Shropshire earlier this year (also with Helion).

Professor Tim Jenkins from University Centre Shrewsbury said: “We are thrilled that Helion & Company, the Pike and Shot Society, and leading Civil War historians are returning to Shrewsbury for the second English Civil War Conference and that we have the opportunity to host this exciting event.”

Four new ground-breaking books will be launched on the day, which will be available for purchase in Helion & Company’s pop-up book shop, with special introductory offers.

Helion Publisher Duncan Rogers added: “I would like to thank University Centre Shrewsbury for once again welcoming to us to our highly appropriate and historic Barker Street venue, Rowley’s House, for what is quite simply a must-attend event for academics and enthusiasts of the English Civil War.

“I would like to thank and congratulate my Commissioning Editor, Charles Singleton, on the excellent programme he has put together, and all our lecturers for their contribution to the day.

‘At only £25 per ticket, this represents excellent value for a full eight-hour day, with lunch and unlimited drinks included. For those who want to stay on, there is also the complimentary guided tour of Civil War Shrewsbury to look forward to.”

To purchase a ticket click here, or to request further information, please email



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An unprecedented view of East Front combat during the last months of World War Two

By A. Stephan Hamilton Panzer

This book represents the first comprehensive treatment of Panzergrenadier-Division ‘Brandenburg’ published to date. Yet, it was not a book I ever intended to write. In 2011 Duncan Rogers requested that I pen an Introduction to a new edition of Edmund Bodenmüller’s Panthers to the Front! Diary of a Tank Gunner, scheduled to be released by Helion, based on my prior published works regarding East Front operations in the spring of 1945. What happened next was unanticipated…

In the course of preparatory archival research for the new Introduction, I quickly came to suspect that Bodenmüller’s unit never served with Panzergrenadier-Division ‘Brandenburg’ as claimed in his account and that the entire second volume of his published work was likely forged after his death and sold off as “original” by an unscrupulous dealer. Not only had my research brought into question the authenticity of Bodenmüller’s account, it also revealed that Panther-Battalion ‘Brandenburg’ never served with its parent division at any point during the war. The Panther Battalion was assigned to Panzergrenadier-Division ‘Kurmark’ because the pace of Soviet operations during their winter offensive of January 1945 prevented the battalion from reaching its intended parent division. Confronted with these disappointing facts, further plans to publish Panthers to the Front! ceased. There was, however, a silver lining to this story…

My archival research unearthed hundreds of pages of unpublished first person accounts by veterans of Panzergrenadier-Division ‘Brandenburg’. These accounts were deposited in the Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv in Germany by the estate of Hellmuth Spaeter after his death. Spaeter was as an officer in the division during its five-month existence and served as the official historian of the Großdeutschland Veteran’s Association after the war. What made this trove of accounts so fascinating was that they offered incredible insight into a period of military history devoid of significant primary documentation. Spaeter only used a fraction of this material when he privately published his three-volume history of Panzer-Korps ‘Großdeutschland’ in the 1950s. What he did use he often summarized or sanitized, leaving out raw, personal, yet significant detail. Perhaps most important, Spaeter had no access to the wealth of complimentary primary sources now available when he wrote his history.

While many readers of military history are familiar with the exploits of Sonderkommando ‘Brandenburg’ (Brandenburg Commandos), few recognize that the famed commando organization ceased to exist by November 1944 when it was all but incinerated in the charnel house of the Balkans. From its ashes formed the Panzergrenadier-Division ‘Brandenburg’ — a new conventional combat division that shared little beyond a name with its commando predecessor. I proposed to Duncan that based on this trove of veteran accounts, the first ever history of this late war division’s formation and combat record should be published. He saw the potential and agreed. Five years later Panzergrenadiers to the Front! The Combat History of Panzergrenadier-Division Brandenburg on the Eastern Front 1944-45 was born.

At the core of Panzergrenadiers to the Front! are veteran’s accounts derived from their wartime diaries and postwar correspondence. These accounts are often emotional, gritty, and unabashed in their view of their brutal late war combat experienced along the Eastern Front. The accounts come from nearly two-dozen veterans who represent a diverse cross-section of the division. They are as follows:

Oberarzt Dr. Braune, Troop Physician of Heeres-Flak-Artillerie-Abteilung ‘BR’

Oberleutnant i.G. Hamburg Bröker, IIb of the Division

SS-Sturmbannführer Graf von Egloffstein, commander of Fahrschwadron ‘BR’

ObergefreiterR. Felhofer of 1.Kompanie of Regiment 2 ‘BR’

Oberfeldwebel Goller, of 3.Kompanie of Regiment 1 ‘BR’

Leutnant Grosser, O1 of Jäger-Regiment 1 ‘BR’

Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier (later Wachtmeister) Held-Kleingründlach, 2.Batterie commander in Sturmgeschütz-Brigade ‘GD’ subordinated to the Division

Leutnant Kass, commander 2.Kompanie of Panzerjäger-Abteilung ‘BR’

