Slaves of the War Lords (10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment)

Slaves of the War Lords By Henry Russell
Published by Hutchinson & Co. Limited, London.
The book was originally published in 1928

Published as a reprint by Naval & Military Press Limited (288 pages)
ISBN 1843421364

The author Henry Russell served in 10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War. He joined the 10th Worcesters in September 1916 near Hazebrouck and stayed with them until he was wounded in March 1918. At the time the 10th Battalion was part of the 57th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division.

He saw plenty of front line action and describes it in details in this book with a outspoken account of what it was like for an ordinary soldier in the trenches. He provides a good account of the British offensive at the Battle of Messines Ridge on the 7 June 1917.
This book is full of front line action, vividly described with no punches pulled. There were macabre moments, too, such as on the Ancre when crouched at the bottom of a captured German trench, waiting to go over the top: “Shift up a bit,” came a voice. “Keep quiet, you idiot!” whispered other voices. “Shift up a bit, will yer; I’m sitting on a dead Jerry!”

On the night of the 11th/12th February 1917 Russell was involved in a two-company raid, described in the official Worcestershire regimental history as a successful raid. However, Russell’s view was markedly different, saying that no military advantage was gained by the raid and no new trenches were occupied. The 10th Worcesters paid a heavy price for this attack with 4 killed, 13 missing, 3 officers and 39 other ranks wounded.

In May 1917 the 10th Battalion was in divisional reserve in the area around Messines and took over trenches forward of Vierstraat facing the village of Wytschaete. The author describes the moment on the morning of 7th June 1917 when the mines went up: "There was a huge tearing crash, the trench shook as if by an earthquake, and over the length of the front from Hill 60 to Messines appeared a scene like so many volcanoes in eruption. Simultaneously, from the rear came the dreadful roar of a thousand cannon, and the rattle of countless machine-guns.......The volume of sound made men sweat in an agony of fear."

Russell’s war came to an end on the first day of the German offensive, 21st March 1918, when he was wounded and evacuated to England. He did not return to the battlefields.

Notes: A 2001 reprint of this book is available from Naval & Military Press Limited (Tel. +44 (0)1825 749494).