...A History of the 12th (Pioneer) King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 1914-18
Title: Miners Battalion
Author: Captain R. Ede England
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
Amidst the histories of WW1 I found this one particularly interesting to read. At a time when many men rallied to the support of their country when war broke out were a good number of miners. These days the coal mining industry in the UK is virtually gone, but in the early 1900s the picture was very different. Those tough workers were set to be a valuable resource to what was an army facing great changes to the art of warfare, both in the numbers of soldiers involved and the huge expansion of mechanical equipment being used. I was also fascinated to see how the mine owners got together to support their workers who volunteered and indeed the war effort. They paid for a camp to house the men during their training, got involved in finding officers for the unit, along with providing unitforms and equipment at a time when the sheer volume of men going into uniform meant there was a shortage of supplies for uniforms and leather/webbing gear. The men were keen to get into action, perhaps not really aware of quite what awaited them on the Western Front.
There was to be another delay as they found themselves bound for Egypt, where they found themselves employed on defence works in case the Turks came South. This was to be followed by a move to France when they did finally arrive at the Western Front. They then experienced life in the trenches and all that went with it. They were involved around Arras, Vimy , the Somme and Ypres, all places with well known names in the history of WW1. Amongst their time working on the trenches, they had to cope with all kinds of weather and the descriptions of some of their camps paint a clear picture of what they coped with. The work they did in building field works fo artillery, communications trenches, roads, supply dumps and laying track for small gauge trains are all indicators of what more work was required to support the machinery used by a modern army, and in terms of the huge numbers of men in uniform.
The story as a whole I found interesting, such as the description of what they found when the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line, and they found themselves occupying abandoned ground and trench systems with long dead bodies needing to be buried and the danger of booby-traps left on a widespread basis and rusting wire entanglements. Towards the end of the war when the units were consolidated, the story of how they accounted for equipment that needed to be handed in will bring a smile to the readers face at seeing how they managed the problem they faced. At the end of the war in November 1918 the Battalion was moved back and gradually started the process of returning home. This process is described with the last men to go home not leaving until May 1919. At the end of the book there is a list of all the officers, NCO's and men who died during the war. There are archive pictures included throughout the book and an appendix which give an explanation of the Functions of a Pioneer Battalion. All in all I found this an interesting book
which highlighted another aspect of the troops involved in the support of the fighting on the Western Front in particular. Well worth reading.