ObergefreiterJ. Klingenschmid of 3rd Platoon, 1.Kompanie of I.Btl./Jäg.Rgt.2

Hauptmann Herbert Noeres, Adjutant of II.Bat./Pz.Rgt. ‘BR’

Hauptmann Friedrich Müller-Rochholz, commander of Panzer-Sturm-Pionier Bataillon ‘BR’

Oberleutnant (later Hauptmann) der Reserve Eric Röseke, commander of 6.Kompanie of Jägerregiment 1 ‘BR’ until February 8th

Leutnant (later Oberleutnant) Schmalbruch, commander 3.Kompanie (mot) of I.Btl./Jäg.Rgt.2

Gefreiter Siebert-Göttingen, member of a Fahnenjunker-Kompanie as part of Kampfgruppe Spornring dispatched as field replacements for the Division

Leutnant G. Simons, company commander in II.Btl./Jäg.Rgt. 2 ‘BR’

Major Helmuth Spaeter, Ib (Quartermaster) of the DivisionHauptmann der Reserve (later Major)

Konrad (Kurt) Steidl, commander I.Bataillon of Jägerregiment 2 ‘BR’

Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier Hans Stübling, member ofPanzer-Sturm-Pionier Bataillon ‘BR’

Further archival research yielded new relevant material, like the hundreds of original daily situation maps for Heeresgruppe Mitte, located in the U.S. National Archives. These daily situation maps were misfiled for over 40 years and accessed by few other researchers before my visit in 2014. They provide critical insight into battlefield operations along the Eastern Front from the fall of 1944 through the spring of 1945. Many images of these original maps are published for the first time in this book.

All this information was painstakingly woven together day-by-day, month-by-month, to form a complete history of Panzergrenadier-Division ‘Brandenburg’ from its initial deployment to Poland in January 1945 to the division’s disbandment in Czechoslovakia four months later. Several highlighted topics from the book are:

* The political maneuvering and tensions between Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler that led to the final dissolution of the ‘ ‘ commandos and formation of a Panzergrenadier-Division of the same name.

* How the lack of coordination between Front Commanders Georgi Zhukov and Ivan Koniev adversely shaped Soviet operations and allowed 100,000 withdrawing German soldiers of Gruppe Nehring—including ‘Brandenburg’—to escape destruction on several occasions during the Soviet winter offensive.

The medieval city of Bautzen was where 'Brandenburg' participated in the Wehrmacht's last operational victory of World War II

The medieval city of Bautzen was where ‘Brandenburg’ participated in the Wehrmacht’s last operational victory of World War II

* Formation and training of the 2nd Polish Army.

* The role of ‘Brandenburg’ in the Wehrmacht’s last operational victory of the war by defeating the Soviet 7th Guards Mechanized Corps and 2nd Polish Army in detail around the city of Bautzen.

Readers will also find themselves amidst the documented horrors of war’s end. They will bear witness to the brutality unleashed across Silesia and Saxony by Russian and Polish soldiers alike, as well as the retribution extracted by their German counterparts. Atrocity was — and still is today — a very uncomfortable reality of the battlefield that cannot be ignored.

More than just a book about a single combat division, Panzergrenadiers to the Front! provides readers with an unprecedented view into the operations that shaped the final months of combat on the Eastern Front from all sides and command levels. With over 60 images of the key towns and leaders referenced in the text and a separate book containing over 100 detailed maps, this work will be an essential reference for years to come.

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Early July 1916: La Boisselle – Forgotten Battle of the Somme Engagement?

Dauntless Courage on the SommeBy Nick Thornicroft – Author of Dauntless Courage on the Somme. Officers of the 19th Division who fell at La Boisselle 1 – 10 July 1916.

On 1 July 2016, commemorations of the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme took place across the UK and in France – attended by royalty, dignitaries, descendants of those who took part in the fighting, and interested onlookers. The casualty figures of exactly a hundred years previously – well-known to Great War enthusiasts – were poignantly re-iterated on a number of occasions, as was the fact that the Somme campaign did not last for one day, but for well over four months.

In the early hours of 2 July 1916, the 19th (Western) Division was brought up from its reserve position behind the lines to attack the heavily-fortified, German-held village of La Boisselle, which had resolutely repulsed the opening assault of the 34th Division. As the British wounded were being evacuated in their droves, and many more of the dead and dying were reported to be still lying out in No Man’s Land, men of the 19th Division were afforded the most shocking visual and verbal scenario of what awaited them beyond the parapet.

A modern, aerial view of the ‘Lochnagar Crater’ (blown on 1 July 1916) & the village of La Boisselle, scene of intense fighting during the early stages of the Battle of the Somme. (Photo courtesy/copyright of Jeremy Banning:

A modern, aerial view of the ‘Lochnagar Crater’ (blown on 1 July 1916); the village of La Boisselle, scene of intense fighting during the early stages of the Battle of the Somme. (Photo courtesy/copyright of Jeremy Banning:

What followed was a systematic, bloody, brutal fight to secure the artillery-pummelled hamlet in a sequence of close-quarter, hand-to-hand and (initially) nocturnal forms of combat which were almost medieval in their methods – clearing out deep dug-outs and heavily-entrenched pockets of resistance.

