Blacker's Boys Reviews

This exceptional book falls firmly into the telling of history. This is how those soldiers, whose names are inscribed on the Menin Gate and the Thiepval Memorial who have no known grave or those who lie in the hundreds of cemeteries, would have told you about what happened. This is the voice of reality impeccably researched.

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Trousdell KBE, CB

I had until now considered that the largest book on a Great War Service battalion was the Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour at 802 + 55 pages. It covered all of the many City battalions, here we have an even greater work, of 914 pages covering just 9/RIF and I find it hard to praise this superb work as much as it deserves in a short review. I can only heap my congratulations and praise for a truly outstanding book. This battalion with the many confusing changes in its title explained here, based on the Ulster Volunteer Force, became part of 108 Infantry Brigade of the famous 36th (Ulster) Division on 28 October 1914. After a year training under their commander Lieutenant Colonel S. W. W. Blacker, they fought near Albert on 1 July 1916, Messines, Langemark and Cambrai in 1917 and the final advance in September and October 1918. Every source has been tapped - memoirs, letters home, war diaries, local newspapers - and the whole has been presented against the background of the situation at home, always difficult for Irishmen at the time, with a captivating narrative. It was so well done that I could only stop reading when the massive weight of the book required me to put it down to stretch my legs!

By then, I was up to page 272 looking at the excellent twenty coloured maps after I had read the details of the commemoration and the war memorials. Then came the bulk of the book - hundreds of pages of historical detail including the Roll of Honour in five parts with details from the CWGC of those who died serving with the battalion and those serving elsewhere. There are descriptions of all the relevant cemeteries and memorials, Honours and Awards with citations, a roll of the 249 officers who served with the battalion, including the medical officers, with full biographies and pictures, a roll of warrant officers and other ranks and full military details including all of the men who had been transferred to other units. I cannot praise this work enough, it must form a great example for others to follow. I suggest that everyone gets a copy, particularly those interested in Ulster in the Great War.

Bob Wyatt - Stand To! The Journal of the Western Front Association. No. 97. May 2013.

This is history as it is lived on a daily basis, intimately described by a former officer who is a descendant of a Sergeant in the Battalion. It is an astonishingly detailed piece of military scholarship, and can only be a labour of love. Every army library is going to want a copy, as is anyone connected with the Regiments and their families. And anyone with an interest in WW1, as the coming centenary of 1914 gets closer.

CP - Best of British - Past and Present. Issue 201. April 2013.

...a worthy tribute to the men and 'boys' who answered Kitchener's call...

Iain Frazer, grandson of Corporal David Frazer

Blacker's Boys is a mighty achievement. The narrative is readable and the appendices comprehensive. Most importantly, the information the author presents is reliable - it is clear that he hasn't made leaps of logic where only limited information is available.

Phillip Tardif, grandson of CQMS Francis MacMahon


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