The Lee was an unusual village, dominated as it was by Sir Arthur Liberty, founder of the famous Regent Street store. Its reaction to the outbreak of war was more typical, and a large number of Lee men signed up. Many of them served in the 2/1st Bucks, and took part in the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July 1916. Nine of the thirty men of Lee to die during the war were killed in this single short battle, and two more were lost on the Somme in the same month.
We start with a look at live in the village before the war and the impact of Sir Arthur. The picture is generally a rosy one, although Senior does look at the occupations and probable poor quality of life of the villagers, many of whom worked for the Liberty estate. We then follow the men of village as they volunteered for the army, trained and moved to France, arriving in the spring of 1916. Within two months of their arrival the 2/1st Bucks took part in an attack on the German lines at Fromelles, designed to pin the Germans in place and prevent them from moving reinforcements to the Somme Front. Senior examines the planning and execution of this plan in some detail, and makes a strong case against the senior British officers involved in the planned in particular. When the attack went in it was a total failure, and every unit involved suffered heavy casualties.
The book finishes by looking at the impact of the battle in The Lee, from the first news of the heavy losses to the return of the badly wounded and on to the surprisingly acrimonious debate about the correct sort of war memorial.
This book does a superb job of reminding us of the terrible human cost of the First World War and the impact it had on small communities all across Britain.
1 - The Lee Before the War
2 - The Early Years of the War
3 - The Call to Arms
4 - The Road to Laventie
5 - Fromelles - The Preparations
6 - Fromelles - The Attack
7 - The Legacy
Appendix A: Particulars of the Thirty Men whose names are carved on the Lee War Memorial
Appendix B: A Tour of the Fromelles Battlefield
Author: Michael Senior
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2011 edition of 2004 original