Between the 2nd and 10th of July, the Division pushed relentlessly forward at heavy cost, finally ejecting their enemy in an astonishing feat of arms which, in the wider history of the Somme battles, is often overlooked. The horrific ‘first day’ losses, the attacks on infamous woodlands, the introduction of tanks, and the mounting casualty lists, have all been focused upon in depth, and yet La Boisselle continues to be classed as one of many ‘tactical incidents’ of the battle, described in a few lines (if at all) within many narratives.

Focusing upon the officers who fell, Dauntless Courage On The Somme is an attempt to tell this remarkable story via personal accounts, contemporary newspaper reports, eye-witnesses and battalion war diaries. Many photographs of the fallen have been collated and published as a group for the first time, as have their backgrounds – that often multi-faceted and perceived structure of elitism and public school hierarchy which, though certainly true of some individuals, cannot be said of others.

The long-standing social, class and military differences between officers and the men under their command is also dealt with. Whilst some rose from a humble private to reach their status through merit at the time of the Somme campaign, others were far from distant and aloof from the common soldier (as is sometimes reported). Indeed, there was a tangible, widespread and enduring respect throughout all ranks who experienced, shoulder-to-shoulder, terrible privations and danger.

Captain Thomas Jackson, MC, 9th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. Killed in action at La Boisselle 2 July 1916. (Photo: Mid Cumberland & Westmoreland Herald)

Captain Thomas Jackson, MC, 9th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. Killed in action at La Boisselle 2 July 1916. (Photo: Mid Cumberland & Westmoreland Herald)

‘He died as he lived – splendidly, at the head of his men, who would have followed him everywhere… He was loved by everyone, and I regarded him as the best officer I had’[1].

A significant number of subalterns had joined Kitchener’s Army straight from school or university, and were often younger than the troops under their command.

‘Many unrecorded acts of bravery and devotion to duty were performed. The entire action, in fact, resolved itself into a series of individual efforts of junior officers and men, rather than a concentrated action’[2].

To gain a personal insight into the layout of the topography itself, I drove to France and spent several days walking the battlefield, taking notes and photographs. The Great War has been a long-standing source of fascination and horror for me personally, and I have always been interested in the human aspect of conflict. The sepia photographs looking back at us from over a century ago are haunting and inspiring.

I hope the book will appeal to a wide cross-section of readers, from those knowledgeable souls who wish to improve their understanding of the fighting at La Boisselle, to others whose ancestors took part in the battle, or the ones who – in the absence of significant volumes on the subject – simply want to know exactly what happened in early July 1916.

To those who are considering assembling a similar book themselves, I would only submit two thoughts: write from the heart, and know your subject. Dauntless Courage is not what I would consider a ‘high-brow’ text, full of complicated trench co-ordinates, intricate maps and stark brigade orders; it is perhaps more simply a retrospective study of humanity and inhumanity, of triumph and suffering, of courage and perseverance on both sides of the wire.

As British casualties mounted, the man given overall control of the soldiers on the ground at La Boisselle – Lieutenant Colonel Adrian Carton de Wiart – issued orders, controlled his troops, kept on the offensive, and ensured the attack was successfully driven home despite a withering and constant hail of machine-gun bullets and bombs. His subsequent citation for the award of a Victoria Cross included the words:

‘It was owing in great measure to his dauntless courage and inspiring example that a serious reverse was averted’.

When he later wrote his autobiography, Lieutenant Colonel Carton de Wiart omitted to mention he had even received a VC at La Boisselle. It is this kind of humble (and sometimes anonymous) bravery which inspired me to write the book in the first place.


  1. Letter written by Lieutenant Colonel RB Morgan to Captain Jackson’s parents, re-printed in the Mid Cumberland & Westmoreland Herald, 15 July 1916
  2. Crewe, F., The History of the 8th North Staffords (Stoke-on-Trent: Hughes & Harber 1921), p48
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The Dunkirk evacuation: myth and reality

Dr Tim Benbow, King’s College London

 The East Mole at Dunkirk

The East Mole at Dunkirk

The remarkably successful evacuation from Dunkirk in summer 1940 is an epic tale that continues to fascinate and to inspire. It involved heroism in the face of the most desperate adversity; some kind of victory snatched against impossible odds from the jaws of defeat.  Even the Admiralty thought that at best, only 45,000 of the beleaguered British Expeditionary Force might be rescued. Yet in the event, over 338,000 British and French troops were brought back to England. When we were planning the early volumes in Helion’s ‘Naval Staff Histories of the Second World War’ series, Operation Dynamo was a natural choice to include.

operation-dynamoOne implication of an episode being such a treasured part of the national memory is that history can sometimes blur into myth, with the emergence of a common understanding that can bear little resemblance to reality. Some of the commentary surrounding the First World War centenary demonstrates this problem, with historians struggling to challenge entrenched media misperceptions and the considerable inertia of received wisdom. Doing so is a necessary task for historians, albeit sometimes a thankless one.

