Wars of the Roses: The Prints of Darkness

2246-wotr_fbbannerUpdate by Peter Dennis

Some devilment has found its way into the process from artwork to page in this title. The figure pages are always a bit more intense than my artwork, and I love that, but some of the pages of Wars of the Roses have gone a bit further down that path than we intended. This gives the figures a rather brooding and dangerous look, which if I could, I would add to all the sheets of warriors in the paperboy world.

Unfortunately, it has also made the bases on some of the pages too dark to match either the starter game base printed on the back inside cover, or any normal wargame terrain.   That means it’s time to see what we can do to bring the base back into the light, while keeping the heavy knights heavy. img_0825

My first thought was to ask my pals at Warlord Games for some of that grassy stuff beloved of  wargamers of the 3D persuasion. ‘Dead Grass’ is the shade.  It’s an interesting material, but there’s something  just too 3D about it which sets up an interference in the paper purist’s sensibilities. I may be the only paper purist in Britain though, so see what you think.

The answer, for me, is simply to paint the base. During development,  I was rather shocked to see that Andy Callan painted the bases of his Wars of the Roses (WOTR) paperboys anyway (without asking permission!) so I suspect many gamers will match them  into their terrain boards as a matter of course.

img_0824Any opaque paint will do the job. Light Khaki if you have wargames paint, Raw Sienna or Yellow Ochre with a dab of green mixed in is about the right shade. 

Paint the bases at the stage where you have completed the stand except for gluing in the front rank strip. You can dab some colour on the base edge too to complete the stand.

We will correct the sheets when we reprint, so there is a window of time to have these boys cast in a more serious light!

Less is More

When I plonked the open pages of WOTR onto the copier at my local place, the machine decided I wanted to squeeze two pages into one and reduced my print down in size. It reduced it to 15mm scale, or as near as makes no difference, so I thought I would make up a few stands.

img_1052I hadn’t made any Paperboys this small before, and by chance one of the sheets was the WOTR mounted knights with their long lances. They cut out with care, but without any problem, and were pretty quick to do, too. Even the foot-knights with their pole arms were easier, if anything, than their big brothers. Yes, I know I’m used to cutting fiddly stuff out, but honestly, they were easier as you have to smudge over the wobbly blades etc and it doesn’t matter at this scale.

I hope this inspires you to try it. The 3D illusion works really well at this scale, and huge armies will fit on your table!

Battle for Britain. Wargame the Wars of the Roses 1457-1488 by Peter Dennis with easy rules by Andy Callan is available for purchase here.

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New ‘Paper Soldiers’ Battle for Britain Releases: Wargame 1066 and Wargame the Wars of the Roses 1455-1487

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Peter Dennis introduces the latest titles in his ‘Battle for Britain’ series, featuring easy rules by Andy Callan:

cover-shots-smallIn the papery romp through the military history of Britain that the ‘Battle for Britain’ series is, the one inescapable date is that epic year. When I read that Battle of Hastings themed coinage was being introduced for the 950th anniversary I thought the paperboys had better raise a celebratory axe in 2016 too!

Battle for Britain. Wargame the Wars of the Roses 1455-1487 (WOTR) was already well on in development and I did the two books pretty much side-by-side. Both had their challenges and rewards from the design point of view. The biggest change from the Battle For Britain. Wargame the English Civil War 1642-1651 (ECW) book is that all the front ranks of every stand are separate, and are glued to a locating strip in their position on the ‘ground’. This is to encourage cutting out the space between the legs of the front rank soldiers. I was experimenting with this in the later sheets of the ECW book, but when I saw the resulting improvement in the appearance of the units, I resolved to make this the standard look of all the paperboys in future. There is base colour too on the sheets, so this is optional; but it takes only a few moments to do, and really makes the guys look much more real.

WOTR (as I shall call it), had relatively few troop types; bills and bows mainly for the native English, but had many important commanders – each with their own retinue in a distinctive livery tabard. This meant that, to give an accurate representation of the look of the armies, those bills and bows had to be reproduced in different coloured tunics. Luckily, a predominantly red tabard was used by several great Lords, which made liveries for the leaders represented in the book just about achievable within the 48-page format.

bowmenBowmen (pictured left) present a challenge to show in the paperboys’ ‘from the front’ pose. Those raised bows look rather delicate, even when given the usual 28mm soldiers’ rather chunky weapon. In practise though, they are no more difficult to cut out than anything else.

A layer of white PVA glue on the finished bow dries clear and matt, and lends a suitable stiffness – making them more durable than you might think. The bills too seem daunting to the cutter with their complex silhouette, but you will soon get used to releasing them from the sheet, and the raised weapons give the stands a nice sense of movement.swiss-german-pike-men

The late 1400s saw the knightly lance reach its greatest length. Rather than make separate weapons (as was essential for the pikes in the English Civil war book to fit them on the sheet), I decided to try to have them integral to the figure. Cavalry need to grip and tuck in the lance, which made separate lances impossible to my way of thinking.

This ‘integrated lance’ required a long cut down each side of the pole, which proved to be so easy in development, that I used the technique for the infantry spearmen too. There is a sheet of Swiss-German pikemen for the Battle of Stoke Field (pictured above), which needs the pikes to be made separately though. The extra layer of glue and paper in that pike-making system is needed for the really long weapons.

