The top five pre-1914 military history books for Christmas 2016

ChristmasHere, our ‘Century of the Soldier‘ series Commissioning Editor Charles Singleton shares his personal pick of the best pre-1914 books to add to your Christmas wishlist: 

Once again, I’ve been given the difficult task of choosing my top five books from this year’s releases from Helion. Although I say difficult, it is in fact a joy to go over the past year’s publications and pontificate a little about some of them…

much-embarrassedMuch Embarrassed. Civil War, Intelligence and the Gettysburg Campaign by George Donne

In the springtime of this year, I gathered the terms to create the index for Much Embarrassed, which meant reading through the text. The book concentrates on how the intelligence services of the opposing forces worked and how they sought to discover the enemy’s intentions and numbers. I must say how much of an impression this book made upon me. Our modern perception of pre-20th century military professionalism and civil wars as being antiquated and lacking is very much challenged in Much Embarrassed; it demonstrates how 19th century armies acquired intelligence of their enemies and used it to their advantage.

New Approaches to the Military History of the English Civil War. Proceedings of the First new-approachesHelion and Company ‘Century of the Soldier’ Conference edited by Ismini Pells

This book is the ‘compilation’ of papers that were given at a conference I organised in 2015. Part of the concept behind the ‘Century of the Soldier’ book series is to offer a holistic approach to the subject (being pike and shot warfare 1618-1721), with publications, conferences, blogs and partnership-work. We will be holding our next conference in 2018. I can highly recommend coming along – great sandwiches!



The Arte Militaire. The Application of 17th Century Military Manuals to Conflict Archaeology by Warwick Louth

My enduring memory of The Arte Militaire was giving the author, Warwick, a phone call to say we would be very interested in publishing his work, only to find out it was his MA graduation day as well! I enjoyed working with Warwick on this book. Not only is it a highly visual piece, it also covers one of my great interests – military professionalism and development in the 17thcentury. By using the latest research in landscape archaeology and military history, The Arte Militaire sets out to give us a new and better understanding of the nature of conflict in the early modern period.

Lobositz to Leuthen: Horace St Paul and the Seven Years War 1756-1757 translated by Neil lobositzCogswell.

Lobositz to Leuthen sees the launch of a new book series at Helion, ‘From Reason to Revolution’. Where ‘Century of the Soldier’ finishes in 1721, the new series carries on to 1815. This first book is very much a historical equivalent to the classic Barry Lyndon. The author of the diary, St Paul, was an English officer who served with the Austrian army through the Seven Years War. His attention to detail is what makes this work an essential addition to any library on the conflict.

no_armour_but_courageNo Armour but Courage. Colonel Sir George Lisle, 1615-1648 by Serena Jones

A publication I am especially proud of. Serena Jones is a researcher and writer of great skill and talent. When not writing for Helion (she’s just signed a contract for her next book) Serena has her own publishing business, Tyger’s Head Books. The subject of her first book for Helion is Sir George Lisle – a Royalist infantry officer who was arguably a great innovator of military practice and doctrine during the 1640s. This is the definitive work on his life.

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Battle For Britain Series Update: Romans on the March

romans-2By Peter Dennis

Andy Callan and I spent a fun evening with my local wargaming club ‘the Forest Outlaws’. (Mansfield was in the middle of Sherwood Forest, if you’re wondering about the name).

We were play-testing Andy’s rules for the Battle for Britain Roman invasion book, due in spring 2017. I’m happy to say both the introductory and the full versions worked very well.

romans-3We played through an ambush scenario that Andy has written and the Roman players obligingly failed to find either warband secreted in the woods.

The steadiness of the legionaries saved them from absolute disaster, and they managed to beat off the Britons, but the horde of native slingers eventually led to a British win on points. The outlaws declared the rules a success!



Other titles in the Battle For Britain series can be purchased from Helion here.

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Battle For Britain Reader Suggestion: Crafting Aluminium Pikes

andre-pike-1By Peter Dennis

Andre Clues, of my local wargame club in Mansfield, has come up with this brilliant idea…

Instead of using another sheet of paper between the folded colour sheets when you make pikes, use a flattened strip of aluminium from a drinks can.