Many elements of the Dunkirk evacuation have passed into the national understanding (even the national psyche). In writing the introduction to this volume, I was struck by how far the typical picture is broadly accurate – demonstrating that ‘myth’ does not always mean ‘untrue’. There are some aspects where folk memory needs a tweak rather than wholesale revision. (A notable exception, which is utterly untrue, is the suggestion that Hitler deliberately allowed the British to escape; I have attempted to refute this here:

One popular image that needs a little correction to put it into context is the focus on evacuation from the beaches. This did indeed play an important part; heavy damage to the harbour facilities at Dunkirk meant that the evacuation had to make extensive use of the miles of beaches lying to the east of the town. Yet 70 per cent of the troops who were evacuated during the operation embarked from the harbour, most from the ‘East Mole’ (a concrete breakwater topped by a flimsy wooden walkway). It was pressed into service as a makeshift pier – an improvised role for which it was not designed. This still left 30 per cent of the troops being taken directly off the beaches; while this effort was not predominant, it was still an important part of the evacuation.

The other key strand in the popular depiction of Dunkirk is the famous ‘little ships’- the civilian vessels that crossed the Channel to help rescue the army. They were from a remarkable range of peacetime roles, including lifeboats, car ferries, rubbish barges and lighters from a removal firm. Their names seem incongruous to such a significant operation in such a grave national crisis, from Buffalo Bill, to Lazy Days, Yorkshire Lass, Dumpling and no fewer than eleven Skylarks.

They did indeed play a crucial role.  However, their centrality has been exaggerated, to the detriment of the Royal Navy, on whose shoulders the great bulk of the responsibility fell.  First, while the little ships were civilian owned, many were partly or wholly crewed for the operation by personnel from the Navy or the Navy Reserve. Second, they tended in the main to ferry troops out to larger ships rather than taking them home. This was particularly significant at the beaches, where the larger vessels could not get closer to the waiting soldiers due to the gentle gradient of the shore and the shallow water. The biggest single contribution was by destroyers. Despite being hard-pressed in a number of other, simultaneous commitments, they brought home over 30 percent of those evacuated. Many more were transported by other warships. The little ships were a genuinely important but relatively small part of the whole effort.

None of this, of course, detracts from their place in the story or the bravery of their crews.  Reading the Battle Summary makes clear just how many of the little ships were lost on the dangerous voyage – including, among the names mentioned above, Dumpling and no fewer than three of the Skylarks. Perhaps the most poignant entry in the history notes, on 1 June, an anonymous casualty: ‘An unidentified grey yacht which was picking up survivors was bombed and sunk’.

So, the popular understanding of the evacuation needs a little revision. The beaches and the little ships both had an important, indispensable role, though each was outweighed by, respectively, the harbour and Royal Navy warships.

What is entirely accurate, however, is the importance generally attached to the stunning success of the evacuation. Without this, if Britain had lost the vast bulk of its trained, professional Army, it is difficult to think that we could have fought on rather than following France into defeat. Dunkirk was not a victory; rather, at the end of a disastrous campaign, it represented enough of a success that Britain could continue to fight. The loss of the Battle of France did not also mean losing the war.

The Dunkirk evacuation is soon to be the subject of a major film, coming out in 2017. While some previous films set in the Second World War have had what might politely be described as an uncertain relationship to history (the makers of ‘U-571’ might know what I mean), the fact that Dunkirk is being directed by Christopher Nolan gives some grounds for optimism.  At the very least, it is an episode of national history that is well worth celebrating.

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A Tribute to Bill Braham – Ancestor of Barnsley ‘Old Boy’ George Braham

By Jane Ainsworth

George Braham –  © Barnsley Archives

George Braham – © Barnsley Archives

I was delighted to hear from Bill when Duncan Rogers, my publisher at Helion & Company, forwarded an email to me from him on 12 July. Bill had read my book – Great Sacrifice: The ‘Old Boys’ of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School in the First World War.

He was interested in some details I had discovered that were new to him and the photograph of his grandfather’s first cousin, George Braham. He also wanted to pass on some additional information about the family.

I had made contact with relations of 20 ‘Old Boys’ while researching Great Sacrifice and I have become friends with several of them, who supported me at book launches and my Somme Centenary Commemoration. I hoped that when my book was published by Helion other relations would get in touch and Bill was my first new contact.

'Old Boy' relations pictured with Jane Ainsworth. Left to right: Ian Potter with Jean Copley. In front, Adrienne McEnhill and Deborah Toft.

‘Old Boy’ relations pictured with Jane Ainsworth at the Somme Centenary Commemoration. Left to right: Ian Potter with Jean Copley. In front, Adrienne McEnhill and Deborah Toft.

I responded in detail to Bill on 13 July to say how thrilled I was to hear from him, how interested I was in the information he sent to me and how much I was looking forward to sharing more details …. Tragically, I learnt that Bill died suddenly early morning on 15 July. I will never know whether he read my email, but I do hope so to know just how grateful I was to him. As and when Great Sacrifice is reprinted, I want to include the details about George and the Braham family that Bill provided as a tribute to him.

