Book Review: “The Harrogate Terriers” – The 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment in the Great War, written by John Sheehan.

Book Review: “The Harrogate Terriers” – The 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment in the Great War, written by John Sheehan.

Reviewed by Nigel Marshall

Avid readers of any aspect of the history of the Great War will have felt inundated by the flood of books published during the centenary years recently. It is fair to say that some books were rushed into publication and readers who like to cross reference and dig deeper will no doubt have found flaws and deficiencies in many of the books they have read from this glut of publishing house output.

If they have not yet, readers should turn their attention to John Sheehan’s “Harrogate Terriers” to see a modern battalion history of real depth and quality. Without thoroughly researched material and historical rigour in interpretation, any narrative history will struggle to make the impact it needs to in order to stand out from the crowd. It is clear, both from casual reading, and more concentrated scrutiny that the research John Sheehan has conducted has been exemplary. His understanding of the battalion, and the men who served with it is complete, and this has enabled him to bring the reader through some really very complex episodes in the battalion’s experience of the war with apparent ease.

The book, from end to end, benefits enormously from the generous use of the words of the soldiers themselves, and while some authors have inserted them into their own texts without contextual support, that is not the case with “Harrogate Terriers”. The soldiers’ recollections and letters are valuable additions which more easily allow the soldiers to become real people again, rather than simply being characters from history. The entire book is very clearly written, and this makes the reading experience a pleasurable and rewarding one.

In terms of the focus of the content, John Sheehan has afforded equally detailed coverage to all periods of the battalion’s experience of the war. He has not neglected the life of the battalion after the Somme battles closed down in the winter of 1916, and every bit as much care and diligence has been exercised over the encounters of 1917 and 1918 as he has over the first half of the war.

Skilfully drawn sketch maps, in conjunction with annotated photography of the battlefields, as they appear today, very ably support the flowing narrative and allow the book to be of as much use while actually visiting the battlefields as any specifically written battlefield guidebook.

The narrative over, the book is well supported with a commendable catalogue of sources and bibliography. Appendices follow, giving separate lists of officers and other ranks known to have served the battalion, a roll of honour of fatal casualties, with their places of commemoration, the honours and awards earned by members of the battalion, and a listing of known Prisoners of War from the battalion. The book ends with a useful index.

If I had to find something to criticise, it would be the lack of footnotes/endnotes, however, this would be criticism for the sake of being critical. As it stands, this book greatly impresses me and I hold it to be the best I have read from the stable of the battalion history, from any period of publication.
It is a book to read, and it also serves as a book of importance to the military researcher. I refer to it often.

I unreservedly recommend this book.

Nigel Marshall

© Pen & Sword Military Books Ltd

“Harrogate Terriers” was written by John Sheehan.
Published by Pen and Sword Military, 2017, Barnsley.
ISBN: 9781473868120
351 pages, including appendices and index.

Copiously illustrated throughout with photographs and maps.

Cover price: £25.00
Widely available in bookshops and through online retailers.