I was born and grew up in the city of Bradford, with a 30-year interest of my own in the Bradford Pals, I have eagerly awaited the arrival of David Raw's Book. The book sets out to be the comprehensive history of the 16th/18th and 20th battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment in the Great War - and the book certainly lived up to this.
Emphasis is particularly placed on the raising of the Bradford Pals battalions and many of the personalities involved, from civic leaders to members of the FA cup winning Bradford City team who joined the Pals as private soldiers. Again, training days for the battalions through Skipton, Ripon and Fovant are described in detail prior to their departure to Egypt in 1915 to guard the Suez Canal.
The decimation of the Bradford Pals on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme is well known. However, here is new information gained from unpublished private diaries and taped conversations with survivors which sheds further light on the causes of the disaster. Following this attack, two Pals were executed for desertion. David Raw presents all the relevant information on these cases and leaves the reader to form his own conclusions on the merits of each case.
The Bradford Pals went on again to suffer the same percentage casualties at later actions at Rossignol Wood and Gavrelle - forgotten battles now, but still treated with the same detail here.
Finally, the book describes the disbanding of these battalions in 1918, by which time the majority of the original young men having joined up together as Pals, had been killed or wounded. The spirit of the Pals battalions, as indeed of the city, had passed away too.
If I have one criticism, it is not with the author or his story - it is with the book itself. The author points out in his introduction that substantial amounts of information, photographs (which the book is admittedly well endowed with) together with lists of men, casualties and medal rolls had to be omitted to comply with the required book format. For me this is a literary and historical tragedy - tantamount to a further decimation of the Bradford Pals themselves. Space was also not allocated for an index, which given the detail this book contains, is badly needed.
This book is indeed a comprehensive history of the Bradford Pals and will please specialists and casual readers alike. Furthermore, I would have been quite happy to pay much more for a larger volume with David Raw's complete work. Pen and Sword, as the author suggests in his Introduction, PLEASE give us the companion volume!