George Braham was born in 1886 in Hoyland – coincidentally where I was born – and he was the fifth of nine surviving children of Daniel and Annie Braham. George was Assistant Schoolmaster at Worsbrough Dale National School when he enlisted in the 12th Battalion (Sheffield City) of the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was one of the many men killed in action on 1 July, 1916 and who is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

I was aware that Daniel Braham was a Stationary Engineman in a Colliery but not which colliery until Bill enlightened me. He was at Rockingham Colliery, where his older brother Samuel also worked, having moved from Garforth Colliery. “This may have been at the encouragement of their eldest Brother Williamwho became some kind of coal agent for Newton & Chambers/Thornecliffe Collieries who sank the Rockingham shafts”.

I was shocked to learn that George had witnessed a horrific incident in 1896, when he was only nine years old, and I searched for details as reported in the newspapers. On 11 May 1896, TheYorkshire Evening Post told the story in an article headed ‘Bravado and Death: A Barnsley Lad’s Fateful Freak’ while Sheffield Evening Telegraph called it ‘Schoolboy’s Fatal Folly at Barnsley.’

Samuel Braham, aged 10, had taken his father Samuel’s dinner to Rockingham Colliery on 22 April accompanied by his cousin George. While crossing the yard, Samuel boasted that he could stand under the archway while the corves passed through from the colliery yard to the chemical works. The train of corves caught Samuel and dragged him along the line for a considerable distance before it stopped. Samuel was admitted to the local Beckett Hospital but died of his injuries on 9 May.

Two days later Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported the Inquest, at which George gave evidence. There was only nine inches between the wall of the bridge and the full corves and Samuel was caught under the wheels of the second corf. He suffered a fractured arm and damage to his leg, which was aggravated by old grease that led to his death 17 days later. The verdict was ‘Accidentally Injured.’  I can only imagine the pain Samuel felt and the impact of such a dreadful tragedy on George.

I had included brief details of the education and war service of brothers Ernest and Arthur, who had both attended Barnsley Holgate Grammar School, but Bill kindly elaborated on the rest of the family and I was keen to learn more from the records he had found.

William Henry was living in Sales Street, Hoyland Common, with his wife and children by 1915, when he volunteered under the Derby Scheme. He was called up in 1916 and went to France in 1917, serving with 12th and 13th Y&L. “He was wounded in March 1918 and served at home until the end of the war”.

Archibald also served in 12th Y&L but “was pulled out and served most of the war as a batman for officers attached to various HQ units. In that he was lucky, as it meant he was not in the active unit on 1st July. Pre-war he lived at home and was a draper at Butterfields in Barnsley”.

Edith “qualified as a nurse in Bradford but was working in London before joining QAANS. She served in Aldershot before being sent to France where she ran a ward. After the war, she remained on the reserve list until she married and moved to Australia”.

Ernest became an Anglican shortly before the Second World War “and ended up in one of the parishes in Duxford from where he became chaplain to RAF Duxford. His wife is buried there and shortly after he headed off to Gosport to teach and preach as well as lecture in Philosophy at what is now the University of Southampton. His son, J R D Braham, joined the RAF before the war and went on to become one of the most decorated RAF officers of all time as well as being fighter ace.”

Somme Centenary Commemoration – © Jane Ainsworth and Bryn Owen

Somme Centenary Commemoration – © Jane Ainsworth and Bryn Owen

I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to tell Bill how George Braham has been remembered in Barnsley for the Somme Centenary. I made sure that his details were in the special Somme Centenary wraparound for Barnsley Chronicle on 1 July and I asked for the photograph in Barnsley Archives to be used in the Council’s temporary memorial sculpture for Barnsley men who died on 1 July. Sadly, despite agreeing to do so, they failed to use this and another two photos of my ‘Old Boys’, adding silhouettes instead.

My own event at Silverwood Scout Camp was inspired by the many ‘Old Boys’ of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School who served on the Somme.

© Bryn Owen

© Bryn Owen

I included George’s photograph in my display with brief information and a copy was on the altar in the beautiful outdoor chapel, where I held the Remembrance Service. I was pleased that people who attended this commemoration told me that it was a fitting tribute to all involved.



Bill Braham – a friend by Charles Singleton, Editor at Helion Books

I only knew Bill a short time, maybe three-and-a-half years. However, in that time, I grew to see him as a friend and always looked forward to meeting and chatting with him at Pike and Shot Society events and other socials. Regular discussions and chat on the phone and through Facebook showed me just what a knowledgeable and generous man he was. His commentary and banter were the perfect companions in what were fast becoming annual trips out to civil war sites around Shropshire and curry nights in Wolverhampton. Although I will sadly not be the Editor on his planned book on the Battle of Worcester, I have the honour of having knowing Bill, a true gentleman and scholar. Thank you Bill.


