No Longer A Side-Show


Tracing your Great War Ancestors: The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns, A Guide for Family Historians. £14.99, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 163pp, paperback, ills throughout, appendices, ISBN 978 147389 725 0


The publication of Stuart Hadaway’s addition to the Pen & Sword family history series covering the campaigns in Egypt and Palestine during the First World War is timely, coming in the centenary year of the capture of Jerusalem by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and renewed academic interest in the wider scope of the war. The book also fills a much-needed gap for those family historians wishing to trace ancestors who served in this important campaign, for too long regarded as a side-show to the colossal struggle on the Western Front.

In presenting advice and information clearly and concisely, along with relevant photographs, maps and illustrations, the author has provided the reader with both a very accessible and straightforward guide to tracing relatives who served in the EEF, and a well-written history of the campaign. This is interspersed with informative sections within each chapter covering areas such as adjusting to life in the Middle East, the support given to the Gallipoli campaign, wildlife and the tactics used by the various branches of the British and Dominion armed forces. While this approach might appear at first to be disjointed, the result is effective as the chapters provide all the information that a family historian needs to gain a greater appreciation of the campaign and the sources from which service records might be gathered.

After covering the main phases of the campaigns from the outbreak of war in 1914 through to the final advance into Syria in the autumn of 1918, Stuart Hadaway presents a succinct chapter on starting research into service personnel with advice on the websites to assist in tracing service records, information on service numbers, ranks and medal index cards and rolls. Next comes a chapter on soldiers’ lives, containing fascinating anecdotes about how the EEF adapted to life in a harsh environment and overcame significant logistical difficulties to mount offensives against the Turks. The chapter on researching British and Dominion soldiers is perhaps the most important in the book, as it sets out the guidance needed to research soldiers’ records of service, gallantry medals and awards, courts martial, wills, pension records and rolls of honour. This chapter is followed by ones on casualties and researching specific units, the latter including helpful information about how units were organised and the terminology that family historians might encounter. Two further chapters on prisoners of war and the war in the air and at sea provide valuable assistance in tracing relatives who might have become captives or served in the air or naval services. The book concludes with a chapter on visiting the battlefields today, describing the safest ways of touring the towns and cemeteries, many of which are still in areas of conflict. A chronology, list of further reading and index finish off this extremely comprehensive research guide.