Top positive review
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on 9 January 2011
John Sheen, author of the two well received World War One titles, Tyneside Scottish and Tyneside Irish, has turned his attention to three battalions of the Durham Light Infantry to produce the Durham Pals. The book contains a record of the service of the 18th, 19th and 22nd battalions of DLI, but it is more than just a regimental history for it includes a great collection of personal accounts and individual experiences relating to the infantryman's war in the trenches.
The book is visually attractive with virtually every page brightened up with an evocative black and white photograph, most of which are of the individuals mentioned in the narrative. When we look into the faces of these long-dead heroes we see another world, a more simple world of duty and country, now long gone, lost forever. Their letters home describe the life they were sworn to: the fear, the monotony, the desperation and the inevitability of death and injury to themselves or to some friend or comrade close by.
In a military sense the book is full of fascinating information and detail, for all the regimental actions are covered in some depth, Sheen includes a chapter on the gallantry awards won by the battalions and has provided an alphabetical nominal role of all others ranks who served in each of the three battalions of the DLI. These rolls give name, date of birth, rank, town of residence, a section on their fate whether transferred or killed, e.g. `3/3/17 buried Gommecourt British Cemetery No 2', or `1/7/16 Theipval Memorial' and a few personal notes such as `age 25 Chief Clerk at Lingfield and Co., B. Auckland'.
It seems remarkable that a book such as this can be written today for it includes so many voices from the past, all of whom are now long dead. Those men fought on the first day of the Somme on 1st July 1916, at Messines, in Italy and in Flanders. The whole of the history of the Durham Pals is here, the good and the bad, for the book also includes details of the court martial and execution of three of their number. It is heartening to find that authors and publishers are today still able to produce books like this.