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A Unique Insight into Colonial Archaeology of the 19th Century in a Warzone

WS AFGHANISTAN FRONTsPeter Harrington explores the legacy of William Simpson – Special Artist and Antiquarian During the Second Afghan war 1878-179

In October 1983, shortly after starting work as Assistant Curator in the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University Library in Providence, USA, I came upon a large album of drawings, sketches and watercolours depicting events, people and scenery connected with the Second Afghan War of 1878-79. The artist was William Simpson who had been sent out to Afghanistan to cover the war at the behest of the Illustrated London NewsI decided to make an inventory of the images and find out more about the artist. It turned out the Military Collection also owned a number of his sketchbooks from his various travels around the world including the Crimea, France and Constantinople. In addition were some watercolours, drawings and prints of other wars and military events. I became fascinated with Simpson and wrote several articles about him and began to acquire more of his artwork.

Then in 1999 we received as a gift Simpson’s diary, kept during his time in Afghanistan -donated by a friend of the collection who had acquired it from the artist’s great grand-nephew. I began to transcribe the journal shortly after 9/11 and the invasion of that country. I would read in the news about the bombing campaign to destroy Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and would hear about places described by Simpson. The terrorists were hiding out in caves that quite likely had been visited by the artist in his pursuit of ancient Buddhist remains. It was a surreal experience.

While Simpson’s task was to capture the essence of the war in images for the public back home, his personal interest lay more in the antiquities of the country, its cultures and traditions, and ethnography. So while the army was encamped at Jalalabad and elsewhere, Simpson took every opportunity to explore some of the ruined Buddhist stupas and decorated caves that covered the nearby hills. As there was little to do for the army as it waited for the Afghan tribal leaders to come into camp and swear allegiance to the Queen, the commanders gave Simpson the go-ahead and even provided him with soldiers to help ‘excavate’ some of the sites.

Archaeology was still very much in its infancy and, in many cases, it was nothing more than treasure hunting. This was the case in Afghanistan, where many of the stupas had been dug in search of objects of value such as coins. Simpson was (to some extent) no different, although after tunnelling into the centre of one stupa and locating the burial deposit and related relic, he continued to examine the structure itself. He was determined to evaluate the influence of Greek architecture on the local structures, and made numerous studies of the surviving columns and pilasters.

As a consequence, Simpson’s diary provides a unique and original insight into colonial archaeology of the 19th century – especially in a war zone. He also covers the various punitive expeditions, the disaster to the 11th Hussars, and other military events. His interaction with the army hierarchy is revealing – especially with Major Sir Pierre Louis Cavaganari, the Political Officer who helped draft the Treaty of Gandamak which ended the first part of the war. Simpson struck up a friendship with the officer who helped facilitate the excavation of Ahin Posh Tope. Cavagnari was later sent to Kabul with a British Mission to which Simpson applied to go in order for him to visit the giant Buddhas at Bamian, but the government forbade any civilians from going. The members of the mission were massacred in early September 1879, to which Simpson later reflected that he owed his life to that ruling.

Simpson’s account is enhanced by his exquisite watercolours of the country and his numerous pencil and wash drawings which were engraved and published in the ILN. A lengthy introduction precedes the diary following by several comprehensive appendices.

William Simpson’s Afghanistan. Travels of a Special Artist and Antiquarian During the Second Afghan War 1878-1879 can be purchased from Helion & Company Ltd here.

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English Civil War: The Commission of Thomas Else, 1659

By Stephen Ede-Borrett

Commission 1

Extant Army Officers’ Commissions from before 1660 are rare and, as far as I am aware, the example shown here is the only surviving example dating to this period, the last year of the English Commonwealth.

After the death of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell on 3rd September 1658, his son Richard briefly assumed the title and powers but had neither the trust of the Army nor the ambition for the post and was overthrown the following May. With the downfall of Richard Cromwell, the Protectorate came to an end and the Republic and Commonwealth restored. The new Government lost little time and swiftly remodelled the Army; all officers that retained their posts received new commissions. The commission under consideration here is that of Captain Thomas Else of General Charles Fleetwood’s Regiment of Horse, from that new Government.

When Thomas Else entered the Army is not known although, as he is termed “Thomas Else, gent. of East Dereham” in his General Pardon from Charles II dated 2nd March 1661, [1] he may be assumed to have come from the landed gentry classes. Firth and Davies refer to Else as having already been a Lieutenant in Charles Fleetwood’s Regiment of Horse during the campaign in Scotland in 1650 [2], although he was not commissioned as Captain with command of a Troop (in succession to Richard Sankey) until around October 1651. Else had probably served with the Regiment at the Battle of Dunbar and in the Worcester campaign (although there he would still have been a Lieutenant), after which the Regiment returned to its ‘home’ in the Eastern Counties, where it had originally been raised in 1643 and which must have been convenient to Else as well as a number of other of the Regiment’s officers. Else accompanied the Regiment to Scotland in August 1655 and the following year his troop is listed as the garrison at Cupar, in Fife [3]. The Regiment returned to England in 1658 and was in London by the end of that year.

