on 1 December 2006
The simple cover and unusual title do not do this splendid book any favours, for I can honestly say that this is one of the most eloquent and most interesting accounts of the Great War I have read in recent years!
This excellent volume tells the fascinating story of John Lucy, a young man from Cork, who shortly after leaving school, was, along with his brother locked out of their home by their Father one evening and told to stay out. They therefore traveled to Dublin and being full of life and spirit and seeking adventure, joined the Royal Irish Rifles in January 1912.
After training at the depot and subsequent postings to both Dover and Tidworth, they joined the 2nd Battalion as it moved to France. Sadly his brother was killed at the Aisne, however John saw action at Mons, Le Cateau, the Aisne, 3rd Ypres , Cambrai and Neuve Chapelle where his unit was reduced to just 2 officers and 46 men, when 181 men were killed in less than four days!
This brave young man eventually received a well deserved commissioned and saw further action before he received wounds that meant his return to England and the end of the war.
This is a superb book will be invaluable to military historians with an interest in the Great War and the Irish Divisions, it is one of the few volumes available that describe the early battles of 1914. In 1938, a critic wrote - `it is easily the best [war book] written by an Irishman' - this in my opinion is still true and therefore many will not want to be without it.
on 8 December 2004
This book is simply superb. Not only does it give a detailed insight to the pre-war British Army of World War One, but also gives a fantastic account of war in general in a gripping and highly readable format. If you have an interest in World War One then you should have already got this book firmly embedded in your collection, if you have an interest in soldiering and military history in general then this is essential reading.
Not only are the horrors of trench life and the needless slaughter described here, but also the compassion, the humour and the moving are all here in abundance.
Another aspect of the book is the viewpoint of an Irishman fighting for the Britsh which is tactfully protrayed in Lucy's highly interesting text.
I would recommend this book to anyone. Buy it and I guarentee you will not be disapointed.
on 21 July 2011
I have read many first hand accounts of the Great War and can safely say that this has been one of the very best. As a regular soldier myself, it was fascinating to read about his life in the Army prior to the war, his account of the fighting in the first year (a rare insight) and then his return to the front as an officer during the latter stages in 1917. Wonderfully written, I am staggered it has taken me so long to discover it. I can not recommend this book enough.
on 21 October 2012
I found this a fascinating account of life in the british army during world war 1. The author is from Cork, his regiment was based in Ballymena, and when the war broke out they were sent to France, where by a series of miracles he managed to survive the entire conflict. If you want to read a first hand account of life for a soldier during the Great War this is the place to start.
on 27 December 2013
With the centenary in 2014 there will be increased interest in the Great War. There will also be an increasing number of publications about it, and, over recent years an increasing number of newly discovered soldiers diaries and memoirs. I have read many of them, but Corporal John Lucy's account of his war is exceptional both in style of writing and the manner in which Lucy captures the action, the moment, and the events around him. I have read nothing that matches his accounts of the Aisne and La Bassee in 1914. A must for every GW interested person, be they military historian or casual reader. If you want to know something of 1914 from the point of view of an NCO from the 'Old Contemptible' BEF, this is it. My interest in the GW is not in the Royal Irish Rifles as such, but it gave me an excellent idea of what the regiment I am interested in endured over the same ground and at the same time.
Whatever is published between 2014 and 2018, and a lot of it will be very good, by the likes of Peter Barton, Peter Hart, Richard van Emden and others, Lucy's 'There's a Devil in the Drum' will still be up there with the very best. You'll be missing out if you do not read this.
Only down side: such a good book deserves a much better cover!! But it's the words inside that count
on 23 February 2010
The classic WW1 memoir of an Irish soldier, later officer, serving in France and Flanders. Some quite gritty detail about the realities of enlisting as a regular soldier before the war, and unusual material concerning the bloodiness of the first battles. Nicely worked, well written, but also with the stamp of authenticity. The narrative follows the battalion and breaks off when he is not in the line - this is no 'helicopter overview'.
Interestingly Lucy suffered a nervous breakdown, or 'shell shock, and there is rare description of this from the point of view of the sufferer. All round well recommended.
on 21 September 2014
Of all the Great War books I have read, this has to rate as the very best. Quite apart from being an excellent account of the old Regular pre-Great War British army and life in that terrible conflict, the fact that it was written by a Cork nationalist who joined an Ulster regiment and later went on to senior rank in WW2 makes this exceptional. This book should be required reading in schools in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. All "sides" of Irish politics should read this book and reflect on John Lucy's comments.
This is true history, not a politicised account from later years.
It is no romantic tale. It is told as it was - horror, terror, sadness and all, but not without humour and wry asides - by an eloquent, rational and thoughtful man who, to my mind, seems to have encapsulated the very best of what it meant to be an Irishman at that period. His views on the relationship between Ireland and Britain, especially about Easter 1916 are clearly stated but what is of paramount importance is his honourable and professional approach and commitment to his friends and fellow soldiers in the army.
If you are a student of European history, the Great War or just the social history of the period than I cannot recommend this book more highly.
on 20 August 2012
This is a great book. Actually, I'm only halfway through but it's an exciting read and is hard to put down and the use of language is simple but highly effective. I really recommend this for anyone interested in the experience of the frontline troops in WWI or who just likes a great adventure story.
on 12 June 2013
Excellent read. A perspective from the ranks highlighting the efforts of an individual to retain relationships as he is promoted. Interesting insight into his internal conflict of being Irish serving in the British Army and in particular an Ulster Regiment.
on 28 March 2014
I've read a good many WWI books, with undertones of war, goodbye to all that, being two I rate highly; Devils in the drum easily sits along side these and adds interesting new insight in the form of the loss of original professional army as they are thrown into the grinder. Touches on court martials, and actually has someone describing how they took precautions in the trenches, a very insightful look at one mans experiences during the Great War, highly recommend it.