Review: Great War Tommy (Doyle)


Great War Tommy.

The book is subtitled, The British Soldier 1914-1918 (all models), but that’s just marketing hype, meant to make the book resemble a motor vehicle service manual. It only covers the accouterments and training of BEF infantry on the Western Front.

Aside from that little prevarication, the book delivers. In  addition to period photos, there is a wealth of tables, diagrams, step-by-step demonstrations performed by re-enactors, and closeup detail photography. It’s printed on glossy paper and has a heavy, laminated hard cover, but the glued binding has separated, threatening a loss of pages: handle with care. Despite its limited scope and defective binding, it’s still a resource worth adding to a research library.

For me, the most compelling part of the book is the frontispiece:

great-war-tommy-unknown soldier

An unknown soldier of the BEF in 1915.

The portrait is not credited to any archive or private collection. Is it a “found” photograph?

I have featured a cropped version of the photo in prior posts on two blog sites, hoping someone might surface with identification, but so far, no luck. Where did he serve? Did he survive? Is this unknown soldier one of the 949 members of the Essex Regiment who are listed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme?

Somebody “out there” has got to know, and I hope someday will come forward to claim him. But for now, he represents a main character in my fictional work-in-progress, The Passions of Patriots. I like to think he would approve.

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