When, as mentioned above, the Republic was re-established in the Spring of 1659, Fleetwood was appointed Commander in Chief [4] and his Regiment of Horse, along with the rest of the Army, was restructured. Although two of the Regiment’s Troop commanders lost their places in this restructure, Else retained his [5] and despite the fact that we have no precise knowledge of his actions throughout the crisis between the Army and Parliament that autumn and Winter, it may be assumed that he followed the majority and eventually backed Monk and Parliament. Despite this, when the Regiment was again remodelled by the restored Long Parliament on 20th January 1660, Else was omitted from the new list of Captains [6]; two of the Regiment’s Troop commanders were considered dangerous enough to be ordered to leave the capital although Else himself was not (or perhaps he had already returned to his Estate in Norfolk). The Regiment was disbanded at Salisbury in November 1660.

After the loss of his commission in January 1660, there is no further mention of Else, although one further item of interest survives in Norfolk Records Office; Thomas Else’s Pardon from Charles II, dated 2nd March 1661. Thereafter Thomas Else, like so many veterans of the Civil War, disappears from the records.

The Commission is fourteen inches by ten and a half inches, ink on vellum and, together with the complimentary Pardon mentioned above, was donated to the Norfolk Records Office by Norwich City Museum on 10th August 1971. Respectively, these two items are MC 467 / 5 768×2 and MC 467 / 6 768×2 in the Norfolk Records Office catalogue.


The Commission, as is apparent from the photograph above, was prepared in blank even though it was handwritten – not printed – as would later be the case with blank commissions. Details of name, rank, regiment and date have then been inserted in a different hand and the resultant excess words deleted. These additions are shown as italics in the transcription below.

The black marks at both edges are not binding marks but small spots of ink, which have been used as a guide to rule faint pencil lines between, upon which the text of the commission is written.


The Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, Doe Constitute and appointe you ThomasElseand you are hereby Constituted and appointed Captain of a TroopofHorse

in the Regiment whereof  Lieutenant Generall ffleetwood is Colonell raised and

maintained under the Comand of the Parliament for the service of the Commonwealth.  You are therefore to take into your Charge and care the said Troope as Captain thereof and duly to

Exercise the inferior Officers and Souldiers of the same in Armes and to use yor best Care and

endeavor to keep them in good Order and Discipline, Commanding them to obey you as theire

Captaine : And you are likewise to observe and follow such Orders and directions as you shall

from time to time receive from the Parliament or Council of State appointed by Parliament.

And also you are to obey the Superior Officers of the said Regiment and Army according to

the discipline of war.  In pursuance of the Trust reposed in you and of yor Duty to the Parliament

and Commonwealth.  GIVEN at Westminster the Ninth day of July In the

yeare of Our Lord One Thousand six hundred fifty Nyne.


Signed in the Name of the Parliamt

of the Commonwealth of England

Wm Lenthall


To Captain Thomas Else

[1]  East Dereham is approximately fourteen miles West of Norwich. No member of the Else family appears in the phone book for either Dereham or Norwich today.

[2]  The Regimental History of Cromwell’s Army: C H Firth & G Davies, Oxford 1940, p 97.

[3]  The Regimental History of Cromwell’s Army: C H Firth & G Davies, Oxford 1940, p 98, quoting a source in the Clarke Mss.

[4]  9th June 1659. The appointment was for a limited period and under certain conditions

Journal of the House of Commons: volume 7: 1651-1660, London 1802, pp. 677-78.


[5]  On 30th July the House of Commons approved

“To Captain Thomas Else, his Commission to be Captain in Lieutenant-General Fleetwood’s Regiment”

Journal of the House of Commons: volume 7: 1651-1660, London 1802, pp. 739-44.


[6]  20th January 1660. Journal of the House of Commons: volume 7: 1651-1660, London 1802, pp. 816-17.


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“A Rabble of Gentility”? – The Northern Horse, 1644-45

By John Barratt

General George Monck once described the Royalist Horse in the English Civil War as  a cav“rabble of gentility”. It  was (even in the closing stages of the war) a rather sweeping generalisation, but the men who perhaps came closest to matching his description were those who rode with the Northern Horse in the months when they served with the Royalist Oxford Army.

The Northern Horse were the elements of The Marquis of Newcastle’s Northern Army, mostly from its cavalry, who elected to fight on after the disintegration of the rest of the Northern Army following Marston Moor.

NPG D29430; Marmaduke Langdale, 1st Baron Langdale by William HumphreyThe motives of the Northern Horse and their commander, the redoubtable Sir Marmaduke Langdale (pictured left), were mixed. From the time of their decision to march South to join the main Royalist forces, it was increasingly clear that the Northerners had their own agenda. They wanted the King to make the recovery of the North (and with it their own lands and fortunes) the main thrust of Royalist strategy for 1645.

Langdale was also determined to maintain the independent position of the unit men under his command. As the Oxford Army became increasingly reliant on the support of the Northern Horse, so the need to placate the sometimes fractious Northerners exerted a sometimes malign influence. The strategy of the spring campaign of 1645 (for example) culminating in the Battle of Naseby, was greatly affected by the presence of Langdale and his men.