Andy Callan has come up with a rule set that is very simple to learn and to play but which has a chess-like fascination. Each of the three ‘Wards’ on each side fights as a single unit. Archery is followed by close combat in which the players set stand against stand inside the terrible scrummage that such a battle must represent, until one side or the other breaks and the troops left on the field (the ones that haven’t gone off in bloody pursuit), may turn their anger on to the neighbouring enemy ward.

He developed this style of game back in the 80s in an influential game called ‘Dark Age Infantry Slog’ (known as DAIS in the wargaming world). The rules for 1066 are what he describes as a much more user-friendly version of DAIS. There were, in any case, more than infantrymen stalking the field at Hastings and the Norman player has a more flexible and modern army to command than the shieldwall armies of the Saxons and the Norsemen. The rules for both periods have a starter game, which is played on two copies of the squared ‘ground’ on the inside back cover. I enjoyed the starter games so much I didn’t want to set up the big battles… but that’s another story.

amassed-smallOne of the things I really like about paperboys is the mass look you get from the relatively crowded stands of figures (see left). Wargame 1066. Saxons, Vikings, Normans really uses this to great effect. The double line of stands in the shieldwall in Andy’s rules creates a formidable block of warriors!

I included lots of alternative shields which can be glued over the ones on the figures to prevent some of the more striking designs visually jumping out in the line. I was trying to get a really irregular, rather sombre look to the Saxons and the Vikings, who are represented in various forms in the figure sheets. bridge-small

This was my first attempt at ‘big shield’ armies and I think they suit paper figures very well. Since then I have made many Romans for the ‘invasion’ book; varying the shield positions and weapon angles amongst the stands creates a flicker which lends life even to a uniformed mass.

The relatively limited troop types in 1066 allowed us space to include more buildings, a town rampart system – even a Viking ship as well as the usual trees (see main image). Andy had space to include scenarios for all three battles of 1066 too, so if the Hastings interest this Autumn inspires you to relive that year on the wargames table, get the scissors out!

Battle for Britain. Wargame 1066. Saxons, Vikings, Normans and Battle for Britain. Wargame the Wars of the Roses 1455-1487 are now both on sale from Helion & Company Ltd.

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Remembering the Centenary of the First Tank Crews who fought at the Somme

the-first-tank-crewsJohn Lennon’s maths teacher, the Scottish chemist Stuart Hastie (who introduced science into the whisky distilling process), the grandson of the social reformer Joseph Rowntree and the champion rose grower Bill Harkness…

These are just four of the brave souls who took the first tanks into action on the Somme battlefield 100 years ago and who are commemorated in an extraordinary new – and inaugural – account: The First Tank Crews. The Lives of the Men Who Fought at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette 15 September 1916.

Released by publishers Helion & Company to coincide with the centenary of the battle, The First Tank Crews has been meticulously researched by former army officer of 40 years, Stephen Pope, who has unearthed new material from official service records, first-hand descriptions of battles and, most importantly, information provided by families of those who served.

“I wrote the book because I was fascinated by the story of ordinary men who took part in a world first: an extraordinary event when near-prototype tanks were used for the first time,” says 62-year-old Stephen, who is now an army reserve officer.

“No-one else had researched their story and, other than through my website, it is wholly unknown. The National Tank Museum has since followed up on my research and have recently opened a new exhibition, which features some of the first tank crewmen.

‘I hope that the readers of the book will enjoy the 400 individual stories of the crewmen and their families before and after the First World War.”

Liverpool school teacher Graeme Nixon would survive the war to later award a young John Lennon detention – predicting he would fail his exams due to persistent absenteeism. He died within weeks of The Beatles’ last live concert in 1966.

Edinburgh chemist Stuart Hastie later commanded sections of tanks at the Battle of Cambrai. Under his orders, the crewmen used their tanks to rip up the German wire entanglements and allow the cavalry to deploy during battle. The son of an ironmonger, Hastie had risen to the rank of chief instructor of the Driving and Maintenance School in France by the end of Great War – receiving the OBE in the June Honours List of 1919. Later in life he would introduce science into the whisky distilling process and be lauded by his industry peers for his money-saving research.

“Sadly, many of the first tank crews died young: some due to injuries or illnesses developed as a result of their wartime service,” he says. “Many of their marriages failed – some as a direct result of the stresses of the battlefield. Many were childless and few lived to see their grandchildren grow up.

‘None of those who fought in the tanks achieved great fame for their actions, and few revealed their wartime secrets to their families; however, many became pillars of their local communities – giving a life of service to those around them. This book tells the previously untold stories of bravery, determination and dedication by a group of unsung heroes.”

Stephen will be at Flers in France on 15 September, together with 40 relatives of the tank crewmen and 25 members of the former Tank Corps, to remember the bravery of those who ventured into battle 100 years to the day. They will be joined by a party of serving Royal Tank Regiment soldiers, dressed in their distinctive black coveralls, to formally commemorate this unique day.

The First Tank Crews. The Lives of the Men Who Fought at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette 15 September 1916 is published by Helion & Company Ltd – one of the world’s largest publishers of military history.

 

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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 www.helion.co.uk

 

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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 charlesjsingleton@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

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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: www.jeremybanning.co.uk)

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: www.jeremybanning.co.uk)

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.

NOTES:

  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: https://defenceindepth.co/2016/07/11/the-dunkirk-evacuation-and-the-german-halt-order/.)

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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