Review of “Harrogate Terriers”

Harrogate Terriers: the 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion West Yorkshire regiment in the Great War
By John Sheehan with a foreword by Peter Hart
Published by Pen & Sword Military 2017
Hardback, 273 pages plus bibliography, appendices (lists of officers and men known to have served, awards and honours). Illustrated. Index.
ISBN 978 1 47386 812 0
Cover price £25.

This is an excellent example of a modern unit history. It is clear that the underlying research is rock-solid, drawing upon a wide range of official and operational accounts, local newspapers and a variety of unpublished manuscripts and records. The book is also well and fluidly written, easing the reader through what at times are complex periods of war. I particularly liked the clarity of a series of sketch maps that illustrate the key actions.

The 5th West Yorkshire is described as the “Harrogate Terriers” but is also drew for its recruitment on the area encompassing Pateley Bridge, Knaresborough, Ripon, Wetherby, Tadcaster and York itself. Under command of what was later called the 49th (West Riding) Division, it was mobilised on the declaration of war and served in France and Flanders from 1915 onwards.

I must confess that I began reading this book when rather jaded by recent battalion histories, particularly those of the “pals” battalions. There has been a tendency to over-focus on the raising and training of the unit and in many cases its awful experience of 1 July 1916. The rest of the war, which for these units had barely got going, is often fairly skipped through. No so with “Harrogate Terriers” and well done to the author for that. The battalion’s story gains balance, with the vital actions of 1917 and 1918 being given every bit as much attention and detail as the earlier stages – even though by then the local nature of the battalion was beginning to be diluted. As we have come to expect from such studies there are many contemporary photographs of individuals, and I was impressed with the present-day battlefield photographs annotated to show us the action being described.

Terrific: one that will stay on the shelf not only as a work of reference but for reading again. For the cover price of £25 it is a snip and at the discounted prices likely to be offered by the marketplace it is a must.

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