A Gunner's Great War, Ian Ronayne

A Gunner's Great War, Ian Ronayne

This book is based on the journal of Clarence Ahier, a Jersey man who volunteered for the British Army in 1915 and ended up in the artillery. It was written soon after the end of the war, but never published. It was eventually discovered by the Sociéte Jersiaise, who contacted Ian Ronayne. He has produced the supporting text and done some sparse editing on Clarence's original text.

Clarence had quite a varied military career. He reached the Western Front in April 1916. His first experience of a major battle came on the Somme. Most of 1917 was spent at Ypres, and Clarence fought in the Third Battle of Ypres later in the year. In the spring of 1918 he was wounded by gas, and this ended his time on the Western Front. When he eventually recovered he was sent to India to form part of the British garrison, serving through a period of high tension. As a result we get a view into three different aspects of the soldier's experience of the First World War - first the life of the artilleryman on the Western Front, then the fate of the wounded and finally the life of a member of the Imperial garrison (in this case lasting into the early post-war period and the stresses of demobilisation).

Away from his journal Clarence is a fairly obscure figure - we don’t know much about his pre-war life or his post-war life and ironically the only photo that can be securely identified comes from his Second World War identity card, issued when the Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans.

Ronayne has chosen to embed Clarence's journal in a wider history of the First World War, focusing on those areas that directly affected him, starting with the outbreak of the war and the decision to volunteer. Each of Clarence's battles is thus placed in the context of the wider struggle, explaining why he was fighting where he was and the impact of each battle. The same approach is taken to his time in India, where the growing independence movement is examined, as is the Amritsar massacre of 1919, which happened while Clarence was in India and greatly affected his time there. The section on the tensions caused by a fairly badly bodged demobilisation process is also of interest.

1 - Fair and Square
2 - With a Terrifying Roar
3 - The Terrific Struggle
4 - Nearer my God to Thee
5 - A Man Costs Nothing
6 - From the Front and Two Sides
7 - The Most Terrible Shelling
8 - Too Good to be True
9 - Absolute Misery
10 - Parade in the Adriatic
11 - The Land of Mosquitoes
12 - Distinctly Hostile
13 - Four Years, One Month and One Day

Author: Ian Ronayne
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 181
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012

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