The Steel of the DLI: The 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry at War 1914-1918, John Sheen

The Steel of the DLI: The 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry at War 1914-1918, John Sheen

This book provides a very detailed attack-by-attack history of the 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry on the Western Front. The 2nd DLI won battle honours at the Aisne and Armentières in 1914, Hooge in 1915, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy and the Somme in 1916, Hill 70 and Cambrai in 1917 and at Somme, Kemmel, Epehy, the Selle and the Sambre in 1918, so took part in a good cross-section of the fighting on the Western Front.

One result of the level of detail is that we get a clear view of the way the tactics and equipment changed during the war. Remarkably the first written operational plan for an attack wasn't issued until August 1915, a full year into the War! We also see the first encounter with German flame throwers, supported by extracts from German sources and later the arrival and increase in importance of the tank.

The copious photographs are particularly poignant, first in the contrast between the peace-time army, with its sporting trophies and formal uniforms and the pictures from the Western Front, and then with the inclusions of photographs of many of the dead alongside the text.

The text is supported by some very detailed appendices, starting with a list of the honours and gallantry awards won by members of the battalion. This is followed by a list of the officers and men who moved to France in September 1914 and the reinforcements who arrived later in the year, and a complete list of officers, with their fate when known.

This is a very impressive close-up history, well supported by contemporary accounts and letters and that brings us unto the trenches with the DLI.

1 The Bombay European Regiment
2 Tipperary Day, 1914, The Aisne and Armentières
3 1915, The Hell of Hooge
4 1916, January-June, Holding the Salient
5 1916, July-December, South to the Somme
6 1917, January-June, Trench Raid - Loos Front
7 1917, July-December, With the Tanks at Cambrai
8 1918, January-June, On the Back Foot
9 1918, July to 1919, Advance to Victory and the Army of the Rhine
Honours and Gallantry Awards
The 1914 Star Roll, The Original Other Ranks and what became of them

Author: John Sheen
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 420
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2009

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