World War I Books for Review

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The Fight for Life

The Medical Services in the Gallipoli Campaign 1915-16

John Dixon, Ritchie Wood


Helion and Company

An accessible account of medical services in Gallipoli and their development.

The Fight for Life: The Medical Services in the Gallipoli Campaign 1915–16 examines the development of the medical services immediately prior to the First World War and its involvement in the failed Gallipoli Campaign. Although crucial to the entire operation, the planning for their involvement was both late and insufficient. In consequence, the services received considerable criticism both during and after the campaign. The Fight for Life explores the actual steps taken in the planning and the work carried out by the medical services at each stage of the campaign.

Casualties sustained at the start of the Gallipoli operations were mainly combat-related but, as operations developed, there were a large number of sick caused by diseases such as dysentery and enteric fever. Much of this was related to poor sanitation, absence of water and the ever-present plague of flies. The causes of the diseases are examined and considered in light of the overall lack of success of the initial landings which prevented the routine development of sanitation, rest camps and base hospitals. The development of base hospitals is considered in respect to the increasing casualties arriving from the battlefield and the development of institutions in Egypt and later in Malta is considered in some detail. Early planning for such hospitals underestimated casualty figures and this was also a direct result of the lack of success during the first phase of the campaign. Further to this, the employment of hospital ships is explored together with the oft-criticized use of transports or ‘Black Ships’ for the same purpose. These vessels were a vital link in the treatment of the wounded and sick of the peninsula and in many cases they were forced to act as floating casualty clearing stations as their staff treated thousands, moving some to hospitals at both Lemnos and Imbros before sailing to base hospitals in Alexandria, Cairo or indeed Malta. The importance of nursing care aboard these ships is also considered, as nurses struggled to cope under adverse conditions.

The harrowing winter 1915–16 storms are considered from the medical standpoint which added stress to a system working to cope with day-to-day casualties. The role played by the medical services in the evacuation of the peninsula is considered and the organization required for removal of casualties during the preparations cannot be overstated. Finally, a short analysis of the findings of the Dardanelles Commission as it applies to the medical services is provided.

With the British Cavalry in 1914

Matthew Richardson


Pen and Sword Military

Explores the experience of the British cavalry during the First World War from Mons to Ypres.

The opening months of the First World War were the golden sunset for the horsed regiments of the British army. Whether they were Lancers, Hussars or Dragoons, their names were redolent of glory and grandeur. Trained for shock tactics as well as scouting and reconnaissance, several times in 1914 they clashed dramatically with their German counterparts on the battlefields of France.

Yet at the same time, the role of the cavalry was shifting inexorably away from these romantic charges, with trumpets, gleaming lances and swirling sabres. In the new warfare of the Twentieth Century, the true value of these regiments was as an intensively trained, highly mobile reserve.

Despite their misgivings about the role, the Regular cavalry (latterly with Yeomanry alongside them) were also a highly effective force when fighting on foot. Able to arrive quickly at trouble spots, they were equally skilled with the rifle, and on more than one occasion in 1914 they were able to retrieve a critical situation.