With Valour and Distinction

The Actions of the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment 1914-1918

By Nigel Atter

Helion, 2019

Nigel Atter’s book stands out on two counts. As Dr Spencer Jones notes in his foreword, battalion histories of regular battalions are few and far between in recent offerings; books covering the Mesopotamia and Palestinian theatres of war even more so.

Atter’s approach is to focus on the actions in which the battalion was involved, rather than plotting the day by day and month by month movements and activities of the battalion. This approach does provide more focus, but at the expense of providing a comprehensive account of the battalion’s war.

The battalion had a varied war. Initially sent to France with the Indian Corps it saw action at Festubert, Givenchy, Neuve Chapelle and Loos before being sent to Mesoptamia. Here it was involved in several battles as the forces attempted to relieve Major-General Townshend’s besieged forces at Kut. In 1918 the battalion joined Allenby’s forces in Palestine, and ended the war close to Tripoli.

The accounts of the actions are well-written and flow fluidly. The Mesopotamian campaign is one that I confess I know little about, but reading Atter’s narrative has made me want to learn more, and at the very least has given me an understanding of how poorly managed the campaign was, with a lack of appropriate supplies, artillery, and medical services all costing the British dearly.

A good variety of sources have been consulted; the usual selection of war diaries and personal accounts but also translations of Turkish texts, providing a welcome view from the other side of the wire. A section of colour plates is a welcome addition, including pictures of the regiment’s panels on the Basra memorial.

The appendices are comprehensive and nearly as long as the main text itself. They include a selection of biographies of some of the officers and men, an account of the battalion’s ‘shot at dawn’ case, details of the memorials to the regiment, and a full roll of honour for the battalion.

It is nice to see a Regular battalion being researched and written about, and Nigel Atter has produced an excellent addition to the collection of battalion histories.

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With Valour and Distinction: The Actions of the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment 1914-1918