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A Tommy at Ypres: Walter's War - The Diary and Letters of Walter Williamson Paperback – 15 Jun 2011
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'A wonderfully detailed immersion into his life in the trenches - this book is the real thing. A lovely man; a great read' The Western Front Association's Stand To! Magazine 'Superbly written and easy to read - An extraordinary book' The Great War Magazine --The Great War Magazine --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Doreen Priddey (nee Williamson) is Walter's granddaughter. She first read Walter's diary in 1995, regrettably after her 'Grandpop' and her father had passed away, and was enthralled. As a result she decided to compile his writing for publication. Doreen has had a career in entertainment and lives in Anglesey.
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Walter, a married man from Cheadle Hulme, enlisted under the Derby Scheme and after being mobilised trained with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment at Birkenhead. His story begins on being drafted to France in December 1916 and takes us through his exploits with the 1/6th Battalion until February 1919. A large chunk of his war was spent in the Ypres salient (hence the title) and the passages concerning the Third Battle there from late July to October 1917 are of especial historical interest. Walter comes across as a likeable chap, with his diaries being full of anecdotes, mentions of his comrades and observations on the war and his part in it.
I am not wholly convinced that this is a diary as such, for there is more past tense, reflection and knowing that I would expect in something that was written at the time. It appears to me to be more of something written some time after the events - certainly not many years after as the details are too vivid and dependable, but perhaps a few days or weeks later, giving the author time to express his considered thoughts. It does suffer from this: quite the opposite, the combination of day to day facts with some contemporary opinion is a powerful combination. The letters that appear from time to time are genuinely contemporary, using the present tense and (being sent in Green Envelopes and not subject to censorship) quite candid.
All in all a very welcome book and recommended, particularly to anyone with an interest in the battalion but also to everyone who wishes to understand the war as it was, and not as the post-war decades have interpreted it.