My talk at the English Civil War Conference in Shrewsbury – and my forthcoming book on the Northern Horse – will examine these factors, and look at the nature of the troops involved. They were an  increasingly fragmentary collection of the remains of almost 30 regiments as well as individual Northern Royalists. The Northern Horse were notable for the large numbers of Catholics in their ranks, and increasingly consisted of men of gentry origin and their immediate followers.  Some of them were members of the notorious reiver families of the Anglo-Scottish borders. They brought with them some of the violent and unruly characteristics of the “reiver” tradition.

I will look at the earlier history of the Northern Regiments, how they were trained and equipped, and their impact on soldiers and civilians on their march South. There has always been controversy (both among contemporaries and more recent historians) on how effective the Northern Horse were. Were they on balance an asset or liability to the Royalist cause, and how does their fighting record compare with the rest of the Royalist horse?

I will describe briefly in the talk (and in much greater detail in the forthcoming book) the Keirincx, Alexander, 1600-1652; Pontefract Castlecampaigns of the Northern Horse. I will highlight ‘Langdale’s Ride’ – the Relief of Pontefract (pictured right) in March 1645; one of the most remarkable cavalry operations of the Civil War, and the Northern Horse’s greatest achievement.

I will look at the decline of the Northern Horse and their eventual disintegration, and also summarise the later careers of some of its officers and men, who were to prove amongst the most intractable opponents of the Parliamentarian regime.

To listen to John Barratt’s talk, purchase your ticket to Helion’s English Civil War Conference – taking place at historic Rowley’s House in Shrewsbury on Saturday 10 September. The ticket includes lunch, unlimited drinks and a tour of Civil War Shrewsbury.

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Scots Guards: The Great War as the men of one regiment saw it, by Randall Nicol

Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1This is a human account of the Scots Guardsmen who served in Belgium and France from the start of the Great War until its end; an evolving tale as the two Battalions follow slightly different paths during the first year, and much closer ones thereafter. I have got in amongst them (as much as anyone now can) - using their own words to convey what they saw, as well as how they reacted to what happened around them.

Not only does this mean the fighting of battles and occupation of trenches, but also, just as importantly, what was going on out of the line. This was often uncomfortable, frequently arduous because of fatigues, but also filled with unexpected and sometimes touching enjoyments, such as the gardening competition in the spring of 1917. Humour appears in unexpected places; comradeship is fundamental; personal likes and dislikes having to be worked through and round; and there is the constant interrelationship between discipline, self-discipline, respect and self-respect.

Though wars generally have a great deal in common for those who have to do the fighting, the Great War continues to be a particularly enduring and horrifying source of fascination for those who were not there. To the Scots Guardsmen, the normality they lived with for more than four years was one of intermingled terror, discomfort, restricted personal horizons, resolution, boredom, lack of individual freedom, incomprehension, tragedy and uncertainty. To these were added intermittent satisfaction and pride in a job well done, pleasures and fun. There are heartening moments too, as when men of the 1st Battalion, relieved after the Battle of Pilckem Ridge on 31 July 1917, cheered the gunners as they went back past the field gun batteries.

Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 2The opportunity open to me meant that looking at the personal experiences of these men and knitting them into a coherent narrative was an achievable, worthy challenge. It was one to be attained, not just for the Scots Guardsmen, but representatively for all the infantry of the British Expeditionary Force (the BEF). It began when Ella McLeod brought me the medals and papers of her uncle Lance Corporal Alexander Cairns some 12 years ago. I researched him and the events on 29 October 1914 at Gheluvelt, during the First Battle of Ypres, when he was captured. From there, I separately started looking into that year’s Christmas Truce and that led me to realise what a huge tale was sitting waiting to be told.

The two-volume subtitles Great Shadows and Vast Tragedy come from one quotation. Wilfrid Ewart, an officer in the 2nd Battalion for much of the War, went in October 1919 with his sister to find her husband’s grave on the Somme, without success. The autumn daylight began to fail as they stood near the southeast corner of Delville Wood looking out over Guillemont and Ginchy: “Already great shadows begin to lengthen across the battlefield, blotting out the hollow places, adding infinitely to the vast tragedy of this land.”

In November 1917, he and Lance Sergeant James Fotheringham DCM were fighting in Bourlon Wood during the Battle of Cambrai when Sergeant Fotheringham was seriously wounded. Though he managed to crawl away, he died after his arm was amputated. On his headstone are the words: ‘Rest On In Peace Brave Soldier Till The Trumpet Sounds Again’.

I have been the storyteller for all these soldiers and in spirit I have put on the same uniform, laced up the same boots, tied the same puttees, checked the same equipment, set the same cap on my head, hoisted the same pack on my back, slung the same rifle over my shoulder, picked up the same shovel and gone with them every step of the way.

Till The Trumpet Sounds Again. The Scots Guards 1914-1919 In Their Own Words Volume One and Volume Two by Randall Nicol are available for purchase from Helion & Company Ltd.

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