In carrying out research I am always looking for new sources to draw upon. The internet is a fantastic resource, and with websites such as Ancestry and the Great War Forum, a large amount of research can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Regimental and battalion histories are a valuable resource for the student of the First World War. As well as detailing the movements and actions of a battalion or regiment, they often contain rolls of honour, photographs of men, and lists of decorations bestowed upon the soldiers. Due to the expiry of copyright, many of these histories are available to download on the internet for free from sites such as archive.org. Others have been reprinted by publishers such as Naval & Military Press.
A prolific author of such histories was Colonel HC Wylly. An internet search will bring up many of his books, but there is not much information about the man himself.
Harold Carmichael Wylly was a career soldier. Born in Meerut, India, in 1858 he attended Henley Grammar School and Wimbledon School before entering Sandhurst. In 1878 he was gazetted to the 95th Regiment and served in the Anglo-Egyptian war (1882), the Sikkim expedition (1888), the Tirah campaign (1897-1898), and the South African war, after which he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).
He appears to have started his writing around the time of the South African War, publishing ‘The 95th Regiment in the Crimea’ in 1899. Several publications followed before the outbreak of the First World War, where Wylly commanded the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment. His daughter Beryl, an aspiring actress, later married Valentine Penna, also an actor, who had served in the Artists’ Rifles from 1915-1918.
In 1913 Wylly had been appointed editor of the Royal United Services Institute journal, a position he held until 1923. During his time as editor he was instrumental in creating the library catalogue. Post-war his literary output increased, and he authored several wartime battalion and regimental histories. In his obituary The Times wrote “These are admirable records, prepared with scholarly care and judgement, and will be of permanent value to future historians.” I have certainly found his history of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment invaluable during my research into the men named on Carshalton’s war memorial.
Below is a list of Wylly’s known publications:
A History of the XVth Hussars
A Short History of the Manchester Regiment (Regular Battalions)
History of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 1755-1914, vol. 1
History of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 1755-1914, vol. 2
The York and Lancaster Regiment, the Territorial and Service Battalions, 1758-1919