I’ve recently completed the index for Subterranean Sappers by Iain McHenry, to be published in July by Uniform Press. Over on Facebook there’s a page by PhotograFix which shows the colourised front jacket illustration. My sensible head says it’s all smoke and mirrors and computer trickery, but I think it works really well to bring the distant past just that little bit closer. Bringing the faces of long gone soldiers out into the sunshine makes them a bit more human and real. The sappers spent years, in the semi-dark, tunnelling silently to make mines, packing them with explosives and blowing them up; or digging dugouts so soldiers could sleep safely at night. Their story certainly deserves to have some light shed on it.
I’ve been busy during the first part of September completing indexes for two books of local history. Not necessarily local to me, but it was interesting to find local or personal connections in both.
First was Jeremy Higgins’ “Great War Railwaymen” published by Uniform Press. A fascinating insight into the too numerous to mention men who left their railway jobs to fight in World War I. Surprisingly, not all of them worked on the railways during the war. If you liked Michael Portillo’s recent television series, this book will interest you. This book is also raising money for the Army Benevolent Fund, the Soldiers’ Charity and Railway Benevolent Fund. The local connection here was the fact that one of the first soldiers discussed lived in a house less than two miles away from mine and worked for the railway in Wolverton. The book is also dedicated to soldiers who died on Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, and I’m proud to number my nephew Ben among those who served and came home safely.
Next was David G. Wood and Richard Walsh’s “The Prowess of Charlie Fielder“. The Prowess was a merchant cargo vessel that moved liquid cargoes of oils and molasses between many ports, but mainly in the east of England and Holland, in the 1920s and 30s. One of the seamen, Charles Fielder, kept a detailed log of all the trips he made and the problems they encountered. They have my admiration for working so very hard, and it’s a glimpse into a lost world. The book is published by Chaffcutter books. My personal link to this book was a little more tenuous but reading it added some colour to work I’ve been doing on my family history. My great grandfather and my grandfather both worked on various docks around England, and the shipyard in Rosyth, as stationary engine drivers, loading and unloading cargo for different businesses. My grandfather served in World War I on the docks at Boulogne moving the materials which supported the army in France, which was a neat link back to the Great War Railwaymen book.