From Docks and Sand: The men and women of Southport and Bootle’s during the Great War

This new book is the first to study the men and women of Bootle and Southport during the Great War through the story of their local battalion: 7th King’s, Liverpool Regiment.

This Territorial battalion fought within Regular divisions in 1915, but from 1916 was a unit in the well-respected 55th West Lancashire Division, under General Sir Hugh Jeudwine. The book gives a detailed account of their war record, starting at the Battle of Festubert in May 1915 – an event which seared itself into the lives and memories of not only the soldiers, but also the whole community of South-West Lancashire for a hundred years.

The 1/7th King’s were in frontline action at Guillemont, Ginchy and Guedecourt on the Somme in 1916; the opening day of Third Ypres at the end of July 1917, and later at Zonnebeke; under German attack in the spring offensives at Givenchy in April 1918; and part of the final advance into Belgium in the summer and autumn of 1918.

The 55th Division was widely held as heroically preventing the German breakthrough at Givenchy on 9 April 1918 – and if you look for the real heart of the division, now on the Western Front, it is in this area of Lys-Festubert and Givenchy. Not only is the divisional memorial there, but a number of villages were adopted in the 1920s by towns in the North-West of England who had soldier sons who had fought there; Southport, Preston, Blackpool and Liverpool itself all have their names attached to this area. The book gives an in-depth account of this process of adoptions, which was undertaken by the British League of Help.

From Docks and Sand also studies the Home Front, the agriculture and the munitions work which held the fabric of the community together, as well as the imposition of billeted troops who were training on the sands.

Perhaps the most significant single event to affect the home community came when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by German torpedoes in April 1915. This Cunard liner was very closely associated with workers and families of Bootle, and the book describes the immediate aftermath of riots, as well as the direct links made in France, when the troops advanced on Festubert calling: “Avenge the Lusitania!”

The study of the war through 1/7th King’s provides an insight to all Territorial battalions rarely found elsewhere, and it also emphasises the importance of morale and identity. Indeed, Jeudwine generated a Lancastrianisation across the division – forging a regional identity comparable to those of Tyneside, Scotland, Wales or Ireland – but it is the longevity of that identity and significance to the community, which we find through memorials and the links with French towns and villages, that the book highlights.

The book is the result of years of research and study, and it quotes extensively from local and national archives, as well as letters, diaries and newspapers, which also contain several photographs. This is an important study of a King’s Liverpool battalion – providing a unique understanding of the men and women of Southport and Bootle and their involvement in the Great War of 1914-1918.

From Docks and Sand. Southport and Bootle’s Battalion, the 7th King’s Liverpool Regiment in the First World War by Adrian Gregson can be purchased here.

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