A Town Remembers Vol 3 pts 1 & 2 Review

Written on Saturday 16th May 2009

These two books making up Vol 3 give a total of 280 WW1 and 30 WW2 biographies of those men (and a few no less deserving women) who, whilst in many cases only remotely connected to Boston, Dr Hunt considered worthy of commemoration as having served King and Country in whatever capacity in two world wars.  The breadth of his research is amazing.  These include surviving and lost war memorials, which are described and where possible photographed, service and regimental records from home and overseas resources, census returns, contemporary newspaper accounts, letters of friends, comrades in battle and relations.


The resulting biographies include constant surprises.  In 1915 Herbert Angrave 'received three days Field Punishment no. 2 for being absent without leave'; on the evening before he boarded the steam trawler Fijian for his final voyage Bertie Biggadike went to a whist drive with his friend Alfred Follows; and, in 1912, Alexander Crawford hit 52 runs playing for Nottinghamshire CC in a match against the Australians.


Overarching both books are descriptions of death in its myriad of wartime forms.  Whilst the 'over-the-tops' such as those on the Somme and Aisne rivers and at Passchendaele are well-known for their carnage less well-known are such actions as that mounted against the Hohenzollern Redoubt in October 1915.  There schoolmaster Edgar Dawson of the 1st/5th Battalion of the Lincolnshire regiment was one of 23 officers and 850 men who left the trenches and who discovered the next day that only 1 officer and 110 men were left fit to answer roll cal!  Other less expected but often present dangers were shells (which must in WW1 have made every minute at the Front a terrifying ordeal), mines (at sea and on land), the ever-present sniper, gas, disease, drowning (usually in the north Sea but in two cases in the Witham), anti-aircraft guns and Messerschmidt fighters.  Following the death of 8 Bostonians in a massive mine explosion in April 1916 Private James Walker informed his parents that "some don't realise what war is" - after reading Dr Hunt's books everyone should have a pretty good idea.


In 2008 every single British death in Iraq or Afghanistan is, quite rightly, reported in detail and mourned by the nation.  As memory of the scale of killing in the two Great Wars somewhat dims with time these splendid volumes will stand forever as an ever-present reminder to Bostonians and readers further afield of the enormous sacrifices made by our 20th century forebears.


Geoff Bryant, Barton-on-Humber. 


Courtesy of the Society of Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Magazine


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