Sand the metal to give it a bit of key, then use ‘general purpose’ or impact-type adhesive (wet, not impact style) to glue the sheets together.

When the assembly has really dried out, cut the pikes with shears type scissors (not the little figure-cutting scissors or a Stanley knife, which will tear the paper).

The pike will curl as you cut it, but it flattens out into a very thin and strong pike. If it bends, you can straighten it easily.

Anybody out there got any other ideas I never thought of?

Wargame the English Civil Wars 1642-51Get your copy of Wargame The English Civil War 1642-1651 with easy rules by Andy Callan here.

Watch Peter’s ‘how to make paper soldiers’ tutorial on our YouTube channel here.


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Great War Memoir Launch Hailed a Huge Success

hugh-sarahTHE BBC’s Hugh Pym (pictured above left) was guest of honour at the official launch of a new memoir on the Reverend Herbert Butler Cowl, who volunteered as an Army Chaplain in Christmas 1914.

The Half-Shilling Curate. A Personal Account of War and Faith 1914-18 – written by The Rev Cowl’s granddaughter, Sarah Reay (pictured above right), and published by Helion & Company Ltd – was unveiled at the Literary and Philosophical Society Library in Newcastle during a champagne reception.

half Shilling CurateThe book recounts The Rev. Cowl’s experiences on the Western Front with the Durham Light Infantry and Northumberland Fusiliers. Having been severely wounded during a heavy bombardment, he was on board the hospital ship Anglia when it hit a German mine in the English Channel. While recovering, ‘The Half-Shilling Curate’ (as he was affectionately known by his family) was awarded the Military Cross for exemplary gallantry.

“Hugh’s grandfather was also a Great War Army Chaplain, and he generously wrote the foreword to my book,” says Sarah, whose friend, pianist Deanna Bolton composed a piece of hymnal music entitled ‘The Half-Shilling Curate’, which she debuted at the event.

“Hugh introduced the evening – during which I shared my memories of my grandfather, the background to my four-year project in researching and writing his story, and my joy that everyone can now share the life and times of an incredible man who had served his king, country and God 100 years ago.”

Friends and family members, who had travelled from as far as British Columbia, were greeted by live piano music from the Great War period, with champagne and canapes being served in the open library.

Guests included three (out of four) of The Rev. Cowl’s great-grandchildren, along with one of his great-nieces. There was representation from the Durham Light Infantry Association from retired Major Chris Lawton MBE DL.

Sarah read aloud a few of her favourite passages from the book, which included the following extract from one of the Rev. Cowl’s letters home to his parents in 1915:

‘Sometimes as I cross a bit of rising ground between here and Headquarters, where the country is open, and the road only lined by an endless avenue of huge polled witch-elms, I stand in the darkness; watch the probing searchlights flicker on to the clouds and hear those grim far off voices speaking death. It is a new sound; it is another world; and it calls to unprecedented scenes and experiences. God grant as we march into it all, that there may arise a man in me that is sufficient to this new occasion!’

Music continued after the speeches and guests met Sarah (who describes herself as a self-taught historian), asked questions and had their books personally signed as they enjoyed further refreshments.

The Half-Shilling Curate. A Personal Account of War and Faith 1914-18 is now on sale at and at

Visit the official The Half-Shilling Curate website here.

Follow Sarah Reay on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Wargaming Elizabethan Naval Warfare

Andy Callan discusses the thinking behind the easy rules he is compiling for a forthcoming new title in our Battle For Britain paper soldiers series.

img_0890Making a game out of warfare at sea in this period is a tricky business. The problem comes with writing a set of rules that have the right balance between realism and playability. An entirely historical set would be unplayable and a playable set risks being entirely unhistorical.

Most wargamers have a vague idea of how naval warfare in the Age of Sail worked, but this is usually based on Napoleonic (or should that be “Nelsonian”?) examples – either from works of history or the novels of Patrick O’Brien or C.S Forrester (amongst others).

