We Were a Band of Brothers: The memoir of Captain Philip Heath, M.C. and Bar Paperback – 10 Jun 2017
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About the Author
Like many young men of his era, Philip Heath greeted the outbreak of war with enthusiasm. Here was a chance to fulfil his childhood dream of military service, to see some more of the world and to serve for King and Country alongside his friends. At this time, the reality of industrialised war was unimaginable to him. Eventually he was commissioned into the 8th East Surreys – thanks to an uncle, Major-General Sir Gerard Heath, who was Inspector of Recruiting in England – and began training prior to being sent on active service. Heath would arrive in France in July 1915, and spend much of the next three-and-a-half years there and in Belgium, surviving the bloodlettings of the Somme, Passchendaele and the One Hundred Days Offensive leading to the Armistice on 11 November 1918.
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out , he was an eighteen year old clerk in the City of London . He joined the 1/23rd London regiment and in November he was
commissioned into the 8th East Surreys . In July 1915 he sailed with his battalion to France , but he and his commanding officer
did not get on and in March he transferred to the 55th Trench Mortar Battery ( same Brigade ) .
He fought on the first day of the Somme and later at Schwaben redoubt and Regina Trench . In December 1916 he was given
command of his battery and fought with it at Passchendaele . By August 1918 he was suffering from exhaustion ( shell shock ) and
was given a job with Brigade ( 55th ) , he finished the war with an M.C and bar .
This is a fantastic memoir , it's full of interesting incidents and comments on the people the author came into contact with . He had a
huge affection for all the units he served in and pulls no punches in his views on officers and men with whom he came into contact with,
both good and bad . He gives harrowing descriptions of his war experiences and it's no wonder that he almost had a breakdown by the
end of the war . This is one of the best of the huge number of memoirs that have surfaced since 2014 and my only criticism is that I wish
it had been printed in a more durable format and that it ended too soon .
Heath's memoir is a vivid and compelling insight into the WW1 experiences of a long serving subaltern. It is far from being just another khaki narrative studded with colourful accounts of battle, although it does have those too. It is by turns harrowing, honest and occasionally humorous. There are plenty of tales about life on the Western Front, but what is remarkable is his honesty in describing events and the personalities of officers and men that he served with, but also the emotions that he felt and tried to keep under control. This is a compelling story and a good read.