Review of “Cambridgeshire Kitcheners”

Cambridgeshire Kitcheners : a history of the 11th (Service) Battalion (Cambs) Suffolk Regiment
by Joanna Costin
published by Pen & Sword Military, 2016
ISBN 978 1 47386 900 4
Hardback, 300 pages plus introduction, end notes, list of men mentioned in a book, index. Illustrated
Cover price £25

The “Cambridgeshire Battalion” is often regarded as one of those “pals” units raised in 1914: a unit comprised of men who lived in the same area, worked in the same places, were members of the same churches, clubs or sports teams. Although it was made up of men from across the county and always had strong associations with it, this battalion began in a slightly different way. A sudden surplus of recruits who had been sent to the regimental depot at Bury St Edmunds were sent to Cambridge, a much as for accommodation as anything else, and the battalion was built around this core. It was also rather unusual in being administered by the local County Association of he Territorial Force even though it was not a TF unit.

Joanna Costin has assembled good mix of material from national and local sources, to produce a readable and interesting account. “Cambridgeshire Kitcheners” includes many photographs and news snippings that lifts it from being a purely military history.

The battalion was placed under command of the 34th Division, a formation which saw a great deal of action in France and Flanders. Many readers will recognise it as the formation of Tyneside units that suffered so terribly in its attack on La Boisselle at the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. The localised nature of many of its units changed that day, and the 11th Suffolks were no exception: it had more than 600 casualties killed, wounded or captured. In common with many of the published histories of those battalions, this one has an entirely understandable focus on this battle and the events that led up to it. 146 of the 300 pages cover the raising and training of the battalion, its early days in France and the attack on the Somme. The next 49 pages take us up to and through the next major trial, the battalion’s work at Roeux during the Battle of Arras in April 1917. The complex, climactic battles of later in 1917 and all of 1918 are crammed into the final 100 pages or so. Good for students of the Somme; less so for those of us with an eye, for example, on the German offensives of 1918 or the series of huge British and Allied victories later that year. By then, the “Cambridgeshire Kitcheners” bore scant resemblance to the county unit of 1914 and was equipped and operated in a very different way.

The book includes a useful index and list of men who are mentioned within the text.

Overall, a good addition to the library and worth reading.

Buy it


Suffolk Regiment

34th Division