Things were not the same in the Age of the Elizabethan sea-dogs. The ships were very different, for a start. Drake’s flagship, the Revenge (pictured right), was the most famous of a revolutionary 9bc204b5d6be97fcf8129640a6664c1enew class of warship – the Elizabethan ‘race-built’ galleon – and the fighting and sailing qualities of these ships were clearly displayed in the Armada campaign. By later standards, though, these were only small ships – no bigger than a typical Napoleonic sloop-of-war. Tonne for tonne, they might have packed three times the punch of any contemporary Spanish galleon. But while they were exceptionally heavily-armed vessels for their time, they carried only the same weight of metal as small frigates of later centuries and their overall firepower was much less effective. The difference lies in gun drill and tactics.

Naval gunnery was still a relatively new art. The English had developed certain technical advantages (notably in their gun-founding techniques and the design of their short, truck carriages). But reloading at sea remained painfully slow, as guns were generally lashed to the ship’s sides and the idea of allowing the recoil to run the gun back inboard had not yet fully caught on. Spanish heavy guns were generally pre-loaded before action by crews of soldiers and sailors that were then dispersed to other battle stations. So they must have been, for the most part, one shot weapons – designed to be fired off at close range before the real business (boarding the enemy) began.

By contrast, the English preferred more stand-off tactics, but this was far from being a Napoleonic-style broadside action. There was no formal line of battle and no system of flag signals that would allow the Admiral to communicate his intentions. Instead, the preferred technique was to group together in rough squadrons and then, one at a time, for each ship to run down wind on the enemy. First of all they would fire off bow-chasers and such of the broadside guns as could be brought to bear forward. Then luffing up, fire the rest of the broadside and the stern guns; finally giving the other broadside, before falling away to go through the laborious business of re-loading. All this made for a comparatively leisurely style of fighting (although it may not have seemed like it at the time).

So, in contrast to a Napoleonic wargame, where we have large warships, fighting in line of battle and exchanging broadsides at a rapid rate, an Elizabethan equivalent must be built around relatively small vessels – fighting a series of individual tip-and-run skirmishes while firing relatively slowly. But at typical move rates, a game like this would be like watching paint dry! The only way to make a playable game is to telescope the action in time and artificially increase the rate and effect of gunnery. Otherwise nothing will have happened before it’s time to put your toy ships back in their boxes.

So much for the tactical problems of ship-to-ship action. On a larger scale, the operationsimg_0892 of the two fleets provide further difficulties for anyone wishing to make a playable game out of the Armada fight. Despite the huge size of the fleets (each made up of well over a hundred vessels of all types and sizes) all the hard fighting was done by a relatively small proportion of the ships present.

The Spanish of course, had a large number of supply and transport vessels, which clustered together and moved slowly up channel; all the time being protected by a “fire-brigade” of fighting ships which were moved here and there to wherever the threat from the English seemed most acute.

On their side, the English were encumbered with a host of armed merchantmen (most of them very small indeed) which were largely incapable of making any useful contribution to the fighting. According to one contemporary observer: “We had been little helped by them, otherwise than that they did make a show”.

This means that the movements of the majority of ships, on both sides, are irrelevant in terms of a wargame. So what I have done is to have the English Armed Merchantmen as a sort of tactical back-stop at one end of the playing area; the Spanish Urcas as a mass of shipping at the other. While all these “second-line” ships are static on the sea grid, their progress up-channel is represented by the coastline moving past them. This way, the players only have to concern themselves with the manoeuvres of the key fighting ships – a much more manageable task.

Even so, in order to make a playable game out of all this, while still making some attempt to represent the fighting abilities and sailing characteristics of the two sides, I have had to be ruthless in making everything highly simplified and stylised. This goes against the grain of most naval wargame design, which traditionally concentrates heavily on the technicalities of manoeuvre and gunnery – laying great emphasis on the detailed differences between individual ships and their armament. In my personal experience, such games usually satisfy only their designers, who find their fellow gamers lose interest when they fail to master the intricacies of the movement rules and realise how long it takes to work out the effects of a typical broadside.

So this is the sort of thing I have set out to avoid. The rules for movement and firing are really as quick and simple as I could make them (you should have seen some of the earlier versions!). In writing them I have tried to bear in mind what Sir Julian Corbett had to say about Sir Richard Grenville’s last fight in the Revenge (see Tennyson’s epic poem!):

Without a glow of (his) fire ships become but counters and tactics sink to pedantry”.

