As Lieutenant George might have said to Blackadder, "Well, hurray and hurrah!". A published history of a regular army unit, that most neglected of species, long overdue and thanks to John Sheen, past author of a number of splendid works on units raised in the North East of England.
2nd DLI was a typical pre-war infantry battalion of the British Army, although it had not seen service in the South African War and had returned home from India as long ago as 1902. It was placed under orders of 18th Infantry Brigade of 6th Division and remained in that formation throughout the war.
Sheen's history has all of the insight and detail we have come to expect of modern scholarship, drawing deeply on official, regimental and private records. With many excellent photographs, most of which will not have been seen before, and lacing the battalion's history with the stories of individual officers and men, he takes us through the whole war from the battalion's first searing experiences on the Aisne, right through to the honour of advancing into Germany as part of the army of occupation. In between, the 1915 nightmares of Hooge, the latter stages of the Somme, Hill 70, Cambrai and ceaseless engagement in 1918. The story also brings out how the nature of the battalion inevitably changed, from wholly regular through mostly volunteer to conscript, yet managed to maintain an ethos and professional air throughout. The battalion also coped with the rapid and manifold developments in armaments, tactical doctrines and training - a testament to the efforts of officers, NCOs and men alike.
As battalion histories go this would be hard to better; the fact that it records the endeavours of an unglamorous and unsung yet vital component of the army makes it very special.
I've now purchased every book John Sheen has authored on the Durham Light Infantry, as a person who was was raised and has lived in County Durham for the vast majority of my life, these books offer an incredible and in depth insight into the courage and bravery our forefathers displayed on behalf of all of us. Wonderful books that I would highly recommend to anyone interested!