I agree. The War History of the 1/4 LNLR
is an excellent piece of work and the feel of the text is very fresh which might be expected as its drafting must have started (by paticipants rather than professional writers) whilst the signatures on the Versailles Treaty were still drying. The Lancashire Infantry Museum at Fulwood (previously the Museum of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and very nice people in a magnificent building - personal research strictly by appointment though) holds a bound volume of manuscript sheets that appears to be a fair copy of the official War Diary for the period 2 May 1915 to 30 April 1917. (I must admit to not having called up the official diary from the NA as yet). The language is more narrative and descriptive than many official diaries but the map sheet references to the side point to this volume being a transcript of the 'proper' diary.
I think that for much of its coverage, the War History
follows the order of (what I think is) the official War Diary closely and many phrases are taken verbatim with slight amendment from the manuscript. It would be a work of scholarship to identify the substantial amounts of additional material and to trace the sources. There are a few marginal notes in the museum's bound manuscript and my sense is that this was prepared so the authoring team in Preston could get on with the job with a reliable source in front of them (as admitted by in the preface). One can only admire the dedication of a group so recently demobbed, some after five years service, in getting on to produce over 100 pages of close text in such good order with some excellent and carefully chosen illustrations. I don't think it would have been done in a few nights sitting round a table in the 55th Division Club in Preston.
I was interested in Yperman's point
- 'It is clearly written with the bereaved families in mind'
I have always wondered what the target audience was for these quickly produced 'histories'. I suspect that it was for both the survivors (wounded and unwounded) as well as the familes of those killed but I think that Yperman is right in saying that the sensibilities of the 'families' would have been borne in mind although the book follows the fairly phlegmatic and understated tone of the official (bound manuscript) diary. However, it does mention the wounded where the diary does and also, for instance, the fact that of 33 bombers sent up to reinforce at Festubert, only 5 were unscathed. The 55th Division history (which John Bourne told me was the very first divisional history to be published - 1919 whilst its author was still in France) clearly aimed at being affordable and the Liverpool Scottish history (also 55th Division, AM McGilchrist - 1930) appeared in a luxury hardback and a much cheaper edition between boards and bound with a fragile blue cloth had affordability in mind. The War History of the 1/4 LNLR
seems to cut no corners in the quality of paper, the standard of binding, the beautiful coloured frontispiece of the battalion's Colours (published so quickly that they are without battle honours) and the quality of the illustrations and the maps. It would be interesting to know how much it sold for and perhaps whether it was subsidised by mill or factory owners or a magnate such as Lord Derby. It may have been inexpensive; it is certainly not cheap.
I am still waiting for an original copy to come my way.