Most wargamers will have bad memories of naval games like that!

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‘Century of the Soldier’ and Colonel Nicholas Devereux’s Regiment of Foot announce a new partnership

Lawful Laws and Liberty: Fighting for the good old cause  

Helion and Company LogoSince we launched the Century of the Soldier book series in May 2015, we’ve come across a great many people with the same passion for the period of history. Standing out from the crowd for us is a regiment from the English Civil War Society – Colonel Nicholas Devereux’s Regiment of Foot.


Colonel Nicholas Devereux’s regiment is one of the founding regiments of the Roundheaddevereaux-logo_3 Association – part of the English Civil War Society. The present regiment was founded in the early 1970s. It can boast of a proud tradition of historical research and the development of authentically-produced clothing and equipment. We are also one of the very few re-enactment groups that drill with metal-edged pikes and pole arms and shoulder-loaded muskets.

Deveraux’s have an ethos of researching the history of the regiment, the drill and equipment it uses and the clothing that the original soldiers were likely to have worn. We can proudly boast of five published authors within our ranks with many more coming to the fore.  Recruiting from all over the country, we are mainly based in and around the West Midlands, Wiltshire and greater South West.

History of the Original Regiment


Colonel Nicholas Devereux raised his regiment following the siege of Gloucester in 1643. In May 1644, the regiment captured the Cotswolds town of Malmesbury. Devereux became the Governor of Malmesbury and his troops became the garrison.

The regiment supported the war effort with large bodies of troops – some of whom were to fight at the battle of Cropredy Bridge. The regiment was to help clear Wiltshire of Royalists and besiege the King’s garrison at Farringdon. The surrender of Oxford and Farringdon saw the end of the fighting in 1646, and Devereux and his regiment stood down in October 1646.

Roles in Today’s Regiment

As a recruit, you will receive specialised training and support for the role you chose for yourself. New and veteran members of the regiment drill regularly to ensure a high level of proficiency. Once you have joined, a member of the regiment local to you will act as a mentor to help you through your first season with us.

The Pike Division

The Pike Division are the stalwarts of the regiment – supporting the musketeers and leading the assault. If you chose to ‘trail a pike’, you will be armed with a pike some 16 feet in length, and protected by armour and a helmet. The regiment supplies both pikes and armour.

The Musket Division


By the time of the Civil Wars of the mid 1640s, the matchlock musket was well-established and the principal infantry weapon. The musketeer was easy to train, faster on the march than the armoured pikeman, and could kill at a greater distance. Named after the lit match that ignited the black powder that fired the lead ball projectile, the matchlock musket had a rate of fire of up to three shots a minute. pic-1

Being part of the musket division will require you to have a shot gun certificate and a black powder certificate. Members of the regiment can help you with your application. The regiment holds a number of muskets which can be loaned out to new recruits.

Re-enacting the Civilians of the Regiment

pic-11Devereux’s also has a civilian ‘baggage train’ that depicts life in the regimental encampment. The regimental sutlers are perhaps the main hub in our living history encampments; they often generate the greatest interest in their displays, and food preparation and cooking demonstrations. Don’t forget, at many events, the regiment gets fed by the sutlers too.

Devereux’s is recruiting for the 2017 season now! What can we offer new recruits?

Re-enacting can be an expensive hobby and it can be very daunting to know where to start. A recruit isn’t expected to get all the required equipment prior to their first weekend with us. Nor do we expect them to have an ‘expert’ level of knowledge of the Civil Wars or of the military history and detail that goes with it.

The development of a suitable role within the regiment is helped along by a mentor who will be able to advise on clothing and equipment purchase too. They will be able to help put you in touch with our list of recommended suppliers. The regiment can also support the new recruit with an initial loan of spare kit to get you started and help you get on your feet. The regiment will supply pikes, and help you apply for a shotgun licence and black powder certificate should you wish to be a musketeer.

Please free to get in touch via our website to find out more about us, or find us on Facebook.



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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












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

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

Accrington Pal FB banner

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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