Given both of my grandfathers fought in France during 1914/18, it's no surprise that the subject of the First World War - we always referred to it as The Great War prior to 1945 - always held a special, one could say `family', interest for me. Fred's War, tells the story of the band of brothers who were the 1st Cameronians'. I found it a truly wonderful read, with the individuals and life and times they endured in the trenches, becoming alive off the page: there's Sergeant Blakemore, sniper and the battalions crack shot, the Cameronians' secret weapon... Robertson the CO who warns Fred to be more careful due to snipers; a dead Medical Officer is no use to the battalion... Lieutenant Woods, the Quartermaster; a former sergeant - major, hard drinking 43 year old Cockney, a father figure... Over the years I have read many a book concerning the 1914/18 war and in my opinion, Fred's War is ranks amongst the very best. Andrew Davidson narrative crackles along and is supported by a veritable treasure-trove of photographs. I read it, enjoyed it, and will undoubtedly be dipping into it regularly for many - God willing - years to come.
I read Fred's War in a single-sitting when I came home from work last night; I just couldn't put it down. I'm not ashamed to say that I had tears streaming down my face on several occasions. Andrew, you have brought these men to life and for that I can't thank you enough. From my own interests and reading, I already felt as though I had come to know many of the men mentioned in the book, but seeing their stories come through so clearly in line with Fred's, and along with the photographs, well I can't really explain how emotional it was. I had goosebumps the first time I saw Lieutenant Hill's words on the page, and despite knowing what happened to so many of these men, I cried real tears when following their stories. I can't say much more than that other than to recommend this book to everyone; even if you don't think you have an interest in the First World War this book still has so much to offer.
To Andrew - the 2nd Battalion have "Morale" to tell their story. Now, the 1st Battalion have "Fred's War", and I think they would be proud to have it so.
Totally gripping. A truly vivid depiction of life for a military doctor in the first year of the Great War. Writing in the present tense the author brings an immediacy to the daily lives of these young men caught in a conflict beyond their imagination. The level of detail in the research brings these ordinary men back to life in an extraordinary fashion. Arriving in France without maps, ill-equipped and unprepared you get a real sense of how an epic adventure turned to disaster.Davidson's rich and colourful descriptions of the photographs make them unnervingly modern and hugely personal. The reader gets to know Fred, and his mates, just as the author got to know his grandfather ! Real insight into the personality of a generation for whom character, stoicism, and chums were everything.
There are a whole lot of books coming out on the First World War right now: this is the one to go for. Andrew Davidson writes with the drive of a seasoned journalist and the book is a treasure trove of remarkable contemporary photographs. By following the fortunes of one man, the book is given narrative coherence and emotional weight. Fred's role as a medic offers a fascinating and different angle of entry into the war, its warriors and British society at the time. The author has done his research and gives us innumerable details whilst reminding us constantly of the bigger picture. Highly recommended.
My interest in this book stems from Fred and I being brought up and raised on the east coast of Scotland and our both attending Montrose Academy, albeit 60 years apart. I have awarded the book 5 stars for its writing and interpretation of what is a personal and unique insight into Fred's War. The book is also a social commentary into the very start of the First World War where the officers were far from 'donkey's leading lions'. The narrative provides a very personal view of how Fred Davidson integrated and supported the 1st Cameronian Highlanders as their Medical Officer as part of the British Expeditionary Force deployed to France at the very start of the conflict. The unique photographs and Andrew Davidson's intelligent interpretation shows all to clearly the confusion and unpreparedness of the BEF to stem the German advance leading up to Christmas 1914 and the stalemate that & followed. The German onslaught was overwhelming on the men, logistics, resources and command staffs and this book expertly balances the facts for the reader. It also provides an insight into the French population plus the unquestionably bravery of the 'Jocks' and their affection for the professional officers whose leadership, example and experience did much to avert a disastrous start to the campaign. The book follows-up on how Fred prospers but also on the lives and fortunes of the many characters of the Cameronians who embarked for France from Maryhill Barracks in August 1914. A highly recommended read for the centenary of WW1.
This book is a family affair. A grandson brings life to photos of a distant war. The author, having written Sunday Times profiles for years, channels personality and picks up every fleck of detail. You can almost smell the places and feel the black/white photos come to coloured life. Such a grim war. But retold with touching and inquiring sensitivity. And readable. Took me three sittings - I was gripped every time I picked it up!
In this centenary year there will be many accounts of great battles (and, inevitably, great defeats) but this book does something that illuminates a part of the Great War which has largely remained hidden - the daily grind of the war machine, the needless marches, the tedious waiting and, for some, the bloody and painful end. The book is based around the photographs the author's grandfather, a medical officer, took (against army orders which forbade photography). They detail the life of one regiment in the first year of the war and the text meticulously explains who is who, what is going on and what the men are being put through day by day. It provides a calm commentary to the images which have a poignancy of their own as you see the hope gradually die in the men's eyes as reality sets in. Fascinating stuff!
Based on the early life experiences of Fred Davidson. The son of a Scottish Reverend who was sent away early in his life to boarding school followed by university where Fred studied medicine. He joined the 1st Cameronians, ( The Scottish Rifles. ) Simply based around a set of four photograph albums showing pictures of the regiment leading up to the beginning of the Great War and it`s mobilisation. It charts daily life through the personal photographs taken by Fred and fellow officers. The beauty of the book is the way that the text leads you into the when, who and how the 250 photographs in the book and original albums came to be taken. It was a book I borrowed to read but liked it so much I bought a copy for my own military book library.
A superb account of a young mans journey from the religious surroundings of his family life to full blown Doctor on the Western Front in the earlier years. Photographs by the score that should never have been taken ! Beautifully written and in depth history of the 1st Cameronians. Dr Frederick Davidson was to make a real mark in life following his eventual departure in 1919 from the Army. A great man, a great story, real history. Read it.