Friday, 15 December 2017

BOOK REVIEW: “Tracing your Great War Ancestors: The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns – A Guide for family historians” by Stuart Hadaway, Pen & Sword Family History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2017.

Just prior to the onset of the First World War, the British Navy changed from using coal to using diesel oil, which meant it was vital to keep the oil wells and the Suez Canal in Allied hands.   The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns were therefore extremely important yet they are often forgotten in favour of the Western Front.   This book, which is illustrated throughout with superb photos, explains the background to the Campaigns – the signing of a secret treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Germany in August 1914 - and goes on to give detailed descriptions of the fighting in Egypt and Palestine and also explains how to go about searching for your family members who served in the armed forces during the conflict.  

Here you will find descriptions of the difference in the challenges and needs of the men fighting in a hot climate to the requirements of the Western Front, along with fascinating anecdotes such as the use of camels, elephants and mules.   As the granddaughter of a Gunner who served in Palestine during WW1, I was particularly interested in the detailed description of the different types of gun used by the Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery and the logistical problems involved in getting the guns, ammunition and men to the right place at the right time.

I also read with interest about the health issues of the Campaigns and the setting up of the different medical facilities – Field Ambulances, Casualty Clearing Stations, Base Hospitals and so on – again all very different to those encountered on the Western Front.

I found the following particularly helpful - he map at the beginning of the book, the detailed instructions on tracing your WW1 ancestors, a chapter on Prisoners of War, the time-line of the Campaigns from 1st August 1914 up to July 1919, an extensive further reading list.
Do you know what ‘cacelots’ are?  I didn’t either but you can find out on page 86.

Stuart Hadaway has produced a very valuable and extremely readable book and I cannot recommend it highly enough - even if you do not have ancestors who served in that theatre of the war.

“Tracing your Great War Ancestors:  The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns – A Guide for family historians” by Stuart Hadaway, published by Pen & Sword Family History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2017 and costs £14.99.  For further information, please see the Pen & Sword website:

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